Thursday, 4 October 2012

Good Customer Service?

(aka: I'll Show You Mine When You Show Me Yours)

National Customer Service Week has come again. (Apparently.) Do I have any thoughts on this? You bet I do.

I never intended to end up working in a call center. As a kid I HATED talking to strangers on the phone. (No lie – just ask my mom.) But then I moved to Wales.

When I got my “indefinite leave to remain” I started looking for work. The first place I applied was HobbyCraft, our local craft store. I even got an interview. But they didn't want me.

So I tried the next most logical place: Cineworld, the local cinema. And do you know what they said? Not enough experience. Sorry... What? Two years of working at the best cinema in Michigan (Celebration! Cinema), doing everything from serving popcorn to cleaning toilets – and I didn't have enough experience?


(The woman interviewing me spent the whole time staring out the window so I'm pretty sure I was never getting the job, regardless of what I said.)

Then my mother-in-law tried to help me get a job working as a secretary at the law firm where she worked. Again, I got as far as the interview but didn't get the job.

I was getting pretty worried. Then one of my husband's friends came to the rescue and said he could get me a temp job at the technical support center where he worked. When he told me what the job entailed I panicked.

What? Me? Talk to people over the phone? No way!

But money is money and a few weeks later, I was being shown how to wire a freeview box and given a headset.

That was the start of my career as an operator. I've spent the last eight years of my life on the phones, for one company or another.

Knowing me, you might be surprised by this career choice. (Considering my general hatred for the human race and all...) I was a little surprised myself. I was even more surprised by the fact that I'm pretty good at it. When I want to be.

It's true that there are days when sarcasm is the best my customers can hope for. On a normal day, I have the patience of a saint. On others... Well, if you're going to argue with me for twenty minutes over the difference between a “fee” and a “charge” then, yes, I might suggest you invest in a good dictionary.

I am only human.

But just between you and me? A little part of me thinks, FUCK 'EM.

I mean... Do my customers ever give me the courtesy I deserve? Rarely! Half the time I'm being shouted at to hurry up when I have to repeat myself for the fifth time because the customer can't be bothered to fucking listen.

You want good customer service?

Here's an idea...


Yeah, I said it.

You get what you give, people, and it's about damn time we own up to it.

If you even have to think 'Am I a good customer?' chances are the answer is NO. Chances are you're one of the reasons I keep making voodoo dolls called “Bad Customer” and have blood pressure that's through the roof.

Well, Bad Customer, to make our time together a little more enjoyable, I've made a little guide for you. Here it is:

Wondra's Guide To Being A Better Customer 
Have your details ready.
I don't care if you're calling your bank, your council, your gas company, or your dog walker. If you have a customer account number or reference number, do not pick up the phone until you have it in your other hand. It's just plain rude to spend five minutes going, “Oh, I just KNOW I have it here somewhere...”

Remember that the person you're talking to is A PERSON.
We're not robots, we're people. We have feelings, insecurities, and fears. For some reason, customers who would be lovely people in a face-to-face environment become absolute assholes over the phone – because we can't see their faces and they can't see ours. In their minds, we have no face and therefore are not people.

Not. The. Case.

Do not treat me disrespectfully just because you can't see me.

I am not the company I work for.
If you cut me, I do not bleed green and blue. Although it is true that I am a representative of the company that I work for, I am not (say it with me: NOT) that company.

Shouting “YOU did this, you stupid bitch!” at me is a personal insult. It is not true and is more likely to piss me off - which means I am less likely to bend over backwards to make you happy. And, by the way... Saying “I know you didn't do it personally but I'm just so angry!” isn't an acceptable apology after effing and blinding at me for an hour!

After all... You wouldn't appreciate it if I came to where you work and shouted “YOU made these french fries fatty and unwholesome, you bitch!” now would you?

Silence your children, pets, televisions, and radios.
I can't believe this even needs to be said. You are picking up the telephone with the express intent of carrying out a conversation. YOU called ME so surely you must have know you were going to be doing it, right? It didn't sneak up on you, did it? It didn't catch you by surprise, did it? No. And yet, with all that warning, you still can't manage to find a quiet room to call from?

This one is a major pet peeve of mine. When I say this one, I mean specifically screaming children. I'm not just saying this because I hate other people's children (which I do) or because I don't have any children of my own (which I don't). I'm saying this because if you haven't taught your children that it is RUDE to scream and holler when you're on the phone, you obviously need tips on disciplining them. The really annoying thing about that is if you don't start teaching them manners now, they're just going to grow up and raise another generation of people just like you to annoy people just like me.

It's not only rude, it's not practical! If your child is screaming bloody murder I'm not going to be able to hear you, am I? And chances are, if your child is annoying me, hundreds of miles away, they must be making you, stuck in the same room with them, absolutely bat shit crazy. Do us both a favor: Give them a smack on the ass and tell them to shut the fuck up.

Slow. Down.
It's simple: if I'm going to help you, I need to be able to understand what the problem is. I know you're paying for the call. I know you're in a hurry. I know you don't want to hear my annoying voice any longer than I want to hear yours. But you know what makes the phone call last longer? Me having to ask you to repeat yourself ten times because you couldn't take the time to enunciate.

It's not hard. You called me, you asked me for advice – so take the time to listen to my answer. If you ignore me and try to brush me off with “Yeah, yeah, yeah...” I'll know you weren't listening. And I'll also know that you'll be calling us back in five minutes – wasting our time as well yours – to have the same conversation all over again.

Don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer.

There is no point in arguing with me over the answer I give you. None. You called me because you assumed that I know more about my job than you do – and you know what? I do. When I give you an answer, it is not going to change, just because you don't like it. My answer is correct and it is final. No amount of shouting and screaming (or demanding to speak to my boss) is going to change that.

Looking back over this list, I find myself thinking that I've wasted a lot of time saying things that shouldn't have to be said. Every single one of these points should be both self-explanatory and common sense.

Actually... I realize now that I could have summed up this whole post in just one sentence:


Disclaimer: I do not have a voodoo doll named “Bad Customer” - though I did once. Also, the views expressed here are only the views of one disgruntled operator, not the views of the company I work for (which will not be named, for obvious reasons.)


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