Here’s a twist you didn’t see coming: I was talking to Lona again, she who gave us the material in “How To Mind Control Customer Service Reps“, and she happened to mention that she actually has a done a lot of work as a customer service rep herself.

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  1. ShortBus says:

    She caught a lot of flak from CSRs in the crowd who called her approach rude. “If you tried that with me, I’d immediately stop being helpful” was a typical response. However, I think there’s a difference between how they’d *think* they’d react vs. how’d they’d *actually* react.

    I used to be a CSR for AT&T Broadband. Reading her suggestions also made me indignantly growl too. But we were judged soley on our call times, not whether we actually solved the customers’ issues or not. And how much credit we handed out was almost immaterial as well. It’s not in my best interest to argue with a customer. And if they call me with a plan that will get them off the phone the quickest, then I’m likely to just go along with it–despite the fact that it sounds like bullying from the sidelines here.

  2. Her “tips” are only acceptable if you’re speaking with an uncooperative company. Also, they are inclined to get someone very frustrated since many, many companies do require things like your name when you call in.

  3. @ShortBus: I suppose it depends on the company you are working for, and their policies, but if all they care about is call times, then maybe your company is one that even I would support using these “tips” against.

  4. headon says:

    I don’t care where she worked I’m still not helping her fix the problem she told me I WILL fix. oooops we were disconnected.

  5. Corydon says:

    What really got under my skin about her “tips” is that it’s an immediate escalation where one may not be necessary.

    To make an analogy, it’s like a country sending in the marines without even considering the possibility that their intelligence might be flawed (perhaps Lona worked taking calls in the Bush White House).

    Yes, there are absolutely situations where a supervisor escalation is necessary. Yes, there are situations where getting in touch with corporate is necessary. This website is a testament to that fact.

    But you don’t launch a scorched earth, take no prisoners campaign against a company without exploring better options first.

    If you do that, you may get what you want this time, but you can be sure that those CSRs and supervisors are leaving plenty of notes on your account detailing exactly what kind of a customer you are, which only serves to turn the entire relationship with the company into combat. You’ll have a hard time convincing anyone to bend over backwards for you without a fight.

    It sounds like Lona had a really bad experience working as a CSR, probably for a company that would not allow her to properly take care of her customers. That’s a shame, since it really seems to have poisoned her entire experience with the career field.

  6. Corydon says:

    @ShortBus: I used to be a CSR for AT&T Broadband. Reading her suggestions also made me indignantly growl too. But we were judged soley on our call times, not whether we actually solved the customers’ issues or not.

    Just to follow up with this point. This policy is THE biggest problem with customer service today. Of course, from a management side, Average Handle Time is easy to measure, successful one-call resolution is not, which is why AHT has become THE standard by which CSRs are judged in many companies.

    However, that doesn’t mean that most CSRs, even the ones judged on AHT, don’t want to help their customers. Most of them do, and most are actually pretty competent at their job (at least after they’ve been there for a bit).

    So my point still stands—a scorched earth approach should only be used where it is justified. 90% of the time, being polite, calm, cool, collected, being able to describe the problem and knowing what you’ll accept as a solution is the way to go.

  7. Indecision says:

    @Corydon: “What really got under my skin about her “tips” is that it’s an immediate escalation where one may not be necessary.”

    That annoyed me too, and if I were a supervisor, it’d annoy me even more. I’m there for problems that my agents can’t handle. If they can handle your problem, I’d probably just transfer you right back to them.

    I’ve seen it happen face-to-face, even. At Best Buy a customer was demanding a manager, only to ask him for advice on a camera. The manager told them, “I really don’t know anything about cameras. That’s what I hired these guys for.” He then hooked up the customer with the same sales guy who the customer just spoke to.

  8. BlondeGrlz says:

    I think her advice had more to do with TONE than actual words. If someone says “You WILL help me” or “YOU WILL HELP ME” you just hang up on them. But if they say “I have this problem you are going to solve. Let’s get started now.” you would get results. I think it’s just the way it was written that makes it sound so rude. You gotta use the “these are not the droids you are looking for” voice.

  9. @Corydon: “90% of the time, being polite, calm, cool, collected, being able to describe the problem and knowing what you’ll accept as a solution is the way to go.”

    …Yes, if by “way to go” you mean “not pissing anybody off at the expense of getting what you want or deserve”. Her original advice stated very clearly that if you used her tactics, people would find you rude BUT your chances of getting the resolution you want would be much higher. I think none of the indignant hem-hawing we’ve been hearing has disproven that.

    Yes, her approach is somewhat rude. (Not terribly rude, but not pleasant either.) And yes, it may not be (entirely) the CSR’s fault that the company they work for sucks. But the truth is, being nice and gentle gets you one thing in many, if not most call-center situations: Screwed.

    I wouldn’t use her tactics if the issue was minor, if I knew it could and should be easily resolved, and/or if I didn’t care too much. But I’ve saved her post for those times when it IS important and I know I’m likely to get the run-around, and you bet I’ll use it to the letter. I’m incredibly glad it was offered and posted; this IS the kind of information that consumers need nowadays, when all the cards are stacked against us. It’s too bad that so much of the really good stuff on the Consumerist lately tends to rub its mostly-shill commenter crowd the wrong way, but I’m glad they’re still keeping their actual audience in mind…

  10. @blondegrlz: Agreed, good point!

  11. Oregon says:

    Can you imagine a restaurant where the waiter walked away if he didn’t like the way your placed your order. I WANT a steak, medium rare. and get me a iced tea..
    Headon as a waiter: how dare they tell me that I Will help them.
    Same restaurant. Customer to waiter: I need to see the manager please. Waiter: no sorry you have to first tell me what you want before I will get the manager..

    Funny stuff if we take all the CRS’s relies to this and past post and try to apply them to another business.

  12. sventurata says:

    @blondegrlz: Right. A better edit would have clarified Lona’s meaning. However, it’s a decent example of why communication errors often stem from misinterpreted, minor nuances, and why call center policies that overlook possible linguistic barriers between CSR/client (on both ends!), and limit CSR’s agency to actually help the customer screw everyone over in the end.

  13. sventurata says:

    @Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: To clarify: how threatening does that sentence sound, when spoken briskly and cheerfully: “Hello, [person], this is Client (do you need my account number?)… I have a problem today with [whatever]. You’ll be able to help me with this, I hope?”

  14. headon says:

    @ oregon:You need to stay on topic. You can’t transpose jobs or situations and have the wording apply. But as a side note as a waiter I tell em to f off and slap em in the head with a complimentary breadstick.

  15. evslin says:

    @Corydon: If they can handle your problem, I’d probably just transfer you right back to them.

    That’s fine, I think you’ll find that most folks are ok with that. But don’t dismiss the reason they want to talk to you out of hand just because you’re annoyed or you’d rather be staring at spreadsheets and telling people when they can/can’t go on break, or because you saw some customer abuse the process at Best Buy once. If somebody’s asking for a supervisor immediately, there’s a chance they have at least a halfway decent reason to be doing so.

  16. Corydon says:

    @Mary Marsala with Fries: But I’ve saved her post for those times when it IS important and I know I’m likely to get the run-around, and you bet I’ll use it to the letter.

    I still don’t get the mentality that wants to start lobbing nuclear missiles if you’re in a situation where you “know you’re likely to get the run-around”. Please note that this is not the same as actually getting the run-around.

    As I stated earlier, there are times when it is necessary to be firm, perhaps even a little rude. There are times when it is necessary to escalate the problem. But you have to give the system a chance to work first. Then you escalate if it fails (hence the word “escalate”).

    And as I pointed out above, there are serious drawbacks to using this automatic escalation strategy whenever you have a problem you think the CSR won’t be able to handle.

    Every single time a supervisor got on a call in the call centers I worked in, permanent notes were left all over the account. These notes are a factual record of what the call was about and what was done, but they are also a record of your reputation within the company.

    I can tell you that customers who acquired a reputation for being rude, constantly demanding credits and services to which they were not entitled, and generally treating CSRs badly (especially if they were the kind of customer that had trouble paying their bills on time—these are often the rudest customers out there) never got any slack.

    On the other hand, as a CSR myself, I’d bend over backwards to help out the people who were polite and friendly, especially if they were stuck in a rotten situation. I empathized with those people, and I did my utmost to help them.

    Later, listening in to other CSRs, I saw the same thing. Rude people only encouraged the CSR to dig in and stick to the minimum policy demanded. Polite, friendly people routinely got better, “above and beyond” service.

    That’s just human nature.

  17. BlondeGrlz says:

    @Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: I love your handle. Do you have any secret files?

  18. Corydon says:

    @evslin: (Quoting me) f they can handle your problem, I’d probably just transfer you right back to them.

    Actually, I didn’t say this. Where I worked, the supervisors always took care of the problem themselves once they received an escalation. The policy may be different elsewhere.

    Now, on the other hand, I would routinely have the original CSR follow up with the customer to make sure that the problem was fixed to their satisfaction, if it wasn’t something I could fix right then and there.

  19. SVreader says:

    Those tips (except for the “will” thing, which is just kinda obnoxious–yes, you’ll probably still be helped, but in spite of, not because) might be helpful if you’ve tried other approaches and have an actual issue.

    Know your issue, have a plan, have all needed information in front of you, and start by being polite, or at least not rude. Remember, people who answer phones also sometimes have to call companies, because they’re like, people.

    However, if you’re trying to get something for nothing, know that phone reps have heard every type of bullying, lies, and threats (sorry, but even though it has “Pulitzer” written all over it, they don’t actually think any reporters are going to care too much that you chose to use the free version of X that explicitly does not come with phone support and then did not get phone support) in the book, and most won’t be “controlled” into breaking policy (thus putting their job on the line) for you.

  20. Rando says:

    Immediately asking for a supervisor means call volume increases, hold time increases, phone call costs increase, therefore the job becomes out sourced.

    I’d take her tips with a grain of salt.

  21. RGISMYFAVORITECANADIANMORMON says:

    @headon:

    If you would slap a patron in the head with a breadstick or hang up on a customer with a problem because she said something “off” to you – I have to go ahead and suggest that you might not be in the right business.

    Maybe you should try something where you don’t have to be nice to people and get to hit things a lot. Like, firewood-chopper.

  22. Oregon says:

    Doing your job is just that, Doing your job.
    CSR’s that post on here, have this entitlement attitude that if a customer is snarky or pushy that they can forget about doing their job.
    Post after post after post on this site are from people who are complaining about CSR not doing their jobs. Most of these are from people who are frustrated after being nice and civil pleading with CSR’s to just do their job. Fix my cable bill, install my telephone, send a repairman..
    We don’t get to pick what CSR is hiding behind the telephone. We have to take the incompitent,the bullsh*t artists, the patronizers,the promises that are not kept.
    The CSR’s who wonder where their customers attitudes come from have failed to read all the horror stories from legitimate customers who ask for what they paid for and have been denied.

  23. moorem2 says:

    @Corydon:

    AHT is one of the standards where I work as a CSR. They also take into consideration how much “idle” time I have, as well as how “efficient” I am (that stat is comprised of the percentage of time I am actually taking calls and not on The Consumerist).

    First call resolutions is a stat that my company is begging to focus us. It’s really hard in the financial industry to measure it b/c people could call in about a number of different things, but by effectivly logging what the call is about, they can get a slight picture of if CSR are setting good expectations and taking care of the issue on the first call.

    @Intangible_360:

    for the record, where I work as a CSR I have to get a customers name, and let them know we are on a recorded line. The initial CSRs in most cases have to verify account information for legal purposes.

    I promise to all the people that call me, if you let me control the call, your going to get the information needed, and the appropriate steps will be taken to resolve your issue. If I can’t do anything to help you resolve the situation the appropraite way, I’ll get a supervisor. Asking for a supervisor right away isn’t the best way to handle the situation in any case. I said it on the first post, and I’ll say it again. Have some hope that the CSR your talking to cares about you. Grant it, there are some bad eggs out there, but there are decent CSRs out there!

  24. rustyni says:

    @oregon: I agree with you, and I can actually see this argument from both sides of the spectrum. I’ve been lucky enough not to have to be a call center rep, but my fiance has, and I have probably too much experience in the customer service area.

    I’ve had problems with Comcast that are so overwhelmingly stupid, that it’s gotten to the point to where I just wanted to rip my cable box out of the wall, run it through a smasher, and leave it on Comcast’s doorstep with a big “F-YOU” taped across it’s remains. For some reason every time I call them to explain that once AGAIN my cable is out when I have done everything under the sun I had previously been asked to do by them, including waiting around for three days while no tech showed up, the rep cannot seem to get it through their heads that if I’m paying an atrocious amount of my limited “extra” spendings each month on their services which are only good for about 30% of the time I try to use them, a $6.00 credit to my bill is not acceptable.

    That being said, when I call them, no matter how insanely angry I am, I try my best to remember that the person on the other end of the phone is, in fact, a human being with a family, friends, and a life outside of Comcast. How would I feel if someone was calling up my sister, or my mother at work and speaking to them as though they were worth less than the gum on the bottom of a shoe? Not good, and even if the person I’m speaking to can’t seem to comprehend my problem after fifteen minutes of dialogue, it still has never crossed my mind that ordering them around is the best way to get the job done.

    When I worked customer service, I realized early on the best way to deal with an upset customer is empathy. Just as the customer needs to put themselves in the worker’s shoes, it is IMPERATIVE in this line of work that the employee be able to put themselves in the customer’s. If you don’t have a natural empathy for people, this is NOT the job you need to be in. The calmer the rep remains, and the more willing they are to try and not take things personal, the easier the job becomes. I’ve had customers that are so atrociously angry, I thought one man was likely to have a stroke on the spot. Turning things around and relating to each other works WONDERS. This goes for both the customer and the employee.

    Telling someone, “You will do this for me, now.” will only win you a shitty attitude, and a probable hang-up, unfortunantly. Mutual respect goes a long way, people.

  25. Landru says:

    One of my best complaint scenarios was with Dish Network. I needed a new larger DVR to solve my problem and I didn’t think I should have to pay for it. The situation seemed stalled until I heard they CSR say “I am not authorized to do that.”

    So I called back and said to the person who answered “I need …. Are you authorized to grant that?” “No? Then can you please transfer me to someone who is?” and I repeated it with everyone I was transferred to. I was very polite.

    I didn’t ask for a “supervisor” at all. Within two or three transfers, I had my problem solved by someone in Corporate customer service.

  26. YouPeople says:

    She says she did a lot of customer service work herself, but she also said that running Disk Cleanup deleted system files on a windows XP machine. Grain of salt there.

    As a CSR, I didn’t actually take issue with the “you WILL help me” thing. People say that all the time. People say all sorts of things, and I’m pretty sure it would take someone like more like Hannibal Lecter than Leona Helmsley to rattle the average CSR that’s had the job for more than a month.

    The REAL bad advice is:

    1) You always need a manager. Bull. Half the time the manager has been out of the job for so long (or was never in the job), that they need to go back to the original rep to get what you wanted, after you held for a half hour waiting for them. Ask for the manager if the CSR fails to do their job.

    2) You need to be all alpha-dog. If you want to talk manipulation, a crying woman, old ladies, and flat-broke newly married couples get me every time.

    I think what really offended all The CSRs here was the use of the term Mind Control. Seriously? If resolving disputes by being a pain in the ass until someone gives you what you want is mind control, then my 9-year-old daughter is Obi-Wan reborn.