Dear Customers: Stop Making My Call-Center Employees Cry

This week, we heard from a reader who we’ll call Mr. X. He works in marketing, and handles escalated customer service issues. He’s the guy you talk to when things go horribly, horribly wrong. He listens to your phone calls, and decides whether you should receive bill credits and other nice things. Mr. X has some very important advice for the customer service ninjas of Consumerist: please stop being jerks to front-line employees.

Part of my job as the marketing manager at a leading service supplier
is to handle escalated issues. These bubble up to me after a customer
talks to a customer service representative and at least one
supervisor. I have the discretion to offer bill credits for the amount
in dispute plus up to $100 as a good-faith gesture.

Before contacting a customer or determining the amount to credit, I
listen to the calls between the customer and rep or supervisor. I’m
sorry to say that compared to last year I have heard more customers
curse and yell at representatives this year, sometimes driving reps to
tears. While our company sometimes makes mistakes, that does not give
customers the right to treat company representatives like dirt.

If I believe we made a mistake and the customer was respectful in
questioning the error, I will apologize, offer to correct the bill and
some additional bill credits. If we did not make a mistake, I may
offer good-faith bill credits while explaining the issue to a
customer. However, if the customer was rude, I will not offer
good-faith bill credits regardless of who was at fault. (I will
correct a billing error, but do nothing more.)

The messages I want to share with fellow Consumerist readers are: 1)
Be respectful of the people who call on the phone – they may work
for a corporation, but they are human. 2) If you can’t say it on
broadcast TV, don’t say it to a rep. 3) You catch more flies with
honey.

We’d like to think that all Consumerist readers know better than to verbally abuse innocent call center employees, but human nature dictates otherwise. Just please remember the words of Mr. X. Being a jerk might cost you money.

Comments

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  1. bnceo says:

    How about you train employees not to read stupid scripts made by computers. Hire meaningful front line employees who actually care about the product/service and use it and are super knowledgeable about it.

    • alana0j says:

      Those scripts probably won’t stop any time soon. I hate them as much as you do, but from the higher-ups point of view, I imagine it helps to keep the company slightly more uniform. Otherwise you get reps saying whatever they want and you can end up getting different info from different people.

      That said, just because employees are reading a script doesn’t mean they don’t care and it doesn’t mean they aren’t knowledgeable. And it’s damn sure not an excuse to talk to them like shit. They’re out there working just like the rest of us, in a job they may not necessarily like very much, in order to make a living. As angry as I have been with situations I have NEVER taken it out on the person on the phone (except the time I caught a rep telling me a bald faced lie). It’s like not tipping your server because the food sucks. It’s just not fair.

      • PaulR says:

        When I want to make a comment so as to improve the service, I usually start by:
        1) reminding the person on the phone that I’m not targetting them personally,
        2) “I really hope this call is being ‘Recorded for Quality Assurance and/or Training Purposes’, so that the higher-ups sitting at their desk who never talk to the end-user can hear this” – then I explain why listening to what the customer is actually saying is so criticial.

        • StarfishDiva says:

          Sadly, it’s the surveys where your voice is heard, so as someone who works in an inbound “Technical Assistance Center”, I will say this:

          1 – Our calls only get listened to so we can be randomly scored on our parts of the “script” (for what we do, our script is just saying our names, badge IDs, and assuring the client we’ll fix the issue), QA people will skip through the rest of your calls. QA people do not care if you want to make a grandiose statement about your lack of satisfaction with the company. Know why? Most QA people are outsourced.

          2 – We KNOW what’s wrong with the company. We KNOW. We just like being employed better. Believe me, I am a champion for the people, but complaining internally does little more than mark me as a trouble-maker. I will assure you that I really, really, get it, and I am really, really sorry. But that’s it. Trust me, the only person I can relay your comments to is my direct supervisor and guess what? They are just one step above me on the call center totem pole. They can do little to facilitate change.

          3 – SURVEYS! Please, please read your surveys carefully! You know why? Because they really, super count. I am salary with no overtime. What I do is highly technical, but alas, we’re still managed by a call center company. They and the client I work for do care about the stupid surveys.

          So, please ensure you are rating your Customer Service person in the survey. Them. Not the company. Because most companys will punish the customer service rep if the numbers on the survey are bad, no matter what YOU were trying to convey with those numbers.

          Use the COMMENTS field of a survey, and REQUEST a call back! Our company needs to call you back! So do it! Try!

          Rant over?

          • Sarek says:

            Surveys are important? Really?
            Remember, a survey tells you only what you ask. It seems that I get surveys only for the 5th call, the one that finally fixed the problem. The survey asks only how the 5th call was handled (e.g. politeness, did s/he fix your problem), not that I had to call in 5 times before the problem got fixed. So I give high marks to that 5th rep, and am unable to grind them on the previous calls (or the company as a whole.) where I got worthless or wrong information, got disconnected, had to state my name and account number multiple times, etc.

            Yes, sometimes there’s a comments field, sometimes not.

            Starfish, I do fill out the surveys as often as possible, but I don’t have much faith that any corrective actions actually arise from them.

            • sagodjur1 says:

              When I worked as a CSR at a call center years ago, the survey’s were limited to asking how satisfied the caller was with the call and this was the sole source of the customer satisfaction score that a CSR had to discuss with their manager at their next review, regardless of whether the customer was upset with the CSR or the company or the situation when they responded to the survey.

          • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

            at my job there are no surveys about the calls but the QA people do listen to the call to make sure i didn’t screw something up. and they listen to the whole thing. a few times i year i have to go listen to the whole thing with them and we go over it point by point on where i could have done a better job.

      • lyontaymer30 says:

        When I was in customer service, when I knew I couldn’t do anything for the person for corporate reason, I would always give them the company line, but if they showed respected or didn’t feel it was right, I’d always give them a way to get what they wanted as far as giving them a suggestion or hint of who they needed to talk to and what they needed to do to get their fix. But the a**holes, I’d just give them the company line and kept saying it til they either got the point or asked for a supe. Manners go a very long way. I was going to play nice with idiots.

    • TastyBeverage says:

      Is your computer plugged in? Is it on?

      • menty666 says:

        Sadly…I suspect that one actually fixes a lot of problems.

        It’s when I call Charter with a service outage inquiry, tell them that I’ve already powered down, disconnected, restarted the modem and router 6 times and they tell me to do it again, then I get a bit testy. Last time this happens they blamed the equipment on my end (I own), and by the time I got back from Staples with a new cable modem,lo and behold, it was working again.

        • jeepguy57 says:

          Agreed. This is where allowing your reps to go off-script, or just skip a head is helpful. I usually get this issue when calling tech support overseas. They just can’t comprehend that you have already done A,B and C.

          This is where I wish users like my self could get flagged as having above-average technical expertise and be able to skip the bull and get another, non-scripted tech person on the phone.

          • Torgonius wants an edit button says:

            I run the tech support desk at my company, and most people who call in claiming to have above-average expertise really have no clue. When they have to start the call listing their certs, well… anyone can print things on paper.

            The people who call in and can tell you exactly what they’ve done so far, and can actually give you error codes or messages… THOSE are the ones you know you can work with more easily.

            Outside of the standard company greeting and closing, my team isn’t on script. There are templates and required questions for various issues, but as long as the answers are there, we really don’t need to know how the question was asked.

            And we do surveys, too. My job is to follow up on the bad ones. I’ll pull the call recording to see what was said and how it compares to how the ticket was documented. I’ll look to see if what the person complained about is what really happened (or didn’t happen), and then follow up with the appropriate people. Then I follow up with the person who sent the survey to let them know they were heard.

      • impatientgirl says:

        You’d be amazed at how many people say they’re rebooted etc when they haven’t, or how many times a 2nd reboot will fix it. I run into this with all our systems myself. I don’t call into support until I’ve really given it a few minutes and few attempts.

    • aikoto says:

      Agreed 100%. I am always as polite and reasonable as I can be, but most companies use people who barely speak the language, who don’t understand the problem, don’t fix it when asked, and to even get there, we had to deal with horrible phone systems that bounce you everwhere, sometimes in loops or frustrate us in other ways like demanding that we “speak our answerws”. I hate voice menus so much.

    • chefboyardee says:

      This. Dear call center guy. Tell your employees to stop treating me like I’m mentally challenged. I’ve thought my call through. I know what’s wrong, I know what I need, and I know what I want. I, like other commenters here, explain that I’m not personally mad at them, and calmly tell them what happened and/or I want. Almost every call I make starts with “I want you to know, I’m upset/annoyed/etc, but I know it’s not your fault.” If they get rude (uncommon), read from a script (very common) or act like they don’t want to help me (also common), then I get mad.

      If your employees don’t do these things, then it’s very likely that the Consumerist readers aren’t your problem. We know how to handle customer service. You need to complain on another blog. Everyone here understood the 3 points you made, before you made them.

      • chefboyardee says:

        Also, please fix your damn phone systems. Having to “say your choice” over and over, or try to explain my problem in plain English to a g.d. computer that never gets it right is INFURIATING. And the hold music you play always sucks, and is static-y and sounds horrible. And GOD FORBID you come on the line every 10 seconds to say “we care about your call, blah blah blah”, making my ears perk up thinking a human picked up…well, after about 3 of those, even if I *was* in a good mood when I called, I’m not anymore.

        All that said, I’m always over-the-top polite because of your point 3 above. However I absolutely understand how people could be really mad before they even get to a CSR…and how it can escalate depending on the CSR’s tone.

      • SirWired says:

        Many customers ARE mentally challenged. You would not believe how stupid some customers can be. It’s impossible for the rep to know ahead of time which kind of customer you are.

        Scripts aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and they do actually work for most issues.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      I have never yelled or cursed at a customer service rep, unless they were rude to me first. I understand the need for scripts, but good customer service reps know when to depart from them.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        when they can depart from them. same company – previous position i was unable to depart from the script. current position, with more training and experience i can depart from the script to a degree, but not entirely

    • SisterMaryPollyEsther says:

      I manage an inbound, service-based contact center. Our annual employee survey results consistently indicate that our e aremployees have the tools and training to do their jobs, but they are discouraged by the treatment they receive from customers and from employees in other departments. We expect our agents to be sympathetic to the needs of their customers and our business partners. If they habitually demonstrate themselves to be incapable of kindness, an understanding, we fire them. The same goes for the customers. If you are habitually nasty, you’re only going to speak to me. If you don’t dial it back, I will hang up on you.

    • aleck says:

      Are you willing to pay $10 a month more so that you are treated by “super knowlegeable” CSRs?

  2. cactus jack says:

    If you don’t go home feeling dead inside, how do you know if you really had an honest day of work?

  3. 180CS says:

    I’m going to agree with this guy. It’s not the CSRs fault that something went wrong, or that his/her hands are tied. Just try and escalate the issue politely if you are seeing that the CSR can’t do anything, and if that doesn’t work, sue the company – all with a calm and polite smile on your face.

    This method hasn’t failed me yet.

    • mikedt says:

      It’s just not right to curse out the CRS no matter how good it makes you feel. It’s not their fault, and they’re more than likely lower on the corporate totem pole than you are at your job. And think about how much “real” power you have to change anything – probably none.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        But the execs who have created your bad situation, who provide the dumbass scripts, trained the CSRs to say “no” all the time and denied them the ability of independent workmanship and assistance have completed insulated themselves from their own devices. I yell at the CSRs because the execs have prevented me from yelling at them.

        (Note: I don’t yell at CSRs. This is just an illustration)

        • sagodjur1 says:

          This is something I remember discussing in a college class about complex organizations and bureaucracies – the fact that many people in our society are paid to be the proxy for assholes. It’s not the CSR, it’s the manager that sets the policy. It’s not the DMV rep, it’s the bureaucratic policy-makers. Yes, sometimes the front line people can be assholes themselves, but that’s separate from the official duties that amount to being an asshole to the customer.

          • 180CS says:

            Exactly, and this is why I happily sue such companies. Threatening to take thousands of dollars from them over a 50 dollar problem, and then settling out of court for a thousand dollars, usually gets someone to at least think about a policy change.

    • aikoto says:

      While this is good advice, people need to learn:

      1) That calls can and should be escalated
      2) How to deflect and ignore all the efforts the front-line folks make to get customers with problems to go away.

      Or are you going to tell me that most places you call don’t train the CSR’s to do this?

      • 180CS says:

        You aren’t actually trying to imply that people reading the consumerist don’t already know how to get around these sad, simple tactics, are you?

  4. dolemite says:

    I never curse or yell at phone reps. If it’s a marketing spiel, I’ll let them get through the script a bit, and if the first pause is at a reasonable point, I’ll interject I’m not interested. I repeat that until done. If I’m dealing with an issue that I think the company should take care of, and they refuse, I simple state something like “That’s rather unfortunate. Are you sure you won’t re-consider? My status as your customer hinges on the answer.” Now what really annoys me is when you give them the chance to remedy it, they refuse, you take your business somewhere else, THEN they call back and suddenly want your business back.

    • Scooter McGee says:

      ” Now what really annoys me is when you give them the chance to remedy it, they refuse, you take your business somewhere else, THEN they call back and suddenly want your business back.”

      It’s the Verizon way. I was told that if I leave, I’ll receive a survey asking why. Nothing like telling me you don’t care about the problem until I’m no longer your customer. I’m no longer their customer and I didn’t get a survey.

      I completely agree with your way of handling it, I know reps have something they are supposed to follow and will let them get that out of the way. But when it starts being repeated, either by that rep or somebody I’ve been endlessly transferred to, I’ll start to have an annoyed tone to my voice. But I can’t think of a time I’ve ever sworn or yelled at a rep.

      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        HAH! This was my office’s experience with AT&T. Continual fail for a week and a half, with many, many phone calls to CSRs. Then, finally, our operations specialist leaves a bad survey and we get a call back and and things start getting fixed.

        They only care about how the survey numbers reflect on them.

    • HalOfBorg says:

      I try to never yell or anything, but I let the anger into my voice some. Let them know I’m pissed but behaving. I know it’s not THEIR personal fault.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      That happened with me and Comcast. I told them I was leaving, they escalated, and the retentions expert still didn’t resolve my problem. After several weeks, having already find a new internet provider, setup, paid them to install what was needed (my house is a bit old) and buying a new modem, THEN they contacted me saying they wanted me back and would offer me discounts, etc.

      WTF? It’s like a backhanded gesture meant to say “fuck you” instead of “we want your business.”

  5. Oh_No84 says:

    What a jerk this manager is.
    Why not train and impower his first line employees to actually be able to fix his company’s mistakes. It is insane you have to be escalated to get things fixed.
    Good-faith gesture? As I said what a jerk.
    How about you fix the problem right away, no transfers, and we will continue to pay our bill in good faith.

  6. fsnuffer says:

    The first thing I say when I get on a phone call like this is “I am a little upset and if my tone is a little rude or angry it is not directed at you. You are here to help me but again I am a tad bit upset”. I usually get what I ask for.

    • eccsame says:

      So, basically, you’re telling them “I’m not directing this at you, but I’m going to abuse you verbally and please don’t take it personally, you fucking filthy human being”.

      How about you wait until you calm down and then call?

      • aikoto says:

        Because every time you call and get abused by their phone system it makes you mad again?

      • fsnuffer says:

        No. I never curse, I never yell, and I am never rude unlike your post above. I am letting them know that I am not blaming them personally for what is going on. What I am doing is setting the perception that we can work together to solve whatever is going on. The CSR at that point usually is no longer on the defensive and things work out for the better. But hey, you sound like a glass half-full type of person so I could see how you would jump to that conclusion.

  7. JJFIII says:

    Then please tell your “front line employees” that when I request to speak to a supervisor, that NO, they can not help me, since i already wasted my time trying to fix it with another front line employee. My time is worth something and quite frankly your front line employee is getting paid while wasting mine,. I AM NOT. It sounds pretty much like you must be in a monopoly business (Comcast anyone) that picks and chooses when to act as a responsible company, but the fact is, instead of spending the $100 “good faith” how about spending that money on training, or making your system work so that we do not have to call in multiple times for the same issue all the time.
    What is even more offensive to me is the fact that you hide behind two layers of people to fend off pissed off customers. Why not give your front line employees some DISCRETION to do what is necessary to keep the customers happy? Let THEM give good faith credits. You basically have just told me, that YOU believe your front line employees are too stupid to make a good call regarding good faith credits. Thanks for letting us know that. Keeping customers happy isn’t really your goal. Making your employees not quit is what you care about. If they do not like their job, QUIT

    • aikoto says:

      Amen!

      Can we also get rid of voice menus? Anyone with kids at home knows that those things don’t work for crap while there’s screaming and playing children around.

      • Scooter McGee says:

        Or when your home is silent and you’re saying the word slowly.

        • limbodog says:

          Or when you’re saying the words through clenched teeth because you’ve been on the damnable voice menu for 45 minutes just trying to get to a human who can answer your question that isn’t “sign up for new service” or “pay my bill online”

          • nugatory says:

            Or you’ve got even a small accent. Seriously, how hard is it for a computer to understand an Aussie saying “yes” or “no”?

    • Edhla says:

      As a call centre operator, I can absolutely promise you that I am instructed to give “first point resolution”, and unfortunately some managers think this extends even if my customer downright, outright says “I want to speak to a supervisor. Put me over to a supervisor, please.” I get a second line, call the supervisor, and they try to worm their way out of taking the escalated call. What then happens is I end up with an angry, screaming, vile customer on one line and a totally immovable jerk manager on the other. It’s not that I don’t want to pass you over to a manager. I would sometimes give an hour’s pay to pass your call on. But if the manager refuses to take the call because they think they’re too important to talk to customers, there’s not a lot I, personally, can do about it. Screaming at me isn’t helping. Write the company a letter of complaint.

    • Edhla says:

      Incidentally, the only time I have ever (dammit) cried at work was during the tug-of-war between an infuriated, demanding customer and a manager who refused to take the escalated call and wanted me to “resolve the issue” even though the customer refused to talk to me about it and kept screaming/swearing at me. I wasn’t crying about the customer, though. I was crying because the manager was hiding behind me when she knew SHE could help the customer and I couldn’t. Way to be a manager.

    • SirWired says:

      The front-line employee, even if he can’t help you, STILL needs to have some clue what’s going on so the supervisor can receive the shortened version.

      Front-line employees don’t give out $100 credits because that’s a quick and dirty way to reduce their call times, “juice” their customer sat numbers, and cost the company an enormous amount of money, even when a credit is not justified.

      And yes, he works for the company, not you. As a front-line supervisor, his job is to keep his employees happy and keep his bosses happy. Keeping you happy is a secondary goal, as reflected in the survey numbers his bosses read. Since you don’t pay him directly, your happiness is only important in the abstract sense that if enough customers are pissed off, there will be fewer of them, and the company has less money to, say, pay employees.

    • 180CS says:

      Most front line employees are authorized to give smaller good faith credits. Where did the article say they weren’t? Also, discretion is choosing to forward certain issues onto higher ups. Since when is any business with tiered customer support a monopoly? I don’t think you can call the smallest retail store in your town a monopoly, but fact of the matter is, the guy at the checkout counter can make some small exceptions, the customer service desk can make bigger ones, the general manager can make even bigger ones, and the store owner can make whatever ones he/she wants. Problem?

  8. menty666 says:

    I do keep in mind that it’s not the CSR’s fault and try not to yell at them. These days the blame often lies with the lowest bidder coding firm Mr. X’s company used to write their faulty billing software that necessitates having so many CSRs handling irate callers.

    So how about instead of blaming the customer, Mr. X’s company fix the problem. Happy customers have no reason to curse out your CSRs.

  9. Pete the Geek says:

    Agreed, and let’s also agree that when I ask to speak to a supervisor, you will connect me to a supervisor. And if it *really is* true that “no supervisor is available” (i.e. every single supervisor is at an off-site meeting learning how to give better customer service) you will arrange to have a supervisor call me promptly, AND that supervisor really will call me. So we’re cool with this?

    • Edhla says:

      That’s generally not the rep’s fault. Most supervisors think they’re too important to take escalated calls and will worm their way out of doing so at all costs. And once I leave a note/email for a manager to call you back, it’s not my fault if said manager doesn’t because they’re in a “meeting” (3 hour lunch.) The rep can only do so much. Trust me, they’re not keeping you on the line because they just love talking with angry customers they can’t help.

    • 180CS says:

      When you get told that they’ll call you back, ask for a timeframe. Then tell them that it’s important that you actually get a call in that time frame, otherwise you’re going to have to file suit. You’d be surprised at how many managers manage to get back to their desks in 5 minutes when you say this.

  10. Angoisette says:

    Those who shout and scream at reps are generally those who have never worked in a service industry, and have never been on the receiving end of a customer in a rant. Regardless of the problem that’s got you upset, that tends to make you more respectful. They’re just trying to do a job.

  11. IndyJaws says:

    As a manager for an 800 agent call center, I completely agree. I’ll go out of my way to do virtually anything for customers who comport themselves professionally. I totally understand that people’s frustration levels can run very high, and give them a lot of grace when trying to resolve their issues. However, when customers cross that line, I won’t reward their bad behavior.

    @bnceo, our staff does not read scripts (other than legally-mandated ones) and are well-trained, with an investment (both professional and monetary) to ensure that each customer is treated with the highest level of courtesy and respect. Having been on the other side of the phone many times, I know that many call centers are completely different, with indifferent, rude and unaccountable agents, but please be careful painting with such a broad brush. Hateful customers are their own worst enemy.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      At the same time, the system is designed to be unfriendly to customers. Companies design them this way. Why does it take 3 levels of CSRs to get a resolution? Why can’t level 1s have some form of ability to do anything other than follow a pre-determined pattern of answer? Whether scripted or not, they can only do so much, and it isn’t much.

    • bonzombiekitty says:

      When I used to work tech support, we didn’t have a script – just a list of issues and “known” solutions. Nine times out of ten, the solutions were easy and took no effort at all to fix. Other times, it’d take a lot more investigating and should be shoved off to desk side support. But doing that could mean hours until somebody came by to help. If confronted with such a problem, and you were polite to me, I’d bend over backwards to fix the problem myself so that you could get the fastest resolution and if I couldn’t fix it I’d probably push the ticket to a higher priority so you got help faster. But if you were rude to me, you got minimal service – if I couldn’t quickly resolve the problem I’d kick it over to someone else and give it the minimal priority that applied to your situation (I’d never do something like give a ticket a low priority when the issue was actually pretty severe, but if you had a medium priority issue, I certainly wouldn’t push it up to “high”).

    • SisterMaryPollyEsther says:

      @Indy, I’m hanging your comment on my wall.

  12. consumer says:

    People use front line (call center, retail, whatever) customer care people to vent. They always have, and with economics tight people are under more pressure, hence more venting.

    I remember working a call center job many years ago. Our inside joke was that we were “cheap therapy” for the customers.

  13. Chickin-Pickin says:

    I couldn’t agree more with what Mr.X. I was a store manager for a major wireless carrier. I had the ability to whatever I needed to do to make a customer happy. But the first sign of cursing or personal attack, I would stop them a tell them I wanted to help but if they continued in that tone, they could go somewhere else. Most would apologize and we would get on with fixing their problem.
    The flies with honey approach will get you much further than ANY other method. You do have to follow through with what you promised and I did.

  14. Blueskylaw says:

    “If I believe we made a mistake and the customer was respectful in
    questioning the error”

    So if the customer wasn’t respectful, you would keep their money why?

    • bonzombiekitty says:

      No, that’s not what it says. It says that if there was a mistake and if the customer was not respectful, they wouldn’t give any additional good faith credits beyond what the customer is actually due.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Reading comprehension can be your friend if you let it be.

        He said IF I believe we made a mistake AND the customer was respectful, I will:
        1). Apologize
        2). Offer to correct the bill
        3). Offer some additional credits

        He is implying that if you are NOT respectful, then even if they made a mistake, he will neither apologize, nor offer to correct the bill nor will he offer additional credits.

        • Edhla says:

          “However, if the customer was rude, I will not offer good-faith bill credits regardless of who was at fault. (I will correct a billing error, but do nothing more.)”

          It says right there in the article that he will correct a billing error. He just won’t offer any extra freebies to people who are rude to the CSOs.

        • Raziya says:

          Reading comprehension is *your* friend –

          “However, if the customer was rude, I will not offer
          good-faith bill credits regardless of who was at fault. (I will
          correct a billing error, but do nothing more.)”

          So…no.

        • Booboobunnygirl says:

          thats not what he said at all.

          “If we did not make a mistake, I may
          offer good-faith bill credits while explaining the issue to a
          customer. However, if the customer was rude, I will not offer
          good-faith bill credits regardless of who was at fault. (I will
          correct a billing error, but do nothing more.)”

        • bonzombiekitty says:

          No, that’s not what he says. He says he will “not offer
          GOOD-FAITH bill credits regardless of who was at fault. ([he] will
          CORRECT A BILLING ERROR, but do nothing more.)” (emphasis mine).

          Since earlier in the OP he separates good-faith credits from actual bill corrections, it seems pretty clear that he’s saying if you are rude to the CSR, you would get nothing more than what you are actually due.

  15. limbodog says:

    Agreed, people should be respectful of others, even on the phone or the internet. But FFS, it is an incredibly frustrating and aggravating experience getting through to someone who can actually resolve problems with the vast majority of the companies out there. Most of the time you have to go through an equally frustrating automated queue as well. It’s a recipe for having pissed off people on the phone.

  16. shepd says:

    I will stop doing this when your company policies change to permit the employees to do the right thing.

  17. DaveInIT says:

    “2) If you can’t say it on broadcast TV, don’t say it to a rep.”

    Unfortunately, the list of words that are NOT acceptable on broadcast TV is getting slimmer by the day. I recall an episode from the original Star Trek’s 3rd season. Kirk told a Klingon to “go to the devil.” These days, of course, it would be “go to hell” along with some other epithets.

    • nybiker says:

      Even the movies are getting bad. I just watched a movie the other day and at the end of it, as the character walked away from his wife, he told her he frankly didn’t give a damn. I’m telling you, the vulgarity is just too much. They did use the phrase ‘go to the devil’ during the movie, but that was ok.

  18. dullard says:

    “…our staff does not read scripts (other than legally-mandated ones) and are well-trained, with an investment (both professional and monetary) to ensure that each customer is treated with the highest level of courtesy and respect.”

    You’re the exception, not the rule. Unfortunately, customer service has deteriorated to the point that, more times than not, I encounter a customer service representative who doesn’t care, is poorly trained (not their fault) and is really not interested in solving my problem. I often feel as though the CSR can’t get me off the telephone quickly enough. The attitude seems to be that, since the CSR can’t solve my problem, my problem has gone away.

    CSRs should be trained that it’s OK to not have a solution at hand, but when this occurs the call should be escalated to a higher level where a solution may be found. Far too often a call to customer service or tech support becomes an “Us vs. Them” situation. The customer is not an annoyance who is interfering with the CSR’s job. The customer is the reason for their job, as well as the reason for the job of those above them. Treat the customer accordingly.

  19. banjosdoggydad says:

    While I agree, the sword cuts two ways. My problem might not fit into that script, and may require some critical thinking skills on their part. When I call and have to explain the situation to another representative (we’re on attempt #4 to get this sorted out) I’m frustrated, because at that point, I am aware that your company cares nothing for my business until I cancel my account or stop paying. I try to be respectful, but if that doesn’t work, my next choice is going to be firm and assertive.

  20. sonicmeerkat says:

    If you want to be treated like a human being act like it, rehearsed scripts and say “we apologize for this issue” after every sentence is a easy way to make me think I’m talking to a robot or brick wall.

  21. deadandy says:

    I love these mid-level managers that think because someone gave them a little power over $100, they have a license to play god and punish customers for being rude.

    No, it is not appropriate for customers to be rude to your CSRs. However, as other people in the comments have attempted to point out, they are being rude because your company already screwed them over and is punishing them with a poor customer service model.

    You push them over the cliff, and then withhold the parachute because they are being rude to who pushed them.

  22. msmith6044 says:

    How about screening overseas csrs for fluency in the English language ? Just becasue they can read word by word from a script does NOT mean they can hold a basic conversation without me having to repeat the same thing over and over.

  23. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    “Part of my job as the marketing manager at a leading service supplier
    is to handle escalated issues.”

    Well there’s your problem. Not customer service, not a technical department, but MARKETING. Having someone from marketing run your support call center is tantamount to the company saying “We explicitly don’t give a shit whether your problem gets fixed or not.”

    I’m sure Mr. X is a nice person. I’m sure his CSRs do the best job they are able to do under such retarded circumstances. But, as is too often the case, failure comes from the top, and it’s the front-line CSRs that have to deal with the consequences of some someones-brother-in-law-that-i-play-golf-with-that-was-my-fraternity-brother C*O’s bad decision.

    It’s like removing the engine from your car before trying to drive to the store. A non-starter.

  24. TheUncleBob says:

    As someone who works with the public on a regular basis… +1.

    If you treat me or my co-workers like trash, be prepared to receive the bare minimum with regards to service. If you start cursing out one of my co-workers, be prepared to leave the store.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Let me play devil’s advocate and point out something that many front-line CSRs and those who deal with the public never seem to realize – not all customers are the same. Not that some are white, some are women, etc. But there are customers that your company would like to keep more than others.

      Wells Fargo has had my business ever since my grandfather introduced me to his personal banker (way back before it was Wells Fargo. Martha, her name was, might as well been the Virgin Mary because she was amazing and could perform miracles. God rest her soul, we miss her). I own my own business and frankly, I’ll be paying more taxes if Obama has anything to say. But Wells Fargo decided that it wanted to change my grandmother $39 for a safety deposit box. Now, its not a monetary issue, she could afford it. But considering my grandmother has about $800k in that bank and its investment arms (widow of a veteran, pensions, etc), $39 is nothing compared to the interest they make loaning the money. Then there’s what I have there, but lets not get there yet.

      I call the bank’s tellers and ask them to waive it. She’s had it for years and this is the first time they’ve charged her. After having her tell two people its okay to talk to me (even thought they have Power of Attorney on file there for me to talk to them – clue #1 they don’t know what they are doing) they finally say that it is policy and they cannot waive it. I go up to a manager, ask him to look over my grandmother’s account very carefully and decide whether they want to lose it over $39… and he says there is nothing he can do. There is no one else I can talk to there.

      Not wanting the hassle of moving her money, we drive down to the bank. Two more people say the same thing, so we decide to walk over to the investment dude at the bank and plea with him. Now this guy, the face of the investment program, simply does not care. “Not my area”. Now, I’ll admit, I’m on a level of pissed off I rarely get. The bank simply does not care. There is not a flag going off alerting some finance guy to do a quick analysis to see if it is worth the $39 to lose her business. Nope, policy is policy and it doesn’t matter.

      I go to the teller and ask to get the balance of every account. I know she has an account with USAA, so while they work on this (I remind them of the investment accounts as well), USAA is not only working with me, but quickly sets up an investment account for my grandmother (she’s the widow of a veteran, again) and then I ask the teller to transfer all of her money to this new account.

      And, lo and behold, that’s when someone finally realizes they can waive the $39 fee. Guess what… too late. And, for good measure, I transfer all my accounts a few days later after making sure ADP knows about the new one coming on line.

      Its situations like this that make the public HATE CSRs. And any low-level employee that has no real power.

  25. Invader Zim says:

    How about dumping the artifical Intelligence phone answering systems that piss us off so much before we get to a rep.

  26. do not do it says:

    What gets frustrating is that there is no clear way to escalate a problem. CSRs ought to be trained to recognize when the script has failed, and escalate on behalf of the customer. It’s unfortunate that you basically have to give death threats to have something escalated. You should not have to be rude to get anything to happen. A customer should simply say “this issue can’t be resolved by your script” and the CSR should escalate it. The worst situation is the script loop, where CSR A tries 1, 2, and 3 and then transfers you to someone else who starts over with 1 and 2, then transfers you to someone else who starts over with 1. The furious customers may be stuck in this loop. The person on the other end doesn’t seem human when they can’t act independently. The industry needs some clear trigger to escalate which people can use when it’s obvious the script doesn’t cover the situation.

  27. EllenRose says:

    When it becomes obvious I’m getting nowhere with the first voice on the phone, I politely note that I do not want to say bad things to them — could they pass me on to somebody it’s more worthwhile to say bad things to?

  28. VicMatson says:

    Excellent, bravo, being polite with Customer makes you a Customer Support Whisperer!

  29. thenutman69321 says:

    Dear Mr X,
    Stop having your moronic employees obviously read a script at me that in no way helps what I’m calling for and then we won’t yell at them. Call centers have gotten to the point where you might as well automatically connect to a supervisor because your idiot monkeys that answer the phones will absolutely never be able to help you. Btw the supervisors and you also Mr X are usually only slightly less idiotic but at least you guys usually speak understandable english.

  30. msbaskx2 says:

    This guy admits that his job doesn’t even come into play until I’ve already spoken to a rep (who is usually powerless) and at least one supervisor (who are frequently powerless as well). And I’m still supposed to be “respectful” after climbing the three rungs of the customer service ladder? I’m on my third phone call to your company about the same issue and you think the problem is me?

  31. Torchwood says:

    Revenge is sweet…. http://youtu.be/mxXlDyTD7wo

  32. Cooneymike says:

    Maybe this whole post is sarcasm? Usually I can tell but this one would have to be really good, its not their fault for screwed up customer service in the first place or their management’s fault for putting powerless peons to screen away the unwashed masses, its our fault for being upset.

    • Alex d'Indiana says:

      Pretty much what I thought. Sure, it sucks to be the low-wage, front-line employee in this situation. I keep my cool with them, but I can understand why others don’t.

      If corporations want people to be nicer to their low-level reps, then they need to improve their customer service.

      But there will still be a few jerks out there, and those people need to give it up.

      • Torinir says:

        The article and the sentiments of “Mr. X.” are real. I was a front line technical support rep for an OEM for a few years. Some customers are downright nasty when they get on the phone. Many are not, but there’s plenty that are.

        If a customer calls in and they’re nice, I’ll go many extra miles to resolve issues. Research outside of my boundaries of support (much to the chagrin of my supervisors), conference call third party support centers, etc. Not if they’re nasty. The nasty ones get the basic drill down and punt (if applicable).

        I have also had two cases where a customer was banned from contacting support after their actions caused serious distress to the agents. In both cases, the OEM bought out their support contract.

        It truly does make sense to mind your P’s and Q’s while on the phone with Customer Service or Support.

  33. pitawg says:

    Dear Companies,
    You insist on saving yourself money by using customers as a source of input instead of quality pay to quality workers. I resent the assumption that my input is free. I resent the assumption that a two path script covers all situations. I resent the assumption that my phone is for your free use as an asset source for your company’s daily operations.

    You do not spot and fix your own stupid mistakes made by your unqualified underpaid employees. Why should any of your victims be used to cover that lack you designed into your business model? You up the error/flaw percentage in quality of product and service because it is cheaper and feel you can shift the responsibility and duty to your customer victims. Deal with it. You are screaming for hostility in your actions.

    Slavery is only a little beyond the point where work being done by individuals that want the work more than they want free will or that warm feeling inside from a job well done. They seem to have little choice. Don’t complain to us about your failing plan or it’s effects on the choice-less.

  34. Charles says:

    Begin by hiring people conversant in English. Hire people who speak clearly. Hire people without an attitude. I’m nice to you if your nice to me. Don’t say “SIR” so it sounds like “asshole”. Those things would help. Also kill the computer prompts. I’m usually mad by the I navigate that miasma of recordings.

  35. tweeder82o says:

    This all makes sense, but I think what ends up being frustrating is that the front line employee are not given any authorities or discretion. And one has to wait for someone like “mr x” to come and save the day, sometimes over something simple and obvious. So why not just have more people with the powers of Mr X? It can’t be fun for those front liners to field angry calls all the time and have no power whatsoever to solve the problem.

    • Ilovegnomes says:

      This! Remember that the customer is usually calling because a mistake that the company made. The customer is either paying for something that they aren’t getting or being billed incorrectly if they are calling. That takes time out of their life/schedule to deal with it. Having to play the, “Who can solve my problem game,” wastes more of their precious free time which leads to escalated frustration. Let the first person that they come in contact with be able to solve the issue and their will be a lot less frustration and hostility.

      • Ilovegnomes says:

        The other feedback I have for Mr. X is that more and more these companies are setting up processes that they understand and makes sense to the people who work there but the problem is they impact the person who calls there who doesn’t work there and that process hasn’t been explained to them. Worse, that process doesn’t account for the fact that they are coming into contact with people who are not privileged to that information. So maybe at your company your rep takes the complaint but then you solve the problem. That’s a two person process. Some other companies have even more tiers/levels of people that the customer has to swim through to fix their problem.

        Companies need to look at their processes from the other side of the table. Their customers want to call and have their problem dealt with in the shortest time possible. However a company has to do that on that back end, that’s up to them to figure out but don’t put the burden of time onto the customer. They are the one coming to you to pay for your service or product but somehow that company has screwed up in providing that product or service. Don’t add salt to their wound by wasting more time. Please enable the first level of contact to solve the problem… or at least make it appear that way to the customer.

  36. BigDragon says:

    Mr. X, it’s your fault your call center employees are crying and quitting. Don’t blame the frustrated customer who has a problem and is stuck with a person behaving like a machine reading from a script or coming up with excuses. Mr. X needs to get his butt out of his office and start answering phone calls and making a difference. If something has escalated to a supervisor already he’s way too late. You really think $100 is going to make a difference when someone has already wasted hours of their time talking to a call center rep and at least one supervisor?

    Support call experiences have caused me to stop doing business with Dell, Verizon, and several other companies. By the time it gets to Mr. X’s level the company is already blacklisted and has no ability to redeem itself. I’m tired of companies like Mr. X’s treating their time as more valuable than mine. _MY_ time is more valuable than theirs, period.

  37. mrfantomhawk says:

    As a call center employee for a technical support center, I can guarantee that the surveys are important, our bonus’s depend on them. Also, they only affect the agent, so if you like the agent that helped you, but dont like the service or the company, still give the call high marks, and in the comments section, go off on the product, trust me, they do read them.

    Companies for the most part do not run their own call centers, they are hired hands, and the call centers have to reach a certain level of satisfaction of the hiring company can take away the call centers contract and move on to another center. So your not really judging the product, your judging the call center and the agent who handled your call.

    • flip_flop_fly says:

      I really don’t think that customers are too terribly concerned about the fact that some cheap-ass company farms out their customer service department.

      When one calls a company to get a resolution to a problem, I would imagine that most folks see that company as a whole, not its component parts. Whether you are a lowly level 1 CSR or the CEO, you are viewed as part of that whole.

      And it makes no difference whether you are “empowered” to do something of substance to bring about a resolution or not. You draw your pay from that well of money I threw my cash into, expecting a certain result that your company is not delivering. As such, you are part of that clusterf*ck, and the fact that they put you between me and a resolution is not my problem. At that moment in time, it’s yours.

      And to the suggestion that one should give a good marks to a bad customer experience is ludicrous on its face. The fact that your are hired hands makes no difference. By accepting a contract from a company that exercises poor customer service practices, that makes the call center, and, by proxy, you, call center employee, complicit in that failure.

      It should not be the customer’s responsibility to differentiate between levels of responsibility and assess blame accordingly. When a company fails a customer, the entire enterprise has failed them.

  38. Pedropuff says:

    Sorry to say it, but if you are a customer service rep for a crappy company or if your company has harmed a client then you must take the brunt of the customer’s anger. Of course, we know you are not to blame, but who the heck else do we yell at? It’s not as if we can call up your boss or the executives. You say that this venting does no good but check it out, it made one call center supervisor take notice and he went and wrote this article. That’s the point. We are angry and we want to be heard. If that means I have to make your call center employees cry and quit so be it. If this system does not work then change your policy. Provide better customer service and stop using every gimmick to rip off the customer. Individuals lack power in relation to large companies and we need any kind of leverage we can get. Sadly, there will be collateral damage.

    • Alex d'Indiana says:

      The problem is that the front-line employee gets yelled at and cries. Mr. X can’t do much to the system – just offer $100 and maybe actually fix the problem. He hears the employees crying, but that’s it.

      The person who could actually change the system never hears the customer’s anger, never hears the employee crying, and never sees Mr. X’s discomfort over having to listen to verbally violent exchanges. S/he plays golf instead and complains about how little people aren’t as great and talented and hard-working and motivated as s/he is.

  39. Lyn Torden says:

    Dear Mr. X,

    You (figuratively speaking) are the problem. The very fact that front line CSRs have to escalate the call to YOU is why they get yelled at or worse. But it’s not just your operation alone. Customers are constantly fed up by CSRs that are not given the authority clear up an issue on the spot. You are not giving them that authority because you are not willing to pay enough for smart CSRs that are able to correctly figure out each and every case.

    This problem is so widespread across all industries that people come to expect this. They can tell they are being scripted. They know the scripts don’t handle 50% of the cases. If the CSR is not allowed to THINK (assuming you even hired someone that can think), then I want the call transferred to someone that can, immediately.

    If YOU do not want to be fielding 50% of the calls personally, then hire someone at least as smart as yourself to do that. Hire as many of them as needed to handle the call volume. And charge these costs against the company savings that resulted from going short on product or service quality.

    • Darkrose says:

      I’m confused as to how he is the problem. Mr. X works in escalations, not management. He cannot make the decisions as to what the front line agents can and can’t fix.

      • Alex d'Indiana says:

        This. Us, the CSR’s, Mr. X, we’re all just pawns in this game. The people making money off it don’t even know or care what’s going on.

    • AzCatz07 says:

      If you’ve already decided before you get the CSR on the line that they are unintelligent and not empowered to help you, then you are part of the problem. You’ve made it clear that you don’t think CSRs are smart, which means you’re probably condescending and mean to them, even though most of the times they can fix the issue without it being escalated.

      There is no excuse not to treat people with respect. None.

      • Snapdragon says:

        AzCatz07: YES, THIS. Companies can simply not give every frontline agent the kind of discretion or power Lyn Torden seems to want.

    • NanoDog says:

      This! It really is the underlying policies written by people that NEVER have to pick up a phone that cause havoc in call centers and annoy consumers.

      Also, I’m a manager that occasionally has to handle a complaint, i’m fine with anger but not with yelling, I’m fine with curtness but not rudeness, I’m fine with brutal honesty but not bending the truth, as long as people act that way, I’m a person back.

    • tsume says:

      Do you want to pay twice as much for services so they can afford front line reps who will make the right calls? Didn’t think so.

      There’s a reason why call centers give limited authority to front line reps, and it’s because many of them would be issuing credits left and right in the wrong situations if they could. Employees with better judgement and a better ability to retain training material come at a higher price tag.

    • impatientgirl says:

      Part of the problem, is that because of a bad experience you assume that all Call Center people are idiots and can’t help you. How would that go over if you expected all restaurant servers to be bad because you had a couple bad experiences? If your food is cooked incorrectly do you yell and curse at the server? No? Then why do you yell and curse at the phone rep when something has happened to your billing or your ability to use the website? You get upset because you have to listen to a menu or talk to more than one person, do you really think every call should be answered live and every person should know the answer to every question? That’s ridiculous. If you stopped ranting for a minute and thought through the process you’d realize that.

    • baristabrawl says:

      Oh look! Another customer service expert! How quaint.

      Unrelated: if your people are crying because of a phone call, you may want to teach them to terminate a call. There is NO reason for anyone to listen to abuse to the point that they cry. I don’t even know that I CAN cry at work. The only thing that makes me misty anymore are those dang ASPCA “adopt-a-pet” commercials and I don’t watch TV at work.

      • trencherman says:

        I’ve had friends work for call centers. They were not allowed to terminate a call. Calls were randomly monitored by supervisors, and if a worker canceled the call, he or she was at risk of being fired.

        Needless to say, almost everyone I know who worked for call centers HATED the job. They desperately needed the money, or they would not have worked at the call center. So, even if it’s hard, I try to be nice.

        • elangomatt says:

          That is part of the problem. The customer isn’t always right. If a call center rep is being verbally abused over the phone, they should be able to disconnect the caller. If a caller knows that they can get hung up on, they might not be as incredibly huge jerks.

    • elangomatt says:

      My biggest problem with call centers has to be the scripts to be honest. I have had both the worst and best of customer service when calling into Kabletown. The first time I had to call in, I had diagnosed the cable modem problem and was pretty positive it was broken. I called in, told them what the problem was and what I’d done to try to diagnose it. The rep said that I’d done everything that was on his troubleshooting list and tried a few things that could only be done remotely. The rep also talked to me like a normal person since he could tell I knew what I was doing. The whole call took maybe 10 minutes from when I started talking to him to when I was told that I needed a new modem.

      The other Kabletown call a few months later for something cable box related, I had a rep that refused to deviate from the script and made me redo every step that I’d already done before calling. This rep was also rude throughout the call and tried to find any reason to blame me for the problems I was having.

      • truckmeyer says:

        I used to do tech support for Comcast. Here’s what I can tell you:

        Tech #1 who deviated was warned and/or fired if a supe pulled that call.

        Tech #2 still has his job.

        Yes, Comcast sucks.

        • coldfire409 says:

          I also used to work for Comcast and I can say you’re absolutely correct in that situation. Also while we couldn’t end a call under any circumstance when I gave my two week notice I would break every rule in the book in regards to that. If the person was being abusive to me I would end that call. I would also treat the callers like they were real people like the first person in the scenario above. Those were honestly the best two weeks of my time there. I would say 95% of the calls were really good, compared with about 80% when I did things the way they wanted them done.

  40. dotsandloops says:

    As a front line call center employee for Kabletown, I can get behind this guy’s points about people becoming less civil in the past couple of years. I speak English better than most, though, and have a better education than most. Maybe it’s my tone of voice that lets people know I’m neither an idiot nor a prick, but people are generally cool so we can get their issue fixed without excessive drama. The thing to remember is that it’s generally the less educated consumers who are likely to call in and freak out about the conspiratorial nature of everything they don’t understand (which is most things). This man’s letter is thus misdirected at Consumerist readers. It should be broadcast on talk radio or something so it makes it to its intended audience.

    • Velvet Jones says:

      I will back up what you said. I’m much more will to be civil to a CSR who appears to what they’re doing. It is the morons that continue reading from a script well after the point where the script doesn’t fit my problem that cause the problems. I’ve been on the phone with CSRs that could barely speak or from a complete sentence. These are not people that should be representing your business.

  41. Overman says:

    I’m really surprized here.
    Very few people seem to have any idea what its like working in a call center.
    As an unskilled youth I took a job for a telemarketer for a short while.
    I didn’t last long due to my low sales numbers, but is was the worst week ever.
    I had no choice but to annoy people with cold calls from a list gathered by marketers.
    I understand that it was invasive and not solicitated advertising.
    That said, the string of obscenities, the threats of physical violence, and the overall environment of abuse both in the office and on the phone made it hands down the most awful job ever.
    So a few points:
    When you talk to a rep and they tell you their name, repeat it back to them.
    Then inquire as to the status of their day.
    “Hello my name is Bob. How can I help you today?”
    “Hello Bob, my name is Joe. How are you doing today”
    This will move the ball a million miles down the field because it proves you are not an ass.
    Also, let them work the script. They HAVE to, its a liability thing. Youl’d be surprized how many technical service issues are due to lack of the device being turned on or plugged in.
    Most billing disputes will be resolved in your favor if you try to be understanding and plead ignorance. Its human nature to help people when they are at a disadvantage and you can assist them, but only if you are not a demanding jerk.
    Just because you are frustrated with a service of product, it will always work out better if you realize that the people of first contact are there to direct you to a resolution. Most can’t actually assist you directly but will have escillate the issue, especially if it involves money. You’ll get better results if you empower them to help, rather than deride them for being unhelpfull.
    No one WANTS calll center work, hell dealing with the general public is always unpleasent.
    You do what you have to to eat.
    Just try to be a farkin person!

    • Press1forDialTone says:

      I’ll do everything you wanted if and when you learn the English language:

      “Youl’d” (no, this is not a word, the correct word is You’d)

      be “surprized” (no this is not a word, the correct word is surprised)

      how many technical service issues are due to lack of the device being turned on or plugged in.

      • HFC says:

        I’ll do everything you wanted if, and when, you learn the English language:

        You forgot your commas, while pointing out the two typos is Overman’s 359 word post. Oh, here’s a couple more mistakes.

        (H)ow many technical service issues are due to lack of the device being turned on or plugged in(?)

        • MarkFL says:

          Well played, sir or madam. I see you have picked up on Mark’s Second Rule of Online Communications:

          Any posting pointing out another user’s errors in grammar or spelling will itself contain errors in grammar or spelling.

          (Not referring to your posting)

    • trencherman says:

      I agree with you, based on people I know who’ve worked at call centers (very briefly).

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Me too. I’ll kill myself before I work at a call center. No, I’ll go back to FOOD SERVICE first.

        • oldwiz65 says:

          Maybe it would be better to go to work for the military – at least you could shoot back at the people who are screaming (shooting) at you.

  42. Press1forDialTone says:

    In my experience, I first educate myself so that I can talk to the CSR
    and help them help me. I am friendly, civil and clear about what the call
    is about and I ask for their name and I give them the info they need to
    identify me. All CSRs have a call history for the customer in front of them.
    I ask them to refer to that if I have called before or to put something in it
    is I think it will help resolve the problem or make the solution go more
    smoothly.

    But….

    If they cannot speak English properly.

    or seem to be a robot with a script

    or are just clueless

    or are rude to me,

    I get icy really fast and ask for a retention specialist if that is appropriate
    to the service, or I ask that my problem be escalated.

    If they will not escalate and will not or do not want to solve my problem,
    I email (3x/day) the next level until they reply which they always do because
    they hate the repeat identical emails.

    • NanoDog says:

      “Speak english properly” sounds like code for another attitude to me..

      A tech I get frequently for support has a very heavy russian accent, but guess what? He doesn’t hear with an accent! And he’s quick to drive right to the solution…

  43. Not Given says:

    I reserve the right to torture unwanted callers

    • truckmeyer says:

      When I did tech support for KomKast, we’d get a bonus on the call if we tried to sell the caller something.

      I learned after a few months to sell rude and/or unwanted callers HBO until they hung up on me.

  44. tz says:

    So, I spend 15 minutes navigating through a forest of menu-trees since I can’t even get to a CSR without several layers on hold, press 1 for X (it is usually option 7 or later with 30 seconds of explanation per option). By the time I speak to the CSR I’m already ready to kill someone. The only thing worse is the voice non-recognition where I have to say something and it gives me the wrong option with a robot voice you can’t argue with. I’m ready to argue with someone by the time I finally get to a human being.

    Oh, and they play insipid music, but interrupt it to give me unhelpful tips, the web address for further information, and that “my call is really, really, important to them” every 15 seconds. And I have to listen to this same thing repeated dozens of times. I think the FBI hostage rescue team could use this to drive someone out of a building.

    The first CSR usually makes me go through a 30 minute “did you plug it in”, “check the power switch”, even if it is clear from the horrid screech that the hard drive is damaged, or that the phone is resetting spontaneously. I usually have done this at least 3 times before calling, or have already done it two or three times with other CSRs that did not resolve it. Then they say there is nothing that I can do (without spending several hundred of my dollars), they don’t issue refunds, quote long policy explaining how I’m screwed. And how they can’t find the notes on my case from the last 3 times I called and went through all the same things.

    Then if I ask to speak with a supervisor, I have to go through the entire same stuff AGAIN! I’ve had to enter some number using touch tones, repeat it twice to the first CSR, add a bunch of other identification info, AND explain the problem. And what I want as a resolution. This supervisor then quotes the same “I’m screwed” legalese script.

    So by the time I get to Mr. X, after the voice robot that doesn’t understand english, the forest of menu trees, the repeated “your call is important” hold message, probably an hour total on hold, talking to two clueless people who force me to go through the stupid stuff, I’m supposed to be civil?

    I do try to read everything, but if you bury confusing terms, change things arbitrarily, and in general the company has a policy of screwing the customers with legalese, changes, unreasonable (but buried in the mouseprint) charges, I’m not going to be happy even if you show me that I’m wrong. Is the company acting in bad faith at the point of original sale?

    If I could call, have them announce ONCE the expected wait time (maybe with an occasional update) or with a RELIABLE “let us call you back in order”. Then the first words the CSR says are “I’m hear to help” and doesn’t sound rushed, like they are trying to interrogate me for my account number and stuff, but really care about and want to help fix the problem, I would be civil and continue to be. Why should they have to escalate TWICE to get a reasonable fix? Why do I have to get through a maze to get to Mr. X? Why can’t the initial CSR say “I think I can get this done, but I need to get approval” and IM Mr. X and have it happen quickly. Without putting me on hold back and forth 20 times for an hour?

    It sounds like I can’t get to Mr. X UNLESS I bring the original CSR to tears. You are rewarding me for being abusive. If I was civil, would I even get to a supervisor?

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      Automated systems are not that complicated lol. It seems like you just want to be mad at something and you create a reason. If people listen and follow directions, 9 times out of ten, you wouldn’t have any problems.

      “I’m not going to be happy even why you show me I’m wrong.”

      So basically you’re one of those who come in looking for a fight.

    • MarkFL says:

      Yes, the complicated voice mail system and annoying music are the CSR’s fault, right?

      (cough)

    • frodolives35 says:

      You have had to call ATT I just know it.

    • Bob says:

      “I think the FBI hostage rescue team could use this to drive someone out of a building.”

      Hey, that’s a great idea for SWAT PsyOps.

  45. Mike says:

    I really appreciate this. The first line callers don’t typically set policy or the scripts they have to follow, and I make it point to be calm and treat them with respect. Unfortunately, the telephone menu system I usually have to go through to get to talk to a real person is so cumbersome, difficult, and ineffective, that I am frequently infuriated by the time I actually talk to someone. Then the first words that come out my mouth are harsh, not because of anything they’ve done, but because I’ve just spent the last half-hour trying to navigate through a phone system designed to make it difficult to reach a real person.

  46. bugpaste says:

    In May I logged into an online account I have only to find that no matter what I tried I was unable to use it. Every link and button took me into an endless loop of login screens. It took me until two weeks ago to fix it. This is what had to transpire first:

    1. Several polite but fruitless calls to CSRs who told me I was crashing the system by using security settings that were too high (if your banking website requires low security settings, you’re doing it wrong).
    2. Several more polite but fruitless calls to CSRs who promised to manually reset some kind of magic in their IT system but never did.
    3. Calling in a payment, only to have it rejected because the CSR coded my bank account information wrong.
    4. Demanding immediate escalations as soon as I got a human on the line, and speaking to managers who were rude and often times lying baldly.
    5. A tweet that read “It’s probably better for [Company] that I don’t know where their call centers are.”
    6. An immediate response by their corporate PR team, who within 5 minutes resolved all the IT issues their useless CSRs and IT staff were “helpless” to fix.

    I know what works, is all I’m saying here.

  47. NorthAlabama says:

    well, we now know why this “mr x” hears so much screaming at reps for this company…they obviously do not know how to provide customer service, but choose to scold their customers instead. no wonder their customers are so upset.

    rarely does anyone call into customer service screaming. sure, if unable to resolve an issue, a customer might be upset by the time they call, but it is usually poor customer service that drives a customer over the edge. the reason for the call is for help.

    does frustration excuse bad behavior? no. however; if a customer service rep is properly trained and empowered to solve a customers concern, the yelling is usually diffused, even before a supervisor request. it happens all the time, every day.

    bottom line: if your customer service reps are not trained or empowered to deal with customer service concerns, get ready for a lot more screaming. by the way, it’s not your responsibility to “punish” the customer, but instead to make the customer “satisfied”. you know, the customer that pays your salary? i doubt you’ll have your job very long, and i expect you to be screamed at, too.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      “rarely does anyone call into customer service screaming.”

      I suspect that you have never worked a customer service phone or desk. A lot of people seem to believe that if you go in with both barrels blazing you can get your way more quickly. In various customer service positions I have seen and heard and been told things you would probably not believe.

      There are several websites dedicated to CSRs relating these kinds of stories. I’m sure you can find many examples of customers calling in screaming. It’s a common occurrence, I assure you.

      • NorthAlabama says:

        actually, i have worked years in call center management for 3 companies you would instantly recognize by name. that’s why i said “rarely”.

        it’s true, the adage “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” is occasionally used by customers, and it works sometimes. the adage “catch more flies with honey” tends to work more often.

        the best solution is to resolve the customers issue the first time, every time, never promise what you can’t deliver, and follow up whenever necessary.

  48. newfenoix says:

    Mr. X has an attitude. There are many problems with CSR’s; rudeness, stupidity, laziness, the inability to speak proper English, etc., etc. When I have an issue, as soon as a CSR answers I ask for a manager because I know that speaking with a CSR is an absolute waste of time. If I have the number, I call the corporate offices. Speaking of CSR’s, I recently had an experience that sticks out because of how good it was. I’m a state law officer in Texas and was recently transferred. I had to get Time Warner Cable and dreaded it because of the horror stories that I have read. The people that I talked to were some of the most professional folks that I have ever spoken with. The worst? HP!!!

  49. balderdashed says:

    Actually, making a few more call center employees cry might be the best thing for everyone. No, I have no wish to be cruel. But if customers are demanding and make it tough for a CSR to follow a canned script that doesn’t solve the customer’s problem, what might happen? Some CSRs (who lack the skills to deal with a variety of customers, or good communication skills generally) just might experience high levels of stress, find the job just isn’t worth it, and quit. If enough of them quit, companies just might have to pay more to hire and retain competent CSRs — and provide them with decent training, as well as a living wage.

  50. bben says:

    Years ago I read a book for a business class called ‘Up the Organization’ by Robert Townsend. This is the guy that took Avis car rental from just another car rental to give Hertz a real run for car rental supremacy.

    One of the things he did to improve customer service was to institute a program where if the customer incoming phone in Avis HQ rang more than 3 times, he would pick it up. At that point he became the front line CSR who had to listen to customer complaints. Avis customer satisfaction skyrocketed, as did customer loyalty. When you called, you never knew when you might find yourself talking to the CEO.

    Some of the arrogant overpaid jerks who run corporations today should be required to read it.

    • balderdashed says:

      I loved that book — thanks for reminding me of it. As I recall, he was also not fond of the phrase, “It’s against company policy,” and suggested that if a company had to have a policy manual, it should just publish the Ten Commandments.

  51. tmbggirl says:

    Dear every company that has a call center –

    I don’t want your employees to be upset. I don’t want to be upset either. Here is how to make both of us happier:
    1. Do not route my call to an overseas call center. First off, the connection quality is crap. Secondly, if the person isn’t proficient in English, I feel like I am having a conversation with Peggy from USA Prime Credit (Discover Card commercials).
    2. A script should be a reference card, not the damn Bible of How Everything In Our Company Works and There is No Deviation. Empower your employees to make a judgement call, or at the very least to get the customer to someone who will be able to answer their question as quickly and accurately as possible.
    3. Train your CSRs on your products and your policies so that they do not accidentally or intentionally lie to me.

    As someone who works in the world of retail, and who has to deal with call centers/tech support on a regular basis for work, I try my best to remember that the poor person at the other end of the phone did not create whatever issue that I am asking for their help in resolving. I always try to be polite, and if I feel that the call needs to be escalated, I will say something such as “I understand that you have to stick to your protocol/do not have the authority to do x-y-z, so can you please put me through to a supervisor? Its not your fault and you haven’t done a bad job; I just need to get this resolved in a timely manner.”

    Also if anyone from HP is reading here – my experience with your CSR people was so horrible when my laptop’s cpu fan broke (while under warranty) that it is a determining factor in why I will never buy one of your products ever again. The kicker was when you had a manager email me because I indicated that I was unhappy with the service I had received, I documented what had happened (including where CSRs had given me wrong information multiple times, such as “You will not have to be home to sign for your laptop when it is delivered back to you” Yeah right. My 30 mile trip to FedEx begs to differ.), and no one followed up.

  52. Mr Joshua says:

    Well how about Mr X’s company start employing call center staff who have a clue and are well trained. You only need to read the horror stories here to see that this is generally not the case, and lord knows most of the call center staff I’ve dealt with would make a saint want to bang its head against a wall.

  53. RatDamage says:

    I worked in a call centre for two months – worst job ever. I have never received so much abuse in my life. I wish I’d had a supportive superior like Mr X at work – there was zero support.

  54. loueloui says:

    Dear Mr.X,

    Please implore your company to empower your call center agents to resolve customer issues.

    I work for a large corporation that has about 75,000 agents. What I do is Agent Quality Management. I’ve been doing this for abotu 15 years.

    The overwhelming majority of complaints about any call center stems from company policies that are unfair, ignorant, or vague- not from the call center agents themselves. The agents are the ‘face of the company’ and therefore bear the brunt of the abuse and criticism. Most call centers are staffed appropriately, and many agents receive training sufficient to perform their job.

    Case in point- Technology company Y has feedback% in the low 20s. Agent turnover is a ridiculous 10%+ per month. I borrowed a friend’s credentials and called feigning a minor issue. What I found was that their agents had no ability to make any adjustment to any acccunt, no matter how small, even if it was clear the fault was clearly with the company. They were basing their previous metrics on the cost of each call as relates to a percentage of revenue only, a major mistake.

    Management was engaged to establilsh reasonable guidelines for resolving issues, and customer retention. Feedback scores and agent retention immediately improved.

  55. Obtruder says:

    I will not feel bad for these people.

    I know at the end of the day it is just a job, probably a job they hate. But if they work for a company that boasts annoying calls from poorly trained employees, especially if it is a credit collection agency, you work for the enemy, so you will be treated as such.

    Nothing personal, but they call me, I don’t call them. Don’t expect a warm welcome from a sales call.

  56. Pagan wants a +1 button says:

    Even though this is five days after the story was posted, I’m still going to vent!

    Dear Mr. X;

    Your company deliberately and with intent created a CSR system that, from the moment the robot answers to the moment you get involved, is specifically designed to frustrate consumers and make them give up. Your company probably rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on those folks who have billing errors in your favor and just pay the damned bill because it’s easier.

    So, in reality, it’s your fault that your reps are crying and quitting. You’ve designed (or support, anyway) a system that was created to be weighed in your favor; if people are outraged by it, then you need to change the system, not spank the customer.

  57. Felix says:

    I am sorry to say that all companies are not like this.
    If they were, there would be no problem.
    When i complain to a company i make sure i have all the information about the product,and then i ring them up.
    Before i make my complaint, i tell the person that this is not directed at them personally.
    It`s always been the same thing with me, that they end up insulting me.
    After a couple of weeks i get an apology by letter,or sooner.

  58. IVR Hosting says:

    Funny comments but so true. People have had such poor IVR experiences, they prefer not to use them to resolve their problems. They resort to IVRs either when they can’t find what they need online or when they want to speak with a live agent. IVR design, if done properly, can help lower call volume, improve agent and customer satisfaction and usher in a high quality self-service program in a contact center. Done improperly, it can anger customers, frustrate call center personnel and lose a company business.