The Customer Experience

Hello dear reader(s)!

Are you now or have you ever been a customer?  Do you like being treated like shit, in a customer service setting?  Do you like having problems with the goods and/or services you pay for?

More than likely, your answers were yes, no and no.  If they were not, then this post may not be for you.

Telephone customer service representatives actually make a pretty good amount of money for the education required.  The benefits can be okay too.  (Pay and benefits are typically better if you work directly for the company as opposed to a company contracted to provide customer service representatives to another company.)  Unless you have no other options, DO NOT WORK FOR ONE OF THESE COMPANIES.  A job is a job, and in a depressed economy sometimes you take what you can get, but I guarantee that you will not advance as easily, you will not get paid as well, you will not have good benefits, and you likely won’t get to form friendships with any of your co-workers since they typically last only about 2 weeks.  Also, don’t expect to have your own desk as the company does not supply enough in order to cut costs, and therefore, be prepared to bring disinfecting wipes with you at all times, and expect to get sick more often anyway because people are fucking disgusting, particularly when they are working for a company that pays them like shit and doesn’t give them health benefits.  When the company has been repeatedly fined for labor and pay violations, this problem might increase.

Now, imagine calling the 1-800 number for your wireless provider and getting one of these contracted employees at one of these terrible, criminally run companies who is on day 13 of their 14 day stint until they can find a better job.  Don’t expect much.  Is it right that these employees don’t give a fuck about you, your service, the company they represent, or the fact that you never turn your phone off so the signal is now “hung” and you are wondering why you can’t get service?  NO.  No, it isn’t right, it isn’t fair to you, the paying customer.  The employees should do the jobs they were hired to do, regardless of how shitty they are treated.  However, I think you and I both know that this does not frequently happen.  The employees are the ultimate responsible party here, but the companies that use these contractors are demonstrating their lack of concern for you by using them.

I’m not going to name names, but you can easily Google which major wireless provider has low customer service ratings, and you can also Google which contracting companies they employ, if you want to steer clear of them as a customer or employee.

Now, that the background is set, I am going to tell you about just a couple of tricks a telephone CSR will use.

  • Hold time is tracked and is detrimental to a representative’s over all job performance.  Mute, usually is not.  (Sometimes it is, but a representative can explain they had coughing or sneezing fits that month when questioned.)  If you hear dead-air when on “hold” chances are you are on mute.  If you hear hold music, it is likely a genuine hold.
  • If you are ranting on for a period of time and notice dead air, it could be the microphone on the headset has just shut off, but more likely, you are on mute and a representative is talking to their co-worker, and usually about you.
  • Most companies employ measurements that stress quantity over quality.  Oh sure, a customer service representative gets monitored for quality, but most companies tell the representatives how many times they will be monitored (my average was about 7 times a month), & a keen observer will be able to determine patterns of when they are more likely to be monitored or not.  This means that most calls (since representatives can take tens of thousands in a month) are not monitored, and most days you are not being monitored either.  Basically, unless you give them a reason to be suspicious of you, you are able to say practically whatever you want to a customer.  Some companies record calls and “randomly” select them, but any representative with any experience knows the calls are selected on easily discernible patterns, and act accordingly.
  • Companies can track when a representative hangs up on you.  As a customer service representative, you quickly learn the way around this is the “accidental” disconnect when transferring.  How many times have you heard, “I’m going to transfer you to a supervisor right now, sir/ma’am,” only to be disconnected.  Since only a fraction of calls escalate, this goes completely unnoticed.  The non-irate callers are put through, and nobody is the wiser.  Unless you suck at resolving a customer’s issue, your irate callers are so rare that if you do employ this method, there is no pattern or suspicion raised.  You shouldn’t do this, but it does happen.
  • On slow days, a smart representative can avoid your call.  If a representative just had a bad call, and is not up for that next beep in their ear, and there are no calls in queue, they can employ a method called “toggling”.  Basically, this is jumping between statuses on their phone system to change the order of the available pool.  It doesn’t have much of an effect on you, the customer, but does fuck over your co-workers.  It can be tracked, so it can only be done sparingly, but it isn’t difficult to get away with.
  • Representatives are usually required to say your name a certain number of times during a call.  When focusing on resolving a customer’s issue, this bit of personalization may not be forefront in the representative’s mind.  So, many times, the representative will purposely mispronounce your name at the beginning of a call.  If they are monitored, they can just claim they didn’t want to offend the customer by mispronouncing their name again and are usually let off.

There are so many other tricks that a customer service representative might employ to avoid providing proper customer service to you, but these are some of the most common that typically go unnoticed.  Are they right?  No.  Are they common?  Absolutely.

If you want good customer service, I urge you to research the companies you give your business to and check their JD Power rankings.  You also may want to see if they contract their customer service associates or if they employ them directly.  While a directly employed customer service representative may do some of these things, it is far more common (in my experience, so let’s make that clear) for the contracted representatives.

Have you worked in telephone customer service?  What tricks have you used (or seen others use)?  Do you think that was or is justified?  Feel free to let me know, share your opinions, or tell a funny or horror story in the comments.


Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

14 thoughts on “The Customer Experience”

  1. I worked at a call center for 1 year for a cable company. It was horrible. I cared about my customers because that’s just how I am, but the rules they hand and the constant tracking just crushed my spirit. At the end i could barely drag myself out of the house for a shift.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My supervisor once told me (during an over the shoulder evaluation),”You should have upsold the customer when you had the chance at the end.” DUUUUDE…the customer called me pissed off, I calmed them down, made them happy, fixed the problem, and you want me to sell them a TVGuide because the script says so!?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sounds about right. I worked graveyards right about the time On Demand became a big thing. Which meant On Demand porn. Which meant so many obscene phone calls and we were not allowed to hang up on them!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have the emotional strength to work at a call center. I can only imagine that customers are usually angry when they call in and if you can’t fix their problem in a few minutes, it gets even worse. Not a good place to be if you value self-esteem/sanity

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very tough after a while. You can handle it pretty easy at first, but I haven’t met a single person who it doesn’t get to eventually. Even when you’re good, and know your stuff, oftentimes you are limited by systems, policy, etc… And sometimes, the customer really isn’t right. And I think if you don’t ever get upset by that, your skin may be TOO thick. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha! This is why I don’t call. I write an old fashioned letter. Since most people don’t, I know they read it. Like the one I sent to Bolthouse Farms because I complained their carrot juice didn’t taste like it used to, it tasted watered down. They sent me a freebee but I’m sending it back with another letter! After all who wants to drink watered down juice even for free?

    Liked by 1 person

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