Customer service – your job or your nightmare?

(I often start these blogs wondering if I will have enough to say on a certain topic.
I often end these blogs wondering how did it end up so long…)

Oh, boy…

My friend always tells me that people, who say they are not certain types of people, ARE exactly that. I have heard it before – “I am not a complainer, but… (insert a slew of the most minute complaints)”, or – “I am not crazy!” (after leaving completely absurd messages on my phone at 3am, overloading my fax with conversational letters, and crying dry crocodile tears while talking to me). Trust me, saying that you are NOT someone/ something will not stop me from making that judgement on my own. With that said…

I used to be a VERY impatient person, who believed in the system of complaining. Back then, I did not care much if I was perceived as rude or not; I just wanted what I believed to deserve, and I would speak out about it if I did not get it. I believe to have been happier in those days… It is possible that I made someone miserable, but at least they were aware of what they were doing wrong, giving them the chance to improve on that. It is not that I would be complaining for no reason just to be a bitch, I did it in situations that required it, in situations where other people were too timid to do so.

Before I tell you the rest of my “evolution”, let me present to you an article about a passenger, who got punched in the face (while holding a baby) by an airport worker. Now, of course, we do not have any information about what exactly was said and what might have prompted that physical response, but it struck a chord with me due to my recent… encounters with what you might call “customer service” people. What we know is that a flight was delayed by 11 hours (ELEVEN HOURS!!! Holy cow! I would have been mad, too!), and the victim was probably expressing his frustration.

The term “customer service” is pretty broad for me, because it encompasses not only the people, whom you talk to on the phone when you are troubleshooting a technical issue, or returning an item at a store, but anyone else who comes into contact with customers/ clients, etc. What most people do not understand is the blame placement. In the matter of the airport incident, it was not the airport worker’s fault that the plane was delayed, and most likely, there was nothing he could do about it. It is possible that he heard multiple people complaining to him and he just reached his limits and punched the person who said something at that very moment. That is no excuse. He should not have lost his cool. Unfortunately, he was on the front lines facing the customers. The technicians working on the plane were out of sight and safe from customer complaints.

Ever since I was young, my parents taught me to respect everyone, irregardless of their job title. I do not care what you do for a living, as long as you are a decent human being. The amount of respect I have for someone does not depend on their job title or their wealth. It depends on what they say and how they act. While it is true that a surgeon has more responsibilities, and earns more than a janitor, the latter one should not perform their job haphazardly. Not rarely do I hear people excusing those who work in the call centers, at fast food restaurants, etc. because they work a minimum wage job. Their lack of professionalism or incompetence should not be seen as a normal thing for low earning employees. One’s hard work should not grow exponentially with the increase in their paychecks. One should work hard in every and any job. Maybe THAT is why those people cannot rise through the ranks?! I know there are other factors that impact that, but one should not expect a promotion/ a better job, if one does not perform well in the one they currently have. One should not expect to keep a job when they do not give their best when performing it.

After I started working in an environment where I had to professionally interact with clients, I realized how terrible complaining could be. I have dealt with people who complain because they believe that the customer can do no wrong, and I had to get used to that. A great share of customers complained to me about something that was totally out of my control, and something that I could do nothing about. They should have complained to other people (who were actually at fault), but I was right there in front of them, so I had to be the shield and take the bullets. The complainers would invoke their rights to speak to the leader of the organization about any minute thing. What they did not know (or did not care about) was that it did no good. Even though we were not in the customer service per se, any complaints were the crucial points of our staff meetings, resulting in an enormous amount of silly rules and regulations, hindering us from doing our actual work. That made us angry. Angry that we were not trusted enough for our skilled performance, but judged because of some often unhinged individuals. That in turn made us weary of random clients, holding us back from giving them personalized treatment. We were machines. Saying what we were told to say, leading us to care less. It did not matter how we performed, as long as the clients were happy. Quality was no longer no. 1. Customer satisfaction was.

Throughout the years, after being on BOTH sides of the aisle – a customer, and a person dealing with customers, I have developed a different approach to customer service reps. It was my badge of honor, my pride that I have evolved in understanding both points of view and therefor acting accordingly. Standing up for what was mine was still in me, but now, I knew how to do it without making the other person miserable. Or so I thought… Knowing all the nightmares of dealing with customers, I am always sympathetic with the reps. Forming my complaints has also changed. Instead of just barking out my angry thoughts, I form them in a calm manner, making it clear what exactly I am upset about and what I expect to achieve. Often times, I hold back the complaints and just bite my tongue and walk away just so that the employees will not be bothered by their managers, just so that I will not be the one to get them in trouble.

However, I am now fighting between my old and my new self, because my new self is often being taken for granted by customer service people. Just because I do not yell and scream and curse, does not mean I am not upset and disappointed. I do not ask for your manager right away, because I want to give YOU the chance to impress me and turn this thing around. My kindness is taken for weakness. They are so used to abusive people that they completely mistreat those who are not that way. That is backwards to me. Without going into details, I will tell you two stories in which me being understandable and polite did not cut it.

1. There was a promise of a free gift to me. I did not ask for it, I was told I would receive it, therefor it became something of mine. After it was found missing in my package, I was promised prompt follow up. There was none. I gave ample time for a response, after which I made a phone call to the person I interacted with before. Without apologizing she said she had been busy and had forgotten. This was not to my liking, but I moved on, believing I will get a response from her soon. Nothing. Next time I called her, she told me that it would be put in the mail on a specific date. The date came and went, weeks after, nothing. By this time, I am annoyed. So, I make a call, she says the gift is sent out based on the subscription anniversary date (i.e. you will get it after your anniversary, not before). Oh, but my anniversary has passed… She says she will get back to me. All these times, she promises to get back to me and every time it is me who ends up calling her. She is not apologetic for that, which strikes me as very odd. Deep down, I know she is not in charge of mailing the gift to me, so I keep my composure while talking to her. When I call her the final time, I express my disappointment. I state that all I want is an accurate answer, which I cannot seem to get. I tell her that I am aware this probably has nothing to do with her, but maybe should could recommend how I should proceed. At this point, I expect sympathy. I expect her to apologize for the delay, for her to say she understands my frustration, etc. Instead, she ends up getting angry at me and has her manager call me complaining about me mistreating their employee. In the end, I found out what I already suspected – that the gift was wrongly promised to me and this whole time and energy was wasted. It beats me how this whole thing got turned around. How I was the most polite and understanding customer ever, but yet the customer service rep got annoyed with me and then had it turned around on me. Why? Because I actually wanted a straight answer? Because I would not let go? Because I fought for what was supposedly mine? Had I demanded answers during the first call, I would have saved myself a lot of time. But I had to give them all the time and opportunities that I could so they could do it right (which they did not).

2. Recently, I came into a nearby chain store looking for my preferred drink of choice. I used to buy it there all the time, but now I could not find it. That was not the first time I noticed my brand/ flavor missing, so I decided to inquire if it has been discontinued, if it is not popular so the store does not order it anymore, or if it is still in the loading dock waiting to be shelved. As per usual, I walk up to an employee who is roaming around the store, I say all the polite “excuse me’s” and ask him if they have this drink. What happens next just stuns me – the employee says: “I do not know if we have it or not.” and WALKS AWAY. You would think he goes to the isle to check, or to the back, but no. He just walks away, continuing his aimless walks and standing around.

Examples like this make me re-think my niceness. If you work in the customer service arena and I get snappy with you and demand a manager, know that it is because my failed “nice” experiments. Next time, when you are dealing with an actually nice customer, do not shit on them, but be glad and helpful for a change. I do get mad when you are not doing your job, because things would not be beautiful if I did not do mine. And just because you are being payed pennies, does not mean you do not need to actually perform your job.



3 thoughts on “Customer service – your job or your nightmare?

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  1. I discovered your blog web site on yahoo and check some of your early posts. Keep in the really good operate. I simply extra encourage Feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more on your part down the line!…

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