If a poll was conducted in this country to identify the most hated segment of the American population, customer service representatives would share top-five space with the likes of telemarketers, pedophiles and YouTube commenters. Just the mere mention of customer service is enough to send most people into a frothy rage. And that's kind of understandable. When a customer feels wronged by a business or corporation, the lowly customer service rep is who gets tasked with fixing the problem. He or she becomes the de facto voice of the entire corporation at that point, and it's a thankless position to be in. If they fail to solve the problem in less than 30 seconds, people get irate. If they do successfully solve the problem in question, people are still pissed that they had to call in the first place. On top of all that, the general public has developed some common misconceptions about calling customer service that only serve to make matters worse for everyone involved. Based in part on my own torturous years of answering telephones for a living, here are five stupid things you probably believe about calling customer service ...
#5. The Customer Is Always Right
Work a year in customer service and one thing will become painfully obvious. Customers don't read shit. Let's use signing up for cellphone service as an example. Unless your service provider is literally a dude who works out of a van parked in the alley behind a liquor store, you're going to walk away with something that spells out all the finer points of what you just signed up for. And I'm not talking about the 78-page owner's manual that comes with the phone. I'm talking about the one to two pages that have every facet of your plan laid out in easy to digest bullet points. If people had half a brain, they would read this shit before they agree to anything. But that doesn't happen, does it? Who has time to read up on international roaming charges when all of those life-changing photo booth apps are just waiting to be downloaded?
iPhone App Cafe
Pictured: The only reason to own a smartphone.
So let me ask you, the potential customers in this scenario: If you're handed paperwork that says using your phone in Canada will cost you more than North Korea spends on parades in a year and you fail to read it, whose fault is it when you come back from Canada with a $5,000 phone bill? Right, it's your fault. You had the information there in front of you and chose to ignore it in favor of tracking down the wackiest ringtone you could find. But you're going to call and complain anyway. Why? Because the customer is always right! Except that's a lie. The customer is not always right. Not in the scenario I just mentioned, and not in countless other situations. Recently, in England, some dude was kicked out of a bar for refusing to put his cigarette out. Was he right to refuse this request, even though he was in a nonsmoking establishment? Furthermore, was he right when he returned later and started chasing the other bar patrons around with a fucking chainsaw as a means to express his displeasure? Is that customer right? Yes, if you take "The customer is always right" literally, he's totally in the right.
Ditto for the McNugget rage lady.
And people do take it literally. That's why, even when they know that whatever disaster they're calling about is the result of their own idiocy, they call and complain anyway. And you know what? Even when you're clearly in the wrong, you still might get the help you're looking for. Which brings us to the next misconception ...
#4. Customer Service Doesn't Care About Helping You
Customer service representatives exist solely to pass the buck and collect a paycheck, right? They're just minions of the evil corporation that they work for and want nothing more than to stand by in awe as The Man ruins your life. Wrong again. In fact, there's a great chance that the customer service rep you're speaking to hates that fucking company as much as you do. Customer service is a shitty job, and a big reason for that is because at most companies, customer service is maybe one ladder rung higher than the janitorial service who comes through and cleans the bathrooms after everyone leaves for the night. They're the "losers" who can't get the "real" jobs with offices and such, and rest assured, their co-workers and bosses treat them that way. So, chances are, when you've been legitimately wronged and call to state your case, customer service is on your side. You think you hate it when your insurance or cable company raises your rates? Imagine how the people who have to take the resulting deluge of angry phone calls feel about it. Trust me, those increases aren't going toward giving them big raises and fat bonus checks. The only thing your higher bill gives a customer service rep is a tension headache from being screamed at all day and an overwhelming urge to get blackout drunk.
"How can I help you propel me toward a debilitating addiction today?"
So, they get it. You're both on the same team. You have a problem with a company that in all likelihood they hate more personally and intimately than you ever could. Of course, I can't speak for customer service reps in India or the Philippines, because I've never worked in an overseas call center. But I'm assuming they just hate America in general, like the rest of the world. So you should still have them in your pocket. It's fine to go into a customer service call with somewhat of a battlefield mentality. But just understand, that customer service rep who hates the company they work for can be your ally on that battlefield. But they probably won't be, and that will be all your fault. Why? Because there's one rule of calling customer service that just about every asshole on the planet lives by ...
#3. Screaming Like a Lunatic Is Your Best Option
Admit it, everything you know about calling customer service boils down to one simple idea ... scream at enough people for long enough, and you'll always get what you want. That might be somewhat true, but understand, it's a bit like saying "Kick hard enough and you'll open every door" and making that your default means of entering every building you encounter. Wouldn't it make more sense to, you know, try opening the door like a normal person first? Customer service is the exact same way. While screaming might get you what you want eventually, it's the least efficient means of getting it. Immediately launching into a rage-filled tirade just puts the customer service rep on the defensive. At that point, everything I just said about them being on your side flies right the fuck out the window. You're no longer a person they want to help, you're now a person they want to see doused with gasoline and set on fire.
This is not what I had in mind when I Google "burning man."
It's common sense. How do you feel when a person approaches you with a problem and, instead of just talking about it rationally, they start flaring their nostrils and calling you a fuckwad? Are you more willing to help, or are you more inclined to punch that person in the stomach and have a retaliatory affair with their wife? Customer service reps are no different. Ask for their help in a polite way, and they will bend over backward to try to resolve your issue. When a person is paid to take nonstop telephone abuse for eight hours per day, being that caller who doesn't talk to them like a pompous bitch makes you their temporary best friend. But if you immediately start screaming, the only thing they're going to do is hang on your every word hoping you curse so they can hang up on you while simultaneously emailing their co-workers about the maniac (you) losing their shit on the phone because they had to pay a $30 copay on a $10,000 medical bill. If that example seems oddly specific, it's because I actually took that call. And I laughed at the guy. But maybe you're not taking this advice to heart either, because you live by yet another popular mantra when it comes to calling customer service ...