5 Idiotic Misconceptions About Calling Customer Service
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?
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.
Pictured: The only reason to own a smartphone.
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 ...
Ditto for the McNugget rage lady.
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.
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 ...
"How can I help you propel me toward a debilitating addiction today?"
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.
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 ...
This is not what I had in mind when I Google "burning man."
Immediately Ask to Speak to a Supervisor
This is another classic. If you really want to get your problem solved quickly, immediately ask to speak to a supervisor. Every customer service rep on the planet probably fields five to 10 calls a day from people who won't even say what they're calling about and demand to speak to a supervisor instead. The thinking behind it is that supervisors are the only ones with any authority to do anything about your problem. If you feel this way, let me ask you a question. How do you feel about your boss? Do you and your co-workers huddle around the break room and sing your boss's praises, or do you think your boss is some far less funny version of Bill Lumberg from Office Space who wouldn't know his head from his ass and most certainly couldn't step in and do your job competently in your absence? Right, it's probably the latter. Hell, half the reason I took this job at Cracked is because it's literally the first time I've had a boss who I trust to be better at my job than I am (remember this sentence come Christmas bonus time, Jack).
Customer service reps feel the same way about their bosses as you do about yours, and they're usually right. Whatever you're calling about, that customer service rep has probably dealt with the exact same problem on dozens of other phone calls. Meanwhile, their supervisor sits in a cubicle and monitors how much downtime each employee takes between calls so they can justify giving them a 2 percent raise instead of a 3 percent raise, thereby ensuring the department they're in charge of comes in under budget for the year. Even if they got that job by being the very best customer service rep in all the land, their days of actually taking phone calls regularly have long since passed. By not even entertaining the idea of telling the person who answered the phone what your problem is, you're basically ensuring that your call gets handed off to a person who is less knowledgeable about how to fix it. They will figure it out eventually, but not as quickly as the person who deals with horseshit like yours hundreds of times per day.
Please, not again.
Granted, there may come a time in any phone call when a supervisor will need to get involved, but the customer service rep will know when that time has come. If you can manage to keep things pleasant or at least somewhat businesslike, they'll just put you on hold and go ask that supervisor for the OK to do whatever it is you need done. I really can't stress this enough: Not being a dick is your best move when dealing not only with customer service representatives, but just people in general. And besides, if you immediately demand a supervisor and actually get one, what you've essentially done is identified yourself as a jackass. Except now, you're talking to a person who has no fear of repercussions for not helping you. If you at least give it a shot with the actual customer service rep at first, you can use the "transfer me to a supervisor" ploy as a backup. But if you start with the supervisor, who do you think is going to take your phone call above them if you don't get the help you're looking for? Wait, are you one of those people who asks to talk to "the company president" when things get out of hand? If so, just a heads up, everyone in that company now thinks you're hilarious. They
don't even get to talk to the company president, and they fucking work there. But hey, you always have that one nuclear option in your pocket, right? You know what I'm talking about ...
"Sounds like you just need to plug it in."
If All Else Fails, Threaten to Take Your Business Elsewhere
Right, take your business elsewhere. Great plan. That will get a customer service rep's attention! You're right, it will. But it won't be the kind of attention you're looking for. If you've approached the conversation from the "scream first and then scream some goddamn more later" angle, the old "Well I'm just going to close my account" tactic is music to a customer service rep's ears. Why? Because it means one of two things ... 1. You've given up and are ready to end the phone call. Because you're a raging dick, this is a good option for them. 2. They now have an excuse to transfer you to the "retention" department where you get to explain your situation all over from the beginning with no additional assurance that your problem will be solved. Again, because you are a flaming bag of rage-covered dicks, this is also a good option for them. Exactly what consequences do you think there will be for that customer service rep by ending your relationship with their employer? By presenting yourself as an out of control moron who can't ask what a deductible is without foaming at the mouth, they're more than happy to hear that you plan on taking your business elsewhere. Because that means you won't be calling them again. And just like every person you've ever dated, that's exactly what they want.
Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should check out right here. Be his friend on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
For more from Adam, check out 5 Horrifying Tales Of 911 Incompetence and 7 Obnoxious Assholes Who Show Up At Every Concert.
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