Friday, July 17, 2009

"Mix up a cocktail: Customer service is on the line"

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I was recently watching the now defunct comedy spoof show Mad TV” late one night and found myself hysterically laughing at a skit detailing a conversation between a man and a customer service representative. The whole skit escalated into the man screaming obscenities and the customer service rep hanging up the phone!! It was a dead-on interpretation of how extremely exacerbating these phone calls can be.

Today I had my own experience with one such call center when I attempted to activate my new credit card. The first attempt had me listening to the usual automated system and plugging in my card number and then my zip code and finally the 3-digit security code on the back of the card. Then after pressing “0” for operator about 100 times I finally was connected to a live person. They then proceeded to ask me more questions like What is your social security number? and Can you tell us the address of your prior residence? and then I was placed on hold and then DISCONNECTED. This happens all too often when these call centers are trying to transfer you to different departments. I clinched my teeth, dialed the 800 number and went through the same series of questions then again was put on hold. The representative then started hammering me with a series of impertinent questions. Is what is your mother’s maiden name no longer cutting the mustard? Must we provide a DNA sample in order to prove who we are? A conversation with a customer service call center has become akin to waiting at line at the DMV. And then they ask you if you would like to complete a customer satisfaction survey at the end of the call. I mean, Come on! After what felt like a lifetime, the activation process was finally completed.

So I ask you, how does one maintain their cool and avoid phone rage when dealing with customer service reps and call centers? I feel terrible admitting that I have a hard time being patient, especially when I’m in a rush to get something done like simply activate a credit card. Am I the only one who goes crazy when the customer service rep has to read their whole script and will not cut to the chase and answer the question at hand? Must they speak so slow that it seems intentional that they put me to sleep before they get to an answer? Must these companies make us jump through hoops just to speak to a human being? Why do they want to make the whole experience so painful?

I did a little soul searching and came up with a few ways I hope to maintain good manners and keep my cool in future communications:

  1. Take a deep breath before calling
  2. Situate myself in a comfy spot next to the TV or curl up with a book to occupy myself during long hold periods
  3. Recognize that the customer service rep is just doing their job
  4. Clearly define why I am calling and what I need from them
  5. Take up knitting as an activity to engage in while answering the myriad of nonsensical questions about my personal history
  6. Politely ask if it is possible for them to skip any scripted information
  7. Remember to say thank you at the end of the call even if I have lost 10 years of my life waiting for information.
We hope some of our tips will help you deal with the person on the other end of the line next time you need to talk with customer service. Cheers!

Does this remind you of someone with amazing manners OR perhaps, not such good ones? Air your manners compliments or grievances with photos, comments, conversations and questions!

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