Customer Service Blues

People working in a customer service call center are a rare breed. Working with irate and foul-mouthed customers is not only stressful but oftentimes downright humiliating. Other than the missionaries and Jesus workers, this is one profession where people learn how to not to hit back and turn the other cheek, not because of some lofty ideals but all in the name of the almighty green buck. Keeping customers happy at the expense of strained egos and suppressed anger of verbally abused customer service staff seems to be the rule of thumb in this business. Staff are urged not to respond to customer expletives and insults. They shouldn’t and they can’t because every call is recorded and randomly reviewed by the quality assurance team . Staff are urged to comply with the protocol of gracefully terminating a nasty call and are forewarned to never engage the client in an altercation. An impolite handling of a customer can mean termination. Not an easy way to earn a living. With smoke coming out of my ears and my horns getting itchy when agitated, BW couldn’t possibly last for a day dealing with these irate jerks πŸ™‚

Unbeknownst to many, dumb and ignorant customers can raise the blood pressure levels of customer service folks to the same level as irate customers do. Dealing with an angry customer is as equally stressful as dealing with a numbskull. Sounds odd but true. The psychological impact of extreme frustration can be as equally explosive as suppressed anger.

Operator: “Ridge Hall, computer assistance; may I help you?”
Caller: “Yes, well, I’m having trouble with WordPerfect.”
Operator: “What sort of trouble??”
Caller: “Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away.”
Operator: “Went away?”
Caller: “They disappeared.”
Operator: “Hmm So what does your screen look like now?”
Caller: “Nothing.”
Operator: “Nothing??”
Caller: “It’s blank; it won’t accept anything when I type.”
Operator: “Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out??”
Caller: “How do I tell?”
Operator: “Can you see the C: prompt on the screen??”
Caller: “What’s a sea-prompt?”
Operator: “Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?”
Caller: “There isn’t any cursor: I told you, it won’t accept anything I type.”
Operator: “Does your monitor have a power indicator??”
Caller: “What’s a monitor?”
Operator: “It’s the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it’s on??”
Caller: “I don’t know.”
Operator: “Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that??”
Caller: “Yes, I think so.”
Operator: “Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it’s plugged into the wall.
Caller: “Yes, it is.”
Operator: “When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one??”
Caller: “No.”
Operator: “Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.”
Caller: “Okay, here it is.”
Operator: “Follow it for me, and tell me if it’s plugged securely into the back of your computer.”
Caller: “I can’t reach.”
Operator: “Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is??”
Caller: “No.”
Operator: “Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over??”
Caller: “Oh, it’s not because I don’t have the right angle – it’s because it’s dark.”
Operator: “Dark??”
Caller: “Yes – the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.
” Operator: “Well, turn on the office light then.”
Caller: “I can’t.”
Operator: “No? Why not??”
Caller: “Because there’s a power failure.”
Operator: “A power……… A power failure? Aha, Okay, we’ve got it licked now.
Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in??”
Caller: “Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.”
Operator: “Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.”
Caller: “Really? Is it that bad?”
Operator: “Yes, I’m afraid it is.”
Caller: “Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them??”
Operator: “Tell them you’re too stupid to own a computer!!!!!”

click.. customer service staff disconnects the call, smiles sheepishly, breaths a deep sigh of relief and experiences the adrenalin rush that reinvigorates her entire being quietly whispering to herself – “you deserve that you stupid SOB ” and proceeds to answer the next call in the queue. The recorded conversation eventually fell into the hands of quality assurance for the routine review. The staff was found to have seriously breached the customer service code of conduct and was fired. The staff appealed the decision. There was no complaint from the customer. Was Wordperfect justified in firing the staff ?

A $32 Million BIRTHDAY GIFT

A man bought seven (7) Lotto 6/49 quick pick tickets and inserted them into a birthday card for his wife. Lo and behold, when his wife opened the card and checked the tickets, one of them was the winner of the $32 million Saturday night Lotto jackpot ! The 7 tickets were worth $14, pretty paltry gift for a birthday present for your better half but geez the stinginess paid off big time. Darn, I just bought my wife a new Subaru for her birthday – I deserve to win more than that cheapskate ! LOL πŸ™‚

Which reminded me of a joke about a man whose business was under threat of bankruptcy. He prayed to God hard for money so he can save his business. He bugged God night and day for a miracle, for that cash infusion so he can get out of financial trouble. Finally God got incensed by his persistence and β€œ kakulitan” and broke out of his omnipotence and in his humanized form, took the prophetic sounding voice of Orson Wells and commanded the man – β€œ at least buy a Lotto ticket you dork β€œ πŸ™‚

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41 Responses

  1. I took a part time job at a big retail store “Where America Shops” when my wife decided to quit her job after giving birth to our third child. It was a fun profitable venture for me selling tools on a commission basis plus a meager hourly rate. I earned three top seller awards and a few secret shopper customer service cash rewards as well. Yes you do encounter all kinds of cheaters and rude customers but one anal orifice of a half man with an inadequately nurtured brain got to my nerves and push the wrong button one busy saturday with a return merchandise that he threw on the ground and demanded to see the manager, a SOP ploy by professional cheats who buy tools, used it to repair a car or something and then return the tools for refund after they’re done with it. After cussing and yelling for attention, i told him to please calm down so i can help him out but instead he barked at me with a volley of expletives! He pointed his index finger at my face and along with racial slurs he had this fire in his eyes and it seems like he was going to eat me! needless to say, I lost it and went out from behind the counter. but as i was going away from him, he grabbed my vest and all hell broke loose and next thing I know my left hand was wrapped around his neck and the security people were all over us. long story short, I was terminated but with some good words from the store managers except that i have violated their store policy by “getting violent” with the customers, the reason why he is letting me go. I went to Home Depot and continued my part-time sales job but after we recovered from our “budget deficit”, I quit my PT job and by koingkidink, I got promoted from my regular job and life was good and less stressful with enough to provide comfortably for a family of five, mortgage,cars and a few big boy toys to keep me sane…but wait! my eldest is going to college this summer!

    Have you heard of that guy who won the lotto here in California a fw years back and kept the $27million jackpot a secret from his estranged wife? Since they were not legally divorced yet when he won the money, a judge awarded the estranged wife 50% of the total take home cash. Sucks ha!

  2. Noypetes – the long standing policy – ” the customer is always right” is indeed a challenge. In this day and age where security cameras are all over the place, that irate customer could have been in trouble by getting violent with you 😦 But we know that companies try to avoid getting into a legal wrangling with customers at all cost !

    Happened here too in Ontario, when a lotto winner waited for almost a year to claim his winnings, until his divorce papers were finalized. Problem is his wife’s lawyer filed a case in court to claim the 50% was entitled to the woman because when he won it, she was technically still his legal wife and therefore deserved the share. The man had to give here the 50% LOL πŸ™‚

  3. Know what? I can identify with the customer. I’m a non-techie and before I fire questions, I always tell the other side that I’m such dumb with computers. So far, they’ve been patient. Slowly, I learned how to trouble shoot…lol.

    Gee, how I wish God would send me millions. I’m not lucky with lotto. I need to work my a** off to earn a living. 😦

  4. Oh this is crazy…I have seen on a television news special report how people in the industry of telecenters often developed extreme stress and anxiety and somehow progresses into serious behavioral condition. It’s entirely a new form of occupation and who knows what many other negative effects such kind of work to the employer. This circumstance would perhaps lead to a new set of malady in the workplace. I bet it’s time authorities study this issue so that it could put up safeguargs against a whole workforce or industry crumbling down due to work-related affectations.

  5. Hi Bw,
    I suppose its a different take from each end. The customers have their own horror stories and so does the customer service people. More so , if you are calling someone from the other side of the world (like India or maybe even the Philippines).

    So have you bought your tickets for tonight’s $40M draw yet?

  6. Ipanema – I know what you mean. But this customer is one of a kind – calling for help on the PC when there’s a power failure in her house LOL πŸ™‚ I’m like you with lottery – I stink big time hehe πŸ™‚ Maybe lady luck will come just once in a big way πŸ™‚

  7. Major Tom – the stress level in customer call centers is very high, esp those in financial institutions where they even measure the time spent in handling customer complaints. It’s not only that you get crap from nasty customers – you also have to answer so many calls within a prescribed time period. Staff turnover is very high. Most people can only spend a couple of years and move on to other jobs.

  8. Funny stuff, BW. πŸ™‚

    When I was still working at our office, I used to sit beside one of our customer service representatives. So I know how stressful it can be dealing with all sorts of calls and complains everyday. I also admire these people. I don’t think I can handle such job.

    Subaru for the wife – wow, you are one generous husband. πŸ™‚

  9. well, I’ll have to say wordperfect was justified in firing him. Of course, the customer wasn’t an Einstein, but the customer service rep didn’t have to rub it in. hehe.

  10. Every job comes with a certain level of stress I guess, some higher than the others. But at the end of the day, it’s still the paycheck that matters.

    I read that working in an airport tower registers the highest stress level in a working environment, where a little mistake in judgment can cost hundreds of lives.

    Wow! A Subaru for the wife? What is it? A Forester?

  11. Niceheart – I do agree with you. It’s not an easy job. I don’t think I have the patience to do this job either πŸ™‚ Hopefully I scored more pogi points with my wife πŸ™‚ I was hoping the man above could have compensated me for my “generosity” LOL πŸ™‚

  12. Sngl – air traffic controllers are equally under stress too but it’s one minus the suppressed anger. It is common for these customer service staff to go for counselling because of the psychological effect of the verbal abuse they’re getting.

    Nope, not a Forester but an Impreza. Don’t think I can afford another wife LOL πŸ™‚

  13. you blocked my comment Big Bro? hehehehe nadula eh =)

    Anyway what was I saying yesterday? I think wrong grammar to comment ko that’s why nadula hehe I think I said that there was one call center agent that was reported months ago who died because of stress from work.

    Oh well that is the reason why these call centers give big allowances for weekend outings and vacations because they know how draining and stressful the nature of the work is. But surprisingly most of my friends and classmates who are working for the said industry are actually doing good…

  14. Verns- dunno but Blogger seems to act up every now and then.. basi may santermo ang blog ko hehe πŸ™‚

    That’s tragic news indeed. Some people internalize their problems so much that it causes too much stress on their bodies. I know a long time call center supervisor who told me that when she started the years ago she used to pause form work just to cry 😦 Man, I would leave the job right away if it happened to me I thought.

    Pay also depends on the complexity of the applications they support. Those who fall under the category of ” interpretive specialists” more than just customer support make more money. They normally use expert systems or knowledge base systems to help them get the most accurate info for the customer. Those in sales get bonuses too and here, bi-lingual folks get more pay if they can answer calls in both French and English.

  15. Impreza? Cool! Did you get her the 250HP tweaked-up rallye version? Hehehe πŸ˜€

  16. Never tried the “kosutoma- sabisu” here in Japan, and for good reason – more likely we won’t understand each other, hehe. πŸ˜‰

    Never tried the Lotto, either. But wow, an Impreza for the wife! Super! Maybe I could coax my husband to buy me a brand new bicycle to help me with my fitness regime, lol. πŸ™‚

  17. Hahahahahahahahah

    I wonder if the guy actually did return the unit and tell the dealer exactly what he was asked to tell.

    I would not be able to last an hour in such a profession. I get really irked by slow people that I need to instruct what to do. hehe… I’d need constant therapy if I were in that job.

    I’ve bought some Lotto tickets just for the heck of it. Never actually though I’d win, and I never did. I love how God chose to appear as Orson Wells. heheeh

  18. Sngl – we got the 300hp version here which is barely street legal πŸ™‚ I got her a milder beast but equally capable 2.5 liter 173hp sport wagon which fits the bill for her esp with winter driving πŸ™‚

  19. Alternati – what if the client followed the customer associate’s advice? LOL πŸ™‚ Frustration and suppressed anger are truly a bad mix 😦

    If God wants a bit of that voice from the wilderness touch he could do James Earl Jones too hehe πŸ™‚

  20. Maybe God was lazy to make a miracle so he wanted this guy to win. So much for money being the root of all evil !

  21. Irrealis – LOL.. I think there is a subtle message in the joke. It is said that in terms of man’s needs – food, clothing, shelter, money – God only helps those who help themselves πŸ™‚

  22. Naku! Kaya dito, most well known call center companies has their call reps undergo extensive training and how to deal with such customers that can raise your blood levels beyond their usual limits. Have you heard of that PLDT Customer Rep audio that was spread out before sa emails. Kawawa yung girl dun but it was also her fault she lost it.

  23. haven’t read your entry yet. hehe. just wanted to greet you a happy father’s day πŸ™‚

  24. Out of topic: Happy father’s day! πŸ™‚

  25. off topic:

    Happy Father’s Day Bro.

  26. Ferdz – that’s good news, that professional call centers in Pinas are giving these special trainings to their staff.

    I also have a wavefile copy of that PLDT customer service conversation that had been tossed around in emails πŸ™‚ In fact I wanted to include it in this very blog but I backed out because real names were mentioned in the conversation!

  27. Tin – thanks.. Your visit is always a pleasure. I’m sure Dad is getting something from you today πŸ™‚ I still owe you that super special coffee at Starbucks hehe πŸ™‚

    Ipanema – thanks.. I’m having brunch with my wife and daughter in a few hours to celebrate father’s day πŸ™‚

    MyePinoy – same to you bro πŸ™‚ I’m sure you would be on a long telephone conversation with your family back home today !

  28. Happy Father’s Day BW

  29. Leah – many thanks. I’m sure you had a wonderful time with your hubby and daughter this Father’s Day πŸ™‚

  30. tell that to me

    I can’t help it sometimes when someone complained to me with a problem based on ignorance.

    I used to be part of 2nd level tech support but many calls always got through first level that only required simple solutions 😦

  31. This is so funny… that customer is really stupid. Can’t imagine anyone being more stupid. πŸ™‚ I don’t know if the operator ought to be fired but he (or she?) was a smart aleck. πŸ™‚ But I heard they earned quite a lot in those call centers… so I guess patience pays off a lot.

  32. Belated Happy Fathers’ Day, BW! πŸ™‚

  33. as reply first to your comment.. you’ve ready my blog.. so you know i didn’t give anything to my dad. hehehe.

    okay to the post… call center agents should have lots of patience. yup, not only to those who are masungit but also to the stupid questions. but i have a friend who i have known as a very mataray girl, but she’s surviving the industry. hehe.

    you bought your wife a car? wow! can i be your adopted child? baka makakuha din ako ng magandang gift. hahaha πŸ™‚

  34. Tutubi – I hear ya ! There’s are reason why 1st level support are called as such. They always claim they don’t know much so they pass the problem to the 2nd level guys hehe πŸ™‚

  35. Toe – talking about customer stupidity, you would hear endless stories about it hehe πŸ™‚

    Pay really depends upon the complexity of applications but talking about outsourced call centers in Pinas, I think they set the bar a little higher in an effort to maintain quality.

  36. Rhodora – many thanks. I’m sure you also celebrated Father’s Day with the family πŸ™‚

  37. Tin – I’m quite sure you greeted your dad with a hug even if you didn’t give him a gift πŸ™‚

    Yes, I could even say extreme patience πŸ™‚ In this part of the world, there are customers to shout and swear 😦 Not sure if I would have the patience to deal with them 😦

    My wife’s Bday is so close to Mother’s Day so I guess she always gets the gift in a bundle hehe πŸ™‚

  38. the word perfect story is a PERFECT case of stupidity!!! but really, i was entertained. my feeling is that the call center person had to be responsible for his folly. he was caught, and he knew what the repercussions were. yes, like if i am not computer savvy, i would be inclined to ask stupid questions.

  39. SexyMom – I think it was a case of vengeance on the part of the customer associate, lol.. The time it took for her to diagnose the “stupid” problem was a total waste and could have been avoided if the customer had a bit of common sense πŸ™‚ She had to give the customer a knock on the head for being stupid but it was a a little too much πŸ™‚

  40. For some reason, I can’t imagine you, BW, working in a customer service call center. πŸ™‚

  41. Jayred – I’m quite patient with technically challenged but decent folks πŸ™‚ I won’t be able to stand irate and arrogant users though . I figure out in less than a minute, smoke would start coming out of my nostrils LOL πŸ™‚

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