Why I Work in Customer Service

old nostalgic phone & coffee
I work in customer service because most customer service people I talk with suck. Really bad.  They don’t mean to suck, but they usually do. In fact, I always joke that most people in customer service are the ones that should NOT BE in customer service ;) There are some exceptions of course (Zappos, USAA, Godaddy), but if you poll most of your friends you’ll find the majority of them are unhappy with the service they receive.

So one of the reasons I work in customer service is to make your experience not suck.  I also genuinely like people and being helpful! I won’t yell at you (even if you yell at me), and I don’t pretend to know everything.  I start every conversation the same exact way – letting you know that I’m on YOUR side and I’m here to help. So if you get me on the phone you’re not getting off until you’re feeling better and your issues are taken care of. Even if that means me spending 45 minutes with you. (One of the things I can’t stand about call centers is that everything is based off of time, and how fast you can move on to the next person.  That’s not being helpful, it’s treating people like cattle. And fortunately being manager allows me to not implement that.)

Yes my company pays me to watch their back, but the truth of the matter is I’m working for you. Even you angry bastards ;) Although I can never understand why you have the urge to scream and curse and make the person on the other end of the phone NOT want to help you?  I get that you’re angry, but you’re not talking to a robot here. You’re talking to another human being.  And you’re actually not even “talking” – you’re blowing up the phone making it worse.  But that’s besides the point… just know that being mean seldom gets you good results.

I bring all this up today because I’m tired of companies (and their representatives) not caring enough about their customers. Everyone knows how important it is to treat us right, but seldom do the reps actually put forth the effort.

The Event That Sets Me Off

3 days ago I had a simple task to complete – to pay a bill. In particular, a Dell Financial Services bill here at work.  What should have taken 5 minutes lasted hours, and at the end it wasn’t even resolved – leaving me fuming. Here is the breakdown of these unfortunate events:

  • I go to www.dellfinancialservices.com to pay our bill, and it doesn’t work.
  • I call customer service, and get rerouted to the business line.
  • Business says I should be talking to customer service, so reroutes me back.
  • I wait on hold for 20 minutes, and hang up.
  • I call customer service back, and get re-routed again to business.

(30 minutes wasted so far)

  • I know where this is going, so I explain my situation again slowly and patiently to business hoping to clear it up once and for all.  I mean, I am trying to give them money for crying out loud. 5 frustrating minutes later, after telling me to go online and pay it (was he even listening??) I get rerouted back to customer service once again…
  • Only this time I’m not fooled (or so I thought). I ask them to hold with me.
  • In the meantime, I use a trick my friend once told me about and I call on my cell phone too so I can have 2  open lines going at the same time :)

(another 30 minutes go by…)

  • The person on my cell phone answers and says, as you can guess, to speak to customer service.  I told him I’m already on hold (again, for the 2nd time in 1 hour) and to see if he can figure out what’s wrong. I guess that was the magic line.
  • He puts me on hold for 10 minutes and then tells me “customer service is down,” and to call back tomorrow.  ONE & 1/2 HOURS TO TELL ME IT’S DOWN? And how exactly could customer service be down when you’re on the phone with me? Did you mean BILLING is down?
  • Apparently not. As if to get one last jab in, he proceeds tells me to go online and pay my bill because it’s faster. I could have punched someone.

While I had my answer now, I left the other call on speaker for another 30 mins just to see what would happen. Not once did anyone in service pick up (because it was “down” right?), nor did I hear a peep from the rep who claimed to be holding with me.  As you can imagine, I was livid.

If You Work in Customer Service, Make Sure You Care

I say this not to bash Dell or other customer service departments (after all, I’m the manager of one myself), but to challenge those who are answering our calls to CARE. To *actually* care and to listen to us. Like, REALLY listen – not just say “I understand your frustration” and then do what the 3 people before you just did and send you away. You don’t have to be all buddy buddy with us or give us loads of credit off our bills, but we do deserve more respect.

We as service reps may get paid by the companies we work for, but we really are supposed to be on our customers’ sides. They are the ones you should be paying attention to. They are the ones who will get off that call and tell all their friends and family how much they love or hate your company.  And if you really piss them off good, they’ll even take it one step further and shoot it all over the internet.

And you know what? I don’t blame them.  At least the people reading it online will care.

(Photo by a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand)

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  1. Everyday Tips June 10, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    Oh my gosh, I don’t even know how Dell is still in business. I had a 90 minute call with them a couple years ago and screamed into the phone that I will never buy another Dell and I will tell every person I know not to buy a Dell. Of course, I felt bad because this was the literally 8th person I talked to, and they didn’t do anything particularly wrong. However, I was done by that point. Re-explaining my problem repeatedly, and being told stupid canned responses like “I am sorry you had that experience” made me want to scream. Well actually, I may have screamed.

    Comcast is next on my list. They promised to take something off my bill, and of course, they didn’t.

    Its a shame there are so many Comcasts and Dells in the world because anymore, I feel worked up before I even dial customer service of any company. However, when the person is nice and truly sounds helpful, I feel totally disarmed and usually end up having a pleasant chat.

    If I am ever harsh during a customer service call,it is never intentional. It is generally because the person on the other end of the phone has done nothing to actually help my situation. They just try to pacify me but there is never resolution.

  2. Kate Kashman June 10, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    I try to remind myself (constantly) that the usually the customer service people are doing the best that they can within the constraints of their company’s policies and procedures. I’m guessing that most customer service reps would like to be more helpful but aren’t given the tools or the authority.

    That said, I spent some time on the phone with a large insurance and financial services firm yesterday (yes, J, you know which one.) I felt like saying to the rep, “First, I don’t want to hear about your life story. I just want to alter my policies. Second, in all your babbling, you’ve exposed that you possess inaccurate information about at least three things you’ve stated. You are making me wonder if you are doing this right at all.” I would rather than the reps just do their job and let me get on my way rather than be overly chatty and drag on the conversation.

  3. jolie June 10, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    I had to call Shaw Direct (satellite up here in Canada) last week. I was on hold 62 minutes waiting for customer service. Since they took over Star Choice Satellite, the delay to wait to speak to an agent has been horrid in my experience. I have made a total of four different calls to them. All were 50 plus minutes of wait time.


  4. Stephan June 10, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    i do agree that we shouldnt be yelling at the reps because they are not the ones who messed up in the first place, but you have defnitely pointed out the flaws with the system. for one, the need to handle as many calls as possible basically guarantees that the service wont be good. however, this wont change because these businesses want to make money, and the more calls they can handle, the more efficient their call centers are and the less money they need to spend on more reps. it really is a shame, and makes me consider smaller companies all the time when deciding on products or services.

  5. Brandi June 10, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Could you please send this post to everyone at Sallie Mae. PLEASE.

    I swear to the Dear Lord in Heaven I spend more time trying to get my point across to them than I do actually paying them. WHICH IS A LOT.

    As a good little Dave Ramsey-ite I pay extra on my principle twice a month (with each paycheck). On top of my normal month payment. That’s 3 payments.

    What most people don’t know is that extra payments get applied to FUTURE payments if you do not tell them you want it applied to principle only. The only way to actually tell them that is to call. BUT calling them in and of itself takes about 20 minutes just to get ahold of a human being. Once you get ahold of that human being they usually do not speak english (which is ok, but frustrating). THEN (and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a woman or what) I spend 20 minutes arguing with them because they tell me over and over “Ma’am, you don’t have to send in anymore payments because you are paid up through_____ *some month in 2011*” And I proceed to repeat for the millionth time that I don’t WANT to be paid through 2011. I want them to apply that shit to my principle balance so they don’t make MONEY OFF OF ME!!!

    After about 20 minutes of that I usually have to ask to speak to someone in charge. That person spends about 1 minute doing exactly what I asked them to do 45 minutes prior to our conversation. And then they say sorry about the inconvenience have a great day.

    I do that 2 times a month. Sometimes 3 times a month if it’s a 3 paycheck month or I get some kind of crazy unplanned money.


  6. @LornaAtDell June 10, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    J. Money ~ I truly regret your frustrating experience with Dell Financial Services. Whereas Dell, Inc., and Dell Financial Services are two seperate entities, @DellCares is happy to assist with any concerns. We are happy to help, and we do CARE! Please feel free to contact us.

  7. Ariella June 10, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    I sympathize because I’ve also had frustrating experiences with customer service, being put on hold, transferred, disconnected, and getting nowhere.
    Note on your picture: I remember having phones that looked like that. Do you?

  8. Ciawy June 10, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    I’m always disappointed when I call Citibank – THEY are NEVER on my side. That’s why I opened a credit union account and as soon as my pay check kicks in to my credit union, I will be closing my Citibank. I know I won’t be missing anything at all.

  9. 01phoenix June 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM


    Do you have the ability to pay online? I’ve been sending my extra monthly payments to Sallie Mae via their website and I never have a problem with it being immediately applied to principal

  10. Donna Freedman June 10, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    Well, Miss Manners says you can never be rude in response to rudeness — you can only be more polite. Sometimes customer service reps REALLY test my resolve. But I am usually polite and the rest of the time merely civil.
    I had a good experience yesterday. My housesitter said I’d gotten a robo-call from my credit card company saying that my replacement card was being sent. I phoned the company to see if the account had been compromised. The service rep said the replacement card was being sent because it was due to expire at the end of August.
    Gotcha. Thank you.
    But then the rep…TOOK THE INITIATIVE! He said, “Did you say you were traveling? Perhaps I should put a note on the account so that none of your purchases will look suspicious.”
    Well, yes, thank you! I’d forgotten to do that.
    So thanks, Dennis at the credit card company and thanks to you too, J., for being helpful.

  11. Editor @ Double My Net Worth June 10, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    I try to encourage the reps I talk with to start off on the right foot. It’s tough because I am deaf and I have to use the relay to call online and 90 percent of the time, I get hung up on. (Why? I don’t know but I have been told reps have been instructed not to deal with relay calls, just direct them to the TTY number but the problem is that the relay can’t call TTY numbers.)

    Anyways, I always remember to thank every rep for their time in this matter and wish them a good day. After all, not only do I have to deal with the customer service rep, I also have to deal with the relay operator. Two separate parties I have to keep happy in order to get a simple thing done. And with any relay calls, what may be a 5 minute thing for hearing people means a 30 minute thing for deaf people.

    In the end, to all the reps out there, leave your attitude at the door. You are making a buck because we are spending it. Suck it up and be nice for a change. One by one, each of you can make the world a better place over the phone.

  12. Beckey & Jeff June 10, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    I, Beckey, have been in customer service for pretty much my entire work life. I started as a bagger/cashier at a major supermarket in my area. I’ve progressed into HR, Development, and now IT. I have been in the Service Desk/Help Desk field now for 12 years. Its amazing how people react to you when you are polite and helpful, which I try my best to be every time with every customer. I just started a new job a few months back and am now transitioned to the Off-Shift (aka 3rd shift). We get the same people calling in over and over and many of them have stated after talking to me the first time, that they will call back and request to talk to me. My only assumption here is that the other staff are not as friendly or helpful. It is really sad, since it is job. There are many people in customer service who quite honestly should not be, I’ve seen it so many times (changing employers and with turnover).

    Anytime I get someone who assists me and is very good at their job, I make a point to tell them. I don’t want them to feel like they are not appreciated.

  13. Financial Samurai June 10, 2010 at 10:26 PM

    J, good to know you are in customer service, b/c I think you are/would be a great manager and customer service rep! You really are quite patient and tolerant, with full of energy.

    USAA is the bomb, and I have been a customer for 17 years with them. I was thankful they decided to advertise on my site as well. They rock!

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  14. Predictive dialers June 10, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    Based on your story, you really did a great job in catering customer support to clients. Imagine how many stupid/unethical clients you’ll need to deal with within a day? I don’t know if I can really stand on it. However, you used this kind of situation to improve yourself, your attitude towards talking to other people.

  15. basicmoneytips.com June 11, 2010 at 7:09 AM

    After reading this article and thinking back to most of my customer service experiences, I would say they have been pretty good. I will admit I do not call a lot, but when I have, it seems most are very professional and helpful. Two in particular I have called are American Express and American Airlines.

  16. J. Money June 11, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    Oh yeah, every now and then you get some GREAT reps on the phone and it makes a world of a difference. If only we could duplicate them all over! :) Enjoyed reading all of your stories on here, thx for sharing them! Have a great weekend everyone.

  17. myfinancialobjectives June 12, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    I agree with others that say I’m glad your in customer service. I hate dealing with arrogant people on the phone. They have the nerve to get a TONE WITH ME!?!??! GEEZE I honestly do not know how some of these people keep their jobs. I had a horrible experience with Chase once…I also hear that Sallie Mae has HORRIBLE customer service, in addition to being a completely heartless organization…

    I feel like this was as much a venting opportunity for you as it was a regular post:) Hey, we all need these!

  18. Miss Lissy June 13, 2010 at 12:38 AM

    So, I will talk about one really good experience I had with a customer service and one really horrible one I had.

    The really horrible one first so you can go out of this feeling good after I finish. It was with Chase. I was going online to view my accounts and I realized that my savings account was no longer listed online. Low and behold to me, they had closed it due to having a zero balance for too long (nothing that they had ever told me would happen and nothing they notified me about before doing – I would have kept at least 5 dollars in there had I known they would do that – I tend to keep money in my checking account because I tend not to have a lot). Finding this out took forever though – no one could tell me why they did this and I kept getting bounced from department to department. I had to call them on at least three separate occasions (and one time was more than an hour) and then I finally found out why it was closed and got them to temporarily reopen it so I could put money in it. And even after all of that, they didn’t reopen it right (it was linked too a bunch of other accounts) and I am still dealing with that problem.

    Also my school’s financial aid department – they lost a big amount of my loan money and kept telling me that they were taking care of it. The check was given to them in January – it wasn’t taken care of until I was out of the country after finals in May. They lost a check for a whole semester – and it is their job to handle money! It does not make me feel safe about it. And I just wish that they would have been honest with me because I could have gotten the bank to reissue it a lot sooner instead of being told it was being taken care of and then not being allowed to register for class.

    As far as my good experience goes, it was surprisingly with Microsoft. I lost a bunch of really critical one note files to planning my wedding. I first e-mailed them and the guy was very nice, trying to help me troubleshoot and everything like that and when it didn’t work, he gave me a number to call. Because of school, I couldn’t call right away and my time to call was almost close to ending and he e-mailed me back and was like I see you haven’t called yet, what’s going on and I told him that I was really busy with school and he extended the window of time for me to call. Then when I did call, the guy was so nice – he spent 45 minutes on the phone with me figuring it out and helping me figure it out and in the end the files were found! It was completely my screw up and he could have just said you’re never getting them back that’s the way it works, but he took that time to walk me through finding and recovering them and I will be forever grateful.

  19. Brian June 13, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    Capital One usually gets a pretty bad rap, but at least their phone support has been good. I had to call on Friday because they debited my checking account twice in a week of a car payment (I’m on auto pay). So, they pretty much screwed up my checking account and budget. Yep, I was pretty mad when I called, but I wasn’t outwardly angry (yelling, etc). The customer service rep was very courteous, took the time to understand why I was angry, and went directly to how to fix the problem. I’m still not happy at CapOne for the screwup, but at least I wasn’t on the phone for hours on end!

    I’m pretty sure I would have gone off on them big time if they had kept me on the phone, only to tell me that customer service was down like J’s story. They should have told you that upfront and asked you to call back later. No excuses for letting it drag out so long.

  20. Kevin I June 15, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    I always have a cell in my hands in case I get caught in some weird holding hell.
    I’ve had a spree of shouting, angry interactions and polite and I have to tell you I’ve gotten so much farther with the polite. Extra deals, refunds, exceptions all come from the polite calls, the crazy and threatening calls just dragged on and on with little to no resolve.

    One of the tricks I use to keep myself calm is that if I have the time to resolve the issue, I’ll call back on another shift, giving myself time to cool down and have the opportunity to tap a new well of people. For Comcast I found that the people I’d get around lunch time for technical support weren’t especially helpful. I now mainly call the night shift for technical support. Once I had a 6 hour ordeal with Comcast over the phone and eventually crossed over to the next shift of people and they solved my problem in 10 minutes, something the other shift tried all day.

    Another is make sure to leave a good report for the reps that are particularly helpful, I’ve found it goes a long way to help reward them or normalize that type of help. A lot of companies aren’t even set up for a compliment (one woman says “Should I fill out a complaint form with a positive note?”), but you can ask for their supervisor and rave about them a bit.

  21. J. Money June 16, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    @myfinancialobjectives – haha…’tis true, I did need to vent a bit ;) but I also wanted to write about customer service as I keep forgetting too – so it was a perfect opportunity.
    @Miss Lissy – Some of these places are jacked up man, glad you had a positive experience in there :) And you should totally copy & paste that into your own blog for a post!
    @Brian – For some reason I’ve always thought of Capital One as being shady. I think it’s the commercials that does it or something, I can’t pin point it. But glad they hooked you up fast! Even if they did mess up…as long as people are professional and nice about it I can totally understand mistakes – we all make ’em.
    @Kevin I – Oh yeah, calling back on another shift (or even directly after if it’s a large company) is VERY smart. Esp if you give yourself a little time to unwind like you mentioned :)

  22. Aury (Thunderdrake) June 16, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    I’ve not been in the blogosphere for a very long time at the time of writing (A couple months even) And I gotta admit; This is certainly one of the most professionally adequate posts I’ve read during all of my blog reading. You understand your role in this line of work. It’s people like you that make the world go around. XD

    Google has really crapped me over in recent months on a lot of things, especially since they automate a lot of that sort of stuff. Which really takes a lot of experiences out of the equation. No real reasoning, you know?

    I’m never one to really take anything out on service reps. A lot of them have their lives pretty bad. (It’s easier to hit big companies where it hurts most; their wallet and reputation. Lashing out on reps is a waste of time.)

    I don’t know what your credentials are, but you definitely talk an awesome talk. Like you actually care about the customers. Again, we need more people like that. ^_^

  23. Keri June 17, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Most people who work in customer service do so because they have no other options. Most get paid close to minimum wage. So I’d say they have a pretty good reason for not caring.

  24. J. Money June 17, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    Aury (Thunderdrake) – Well thanks! I do care – a lot :) I def. have my off-days here and there, but there’s really no reason to treat people badly even if they ARE idiots (and we all know people on both sides of the phones that qualify there). At the end of the day we’re all humans and you’ll sleep much better at night knowing you’re adding value to this world.

    @Keri – Sure, it’s not a glamorous job. But anyone with a good work ethic should care not matter WHAT their jobs are. You don’t have to like it or think of it as a career, but if you want to “move up” later you better be able to prove you’re a good worker.