How Not To Be A Dick To A Call Center Rep

This job made me want to jump from the 10th floor of my building on a daily basis.
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This job made me want to jump from the 10th floor of my building on a daily basis.

I worked at a call center for a year-and-a-half, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life.

My company was created by one of the Big Three to handle most of their customer relations. My job was to answer customer calls and provide tech support for the vehicles' integrated Bluetooth system. In reality, I spent most of my time telling people how to copy and paste their temporary password to log in to their owner's accounts, and convincing people that pairing their phone to their car does not require a master's degree or advanced sorcery.

This job made me want to jump from the 10th floor of my building on a daily basis. I’d finally had enough, so as of two weeks ago, I finally quit. In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect upon the ways that people could have avoided driving me certifiably insane, if they had been so inclined. Here are a few ways that you can make the world a better place.

Please just pay attention and let us help you.

Believe it or not, the customer service representative that you are speaking to wants to help you. Or at the very least, they want to fix your problem and get you off the line. So please. Allow the rep to do their job and actually listen to what they have to say!

I can't tell you the number of times where the problem was an extremely easy fix (and usually user error), but the caller insisted on spending 10 minutes describing how valuable their time is and what an inconvenience this is instead of actually allowing me to fix their simple problem. I also can't express how many times I had to repeat myself because the caller was simply not listening to me. I understand that you're busy, but if you call someone for help, please pay attention to them when they’re fixing your problem for you! 

Use common sense.

We understand that you might not know what information we’ll ask for, and we don’t mind if it takes a moment for you to get it. But please, use common sense. Don’t ask if you can put us on hold for 5 minutes after you just called us. Turn off the TV that’s blaring in the background -- we can’t hear you. Try to articulate your problem instead of making us play 20 Questions trying to figure out what you need help with. Don’t scream at your children while we’re on the phone with you. It’s ugly, uncomfortable, and you’re right in our ears.

If you’re calling about a problem with your car’s entertainment system, don’t get mad when we ask you to go to the car to fix the problem. Most of all, don’t call customer service if you don’t have time to talk to customer service. I had so. many. people. call in and tell me immediately (and in a snarky tone) “Oh. Well then. I’m on a 5 minute break, I’ll have to call you back when I’m out of work.” Yes, yes you will.

Do not swear or yell at us.

Try to remember that you're speaking to a human being. I realize that if you're calling about a problem, you're already frustrated. And I understand that "You're not mad at me, you're mad at the product." But I'm the one you're talking to, and I'm the one gritting her teeth and digging her nails into her palms or scribbling profanities all over her crossword puzzle like a crazy person.

So try to be considerate when voicing your concern. Our willingness to help you decreases exponentially with your level of aggression, so it's actually in your best interest.

Once, I had a guy call in with a simple problem. I asked for his name, number and zip code, which was our standard, required verification process. He responded by full-on yelling "YOU'RE A LIBERAL IDIOT" into the phone and then hanging up, which was just plain confusing. Needless to say, his problem was not resolved! Yelling solves nothing.

Don't be a jerk on the survey.

Some call centers have a survey that plays after the call. Usually, the survey is about your representative's conduct and competency, not about your satisfaction with the company or their product. "Yeah, you send me to that survey! I'll give them a piece of my mind!" many a disgruntled caller has said to me. I'd tell them that the survey is about me and my customer service and not the company. They'd tell me that I'd been great, but they're still going to rate me poorly because they're not satisfied with their product.

This really does make your rep look bad, and they will hear about it from their supervisor during meetings and reviews. Please don't be a dick and take out your frustrations on a well-intentioned customer service agent.

Don't be racist.

My call center was based in Dearborn, MI, so I can't even imagine what it's like for people overseas. But even though everyone in my office was American, we still got a lot of racists. Some of my coworkers told me about callers who demanded to speak to someone else because they "couldn't understand" their (non-existent) accents.

I had one totally nuts caller complain about out our call directory. "How can I help you?" I asked. "Well FIRST OF ALL," said the lady who answered, "I'd like to make a COMPLAINT about having to press 1 for English! This is AMERICA! This is an AMERICAN company! We're all AMERICANS! We all speak ENGLISH! If they want to speak Spanish, they can go back to Mexico! I want you to speak to someone about that!"

"Oh OK, sure I will." I replied curtly.

I answered her question as quickly as possible, and again she asked, "Are you sure you're going to document my complaint?"

"Yesssss! Suuuuuuure I will. Of courseeeee," I answered as sarcastically as possible. I totally didn't.  

It might take me a while to get over the trauma of working this job, but hopefully I can make things a little better for the people who are still stuck there. But of course, most of the people who need to read this article never will. Just be nice, because people in call centers are human, just like you.