Some thoughts from your friendly call center customer service rep

Yep, that’s my job. I sit in a warren of cubicles, answering calls all day long, and trying my best to help people. I would say that the vast majority of people I talk to are wonderful, but there are some who just drive me up a wall. I was originally going to make a top 10 list, but then I realized that I had way more than 10, so this is just a list in random order. And yes, every single one of the calls I’m describing below has happened to me within the past week. Ready?

  1. Clients will call and ask that we correct some wrong information on another company’s website. This is usually because we have active partner agreements with them, so the consumer thinks we must be the same company and can therefore happily change their website because they don’t like something on it.
  2. People who dial a wrong number (Southwest Airlines has a phone number one digit off from us, as does Transamerica) so we get wrong numbers. You’d think that they’d figure this one out by the hold music and the introduction when they call in, but no, they don’t. When I tell them they’ve reached a wrong number, they ask if I can help them anyway. Sorry, I can’t change your flight for you.
  3. Clients who eat, drink, burp, etc. in your ear while conversing with you. This just should not have to be explained. Manners, people! Either learn how to use a mute button, or wait until after lunch is over before calling.
  4. Clients who call up to discuss an issue or get clarification on something, and in the middle of the call, suddenly start doing something else; yelling at the kids, discussing something with their husband (or wife), taking another call on a different line. If you want your problem resolved, you should focus on the task at hand. Unless your kids are setting the kitchen on fire. Then you probably shouldn’t be calling us right then.
  5. Clients who don’t have their information when calling regarding their policies. I have always made sure that I had a policy or account number ready when I’ve called for customer assistance, because I don’t want to play 20 questions with some poor, underpaid customer service rep who needs to locate your information in their computer system before they can help you.
  6. Clients who call, and as soon as I answer, they ask if I can hold and switch to another line (usually without waiting for an answer). Again, this is self explanatory. If you have a problem you need solved, focus on one thing at a time and don’t try to multitask. You’re liable to get hung up on if you don’t come back on the line soon enough. I probably have another 10-15 clients who also need help and are waiting on the line for it.
  7. Clients who argue with me regarding our policies. If I’ve just told you that there is no possible way I can do X and it’s clearly written in the terms and conditions of the policy, don’t get angry at me when I tell you repeatedly that it’s just not possible. We send out those descriptions of coverage for a reason. They’re extremely boring legalese, but if you have enough brains to book a vacation, you should be able to read a policy.
  8. Clients who want me to discuss their specific policy and whether something would be covered or not, but refuse to give any information, so I have no idea of which policy to discuss with them. We sell about 300 different policies. Would you like me to discuss all of them with you?
  9. Clients who are calling from their cell phones in a bad reception area, or in an otherwise noisy place, and get upset when I tell them that I cannot hear them, or that they are breaking up and I have to ask them to repeat everything several times. I understand that the signal at my house isn’t always the greatest, but I do try to make sure that I have full bars and that it’s quiet when I’m making calls.
  10. Clients who hand up on you mid-sentence. Do I need to go into further detail on this?
  11. People who call because something has already happened and they want to know if they can purchase insurance now, or if it would have been covered if they had purchased the insurance earlier. The second part doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the first part. Do you think your auto insurance company would be pleased with you for crashing your car and then changing your policy (or buying insurance after the fact)? I’ll still sell you the policy, but I’m going to advise you that the policy won’t provide coverage, so you’re basically just giving us your money for no return value. I wish I were rich enough to do this and not care (okay, not really. I’m much too practical for that.)
  12. Clients who call to find out what their policy number is, because they somehow misplaced it, and when you start to tell them, they tell you to hold on so they can find a pen and paper. Shouldn’t you have had that before you started the call?
  13. Clients calling to find out the status of their claim, and I’m unable to help them because their claim rep is unavailable and I can’t see what the status is on the claim, or it’s a complicated claim that I don’t feel comfortable giving out information that may be incorrect.
  14. Anyone who starts swearing at me because I’m not giving them the answers that they want to hear. This is especially frustrating when it’s a simple solution, but they won’t stop cursing to allow me to explain what they need to do to resolve the problem. And finally…..
  15. Clients who call to advise there has been a severe illness or death in the family and it turns out that their “family member” is their pet dog or cat. I empathize with you. I am very attached to my cat, and I do consider him to be part of my family, but I also understand that pets are not considered family under our definition of a family member.

Now, obviously, most of these are geared towards my current job and may not be relevant to other call centers, but the same principles apply; be prepared to write down anything and everything on the paper you have in front of you with the pen you know works, ask nicely if something can be done instead of yelling at me that I’m going to do it for them because they deserve it, pay attention to what your customer service rep is saying, and if you don’t understand their answer, ask for more information and clarification, it will probably save you further trouble. Realize that the person on the phone is there to help you, and that being rude or accusatory is not the best way to get things resolved. Be nice, we’ll help you if you let us and it’s at all feasible.


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