Lesson of the Day: Dealing with Customer Service

Retail jobs in general suck but Customer Service Representatives get the crap end of all of it.  They have to deal with customers who are already pissed off and they have no way of pulling a magic wand out of their ass that will fix the customer’s problem.. so the customer gets even more upset.

I have had the good fortune of being treated pretty well by all the CSRs I come into contact with, even ones from bill collections.  I never understood the opinion that you are not only entitled to be angry at the CSR for something that they can’t control, but that this anger somehow gets you better treatment.  It has actually been the opposite.

If you are having issues with electronics, faulty items, or account screw ups on bills.. listen up and listen well.  CSRs are there to help you.  That is their job.  They are not going to have to be persuaded to help you to begin with, they are already supposed to help you when you or they answer the phone.  Comprendo? Comprende.

As with all social interactions in life, getting angry with someone has the effect of turning them off.  This makes them want nothing to do with you.  When that someone is a CSR, it makes it harder for them to do their job, which is to help you.  So getting angry makes it more difficult for you to be helped.  Also, getting angry at someone for something they have no control over is just stupid.  Grow up.

Here’s the scenario.  Jane calls the credit card company because they still haven’t changed her last name from when she got married six months ago.  Jane is very upset about all of this because it is causing some issues with purchases when she has to show her ID.  Some of the clerks at the stores don’t believe her name change story (even though it’s true) and Jane is pissed off.  What to do?

Jane calls the credit card company and is irate from the beginning.  The CSR is apologetic, as they are required to be by their bosses so they don’t lose their jobs.  This makes Jane think that she is in the right by lashing out at the CSR who has no prior knowledge of Jane’s predicament.  In other words, that individual you are talking to on the other side of the phone has had nothing to do with your current situation.  The information you are telling them is actually new to them.

Jane has a right to be upset about this situation, but not to take it out on the CSR.  She continues to do so anyway, verbally venting about how inept the credit card company is and threatening to cancel her card.  She eventually lets an expletive or two slip.  Jane is so upset, that when she is asked to give a survey about how the individual CSR assisted her, she projects her anger with the company towards the individual CSR.  Jane gives the CSR poor reviews.

This causes the CSRs approval rating to drop, which lowers their monetary bonuses.  Mind you, the CSR could have bent over backwards to help Jane but to no avail.  Jane was irate with the credit card company and that CSR was the whole company in her teeny, tiny little mind.

One thing.  Jane’s session with the CSR was recorded.  If the CSR notes the time and date of Jane’s call and how aggressive she was, they can request a review of the recording. Jane’s account may be flagged as “belligerent” and she can be sent to a CSR that specializes in dealing with these types of customers.  Different companies and CSRs have different ways of dealing with these customers, but my friends tell me they tend to be more terse.  In other words, the perks are over for Jane.


All in all, use common sense both mentally and emotionally.  That voice you are talking to on the other line is a real-life, honest to God person.  Treat them with respect.  Understand that they have no idea about your problem and they had no way to prevent it.  They can, however, help to solve it.  The answers they give you may not be the magical ones you are hoping for, but the CSR is generally tied down to a strict set of policies to function by.  If you think you can be helped more then do these things: Thank the CSR and then politely request to speak to their manager.  Inform the manager that the CSR has been awesome, but you think someone with more access can help you solve your problem.


Generally, when I am dealing with a CSR, I treat it like a first time social encounter.  I ask them their name and then say, “Hi, so and so.  My name is such and such.  I hope you are having a great day today.  Here’s my problem..”  This opens up a world of possibilities because now the CSRs defenses are down.  They are not only obligated to help you, now they want to help you.  Be sure to thank them for all they have done and wish them a happy holiday season.  Pass on the good and you’ll get it in return.


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