BY JON ALEXANDER
Ever wondered what it’s like in customer services when dealing with awkward customers? The need to remain ever-professional despite extremely testing scenarios and in the face of mounting stupidity? Well here’s a brief description of the “glamorous” side of the job from me – a man that has significant experience.
I’ve decided to categorise some of my more troublesome customers over the past seventeen years to highlight the multiple frustrations I’ve experienced:
The “Busy Ones”
Now these are a personal favourite, I have to stop myself from laughing at them down the phone. These are the people that are never free to do anything except tell you they are busy. They ring to organise something then proceed to make things as difficult as humanly possible to arrange because “THEY ARE SO BUSY”. For example, when I worked for a bank, I had to send someone a replacement credit card by courier and it had to be signed for by them for security reasons. They had a time slot of either 8am-12pm or 12pm-5pm Monday to Friday. Now, as soon as I said that it needed to be signed for, all hell broke loose.
You see, the customer couldn’t just come down to reception to sign for it because he was always in meetings. He wasn’t allowed his phone on (which is common in most places but those same places usually give you an office number you can ring) so I suggested (as a gesture of goodwill) that perhaps an evening or a weekend courier might be a better idea – rather stupidly forgetting that he was AN EXTREMELY BUSY PERSON because he had meetings and stuff and so many commitments over the weekend because he was VERY BUSY and didn’t get much free time.
I asked what he felt would be a good resolution to the problem. I got no answer except, “I’m very busy, it would be hard to say when I’m free” Well, thanks for that. So off I trundle to speak to a manager about other alternatives. Now this is the fun part, I rang him back, he picked up the phone to tell me he was VERY BUSY AND IN A MEETING and that he couldn’t talk right now.
The “Aggressive Ones”
Now this category is quite annoying also. These are the people who immediately kick off at the slightest thing and proceed to talk to you as though you were what people tread in on a pavement or in a park. It says more about them than me that they speak to people like that but if I just started dating someone who felt the need to speak to others like that I’d be ignoring calls and avoiding any more dates. They get off on trying to make you feel small and rarely succeed. One person even told me that because I work in a call centre he could speak to me how he wanted. Naturally the call was terminated. From recent experience, I’ve found the male ones to be short, scruffy looking and no doubt hung like hamsters. An example is a customer who calls to say their purchase is now broken. After a few careful questions, you establish that they have caused the fault/damage themselves. So, you follow your company procedures and advise they must buy a new one or pay for repairs.
Their strategy is to somehow cover themselves and bully you into submission. They are determined that it’s not their fault, that your item isn’t idiot proof and they want a refund/new one. Now these people will scream and shout, so make sure you hold the phone away from your ears. This also provides amusement for your other colleagues especially if they’ve had to speak to the same moron before you. Reasoned and sensible arguments do not apply here and then they start coming up with “scenarios” to try and confuse you and admit you’re in the wrong – never them.
The “Escalation Junkies”
These are the people that hear something they don’t like and immediately want your manager’s name and their manager’s name. I don’t engage with these types. I just arrange a call back for them. I’ve had people sit on hold for over an hour because they refused to have a call back. These people believe that a manager will override their employee and in some situations that’s true but they make one assumption and when it goes wrong they keep escalating their complaint.
They believe that a manager will operate to a different set of rules to the employee, or the manager will want to resolve it quickly without it being escalated. You’ll also notice that the way they speak to you is a lot worse than the way they speak to the manager whom they assume to be on their level. I’ve had an instance where one customer rang me back to explain what the manager had agreed to. It was the same as I had agreed but worded differently. The customer had effectively spent nearly two hours on the phone to agree to what I offered in the first ten minutes.
The “Stupid Ones”.
This group is NOT to be confused with the people that genuinely just don’t know. When I say stupid I mainly mean those people who are ignorant – the unwilling-to-pay-attention ones but the category is very vague and can include many more.
The best example I can think of is someone last week rang my colleague and said they couldn’t put an order through for two items. My colleague worked out that we only had one in stock.
Customer: So why is it on the website if you don’t have it in stock?
Colleague: Because we still have one in stock, it says we have one in stock, we can still sell it.
Customer: So can I buy two then?
Colleague: No, we only have one in stock.
Customer: So why’s it on the site then?
This went on for about ten minutes with the customer getting more agitated at their own stupidity. Now these can provide amusement but only for a short period of time before they start to grate and become an annoyance.
Or another time:
Customer: Is this waterproof?
Me: No it isn’t.
Customer: Why’s that then?
Me: Because it has a hole in it.
Me: Well, when it rains it’ll get water in it.
Customer: So is it waterproof then?
Customer: It’s not raining today.
Me: Are you only planning on using it today?
Or my favourite from a few days ago:
Customer: I want to collect this today.
Me: I’m sorry we don’t have stock, it is due in tomorrow;
Customer: I’m doing you a favour here by giving you business, I need to collect this today.
Me: I’m really sorry but we don’t have this in stock today.
Customer: So you’re telling me you’re passing up a chance to make money on an order?
Me: You can come tomorrow but we don’t have it in stock today, I don’t know how else to explain this to you, if you come today you won’t get it.
Customer: Is there anyone else I can speak to?
Me: My manager will tell you the same thing.
The next category is the “What do I get?” ones
These are easily identified because they like to “get something” they don’t care what it is but they want it.
A good example is trying for a discount on something for £9.99 or a free DVD or dangly dice for the car – whatever it is, they want it. Now they get very annoyed when you can’t give them anything and sometimes escalate the complaint or go on the “I’ve been a valued customer for three years and made lots of high-value purchases”. It’s always of great amusement when you realise they’ve ordered twice before to the grand total amount of £17.99.
Also combined with this category is the “Compo” customer.
These are the ones who spy any opportunity for a freebie or money back. The ones I love to disappoint purely for the challenge and because they go out of their way to cause trouble and try to get something. This includes the following:
“My delivery was a day late. I demand 50 pounds compensation for my £45.00 item”
“It’s taken me half an hour to get through on my landline to your 0800 number, I demand compensation.” – this one has happened, trust me!
Now don’t get me wrong, if a customer has a genuine request I will consider it but most of the time I just make a small laugh as if they’ve made a funny joke and carry on with the conversation, only the brave attempt it after that:
Me: Oh I am sorry to hear that, can you please email me with full details of the financial loss suffered and any receipts etc to prove the cost? Also my manager will want to know how this has affected you mentally etc if that’s a reason you’re giving for wanting compensation. – works every time 😉
My next customer category is the “Self-important” category:
This can include (and apologies if you are a director and don’t do this) the “I run my own company and if I did this I wouldn’t have a business” brigade. It’s usually the pompous asses that make up this quota.
These are the ones who like to feel superior and tell you how you should do your job, even though they don’t pay your wages and give absolutely terrible advice. These are also the people that believe they are more important than every other customer and when you tell them something can’t be done they immediately want it doing because they deserve to go above everybody else.
And, finally, we have the “Attention-Seekers”..now this group covers a multitude of sins.
Before I start I would like to say that anyone suffering from an illness like cancer gets my sympathies and the bravery of people fighting it astonishes me. It’s a horrible disease and this piece may get me some haters after I say what I must say but I would never dream of going up to someone in the street and telling them I suffer from cancer. I repeatedly get calls (and have done over the years) from people who tell me they have a serious illness. Do I offer my sympathies? Do I ask them about it? Do I ignore it because some people tell everyone but insist on not being treated any different? Or do I put on a baby voice and talk to them in a patronising way?
I HAVE NO IDEA.
I’m not good with emotions and even worse when it’s a complete stranger whom I have never met telling me down the end of the phone that her item doesn’t work, can she have a replacement because she has cancer??? That wouldn’t make any difference! I would have sent it but now the conversation is awkward because I don’t know what to say.
It almost sounds like a threat – “do what I want or you could cause me to be worse or have a relapse” – I’ve asked people over the years and no-one really knows what to say or do. I realise I may sound insensitive but I’m really not, I just don’t have this “Big Brother/Katie Price” syndrome where I have to share every bowel movement with everybody that so many seem to have. I mean, someone sent me an email the other day that started off about an order he’d placed, he then went on to tell me he had been admitted to ICU and then gave me a readout of his blood stats etc.. all to tell me one item in his order was faulty. What am I? A doctor?
No, I’m just customer service. Here to help – with a smile.
Well, here endeth the rant. Oh the joys of Customer Service!
Nowt as queer as folk.