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JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

How quickly do you get angry with customer service representatives?

Asked by JeSuisRickSpringfield (631 points ) May 28th, 2012

As I mentioned on my other question for the day, I had a delightful conversation with a customer service representative the other day while waiting for her computer to retrieve some data. It was a small company, and I assume it had been a slow day.

One thing that fascinated me was that the woman with whom I was speaking told me that customer service was a job she had taken to keep busy after retirement. This struck me because I was under the impression that customer service is a miserable job.

“Don’t you have to deal with people yelling at you all day?” I asked her. After all, everyone who calls is having some sort of problem, and many of them are probably disappointed or angry about something.

“Oh, a lot of people are angry at first,” she said, “but they stop yelling at you really quick if you just listen to them.” This made me wonder if one of the reasons there are so many complaints about customer service is that it often seems like representatives are running on a script rather than really trying to help.

So when do customer service representatives bother you the most? Do you think that a lot of the problem is just a failure of communication?

If possible, please leave issues relating to accents out for the purposes of answering this question.

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27 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

I do not. Their job is shitty enough as it is, and I am a patient girl.

jaytkay's avatar

I have learned that being unpleasant isn’t a good strategy when asking for help.

Some good advice I received was this – say “This is frustrating me. What would YOU do in this situation?”

This little bit of verbal jiu-jitsu changes the whole conversation. They’re experts. They’ve seen all the problems and all the solutions. Let them work on the problem for you.

nikipedia's avatar

I think it’s really embarrassing to yell at strangers so I try to avoid it. Lately I have had a couple situations where I got angrier than I intended to. For one example, our lab ordered a new freezer to store samples we’ve collected. The first day we were using it the freezer stopped working and we came quite close to destroying nearly a year’s worth of work. I called the company we bought it from, already upset about the situation, and they couldn’t 1) tell me anything about our warranty other than that it existed, 2) find our order number or any information relating to our account, and therefore they couldn’t 3) call a service person in.

I couldn’t help but get progressively angrier with the customer service person even though there was really nothing she could do because her company is entirely dysfunctional. There was probably nothing she could have said to calm me down.

DominicX's avatar

Depends on the customer service. Some is better than others. Some companies are known for their notoriously bad customer service (Dell, HP, etc.) And computer customer service is the main form of customer service that I tend to contact. The only time I will really get angry is if I’m being transferred back and forth between the same departments (which has happened before).

bkcunningham's avatar

My temper starts going up as the clock ticks while I’m on hold waiting on a person to actually speak to me. I even tell myself it isn’t this idiot’s fault I had to sit on hold for 20 minutes listening to their recording tell me how important I am and to continute holding. I keep picturing “Peggy” sitting in a room just keeping me on hold because “she” can.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZXZAlfykpo

Neizvestnaya's avatar

A live human being? I very rarely get upset and even if I’m feeling it, I need the help more than ripping into that person.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t tend to yell at people generally. I can’t recall ever shouting at a customer service person but I have become quite terse with them on occasions.

For instance, when one insisted I give them a telephone password I set up about five years ago and couldn’t remember. Repeatedly saying to me “you will know it when you hear it” did not help me remember and my irritation was increased when I asked him for a clue and he said “oh we can’t give you a clue”. I even said “could it be (and suggested a type of word). “I can’t help you!” he said. It was that thing it turned out in the end. I ended up getting very irritated because he wouldn’t help me but we couldn’t move on until I gave him this information. Eventually (after more than five minutes of this ridiculous carry on) he said he would have to ask me more questions to ascertain I was who I said I was. Great! Do it! Don’t play stupid ‘guess the password’ games with me.

He then couldn’t help me, said he needed to put me through to another department but they had now (after his ridiculous game had finished) gone home. So I asked if they could call me back. “No! They can’t do that. You need to call again tomorrow”. I was not happy at all.

So, silly rules and no respect for my time leave me very lacking in patience. Or being passed from one person to the next with nobody taking any responsibility for resolving whatever problem I have with their system/company. Telecommunications companies over here are really good at this one.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t. There’s no reason to be angry at them.

wundayatta's avatar

SOmetimes I get angry just to blow off steam, but that’s only after I have given up getting any useful help. If there is any hope at all of getting any benefit at all, I’ll remain civil.

woodcutter's avatar

A lot of the time these people have very limited product knowledge anyway. I wonder if they are purposely kept out of that loop so as not to say too much. They probably get paid shit to do it so I’m not pissed at them but I still get pissed.

JLeslie's avatar

I get angry at customer service people when they are stupid. I realize they have to follow the rules of the company, but it doesn’t mean they have to check their brains at the door. I expect customer service to want to solve my problem, to enjoy helping people. I also expect them to thank me for my complaint if that is why I am calling. The majority of the time customer service agents are helpful, but there are those times when they sorely dissappoint.

I agree with the answers above that a long wait on hold puts me in a bad place sometimes before I even speak to the agent. Also, being transferred back and forth, and the worst, the call drops on a transfer! Then needing to call back and start all over.

You said to leave accents out, and accents do not bother me at all, but when it is obvious their command of the English language is not very good and they are not understanding me, that is a very annoying problem. I remember once a Dell customer service person acted like they understood what a hinge was, I knew they had no idea, but they just sounded like they had a fake smile on their face, tried to giggle at the appropriate places, and gave me a service number. When the local person called me the work order didn’t specify my hinge had a problem, only the other problem I had called for at the same time. I knew that would happen.

bookish1's avatar

I don’t often get angry at customer service reps on the phone. More flies with honey than vinegar. I am, however, often angered by the automated “customer service menus” (i.e., “how may we get rid of you?” menus) which often require you to go through 7–10 steps to speak to a customer service rep.

Mariah's avatar

As a general rule, I don’t get angry at strangers except under extreme circumstances. I can’t think of any interaction with a customer service person that I would consider “extreme.”

augustlan's avatar

This happens so rarely that I really can’t remember the last time I got angry at a CSR. I have been forceful, when necessary, but even then, I wasn’t yelling or acting angry. Having been on the other end, and experiencing verbal abuse a time or two that actually made me cry, I just can’t do it.

Coloma's avatar

I rarely have an issue, and never get angry in an insulting way, I ask and tell what I want and I get it.
I worked as a customer service rep and accounts person for a huge import company for several years. My clients loved me, I had a great relationship with many shop keepers that ordered our merchandise. I gave out free sample items in orders, and rarely had a complaint.
I took my client relationships seriously and it paid. ;-)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I have never been angry about how a CSR handled a call. There have been a few that have not been helpful, but it is probably due to:
a.) Lack of initial as well as ongoing training
b.) Lack of tools/resources to answer the question
and/or c.) The wrong hire

None of the above are the agent’s fault.

The hotel company I worked for had an internal customer service department. When I took over running a training class for new hotel managers, one of the first things I learned was that the managers hated the customer service department. When the dept. manager came to the classroom to talk to the students, it was like watching someone get dragged through the streets after being hog-tied to the back of a pick-up truck.

The dept. head and I brain-stormed, and we set up an arrangement where the students could be taken over to the dept. and spend the bulk of the time listening in on incoming phone calls. The last part of the session was back in the classroom, where the students could ask questions answered by the dept. head or one of the supervisors. It completely changed their perspective on the world of customer service.

Right after 9/11, I volunteered time in their dept. to help with the flood of incoming calls. Two of our hotels closest to Ground Zero were evacuated, so a special line was set up to take inquiries specifically for these hotels. The first wave of calls was from people desperately trying to track down their loved ones who were registered guests at these hotels. The second was from the guests who wanted to know when they could get their belongings back. The third was from people who wanted to know if the hotels would be reopened in time for the event that they had booked at the hotels for future dates. I had to keep a box of tissues at my station because some of these stories made me cry.

In the midst of these calls, one came in from a woman who was royally ticked off. She was staying at one of our hotels in the Hershey Park, PA, area with her two children. She said that they were distraught because the hotel staff no longer put a Hershey’s Kiss on the pillow like they used to, and that was the main reason that they always chose this particular hotel. I bit my tongue and asked one of the CSAs to take the call. If I had said what I wanted to say, it surely would have resulted in termination.

lillycoyote's avatar

I don’t get angry at customer service representatives, really, for several reasons:

1. Because I’ve found that once I get through to an actual person, a real human being, they are either very helpful or as helpful as they can be.

2. Though it can be frustrating, I understand that if my problem has anything to do with something that is out of the control of the customer service rep, company policy or other aspects of “reality” for example, I don’t get angry because they can’t take care of or fix something they don’t have the ability or authority to take care of or fix

and

3. On the rare occasions that I do get frustrated or angry I have asked to speak with the rep’s supervisor because the job, “customer service representative,” falls into the “they don’t pay you enough to deal with someone as angry as me” category in my opinion.

I do find myself raging against and yelling at convoluted and labyrinthine automated customer service systems and automated interactive voice response systems. “If your question is about billing then say “billing” for example.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Did you say “billing?” Yes! God dammit! I said “billing!” Yes, I did. You asked me to say yes or no. I said yes or no. You asked me to say “emergency” or “billing”¬†and I said “billing!” O.K.? That’s what you said I should say and I said it and you still don’t goddamn get it!

I also yell at the bossy, nagging, self-check out computers at the grocery: “Please remove your items from the bagging area.” “Please remove your items from the bagging area.” I’m removing my items from the bagging area as fast as I can. I am only human! Get off my effing back, O.K.?

Bellatrix's avatar

:-) I also yell at those automated things on the telephone. “Did you say account balance?”. “Yes”. “I’m sorry I didn’t understand you, can you answer yes or no”. “Yes”. “I’m sorry I still didn’t understand you, let’s try this again. Did you say account balance?”. “YES!!!!” This is about the time I start swearing and pressing buttons in the hope a human will save me. I bet there are automated blooper tapes out there and one day I will hear my own voice being played back on the radio or television.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Bellatrix LOL! Yes! Exactly!

AshlynM's avatar

I get angry when they keep transferring me around. I can never just speak to the person I get initially. As a general rule, yelling at a CSR usually doesn’t help your situation. If anything, sometimes I’ll just ask to speak to a supervisor immediately to avoid the frustration of talking to a seemingly less than helpful CSR.And you really can’t blame the CSR for their inadequacies.

The main problem lies with their bosses not providing enough training to their employees. They’re taught how to represent the company, but I’m assuming they’re not really taught how to deal with people and how to deal with angry customers.

JLeslie's avatar

One frustration I wanted to add is when a cutomer service person gets quiet. If I am obviously frustrated, I don’t mean I am ranting and raving, I just mean I am venting a little maybe as to why I am not happy, if they get quiet, kind of like, let the crazy person talk, as I start to perceive that is what is happening it makes things worse. They should be paraphrasing to show they understand and empathasize, paraphrasing back is especially important. I never yell at a customer service representative, but I am sure there are times they know I am frustrated. I ask to be transferred to a supervisor if I am getting nowhere.

I agree it is training. There is a belief out there that people either are good at customer service or they aren’t. That they were either raised right or not. This is not true, people can be trained to give good service.

@Pied_Pfeffer I find that very interesting that managers hated the customer service department. Why exactly? They hated having to break away from their busy day to talk to them? Or, thought customer service didn’t do a good job? Or, just perceived them as the people who gave them bad news about a complaint? What exactly?

wallabies's avatar

I have had great conversations with customer service over the phone. There are some genuinely nice people working at some companies, and at others they are just really efficient at answering your questions or solving the problem. I’ve also had a lot of more or less negative experiences (there is a joke with T-Mobile where they say the customers are the customer service), and in those cases I think the best thing you can do is just be nicer and nicer. I can’t think of any instance in which I was angry with customer service, but I can think of a lot of instances where I was quite frustrated with the company’s approach to customer service.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie There are several reasons why these new hotel managers initially loathed Guest Assistance. GA’s job was to resolve issues to the satisfaction of the customer. They took the complaint calls, then contacted the hotel manager-on-duty for a resolution. If the hotel staff did not resolve the problem within 48 hours, then GA would intervene and refund the guest for their stay. The amount was billed back to the hotel.

The company knew from extensive research that a mistake at one hotel could cost the whole company future business. This is why the former president of Hampton Inns created a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and why Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites (all part of the same company) later adopted the same guarantee.

This guarantee is a hard pill for some to swallow. Some employees look upon it as an insult to the jobs that their team does. Managers might assume that some of these complaining customers are scamming the system. A few owners look upon it as guests pick-pocketing them. These employees lose sight of the big picture because they get hung up on one incident that they feel is ridiculous. They look upon it as a money-back guarantee, which it isn’t. It is a satisfaction guarantee. A refund only comes into play if the guest cannot be satisfied by any other method of resolution.

What changed these new managers’ minds about GA and the 100% Satisfaction Guarantee was two-fold. Listening in on the calls that the agents took and how the calls were politely and professionally handled was enlightening. It would sink in that they were only the messengers who put the responsibility of resolution back in the laps of the hotel staff. If not done so in a timely manner, GA intervened. To answer your questions, part of it was due to the fact that someone on the team had to check the hotel’s e-mail account once or twice a day and follow up with a guest complaint. Once the guest checks out, it is unlikely that the the problem will be resolved without having to refund them.

The other enlightening factor that these new managers and owners received were from statistics. Many looked upon any guest invoking the guarantee as an abuser. When we shared the the amount of revenue generated by the hotel chain, the amount was in the billions. The amount lost from refunds? Less than .5% year over year. Yes, less than one half of a percent.

Since all of the hotels use the same computer system, it has the ability to track the guests who were not satisfied, as long as everyone puts the information in, whether the guest received a refund or not. The number of guests who were abusers? It typically averaged out to 75. These people were sent a polite letter that basically stated, “We know who you are. It is obvious that our company cannot satisfy you no matter where you stay, so we recommend you start using another hotel chain. If you decide to continue using our hotels, you are no longer privy to a refund.” This was the only exception allowed to the guarantee.

The most interesting statistics came from guest surveys, and three questions in particular:
1.) Did you experience a problem during your stay? Yes or No
2.) If yes, was it resolved to your satisfaction? Yes or No
3.) Would you recommend this hotel to others? Yes or No

The percentage of guests who experienced a problem and it wasn’t resolved to their satisfaction were unlikely to recommend the hotel to others. The percentage of guests who didn’t experience a problem was much higher on recommending the hotel. But…the highest recommendation percentage always went to guests who experienced a problem and it was resolved to their satisfaction. Isn’t that fascinating? Those numbers alone usually sealed the deal on the importance of Guest Assistant’s role in problem resolution.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Very interesting. I stay in a lot of hotels, and I would say I agree that how a problem is handled makes a huge difference. I rarely have problems at hotels. If I simply don’t like the hotel, there is obviously nothing they can do, and even in that case the service might be very good, but I would never stay there again. Or, stay there because of location, but not be very happy about it.

I only once had a hotel complaint that was not resolved to my satisfaction, I can’t remember if it was a Marriott or Hilton property. What happened to me was mentioned on tripadvisor a few times. It had to do with parking fees and it was total BS. Without telling the long story, the basic deal was the hotel used a public lot that did have a daily fee, but if you park there and don’t mention to the hotel you have a car, you don’t get charged if you arrive late at night, because the attendant is only there for core hours of the day 9–5. When I complained to the front desk the hotel removed the fee from my bill, but how she handled it really annoyed me, because she seemed to think the fee was just fine and logical and I should be doing cartwheels she removed the fee. There is no need for the hotel to make it seem like they are providing parking by using or recommending the public lot, except so they can charge for nothing. There are not spaces reserved for that hotel, which would indicate the pay a fee to the lot for the parking of guests. I think it was a Hitlon property, Hilton Garden Inn? Because over time I have switched to being more loyal to Marriott, except for Embassy suites, which I enjoy very much.

I remember I wrote to the customer comment part of the website about the incident, and didn’t feel great about the answer either. Something along the lines they had contacted the manager and my fee was refunded for the parking. I already knew that. Honestly, nothing short of why it made sense to charge when anybody can just park there for free the hours I was there, or changing the policy was going to make me happy really. If they had refunded my charge or given me some frequent stay points it would have been something though, but not really what I was looking for. However, it would have made me feel like someone in the central offices gave a damn. If they looked my up they would have seen I had a history of staying in their hotels, never had compained before.

I send messages about fantastic stays now and then, just did one about my stay in Sebring, FL. They sent a very nice note back. I felt confident they would inform the staff, recognize them.

Recently, I sent a comment to Delta airlines about a “negative” interaction at an airport. I wasn’t so much complaining, but making them aware that a lot of passengers were confused, and I wanted to know if the person checking us in was correct in what she informed us, because we felt it conflicted with what we had been told in emails and adverising for their credit card. They sent me back a very complete answer and 2,000 points for sending in feedback. Turns out their employee had been correct. What mattered to me most was the compete answer and their acknowledgement there has been confusion over the policy. The points were an extra bonus I never would have expected.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie You’ve essentially hit the nail on the head when it comes to great customer service. It’s all about HEAT. Hear them out, Empathize, Apologize, and Thank them. If these steps are followed in order, as well as conducted sincerely and in a timely manner, most people will overlook the error.

Another fascinating statistic: When each of the nine brands under the Hilton Family of Hotels had the complaints categorized by reason, ‘Service’ was always #1 for the hotel chains that did not offer a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. This includes Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn.

For the three brands that do offer the guarantee, the #1 reason for complaints is cleanliness. It’s quite understandable. As our VP of Quality Assurance, Guest Assistance and the Research department used to say, “Anything that appears to be unclean, especially when exposing it to a naked body, is going to be an issue.”

As for your comment about willingness to return to a hotel where you experienced a problem and it was not resolved to your satisfaction….Hilton used to consider the “Would you be likely to return?” a valid measurement for customer satisfaction. That got chucked when we realized that there was a disparity between the answers of return intent and recommend. Most frequent travelers have no choice about where they can stay. It is contracted by their company. In other cases, the guest may be contracted to do work in that area and don’t expect to ever return. The responses to this question were only helpful if there were were comments added that explained their answer.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer So true. Cleaniness is the big deal. I care that it is clean, and that the bed is triple sheeted. And, I really hate bedspreads. I will pay $50 more a night for the hotel with the duvet or triple sheet, instead of a bedspread and blanket.

Ron_C's avatar

I work in Field Service and handle many of my customer’s problems over the phone including set by step instructions for adjusting control equipment,

When I call customer service I understand their issues and treat them like I would expect to be treated. Their goal is to satisfy your complaints and desires, why would you be hostile to someone like that?

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