5 Tips for a Low-Stress Customer Service Experience“Thank you for calling customer service! My name is Summer. How can I help you?”

Wait, it’s after 5 pm. And this is the internet, not a phone. And I’m at my kitchen table, not in my drab fabric-walled cubicle. And I’m not wearing a headset. Let me switch hats for a moment and return to being a writer for the next few minutes.

Tomorrow, I celebrate my last day of working in a customer service call center. (Despite the rumors, it’s not an easy gig.) Over the past few years, I’ve been called some less-than-savory names through the phone lines. A few customers have threatened me. Even more have called me a liar, played psychological games with me, and screamed words that their grandmothers would be ashamed to hear.

Lesson learned: contacting a customer service call center sometimes brings out the worst in us. Here are a few tips to lower the stress level (for both parties!) in a customer service interaction.

4 Comments to
5 Tips for a Low-Stress Customer Service Experience

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  1. Well, look at it this way, Summer — at least you were getting paid. The person on the other end of the phone wasn’t!

  2. DA – I couldn’t have put it any better! Persistance is the name of the game and yes keep records. I’ve spoken to countless CSR’s that whine, “we are on auto dial and don’t actually have any account information in front of us”. True, not the CSR’s fault but good reason to want to speak to someone with access to the proper files.

  3. “at least you were getting paid…” yes, but the gratitude of the paycheck runs thin when you’re being yelled at all day.

    As a CSR, I have to also point out, when you call and scream, we DON’T want to help you. We are obligated to do what we must to rectify situations and give proper information, however we are NOT obligated to appease someone with a 15% off coupon to someone that talks down to us, uses racial insults, or calls us stupid. I gave one woman a $15 gift certificate after I had to give her the information that her order was canceled and there was nothing we could do about it, her grandson would NOT be getting his toy for his birthday. she cried, and thanked me for the information. However, the woman who screamed at me incessantly that my company was trash, and I was trash and then that my supervisor only had her job because she was black, all of this over an advent calendar for her daughter that she did not order on time for advent and was demanding an appeasement, she got nothing.

  4. Summer,
    I read your article with much interest, admiring your honesty and empathizing with you, whilst relating to the customers’ experiences. Can you imagine how much less stressful your job would have been if the company had offered you some training on how to deal with these very difficult customers? The problem with many call centers is that by the time the customer has got to speak with someone, they have endured lengthy periods of being on hold, which has fueled the problem that they rang about in the first place. And the staff are in defensive mode, which is natural human behavior in attack situations, because they have not been taught any other way, so they are in no position to deal with the caller’s rage.
    That means everyone loses, especially the company, so it does not make good business sense.

  5. I have learned to check my anger – most of the time. There but for the grace of God go I… And some customer service people are very nice, and competent.
    But others start out by refusing to listen to the person who has called, and who may well have gone thru multple redirects, bad muzak, on top of a problem of enough consequence that he/she is willing to go through all this to fix it < starting with that stupid" your call is important to us" recording whic just rubs it in that it obviously is not –

    I do understand that many employers are the ones who set the rules for the "customer service" people. However, if their rules require that you treat me rudely, or you show no grasp of my concerns at all, would you not be angered as well? In many case the phone answerers are not there for customer service at all, but apparently as a buffer and first line barrier.

    I have a particularly frustrating series of complaints about service from my previous landline phone co, where the phone answerers had a rote statement to read every time you called, and who would not listen to your complaint, but responded like robots with the same staemnt over and over. I also had AOL customer service people wrongly charge for a service (they wereinvestyigated in NY at least); once bought a mower at HD, and when it was delivered, the driver looked at it and pointed out that they had sent me a broken used one….so he was a love. When I called – i got redirected all around the ( physical) store, by people
    who all said it was someone else's problem. Not a one said – (1) I am am so sorry; (2) I will follow up on this and get back to you ( to day, tomorrow); (3) we will get a new one out to you ( today, tomorrow). That would've been service. As no one expressed the slightest interest in my inconvenience and in righting th problem, the order got canceed and I haven't shopped there again.

    I don't think these examples are unusual… so what has been happening – probably related to the emploer's core attitude – is that customers are being primed to expect indifference icompetence and elusiveness, and some times even illegal methods, The reaction – a predisposition toward anger…

    I worked in a job where I handled constant complaints and challenges… Believe me I have heard the worst, and I do not like anyone, even myself, becoming abusive or insulting. Obscenity is plainly not ever acceptable. And you do get nutty people. But there are techniques that you can use that will deescalate most situations, if they are supported by your company.
    They all pretty much evlve from the Golden Rule..

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