• Thu, Jan 13 2011

Modern Etiquette: How to Deal with Customer Service People

Another day, another video of someone flipping out on a customer service representative. As much as it sucks to be on hold for four hours or to be told you can’t return something you were promised was returnable, you should avoid the urge to abuse people who work in customer service. As someone who has worked in the industry, let me offer you a couple of things to consider.

Pick your battles. Sometimes, you really will get a customer service person who is truly evil and/or incompetent. If you get mad at everyone about everything, it will be a lot harder to get anyone’s attention when you are actually in the right about something. If you are already angry and begin shouting as soon as a representative answers the phone, you have already lost any chance of having the upper hand, and the representative will already be less inspired to help you.

Put yourself in their shoes. I sincerely doubt that anyone goes into customer service because they love being yelled at all day. Most people in this line of work are just people who needed a job and took what they could get. (Trust me.) Sometimes acknowleding this fact is the best you can do. Recently, I got a call from my alma mater asking me for money. The person on the phone was a 20 year old who was helping pay for school by working in the university phone bank and making cold calls to people like me. She didn’t enjoy the process any more than I did.

Consider the source. If you’re upset about a store policy, it is incredibly unlikely that the person who decided on that policy is the one you are dealing with. Just as you wouldn’t want to be blamed for something your boss did, the customer service representative shouldn’t have to take the heat for enforcing a decision someone else made. If you’re upset about a policy or the corporate structure, figure out which person is the appropriate target of your ire.

Don’t get personal. If the person you’re speaking to just told you that the soonest your flight can be rescheduled for is next Thursday, go ahead and be mad about it. But even as you argue, keep your comments about the flight and the airline. Don’t make personal attacks or accuse the representative of having an agenda. For one thing, there’s enough real shit to argue about that you don’t need to attempt “yo mama” jokes. For another, your conversation is being recorded, and you are not going to look incredibly sympathetic when you demand to speak to a higher-up.

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