Customer Service Flunkie

I talk a lot on here about my job.  About how it’s fun, stimulating, and just about the best place to work ever.  It is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all sunshine and roses all the time.  There is, without a doubt, just one thing I actively dislike: answering phone calls.

I had no idea before I started working there, but I hate the phone.  I vastly prefer face-to-face or email correspondence.  Whenever the phone rings at work I secretly roll my eyes because I know I’ll just be answering the same questions I answer for every caller, about twenty times per day, five days per week.  That is a lot of regurgitating the same information.

Occasionally the caller will switch it up on me and make it interesting.  This one guy called last week and was listening to porn while he asked me questions about custom labels.  Another guy called today and started fighting with his wife while on the phone with me.  I’ve had to instruct people on how to attach files to emails, I’ve helped plan baby showers, and I’ve given my honest opinions on how I feel about the colors canary versus cantaloupe.

Given that I’m in customer service, I endeavor at all times to be pleasant.  This is regardless of whether the person is shrieking at me from a New York subway line and complaining that I’m not talking loudly enough, or neglecting to write down anything I say and insisting that I repeat myself ad nauseum.  I’m supposed to be nice to the people who buy stuff from us, so I paste on my best “No, of course I’m not miming stabbing myself in the neck while I talk to you” smile and try not to hang up on people.

I had a real corker of a call today though.  A gentleman called saying that our website was giving him an error message.  It was an error message I’d never seen before, so I asked him all kinds of questions trying to get to the root of the problem.  Five minutes of rigorous investigation led to the culprit: The problem was that he didn’t know he had to put in his password while trying to log in.

After he thanked me and hung up, I sat in awe for a moment.  He explained to me that he was an elderly gentleman and had trouble using the Internet.  I was heartily tempted to agree with him but instead opted to encourage him.  Still though.  Whoa.

It throws me that something like logging in, that is so self-evident to me, can be confusing for someone.  Same thing with investigating things using the Internet.  We have a ton of people, usually elderly or late middle-aged people, who would rather call than check our website for answers.  We’ll explain that all the pricing they need is on the website and they almost always reply by saying, “I just think it’s easier to call and ask questions.”

As a person firmly rooted in Gen Y, who hasn’t met a problem Google or Twitter couldn’t fix, I really struggle to understand this mentality.  I’ve been using computers since I can remember, and searching for information on the Web is second nature.  How a person could ever think it was more efficient to call and ask questions is beyond me.  Maybe this is because I dislike the phone, but maybe not.

What I can’t decide is whether it’s laziness or a generational gap.  What do you think?[poll id=”10″]

8 thoughts on “Customer Service Flunkie

  1. My grandmother, for example, has trouble figuring out how to replace the ink in her printer; I can’t imagine navigating web pages beyond those she has figured out enough to use her email is easy.

    Of course, I didn’t really start to use computers for anything more than word processing until college (where I discovered the dial-up world of online networks) & had a mini-tantrum in middle school(?) when the local library switched from the paper card catalog system I had mastered to a computerized version.

    In some respects I’m an old fogey who appreciates the option of talking to someone who knows their products hands on vs. the descriptions found on a computer screen. But I also don’t really like to talk to people on the phone when they are asking the same questions I hear over and over, so I can see both sides.

  2. I can’t vote because I don’t think “maladjusted” is the right word. But I choose generation gap – these folks aren’t lazy; they just haven’t learned to substitute computers for human interaction, despite the (usually) increased efficiency. It’s really rather delightful, if also quaint.

    Like you, I dislike the phone, but I applaud the impulse to talk to a human being as opposed to wading through Google or even Twitter search results. And I bet they’re tickled pink when they get someone nice and knowledgeable like you!

  3. I work retail and sadly customer service goes hand in hand. I can’t think of one day where I haven’t wanted to bitch slap or sucker punch a customer. My issues are range from people who think they are better then me, so lets treat Amanda like she is dog crap, to people who will try on 3 of 4 of their size in a jacket, just to bring me the one they didn’t try on that is still hung nicely, all while leaving me their mess on the floor, cause lets face it, putting things back like you find them are damn impossible! Seriously, WTF was the point of trying all the other ones on, if you buy the one you didn’t try on, there all the same size! Retail has made me jaded to the society. I don’t get it, I listened to my mother and don’t touch unless I put it back, etc. Am I one of the few?! I also, am curious to others, unless they treat me like crap from the get go, then the gloves come off and the bitch is set loose ;)

  4. -Blanche, A very thoughtful comment. I can definitely see how in some cases it would be easier to talk to someone who knows their product inside and out. It’s just hard when they’re looking right at the info and they call anyway. Your comment made me laugh though because my grandparents are, for the most part, almost as comfortable with technology as I am!

    Debra Snider, I chose the word maladjusted carefully, because it seems that to be at odds with technology is to have a lot more trouble with every day things than necessary. Maybe they don’t see it that way, and then maladjusted wouldn’t apply, but I listen to this guy struggle for five minutes because he doesn’t know he has to enter his password at the same time as his email address and I can’t help but think how much easier everything could be for him! As for nice and knowledgeable, I do try but I think I need to exert more effort to not get frustrated. I like your use of the word quaint, by the way!

    -EdgellACE, I have to admit that I’m one of those people who tries things on but leaves them in the dressing room if they don’t fit. I’d probably put things back in the wrong spot if I tried to put them back! I endeavor to always be nice to customer service people though, because if you’ve ever worked retail you know it’s a crappy job. Retail veterans have to stick together!

  5. I’m a public librarian. If a day passes that I don’t hear the words: I’m computer illiterate, I must be off. Some of these people, in my opinion, ARE malajusted. They hate it and refuse to even try. EVERYTHING is the computer’s fault and sometimes it’s our fault for being the owners of the infernal machine. On rare occasions, we’re making it hard intentionally. But, I find that there are legitimately some people who are trying to learn but just can’t. Those are the ones I want to help. Anyone who says that awful first phrase though, automatically gets less effort.

  6. -Annemarie, Oh boy, I bet you hear from some really fun people at the library! I’ve always wondered, does it really irritate librarians when patrons put the books back themselves, or do they prefer it? Anyway, I think you have a pretty even keel on this point. If the person is genuinely having a hard time, it’s great to help them and make their lives easier. If they just don’t want to learn, and they’re too lazy to try, they probably deserve every ounce of annoyance they get from the process!

  7. -Perception, Thanks so much! I try so hard to be patient but it must really be a virtue because I really have to WORK at it!

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