The CSR Diaries: Cause and Effect

My turn.

In the introduction to this little series, I mentioned that customer service centers - no matter how posh and high end they are (like mine) - are not set up so that consumers can call all the time just 'cause.

Let me put it like this: if you are not an agent, independent contracter, or business professional of any kind, and consulting customer service on a daily basis is not part of your job, then you - as a customer - are expected to call maybe once or twice a year to resolve an extraordinary issue, and then go on with your life...assuming you have one.

Now, just to clarify:
  1. A bill being due is not an extraordinary issue.
  2. A late fee is not an extraordinary issue.
  3. A service charge is not an extraordinary issue.
Times are hard for everyone, companies included.  Believe it or not, just as anything that's $1.00 or over is a big deal to you, it's a big deal to companies.  Because when millions of people call in to have fees and charges taken off, it all adds up.  When I worked for a cell phone company earlier this year, they released a horrifying statistic to all the employees, reporting that in 2011, over $35 million were refunded to customers who didn't want to pay for their downloads and ringtone subscriptions.

And for those of you shrugging it off, understand that that was $35 million worth of people's salaries being slashed to accommodate you.  The CEO's paycheck wasn't getting slashed.  And the company wasn't going to risk angering partners and investors, so in the end, the underlings bore the brunt.  Our hours were cut, our paychecks shriveled - that was $35 million worth of people's wages, bonuses, benefits, and promotions up for cancellation...just to make you happy.

That was people's jobs at risk of being shipped abroad, because American customers are actually raising the cost of employing American citizens - 50% of whom, by the way, made less than $36,000 in 2010.

These are the things you really need to think about the next time you're bitching about how the economy got so bad.  Working as a CSR in various companies over the last fourteen years has really opened my eyes to a lot of things.  I make a concerted effort to pay bills on time.  If I know I'm going to pay something late and there will be a fee, I simply accept that fee and then try to avoid fee-causing behavior in the future.

Here are some fashion tips I've learned:
#1 - Traditional banking is the enemy.

No joke.  Though banks are where you thereotically go to place money in safe-keeping and to spend only as you see fit, many of you have noticed that banks often help themselves to your money as though it were theirs.  Sometimes they don't even explain why; they just say "No" and keep whatever they took.  That's why they allow transactions to go through when they know you don't have the money: it's an opportunity to penalize you for it, make you appear financially irresponsible, and land you in a cycle of paying off fees and constantly being short on money.  Banks charge because they can - end of story.  They can because state regulations allow them to.

The cure?  If money is an issue for you (as it is for most of us), get a prepaid debit card.

Seriously, prepaid is the way of the future; I myself haven't paid an NSF fee in almost a year since I switched to prepaid.  It know it sounds hood, but it's really not: I can still purchase items and pay bills online, and even use PayPal.  I can still get direct deposit from my job, and I even get paid two days early every.single.time.  And you know what happens whenever a company tries to debit money I don't have?  The transaction's declined, I'm charged only one dollar, and that's the end of it.  If my account goes into the negative, it's only for a few dollars, and I'm still not charged an NSF fee large enough to fill my gas tank.

Last I checked, that's how a bank is supposed to operate.

#2 - Checks are a thing of the Nineties.  This is the 21st Century.

Sending a check (or even a money order) in the mail is inefficient, time-consuming, and costs extra unnecessary money in ever-rising postage fees.  It's the 21st Century, people; pay your bills online (with your prepaid debit card, of course).  You get an instant paper trail, you know the company got your money, and you have better karma from killing less trees.

Another option is home banking (if you insist on sticking with traditional banks).  You can set it up so that your bank pays your bills, and thus the burden of spending rests on them.  So if they send out checks they know they can't cash, they're basically inviting you to whoop their ass in a lawsuit.  And if they pay your bills late, you can kick their ass on that too.

#3 - Harass your bank.

Sometimes business assess their customers late fees and NSF charges because the customers' banks rejected perfectly good payments for reasons no one ever seems to understand.  The banks then also charge the client NSF fees for having to reject a payment (convenient, right?).  So once an institution says, "Hey, your bank won't let us cash your payment", that's your cue not to harass the CSR of that company, but your bank - and feel perfectly justified to do so.  If your bank gives you the runaround and then the inevitable "No", close your account promptly and get a prepaid debit card.
Questions? Comments? Dirty looks?


  1. YES!

    Most of these I've implemented myself. And when I do have to pay late fees for my actions. I pay them and that's that.

    I would also advise looking into credit unions also if anyone is needing to still use a banking institution. They tend to be a lot better than regular banks.

  2. I hate banks; I really do.

    And yes, I've done or do this myself as well. It's called being a responsible adult, but as you well know, folks don't want to be accountable for anything anymore.

    1. You summed it up right there.

    2. Real talk. As a CSR, it's non-stop irresponsibility from clients.

    3. "As a CSR, it's non-stop irresponsibility from clients."

      8hrs of this a day is what I went through until I finally quit my last CSR job. My favorite calls were the people who screamed into the phone about a bill they knew was going to be due in 30 days (sarcasm).

    4. Makes me wonder how people think calling you up and cussing you out magically helps with billing.


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