The CSR Diaries: We Bring This on Ourselves

For those of you who've been customer service representatives before (or are now), you'll  recall how annoying it was when people called you up and acted as though you were their therapist.  They felt the need to tell you everything, and most of them just called to rant.

I'm not going to pick on the sad, lonely people who chatter for hours on end; the gods have already condemned them enough.  No, no, no...I want to talk about the ones who just want to mouth off to a captive sounding board.

Mind you, I'm currently an insurance counselor who specializes in property and typically speaks to agents, mortgage companies, etc....not civilians, as I call them.  The reason they "slip through" is that they're  not listening to the prompts, they don't call with their information handy, and they just press whatever whenever to get a person, and it's often the wrong person.  And you can imagine how much fun it is when they get a hold of me.

"...and I want to know WHY."

I have a theory this is the officially most hated phrase by CSRs.  There's always some entitled whiner calling to find out something, and they have an attitude from the moment they get on the phone.  They don't tell you their name or account number; they just launch into a clearly rehearsed tirade.

And it doesn't matter if you have the answer why, and your answer makes perfect sense.  It doesn't matter if they themselves already know why.  It doesn't matter if you present them with options.  They didn't call to get their problem solved.  Half the time, they don't know anything about their accounts or what's due or even who their agent is (remember, I'm insurance).  They called because they wanted to yell at someone, anyone, whom they know can't yell back.

I had this customer who called in, no name, no policy, just launched right into, "Why are you charging me $12 a year to take money from my bank account?"

Moi: Um...hello?  Who are you?

She was referring to $1/month automatic withdrawal charge.  Now, Lord knows I'm a cheapskate, but even I know when to give.  By opening with her overly dramatic "$12 a year" and her "why", she felt her temper tantrum was justified.  She'd hyped herself up as the wronged party and felt she could unleash her frustration however she wanted.

The Why Callers absolutely loathe when you have a ready answer to their question.  It means their question is common and their problem is actually a non-problem.  They're not the victim they thought they were and it ruins their day.  They start finding reasons to stay on the phone, and they're willing to go scraping.

Miss $12-a-year learned that in some states, when you're on automatic payments with a company, your own bank charges a fee for money to be withdrawn.  When I explained this, she lost her attitude and started fumbling to keep me on the line.  "Well...what if I call my bank and tell them I don't...want...that?"

Um, I'm not your bank, and besides, this is a statewide thing.  Deal with the $1/month, honey.

Of course, I get the message across much more professionally, but that's not enough to shut up a Why Caller.  So this is part where they start the sometimes tearful confessional about finances, cutting corners, blah blah blah - mind you, they're not telling me this because they already know I can't do anything.  They're telling me this because they just want to talk.

For a country which looks down psychology and therapists, Americans really do enjoy life on the couch, literally and figuratively.  Which reminds me of the following type of callers:

"...I just feel like it should be...."

Whenever a customer tries to counter technology, company policy, state and/or federal law, or even basic arithmetic with "Well...I feel like it should be...", I seriously want to kill someone.

Um...I don't care what you "feel."  I'm not your therapist.  You want me to do the clinical counseling thing, you need to pay me clinical rates.  You don't get to dial the wrong number, accidentally get me, and then whine about your woes for free - hell naw.  You can go somewhere with that.

News flash...the universe doesn't give a shit about your feelings, thoughts, or opinions.  Yes, they are important to you, but that's about it it.  This is a harsh, cold reality Americans in particular really need to learn.  The world doesn't give a fuck.  It's been around for forever.  You can go stand in the corner with your arms defiantly folded across your chest, waiting for it to bend to your will, but in the end, whom do you think is going to win the waiting game?

Mr. and Mrs. "Personal Responsibility"

A lot of conservative, anti-Obama white folks call in, y'all.  They vacillate between railing against the President and bitching about their bills.

You know, many of these folks call in bemoaning the economy and tough times and blaming liberals for everything, but there is zero personal accountability from these people.  I often give the clearly broke folks a pass, but these other folks get no sympathy.  They're often in way over their heads; these are the ones with the Benzes, the $25,000 necklaces, and the multi-million dollar-homes complaining about bills.  They're the ones demanding to know why (see above) a policy lapsed months earlier for non-payment, and how come someone "didn't take care of this already."

Let's try this again.  It's your money.  You need to keep tabs on it, especially during a recession.  I'd personally rather deal with some broke angry woman who pays enough attention to her money to at least notice a $1/month service fee.  Yeah, she may be going overboard, but she's doing what she's supposed to: paying attention to her own money and  making sure every cent is going where it's supposed to go.  She was even on automatic monthly payments - what's rich dude's excuse?

Fashion tip from a humble pygmy: Just because an agent or accountant or personal banker - or trophy spouse - says, "I'll take care of it", it doesn't mean diddly.  It's not their money.  Yeah, they're getting a cut, but if the rest isn't coming to them, they don't really care what happens to it.  So that leaves you, the person who worked for/inherited/did whatever you did to get it.  You have to be your money's greatest champion and protector.

I actually had this rich dude call in who'd been on vacation for three months.  Gi' you dat one mo 'gain - on vacation for three months.  Out of the country, no less.  He was offended we'd sent him bills each month he was gone.  And wondered why no one at our company - where thousands are employed and millions of people are customers - had noticed he wasn't paying.

Uh...what do you mean no one here "noticed"?  What do you think all the late fees and cancellation notices were for?  Negro, people notice when they're not getting paid!!!

Now granted, his agent should've done a better job of keeping in touch and making sure shit was paid, but people never want to talk to their agents, most likely because they know they can't throw these tantrums face to face.  They'll get kicked out of the office and dropped like a hot potato, and since professionals like agents chat about their clients, they're more than happy to spread the word if you're a deadbeat who doesn't pay your bills.

My Point?

Why are we enabling this?  As a society, why do we enable this behavior?  People have gotten used to complaining about the recession, but they're refusing to manage their money better.  These aren't kids calling.  These are grown folks with kids babbling on about their feelings and opinions to complete, uninterested strangers.  I don't need to know your 26-year-old son's having surgery.  Your story will not pay the bill.  I don't need to hear the saga of your pregnant daughter moving out.  It will not pay the bill.  Stop lying to me about not getting bills but getting the cancellation notice.  Stop telling me you can't pay your bills because you're not internet savvy, or because the automated system was "tore up" two days in a row (a customer actually said that to me).

Stop wasting my time.  If you don't have money and can't pay your bill, don't bother me.  I don't care.

Granted, insurance customers of color do tend to be a bit better behaved than their paler siblings because it is insurance and most customers try to behave.  But they're all usually Americans and Americans are the absolute worst customers.  Years ago, when I was at my first real CSR job, I was appalled at how customers called in companies whom they owed and cussed out the representatives.  I once asked the Moms (yes, plural) if in Cameroon you could just call up someone you owed money and cuss them out.

"You better not," the Moms replied, "or they will send someone to your house with a cutlass."


  1. Yes Americans are indeed the worst customers.

    I just had a call the other day where a woman called in demanding to know why she would have to pay a reconnect fee because her account was suspended.

    She bitched and moaned about not receiving a bill and I explained to her that we hadn't received a payment from her in nearly two months. I also provided her with other options to check her bill. You know she wasn't trying to hear that.

    I'm sorry even if you haven't received a bill, common sense would state that you call in and find out your balance so you don't get your service interrupted.

    She bitched about how she wasn't going to pay that reconnect fee on her next bill and there was nothing we could do about it.

    I promptly informed her that was totally fine but she will be suspended again and will find herself in the same situation that she's in now.

  2. I'm sorry even if you haven't received a bill, common sense would state that you call in and find out your balance so you don't get your service interrupted.

    And people know this. They knew this when they called you.

    In fact, I have agents call to say their clients' haven't gotten a bill, and then want to know what the balance is, when it's due, where to send it, and if it's too late. That's what's supposed to happen. That's how you keep strict tabs on your finances.

  3. Perla Buttons9/9/12, 6:41 PM

    Ooh. This is very close to home. I may work in an outbound department*, but I still run into lot of entitled complainers who really, really do not want to actually take in any explanations or information. The just want to let loose on somebody.

    I only ever work with established customers. I mainly take info from our customers about our internet-based, rented products. The *rented* part is important.

    One bloke started his rant about how he rented products from us, but we *stole* them from him before he could make use of them. "Thief", "stolen", "deception", "ripped off" - all of these terms were either used or strongly implied.

    I explained that we are a rental service, so it is not possible to store products for an indefinite period (he was expecting to keep the huge cache of products he had rented for weeks, or essentially indefinitely).

    His response? "So what you're saying is that you are stealing from me under false pretenses?" That is word-for-dumbarse-word - I couldn't make that any more perfect!

    I repeated myself, explaining about the expiry dates on the rentals again. It took a third round for him to begin to get it.

    He then moved to save face by saying that there were no expiry dates listed on the content (totally false, there are countdown clocks on the products and the interface itself. Conditions are explained in both the online and hard copy versions of the manual, as well as the how-to and info guides in the service interface).

    He continued suggesting that "we" completely neglected our customer service duty to inform him.

    Oh, and the "theft" that supposedly occurred? He was using a goodwill freebie voucher from the company . It wasn't even his money, but you wouldn't know that from talking to him!


    *I am going to be adding inbound work to my roster soon. Um, yay?

    1. I'm convinced people in the Western Hemisphere have become so entitled they don't believe they have to pay for anything anymore.

      It's gotten to the point where every single bill, expense, or tab is suddenly grounds for a debate. In their (precious) opinions - see guest post by Sparky - if they "feel" a bill is too high, they think they shouldn't have to pay it.

      And don't get me started on the lying. I'm exhausted by how customers just flat out lie all the time to avoid paying for things. They chant "I didn't know" like a bunch of dimwitted children. You didn't know you have to pay your bills? You didn't know buying a brand new iPhone for each of your four kids would be expensive? Why does your 8-year-old need an iPhone (channeling older job now)?

  4. Perla Buttons9/9/12, 6:49 PM

    Oh, and I feel I should add re: free vouchers:

    I cannot even begin to explain how many people think that venting their anger on a bottom rung CSR - who has a degree of discretionary power over the renewal of/access to free stuff - is a great way to get their hands on more free stuff.

    1. When I worked for a call center where Gevalia was our primary product...dear God. The entitlement.

  5. I've never worked for a call center because I know I'll be fired. No point courting the inevitable.

  6. hi, first time commenter but a long time lurker. everything that has been mentioned above sums up my current job.

    I work in a call center for a major cell phone company for over 4yrs. as of right now, I am on the verge of possibly losing my job (over the unattainable stats that change twice in a month, but that is a whole other story for later). day in and day out I deal with these people who feel as though they are entited to fee waivers or free service. nothing on this world is for free, there are fees in place that we ( as csr's) have been told to enforce. but if the customer bitches and moans or whines enough, then we have to credit everything to their bills under the guise of "customer loyalty". no matter what we say or do, our management team does not have our backs when it comes down to dealing w/ hateful customers. we are forced to just " deal w/it" for the sake of excellent customer service.

    when I started out at this job, it was not bad. since the company started to become more about the numbers' game, it is much harder to even want to stay here. the fear of not finding anything else besides this line of work scares me.
    yes, the benefits are ok. but the stress and physical pain are just not worth the weekly paycheck. been looking for another job for over a year. if for any reason I do get fired from here, a heavy weight will have been lifted from my shoulders. my well being means alot more to me now , than it has ever been in the past 2 yrs. it is something that I can only gain back,once I leave the csr line of work behind.
    sorry for the rant.

    1. You lasted 4 years???

      the unattainable stats that change twice in a month...since the company started to become more about the numbers' game, it is much harder to even want to stay here

      Bingo. All these companies have bought into the numbers lie and it's creating turnovers where people were once willing to work for years and years.

      If you think about it, the CSR position is not meant to be hard or exceedingly complicated. It's a simple job good for people across age groups and education levels, and it actually used to pay okay. There was no shortage of folks lining up to do this sort of job.

      Now, we can run fast enough, and accepting a CSR position is like a last resort.


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