The CSR Diaries: How to get good customer service

One - Be realistic

In my experience, I've noticed that some of my crankier customers say idiotic things like, "I just expected that whoever answered this number would be able to help me."  Anyone who thinks calling an 800 number will solve all their problems in this day and age is a goddamn fool.  800 numbers don't exist to solve problems.  They exist to channel annoying customers to "someone else", anyone else, and 99.99999% it's not the person you need.  It's an underpaid underling with no power who can't do anything for you.  And while the two of you are bickering back and forth at each other, the people who created the problems and are enjoying the profits don't have to deal with either of you.

Fashion Tip: My fellow Americans, by now you should've noticed you live in a nation of broken systems.  We are the inefficient, incompetent capital of the world, and if you want to get shit done, you need to proactively step up your game.

Avoid products and services which don't have an actual office/location you can visit or websites where you can resolve your own problems online.  Avoid products/services which do have an actual office/location, yet the personnel are always telling you to go away and call an 800 number.  Google potential service providers; see what current and past customers have to say.  What does the Better Business Bureau have to say?  What grade do they give that company and how many unresolved complaints does that company have?  A lot of chest pains can be avoided if people just take the time to do some research.

Two - Be ready

If you absolutely have to call an 800 number, at least be prepared. Some of the biggest complainants about call center customer service are the lazy idiots who don't know their account numbers, claim numbers, policy numbers, passwords, can't remember their own email addresses or even who's name the account was opened under, or whom their case was assigned to, etc. and so forth. They don't know anything, can't answer questions, don't have anything, and then wonder why a 5-minute call is taking more than half an hour.

Fashion Tip: Don't call while you're driving or in a hurry. Don't call for something you need on a weekend, after hours, or at the last minute. Don't call if you left all crucial information "at home." Sit down in a quiet location with all related documents and have a pen and paper ready in case the rep needs you to right something down. And pay attention. If there's a specific person you've been assigned to, get their full name and direct line. This increases your chances of resolving your issue quickly and with as little interaction with an 800 department as possible.

Three - AGAIN, pay attention

People calling 800 numbers love to ignore prompts and dial 0, thinking they're taking a shortcut.  Well,'ll get a person, but odds are, you'll the wrong person in the wrong department who can't help you, and now has to then figure out where you need to go and how to get you there.  In large companies with thousands of employees and dozens of departments (which sometimes span continents these days), this is a lot harder than it sounds.

Fashion Tip: Prompts are actually your friend.  They may be annoying, but they increase your chances of reaching the right person the first time around.

Four - No, seriously...PAY ATTENTION

Every CSR has experienced the moment where you tell a customer, "Since you're calling about X, you actually need to speak with Y" and they say, "Okay.  Well, now my next question is...."

Fashion Tip:  Did you not hear what I just said?  I'm not the person you need to speak with.  I can't help you.  I can't answer your questions.  You need to talk to Y, and you might want to STFU and go now before someone gets there ahead of you.

Five - STFU

Case in point: Every CSR has had the experience where they've asked a customer a YES or NO question, and gotten a few paragraphs in response.  And 90% of it is repetition; no matter what question you ask, no matter how short and sweet and simple it is, the customer has to tell you the same story over and over and over again, from beginning to end, and each new retelling magically grows another paragraph.  Thirty minutes later, they have the gall to ask, "Are we done yet?"

Fashion Tip: STFU.  Speak only when spoken to.  If asked a yes or no question, just answer YES or NO and then STFU and wait for the next question.  Don't elaborate, and do not repeat whatever you've just said.

Six - Stop Lying 

If you're calling from your cell phone while driving, chances are you have a shitty connection.  So stop saying the last three people hung up on you.  Any CSR who has to eat and pay bills knows better than to hang up on a customer.  All our calls are recorded, most are monitored, and any time a call lasts less than 30 seconds, the system is flagged.

Stop saying I "just said" I could help you.  This conversation just started, I have no idea who you are, what you need, or if you're even in the right place.  All I said was that I would be happy to take a look and try to see what's going on.  I am, I did, and I'm not the person you need to speak with.

Stop saying you've "already called so-and-so" or that that's the number you dialed.  No, you haven't, and no it isn't, otherwise you and I wouldn't be talking.  You Googled my company, snagged the first 800 number you could find, dialed 0, and thought that if you started yelling at the first person who answered, all your problems would be magically solved.

Stop saying yes, you know your spouse/significant other/agent/lawyer already called about a problem, got a response, and then explained the situation to you, and now you're simply calling back to bother people again because you don't like that such-and-such happened and you

Fashion Tip: Kill yourself.  I don't care how or with what; just stop living.  Bar patrons, people like these are the lowest, most useless, utterly meaningless wastes of space.  They're not human.  Their deliberate, illogical tendency to contact a department they already know cannot help them/will not change anything indicates that they just needed someone to abuse.  Back in the 1990s, these were the people who went to restaurants strictly for the purpose of abusing waiters.  They are rude, sarcastic to the point of being childish, they lie every five seconds, and even after calling several times and talking to damn near every level in the hierarchy, they still won't get off the phone.

Back in the 1990s, we were allowed to tell these people off and/or hang up on them.  Now, in addition to having almost absolutely free reign with the abuse, they can do extra dumb shit like demand to speak with a supervisor.

Seven - Be grown

There's this pervasive attitude right now in America where people just sit back and "let so-and-so take care of it."  In the Age of Recession, I find it downright horrifying.  I don't understand what's so important that when disaster strikes a person's home or other property, they're willing to sit back and let someone else "take care of" their finances and day-to-day needs.  What is so important that you need to foist off all the major responsibilities - where you'll live, how you'll eat, how you'll afford necessities - to complete strangers?  What were you in the middle of that was so much more important than your family's survival?

What is this aversion to thinking and problem-solving, and taking care of your own business?

Fashion Tip: Hope for the best; plan for the worst.  Learn how to budget.  Learn how to think for yourself.  Going out tonight?  Fine.  In the event of car trouble, how do you plan to safely get home?  Do you have AAA?  Does your insurance cover roadside assistance?  Can you afford to pay for towing out of pocket?  What if your apartment/house burns to the ground while you're out?  Can you afford a hotel out of pocket right this instant?  If your pay day is a week away and you're already running low on funds, how will you react if disaster strikes?

For those of you with insurance, ignore the fantasies and the commercials which cause them.  After a disaster/accident/loss, an adjuster doesn't just show up at 2 a.m. with a check/prepaid debit card, and free transportation to luxurious lodgings.  Shit happens, a CSR who couldn't care less takes your claim, and then 1-2 (usually) business days later (if you're lucky), the claims adjuster who was snoring soundly while your life was falling apart finally shows up, and no, they are not automatically bringing a check.

Eight - Get off your ass and serve a purpose

Number Six ties directly into this.  At work I get this all time, "I've never had to do this before/I just don't what know what to do."  These are the people who are unprepared and unwilling to take care of their own business.  Whenever I ask them something - anything from the basic to the crucial - their stock response is, "I've never had to do this before."  Translation: "I've never had to do this before, and I don't want to do this now.  Can't I just give you my name and you take care of the intricacies?"

When they babble on about how helpless they are, how clueless they feel, and I let them know what they need to do next, the repetitive response is, "I just don't know what to do."  Translation: "I don't want to do that.  I don't want to do anything.  I just want to call you, tell you my name, where I am and what's happened, and have you take care of the rest.  Stop telling me the things that I need to do."

Fashion Tip: Get over yourselfServe a purpose.  Be proactive and have a plan B, C, and D ready to go before you ever pick up the phone to call.  Think, dammit.  Don't tell yourself that by simply dialing an 800 number, all your problems will vanish in minutes - they won't.  We all want to get home to our Netflix streaming queue and our bottle of vodka in the freezer.  We all want to get back to our Planescape: Torment marathon and our long-distance friends on Facebook.  We all have better things to do than deal with car accidents, faulty cell phones, or frozen pipes bursting.  But guess what?  When shit happens, we need to deal with it, not try to find the tiniest excuse to shove all our problems onto someone else so we can get back to texting or tweeting or instagraming or whatever else was so urgent we couldn't be bothered to deal with our own lives.

Last, but not least

"No" is not a dirty word, and being told you need to do some legwork to take care of you and what's yours shouldn't be considered offensive.  It is horrifying the depths of laziness and complacency that Americans have sunken to.  I understand a lot of us feel defeated by the Recession and are angry, hungry, tired, broke, and don't want to have to deal with something else on top of day to day hardship.  Believe me, I understand.  But we want everything, don't want to actually pay for anything, and demand that every single inconvenience be fixed in the blink of an eye.

It's exactly this type of widespread unrealistic thinking which plunges a country into financial trouble in the first place.

So you want good customer service?  Be a good customer.  Be twenty steps ahead, and ready to go a hundred more.  Don't be entitled.  Don't think that just because you have the title of "customer", the people you give money to are automatically your slaves.


The Bitchy Waiter


  1. People way too delusional for common courtesy. Entitled entitled entitled. Lazy lazy lazy. I might be going crazy but I keep seeing Imperialism everywhere, from economical policies to attitudes.

    *pours the vodka

    1. Oh, girl...LAZY. EN-TI-TLED. They are the reason the 800 number was designed in the first place.

  2. And say, "Thank you" if you get the help you need. Or just because the CSR tried.

  3. I always am super nice to customer service rep's. No reason to get mad at someone trying to do a job. People need to realize it is a job, no one is perfect on the other end of the line and people have lives and are tired, underpaid, have families, maybe had to travel very far for work by bus, train, etc. I guess some need to gain a level of compassion for the folks on the other end, if they can. My Mother had worked at McDonald's when I was a kid and I heard all the shit she dealt with in the drive thru. I've had my share of being treated like shit in the workplace. I don't like the bourgeoisie attitude towards proletariat workers.


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