Just my thoughts. I'm sure you have your own.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Welcome to the World of Customer Service

[The following post was originally posted in 2007 on the message boards for www.macclenny.com. The events in the following article actually happened and honestly have not been embellished, though it would have been quite funny to do so just a little. I work in the banking industry, if anybody cares...]

We’re all pretty familiar with the concept. We have a problem with something, such as a computer or a service, and so we need to get help from a representative of said service. Already, those of you familiar with the Customer Service routine can see a flaw in the above equation. Representative being that flaw.

Now this is not a complete across-the-board deal, wherein every single CSR we deal with is inept and lacking basic common sense. In fact, working with business-oriented companies (who tend to have a slightly higher degree of competency in their representatives) rarely puts me in insanity’s path. But there have been obvious exceptions, or else I wouldn’t be writing this.

(At this point, I’m going to assume if there are any readers who are, indeed, Customer Service Representatives (CSR) of any kind that they do make up the exception and do not reflect the following descriptions. However, you may very well be such, to wit, please do not work for a company I will eventually call for help. Thank you.)

I’ve also learned, at least in the business world (although I’m sure this is a global rule too), that if a company is either government-run or –funded, then their comprehension abilities would be about two points above a piece of granite. The following will be a classic example, as what happened to me today.

(Names have been removed/changed to protect the stupid.)

Part of my responsibilities where I work involve transferring files to vendors and making sure they not only receive them, but that their services with us ‘work’. The following conversation took place today:

Me: (Makes first call)

Company: Thank you for calling [Company Name]. Our number has recently changed. Please hang up and call 1-800-###-####.

Me: (Kind of weirded out that they actually asked me to “hang up” and call this number, but does so anyhow. Makes second call.)

Company: Thank you for calling [Company Name]. (Normal schpiel about pressing one and two and three, until they get to zero for operator).

Me: (Presses 0).

Company: (an actual person). Thank you for calling [Company]. How can I help you today?

Me: Hi, my name is Daniel with [My company]. Our contract ID is #####. I have a question concerning a file we transfer to you.

Company Rep 1: What was that Contract ID again?

Me: #####

Rep 1: Hmm. That doesn’t seem to fit, what I need is a four digit number, a dash, and another digit.

Me: (Pause. That equals 5 digits… like I’m giving you… Oh well). Oh, well, I don’t have a number that matches that. Can you look us up by name?

Rep 1: (frustrated sigh) Sure, what was that name?

Me: [My company, again…]

Rep 1: Hold on. (The very hated hold music. I’m afraid I’ll never talk to her again. Two minutes later, she surprisingly comes back on) Ok, I have your information here. How can I help you, again?

Me: (sigh) I need to speak to someone in file transmissions that handle (file type), please.

Rep 1: (file type) department? I think that’s handled by (another person).

Me: Oh yeah, I’ve talked to her before.

Rep 1: Great. Do you need her number?

Me: Yes, that would be great.

(Rep 1 proceeds to give me her number. I take it down and thank her, hanging up)

Me: (Makes Third Call to woman who can hopefully help me. Get her voicemail—she’ll be out all week. Her message gives me her department’s number, but says it so fast I have to call back two more times to write it all down. Meanwhile, she has 3 voicemail messages from me that are just the sound of the phone hitting the cradle. Makes Fourth Call to the number she left me! (keep that in mind.) )

Company: Thank you for calling … (Automated Message #3, by the way. I get to press 0 eventually)

Rep 2: Thanks for calling [Company]. My name is [Person]. How can I help you today?

Me: Hi, yes, I was hoping to speak to someone in (type of file) department.

Rep 2: (type of file)? I’ve never heard of that before.

Me: (Isn’t this the number the lady gave me?) [Spells it out, describing the file and the department I need, along with the problem—that their system is not updating their information included on the file].

Rep 2: Could you please hold? I’ll call tech support.

Me: Ooooo-k.

(Fast-Forward: She proceeds to give me the play-by-play, letting me know every 20 seconds [separated by hold music] that she tried ‘this person’ and ‘that person’, but she keeps getting voice mail. [Current running time for project: 8 minutes.] She comes back on.)

Rep 2: Is this file sent to our Wisconsin branch or our Texas Branch?

Me: (The heck should I know?!) I’m not sure. I just upload the file to your website through a secure FTP.

Rep 2: (sigh) Hold on. (The music. I think of screaming. I think of hanging up. I think many other things in the time I listen to an easy jazz version of the Carpenters: “We’ve only just begun to live.” Running time: 12 minutes.) Alright, it looks like this is handled in Texas. I’ve got [Name] from Tech Support here to help you, ok?

Me: (Tech Support? Alright! This is, no doubt, who I need to speak to) Great! Thank you.

Rep 2: (Click for transfer)

Rep 3: Hi, this is [name]. I hear you’re having problems logging on to our site?

Me: (Stunned for about 3 full seconds here. Did this woman pay any attention to me earlier?) Hi. Um, no. I can log on just fine. In fact, I just sent the file successfully yesterday through your [website] FTP upload.

Rep 3: Oh. Hm, ok, then.

Me: Yeah, the problem I was having though is that I think the information on your side isn’t getting updated.

Rep 3: Ok. What was the file again?

Me: [file type and department it goes to and all other relevant information (not playing around this time)].

Rep 3: And that’s updated using the [website] FTP, right?

Me: Yup.

Rep 3: Well, I don’t know anything about that particular file. Let me see if I can find someone in [file type department] who can help you.

Me: Ok, thanks. (Running time: Let’s just say that I started well before lunch, but I’m starting to get a little hungry. More hold music, but not as long this time)

Rep 4: Hi, this is [name], can I help you? (You know, this is a pretty big company, and I’m starting to get to know everyone on a first-name basis.)

Me: Yes, [name], my name is Daniel with [my company]. I’m looking for someone in the [file type] department with an issue we’re having.

Rep 4: Well, I handle the file transfers as they come in for [the file].

Me: (Lights flash down from the sky as I do a little victory dance). Perfect! I just need to know a little bit about how this file gets integrated into your system. I think some information is not getting updated.

We’ll break from our story here. In the process of maybe 2 minutes, he gives me a thorough explanation as far as what happens and where the problem could lie. In the process of over 25 minutes, I spoke with four humans, four machines, and my far-gone sanity. I know not everyone in the company would know every single thing, but I was hoping some basic research and common sense skills could have come into play. Especially with the one Rep who, unless I was routed to another country or something, was in the same department as the lady who had helped me before!

All in all, this is a pretty common occurrence, or so I’ve heard. Horror stories on websites and urban legends tell of much more incompetent CSRs, and I’ve had my share of them, too. Another company I deal with gives me a sales pitch about the product we already have of theirs whenever I need help with something that has nothing to do with it.


Me: I need to know how often this service gets updated?

Rep: Well, the [service] is a state-of-the-art procedure in handling [procedures, jobs, financial capabilities, etc. etc. etc. for about 3 minutes.]

Me: Uh-huh. That’s great. Sooo… it gets updated…when?

I know I could go on and on with examples, situations, flow charts and the like describing how companies in general fall well short of meeting what the end-user (customer) feels would be appropriate CSR competency, but I’ll leave it at this. After all, these are people, and I can’t go on and on to insult them, because the blame is not entirely on their heads. Most of the time, it comes from poor training, companies that want to cut corners and get the employees they are paying right to work. These individuals are just caught in the middle of a fierce battle of wits between the customer and the corporation’s bank account. So, I offer this one paragraph of kindness and peace to the individuals I have so recently and roughly thrashed.

That doesn’t mean I take it all back, because there is something to say about wanting to do better. I just don’t want to seem like an ogre to the people where I work who call me, asking for help. See, I can sympathize.

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