D.K. Wall

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Customer Call Center Commandments

Last week, I had the misfortune of calling not one, but two customer service departments for some assistance. After dealing with interactive voice response systems, obnoxious hold music, and interminable waits for customer service staff, I believe I am now qualified to issue the following Customer Call Center Commandments:

Thou shalt not say “Your call is very important to us.” Let’s be clear. My call is NOT very important to you. The fact that you refuse to spend enough money on your call center to answer my call without delay tells me that you value your cost savings more than you value my call. The absolute worst transgression of this commandment is a recording that repeats the message every thirty seconds that my call is very important. I always reply, “If my call is so important, answer the phone.” So don’t tell me that my call is important, show me it is important by answering the phone with a real live human being.

Thou shalt not say “All of our customer service agents are currently busy helping other customers.” What else are they doing? You might make me laugh if you said “Our customer service agents are currently taking a smoke break” or “Our customer service agents are currently taking a training course on how to be more responsive” or “We don’t know what our customer service agents are doing because we contract out that work to another company.” At least you would get points for honesty. In the meantime, you are just loudly announcing that you are unwilling to hire enough customer service agents to help your customers.

Thou shalt not say “If you prefer to continue to hold . . . “ Let’s be clear. I prefer you to actually answer the phone. I have no choice but to hold. Your only real advantage is that I know your competitors are just as bad.

Thou shalt not say “Your call will be answered in X minutes” unless you mean it. I love it when you tell me how long to expect to wait. Well, except for the call center that told me that the wait was over an hour. That was not so great. But at least I know up front how little you value me as a customer and I can settle in for the delay in my life. But if you tell me there will be a six-minute wait, please don’t repeat that same estimate for the next half hour.

Thou shalt not play constant ads telling me how great you are while I hold. Trust me, your message about your next great service offering is not helping when I can’t get your current offering to work. I am not really in a buying mood.

Thou shalt not play obnoxious music. If I am having to hold for a long time, I will be doing other work. Your catchy music is a distraction. Worse is catchy music interupted every thirty seconds by a loud voice telling me my call is very important to you.

Thou shalt not say “You can contact us later for faster service.” Please tell me you understand how incredibly stupid that sentence is.

Thou shalt not suggest I visit your website. I got the phone number for your call center from your website. After all, I don’t call until I have searched everywhere for information. I already know how miserable the experience is going to be.

Thou shalt not employ an interactive voice response system who can’t understand me. After several rounds of trying to get an interactive voice response system to understand my sixteen-digit account number, I finally told it to go perform a physical act that is probably impossible to perform. The machine did not have a good response for me.

If you must use an interactive voice response system, please give me an option to bypass it. Honestly, there are times when an interactive voice response system is great. Though, frankly, thanks to this little invention called the internet, I can get every piece of information imaginable that an interactive voice response system can give me. My usual game is to dial 0, but, apparently, many of you have caught on to that. I actually dialed a 0 eight times in a row last week with one automated attendant before it finally said it would give me a human. That, for the record, was the same automated attendant that I suggested to go perform a physical act. Dialing 0 eight times in a row was my mechanical way of repeating that message.

Thou shalt not repeat questions that an interactive voice response system has already asked. Need me to repeat that? When the real live human wastes the first two minutes of our conversation getting all of the information I already gave to the interactive voice response system, I think you are just playing with me. Besides, we all know “interactive voice response system” translates to a “machine that talks back.” We all saw the Terminator movies. We know how this ends.

Thou shalt not allow my call to be answered by someone who does not speak and understand my language. I love practicing my language skills. I love meeting people from around the world. I just don’t want to do that after spending eternity waiting for someone on a customer service line. And, by the way, their use of an American name does not fool me at all. Stop it.

Thou shalt not transfer my call and disconnect me / put me on eternal hold (ignore) / or back in the hold queue Once I talk to a human being, I don’t care how useless they are. Please, please, please don’t lose my call in your well-designed call center system. It just makes me cry. And that new person better not dare ask me to repeat all my information again.

Thou shalt educate your call center staff. One of my calls last week was regarding a software issue. A known, documented software issue that was several days old. Documented on the company’s own support pages (without a resolution). The customer service agent I spoke with had no knowledge the problem even existed. I was providing him links to his own company’s web page for details about my issue.

Thou shalt respect your call center employees as the hard working people that they are. Seriously. Once I finally connect with a live human, I rarely find that they are uncaring or unhelpful (though your systems, training, and processes may limit their help). I try very hard to be polite to them no matter how much your company has made my life difficult.

In fact, I challenge every CEO to call your own call center. Live through the pain of connecting with a live human. And then marvel at how talented those overworked, underpaid employees are who strive to help maniacs like me.

And then call me and tell me all about your experience.

Your call is very important to me.

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2 thoughts on “Customer Call Center Commandments

  1. I totally feel your pain. One time I had my teenage son at the time laughing so hard because I kept yelling at the phone saying I want to talk to somebody. He just thought that was great. Before that I was just yelling my answered to it. I’m such a great role model lol. I hope you got all your problems fixed though. Have a great week.

  2. Some years ago I had my cell phone with a company that used the “interactive” system. Now I have a slight Dutch accent, which the system must have considered to be French (being in Canada and all), and it would always switch to French. I do not speak French. Talk about frustrating!!!

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