I've written before about tips for the general public on how to treat servers, but I think it's time for that kind of post regarding call centers! Because just as it was obvious that half the population has no idea how to behave in a public restaurant, it's obvious that 80% or more lose any sense of politeness when they're on the phone.
Let's start with some basics. What is a customer service representative's job? It's to make the customer as happy as we can within the guidelines the company will allow. Pretty simple and straight-forward. Our job, really, is not to make the company money. That's the sales department's job! Oh, we might be required to suggest extra services to you, but for the most part, we are not a source of income for the company.
But it seems like what a lot of people think is that customer service reps are there to make their lives difficult. They think we're there to say no, we're there to trick them or get something for company out of them. We're there to make them unhappy. Those people call in and are combative and unpleasant right out of the bag. Others are just a little snotty or rude.
Here's the big bad secret: I bet if you polled CSRs, 99.9% would say they don't give a flea fiddling flying rat's fucking ass about the company. Oh, maybe in a vague way. Like, "I want the company to make money so that I get better raises." That's kind of it, though.
If it were up to me, I'd give everybody everything they asked for because I'm a nice person. Oh, shut up and stop laughing. But instead, I have to abide by the company's rules, or I'm out of a job. That's pretty much how any customer service job works, really. I'm at the mercy of the company if I want to keep my job, and at the mercy of the customer if I want to get my bonus/tips/whatever. That's the life of anybody in customer service. It's not worth losing my source of income because some random person wants an extra discount on something.
That said, anybody who works for a company long enough figures out how to work the system to get people things at better rates. So how do you get people to give you these things? How do you get someone to apply their sneaky-yet-legal skills to benefit you?
Shockingly, sarcasm doesn't work. If I offer something and you snort and say "oh well that's just great. is that all?" then hell yes, that's fucking all. Also amazing, threats are not the way. You can threaten me over the phone from six states away all you want. I've got your address on my computer screen in front of you. You have mine? Didn't think so. Yeah, sure, bitch to my supervisor, I'm sure he'll just absolutely come down on me since he's been listening to this whole thing. And don't fucking lie. Don't tell me the last agent hung up on you (does not happen as often as you think), your service goes out for the half the day every day but you just "never bothered" in two years to call, or that you were promised our most expensive package for $20. And don't pull out the "I'm a loyal customer" crap. A real loyal customer wouldn't call every year like clockwork asking for an extra discount. A real loyal customer values the service they get. And a real loyal customer has been a customer for more than six months.
So if you shouldn't be sarcastic, threaten, or lie, what does that leave? I know, I know, it's a craaaaaaazy idea ... but how about acting like a human being? Say hello, and answer my questions without heaving a sigh that could knock all the leaves off a tree. When you're offered something, say thank you. I promise it won't burn your tongue. If you want more (because who the hell doesn't), say "that's so great, thank you! I'd appreciate anything else you can do to help lower my bill." Treat it like a conversation, not a confrontation. If you do, I might remove your full-price HBO and give it to you free for a while. I might offer you the free equipment upgrade instead of the one that costs. I might tell you a secret that'll save you money permanently. I might even bend the rules to within an inch of breaking, if I like you. Because anybody not in business for themselves enjoys helping a customer stick it to The Man sometimes, even if it's just a little bit.
Will it always work? Hell no. There are customer service agents out there who don't give a fuck about anything or anyone. But here's the trick: start out nice, until you see who you're dealing with. If you start out being nasty, you really can't gain back that ground. You've already made me not like you. So be nice, and then if you don't get what you want, and it seems like the person just doesn't care? Then push a little, sure. But if the voice on the other end of the phone sounds sincere, if they're looking for options and treating you with respect, then return the goddamn favor, you asshat.