Thursday, June 23, 2011

Customer Service Struggles.

     Customer service. Two words that when spoken can mean different things to people. To some, it’s what they do for work and a way they think. To others, it can invoke feelings of anger based on experiences they have had with companies. Being that I work in the customer service field, I am on the first team. Customer service is how I have to think and act. Most people don’t understand that when I mention who I work for, I immediately have to be that persona. I can’t be Jim; I have to be Jim the person who works for company X. I do that not because I want to but because I have to. People immediately associate my company, me, and any bad experience they have ever had. They then began to elaborate how awful an experience they had and how could I work for a company like that. As much as it seems like I'm complaining, it’s the truth. Ask anyone who works in customer service.

     I wanted to write on this subject today for two reasons. The first is how oblivious folks are to the amount of stress and pressure people are in customer service field. The second point is how oblivious we are as customer service people to how the public has very little understanding of what we do. I’m not saying people don’t understand completely, but people just really don't get it.

     Sure there is a lot of stress when you talk about any profession. Doctors, lawyers, short order cooks all have levels of stress and pressure that come with the turf. What the general public doesn’t get is the other baggage that comes along with the customer service industry. Like I said earlier, anytime I’m at a function or cookout there will always been one person who feels the need to engage about a bad experience they had recently with my employer. I get the big business and corporations are not the easiest to deal with. Believe it or not, I have to go the same channels to get support from my company that everyone else does. I have experienced the lack of wiliness from reps on the phone to help. Does that mean I go into work and complain to the person beside me? No, I don’t. I accept the fact the when I deal over the phone with someone, the level of concern is going to be limited because we are all brave when we are not face to face. By no means am I saying to tolerate a subpar level of support but I can’t fix human nature, don’t complain to me. Another stressful situation is from the company itself. Corporations in this day look for any way to streamline the operations. Back many years ago when I worked for a different company doing support that was all we did. A customer called in and we did whatever we needed to do to resolve the issue and make the customer happy. If they had any other questions outside of the technical part, we sent them to a better qualified person to help. Today is totally different. Not only do you need to be able to answer almost every question, you need to do it quickly and efficiently. Call center environments have a metric of statistic for everything. Time on a call, hold time, transfer rate, sales, mute time, if you sent out an on-site service tech, if you diagnosed the problem correctly and let’s not forget the time on breaks and time between calls. If there was ever a poster child for George Orwell’s Big Brother, the call center is it. No joke, from the time you get in to the time you leave, a call center phone system knows where you are. If it doesn’t, there better be a darn good explanation. Time is money in the customer service business, don’t think it’s not.

     The second point with the customer service industry being oblivious to what people know is true. Until recently I always thought people knew what we had to do and how we try to do the best we can but will fall short at times. You will have those people who are snarky and rude but it’s to be expected. When people do not get what they want when they want it, tempers will rise. There a customer I have on a regular basis that is amazed when I shine light on what we go through in the business. People just assume that the job is pretty easy. How hard can it be to sit at a desk all day? Until they know that sitting at the desk isn’t the problem, it’s the 1,000 lb gorilla and pink elephant sitting on each shoulder demanding great service for the customer in shortest amount of time. Trying doing that juggling act everyday and let me know when you hit the burn out point. Most individuals don’t make it past two years.

     I’m sure the feedback and emails will tell me to not complain and go find another job if it’s that bad. The problem is I like my job. I like helping people. There is a great amount of satisfaction for me to resolve an issue and hear the gratitude in a customer’s voice. I equate it to rescuing a kitten in a tree for a little child. It’s not a difficult task to do but when it’s done everyone feels pretty darn good about themselves. I just want to let people know that next time you have to deal with someone in customer service, don’t assume anything. The person on the other end of that call you make may just be a person like yourself, working hard to do the best they can for you.

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