This epic struggle between customer and customer service started when Alexander Graham Bell grew tired of his wife nagging him all the time to get off the couch so they could go visit her mother who lived like across town. He was like, “Why hasn’t someone invented a device where you can just talk to her from here? Why do we have to trudge all the way across town just so you can ask her what she does to condition her hair?”
He grew tired of having to get pants on for just to go and listen to his wife and mother-in-law jabber endlessly. So he went outside to his tool shop to find a solution and came up with the idea for the phone. Now he could rest in peace on his couch while his wife and mother-in-law chatted endlessly. Until he got the bill for $300 in the mail. He wasn’t having any of that because clearly money didn’t grow on trees back then. So he called AT&T to ask what the membership fee, the on air fee and the taxes were all about. He had signed up for the straight talk $50 a month plan. And the first customer service call was born.
The bitter customer service vs. customer rivalry has evolved over the years technology wise, but the players are the same.
The customer is a conniving, weaselly, no good, very bad complainer and whiner and will do anything to get a free upgrade, no charge on their shipping, a reduction in their payments, or a new phone. By claiming their dog ate their phone, they didn’t really order the Panda Pillow Pet, they don’t get paid until next Friday, their luggage was only 58 pounds (over the limit), the card they tried to use only expired two years ago, and so forth they hope to get over on everyone.
The customer is an Unstoppable Force. Nothing will get in their way. They will use excuses. They will lie to their mother, they will steal from their brother. They will maim their uncle’s cousins sister, they will raise their voices and scream in order to get what they want. If pushed they will fight, scratch and claw, and use their most powerful technique, “I want to speak to your Manager.” Because they know that someone once said, “The customer is always right.” and they will not stop until someone on the other line admits it. But I’m telling you this: I have a Bridge from Alaska to Russia to sell you if you believe in that snake oil salesman’s pitch.
The customer service rep is a cubicle dwelling, headset wearing, upgrade selling, boring story telling, buzzkill inducing, double talking, son of a hairdresser and Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball operator. The customer service rep is a companies gatekeeper. They are the Immovable Object. The guard at the gates, the moat in front of the castle, the Dome around the city, the password that is 50 characters long, needs a Capital letter, a number, a strange character like !@# and only allow one shot without shutting you down. They have all kinds of barriers to entry at their disposal.
The first barrier is the phone tree. This is the endless maze in Harry Potter that moves and has magical creatures that are there to stop you. They will stop at nothing to get you to hang up. For those brave enough, smart enough and patient enough to get through the maze, they then are faced with the enemy of a thousand faces. They could get any number of 500 people on the other end of the phone and they could be having a bad day just like you. Don’t let this rep hang up, because if you do, you will never be able to find them again. The only power the customer has in this situation is to hang on for their very life to the life preserver that the rep can’t hang up until they ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”, but they will use all kinds of trickery to get you to hang up yourself. Confusion. The Hold Button. A different offer that can save you money. Distracting you by asking about your day. You may be trying to keep them on the line, but if you do, you will be tortured with all kind of things they will make you want to hang up in frustration.
So, who wins? Or more accurately, who loses? Who is the most bitterly frustrating? As one who has been on both sides, I can tell you that I think both are equally bitter frustrating people. And honestly, I’m not sure if I was worse as a customer or as a customer service agent.
Bitter Customer vs Customer Service Ben