"Customer service"

I simply don’t have it in me to write a rant about phone-based customer service. Not that I don’t have the time (actually, I don’t) or the patience, I just don’t have the will. Plus, who cares? We all have stories, many of us have worked in the industry and have even more stories from both sides, and I would guess that most people don’t want to stress vicariously.

What I want to do, however, is muse. Maybe I need to get it out to feel better or maybe I think someone with this problem is reading. (Ir)Regardless of the reason, I want to address a conversation I had with a Cox cable technical support rep yesterday.

Let me provide a frame of reference: we just moved into a new (read: much bigger) apartment and had our cable internet moved over. Plugged in the modem+router, no dice. Called Cox at 10:30pm and they answered (that was very refreshing). It was a very mild-mannered (maybe I woke him up) guy who told me that the coax outlet I was using might be bunk. I hung up and tried another outlet; the same thing happened, blinking “Cable” light on the modem. It was probably a hook-up issue so I called in yesterday to get it ironed out.

The gentleman I talked to was friendly but had a need to talk over me… not aggressively, mind you, but consistently. I’m sure I could use several more adverbs to describe his demeanor/tone but I’ll spare you.

We got to the point where it seemed logical to schedule a technician to come and look at the line. He kindLY stated that there might be an $89 charge if the problem was in the house and not on the outside. I politeLY said that I wanted the building owner to pay that fee if it was deemed necessary. Then he repeatedLY and irrationalLY ignored my request and gave me information that simpLY wasn’t pertinent to the situation.

Flash forward 10+ minutes of this ridiculous back and forth stemming from my desire to have the outside wiring checked but the inside wiring ignored. In the end, my question was answered and my request was possible but only after I got worked up enough to write this and wasted tons of time between the two of us.


So this turned into a rant, I guess, but let’s make something productive out of it. I taught customer service to phone reps for 2 years so here is what I would do on the other end of the phone.

  • Listen. Stop talking and listen. Let the customer speak their mind, regardless of what they are saying. You can disarm someone very easily by not talking over them and just letting them get everything out. Don’t interrupt, wait for your turn, and stop sounding like you’re just looking for a gap in between words so you can start blabbing.
  • **Write.**Write down what I say as I say it. Not only will this keep you listening but, when you get confused or it’s your turn to solve the issue, you have a bit of information to work with. If the person I talked to had written down what I said about paying the fee, maybe our conversation could have been 80% shorter.
  • Explore. Either with me on the phone or by yourself while I’m on hold, run through all the possible options for the situation and be clear on what they mean. Even if you’re just brainstorming with me, I would rather hear 10 different options that don’t work instead of 1. Chances are that one out of the 10 actually WILL work for me.
  • Solve. If I repeat myself eight times then you’re not hearing what my problem is (or I’m trying to hypnotize you). Solve my problem by re-phrasing yourself or repeating back what I said or offering different solutions. If we’re both repeating ourselves then there is something wrong. Since you can’t control the customer, control yourself.

Let’s make the world better one customer problem at a time.

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Customer Service