Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
  The Shields Finally Buckle!

I've always been known for being fairly mild mannered and calm. I rarely raise my voice. I don't yell on a whim. I have only been in one or two real fights. The only time I actually kicked someone's ass was when they actually spit in my face and then laughed at me. I slammed his head into a metal locker and he slid to the ground, crying. I actually felt bad about it afterward (a little). The point is I was raised to be terminally nice. My father is the same way. He rarely raised his voice, he was always gentle and soft spoken, so if he raised his voice, it was obvious we had gone too far.

The bad thing about being raised to be terminally nice is this; when you finally are pushed beyond that point of no return, your anger is not as controllable as someone who lets their anger flair up often.

Last Wednesday I was taken to that place of no return. It started when a customer with an Eastern European accent called demanding free background information on a new series of bonds that would be on the market soon.
"I'll be glad to help you sir. What's your card number and offer number?"
"I did not need that last time, you will not be worrying about it. Just give me information."
"Sorry, I can't help you without the offer number or card number."
"You will send me the pdf file now, I don't have time for this."
"Let me be clear with you sir, my company will not receive any payment without those numbers. If you can't give them to me, we are done talking."
"But those numbers are in my briefcase in the Lexus, I don't have time for this sheeeht."
"You'll have to get the numbers or I can't help you."
-Click- and this little ray of Soviet sunshine was gone.

He finally swallowed his pride and called back, but not without pushing some more of my buttons. I could feel my "customer service shield" weakening, like some Scottish engineer in my ego engineering department calling up to my bridge,
"Captain, she canna take much more of this, she'll be blowing apart anny' minnute now, I'm warnin' ye!! She'll blow apart like last weeks Haggis'!"
"I..told you..Mr. Scott...we've got five more hours to go...on this shift and those shields...have got to customers are...depending on it!"
(It's hard to do a good William Shatner impression)
"I'm tellin' ye captain, she's in bad shape...We need to get out of danger now!"

Then it suddenly uncloaked and appeared on the viewscreen, the Romulan Bird of Prey of Call Center Customers...

The self-important penny-ante investor calling in with a hot tip he just got from his Exclusive Wall Street Newsletter,(also known as spam).

"Anonymous Investments, This is AC, How can I help you?"
"This is Mr. Bird, I'm calling to check on a trade I set up an hour ago, my confirmation number is 693546."
"Hold on Sir, I will check on that...Ok, here it is...I'm afraid you have exceeded your escrow account and we are waiting on your bank to provide us with an increase in your supplemental credit line. I am sorry it has not gone through yet. We will keep trying and call you back as soon as possible."

It went way downhill from this point.

"This is just the sort of sad service I have come to expect from you people. Other investors have told me about this kind of shoddy service from you guys, and I guess it was just a matter of time until I received the same. Let me tell you something boy, I'm just the sort of man to make sure that this does not happen again. I know how to get good customer service. You'll rue the day you ever delayed my trades for something as trifling as an escrow amount. I will start an on-line campaign and make sure everyone knows what a shoddy business you do!"

That was it...

I am not being abused by this kind of middle-class-comb-over-piece-of-shit. He does not even realize that I have nicely told him that he is a credit risk, that he does not have the financial accountability to invest in Chia-Pets. Even worse than that, he thinks that I will cringe and whimper like a dog when he raises up to full stature of 12 inches. The shields had finally broke...

"You know what? You're an ill-mannered jerk!"
"I'm not rude...", he seemed shocked that I would speak to him like this.
"Yes, you are! If you think I am going to help you because you have spoken to me this way, you are sadly mistaken! The truth is we won't put those trades through until your bank extends us credit, no matter what you say!"

I'm not sure what happened after that. I just lost it. When I got done ranting, I heard nothing at the end of the phone for five seconds, so I hung up. I never heard back from him again. I hope I never do. I haven't got written up either, I think I might have ashamed him, but I would not count on it.

The truth is I felt really bad after this call. Not only did I lose my cool, I stepped out of my place. When I get a customer who is abusive or has a problem with service, I am supposed to hand him off to a manager, period. I did not have to give him a piece of my mind. It just disappoints me that I let myself go to his level. That I yelled and screamed and acted as impolite and unmannerly as he did. I'm better than that, he's the ignorant moron, not me.

But it goes to show you, no matter how long you are in a people-oriented business, these sort of things are going to happen from time to time. The weird thing is that its never for real reasons, its never because of anything crucial or dangerous or world-changing. We always seem to lose it because of a "certain tone" someone had, or they spoke to us in "the wrong way". I don't know what the answer is for callers like this, because somehow they keep multiplying. I blame OnStar and 911 call centers. The world keeps thinking that we're all a bunch of genies and they just have to rub their phone to get anything they want.

They best answer is just to keep reminding myself to not take these people so seriously, and never think its my job to straighten them out. That should have been done by their mother, unfortunately, I think she dropped them, several time, on concrete...ok, that's enough, I'll stop.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

I appreciate your comments but how is it that OnStar or 911 centers are to blame for the rudeness and entitlement attitude of customers? As a fellow call center cog, in an emergency services call center, I can tell you that your genie theory does not hold true.
well i do understand your point about someone being raised to be terminally nice. i'm a pleasant person myself but when push comes to shove then hell hath no fury for a woman whose hormones are boiling.

i guess when we snap.. we just do.. but try not to do it all the time, it'll just give us nice folks more wrinkles :)
COG: I congratulate you. Many times I've ben a hairs-breadth away from taking off the gloves with an unruly customer - and on rare occaisions, I have. I never feel badly about it. In fact, I think you should adopt the motto of my newly founded secret Call Center Society and Militia (taken from the Order of the Thistle): "Nemo me impune lacessit!" - No-one provokes me with impunity. Call Center Cogs and Enlightened Managers UNITE!
That must have felt good. Bet he's nicer to "cogs" from now on..
You were right that it is not the call center operators OnStar or 911 Centers that are to blame. I didn't realize how I said that I am sorry.

What I meant is those call centers are presented to the public in such a way that they see all call centers as being able to tell them how to do the heimlich, call a tow truck in 30 mins and find the nearest Cantonese restaraunt in Mahwah, NJ.

Call centers have been presented as almost magical to the public and the competition has been so fierce among call centers that consumers have become so incredibly spoiled that they wont allow anyone to tell them "no".

Yeah! Thats what I meant! Thanks for calling me on that-my bad.

You have seen my anger.

I am the one who rants to everyone.

I am the one who swears.

I am the one who wants the end of the stupid, rude people.

Now you are feeling my rage.

Rage on,
Sinned Often
My, much to catch up on.

First of all, everyone has a limit. The thing to remember is that it doesn't happen often. Think of it as a reminder of your humanity. In our business, there are always callers who think they can get what they want by being demanding. It could be how 911 and OnStar call centers are portrayed, but I think it goes beyond that. We live in an "instant" age. Remember that commercial where the woman paid her bills online in the time it took to pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave? Cell phones, instant messaging, the success of overnight delivery services, they're all symptoms of our ever-increasing need to have it all NOW. Our lives are so busy and full, who has time for a bump in the road like waiting for a credit limit increase?

Dang, I started out feeling empathetic for you AC, and ended up feeling empathy for the jerk!
Ha Ha Ha!!!
Thats the truth...
I think thats one of the best comments I have ever gotten. That means it was a good story.

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Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.

Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.

Email:anonymous.cog at

"One must know oneself, if this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better." -Blaise Pascal

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By Rage Against The Machine

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