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Playing Telephone On The Telephone

, , , , | Right | December 28, 2020

I work in a call center, taking calls for various Internet Service Providers. Most of the calls are due to people’s Internet going out.

On Saturday night, I get another such call. I get the customer’s name and callback number, and we establish which of her two properties she’s calling about; she’s a landlady. Before we even get the call underway, it’s clear she’s already angry.

Me: “Okay, looks like I have the right account here. How can I help you tonight?”

Customer: “I’m calling because your Internet isn’t working.”

Me: “Okay, let me take a look at your account, and we’ll see if we can figure out what the problem might be.”

As I do a bit of troubleshooting on my end, she’s swearing at people in the background and snapping at her kid whenever the kid says anything at all. Her mood definitely doesn’t improve when I ask her if she’s onsite to do the troubleshooting.

Customer: “No, I’m in the car; I just left that place. But I’ll have my husband call the people there.” *To her husband* “Call them right now! This lady’s gonna tell me what to do to fix the s*** Internet!”

Me: “Um, just so you know, ma’am, it might be easier to just have them call us directly; that way you don’t—”

Customer:I am the only one authorized on this account!”

I’m about to tell her that it’s okay, we don’t require people to be authorized to call in for troubleshooting, when she cuts me off.

Customer: “And I am not interested in authorizing anyone else!”

I try to calm her down a bit.

Me: “Oh, okay, ma’am, that’s fine.”

So, for the next ten to fifteen minutes, I get to take part in the most stressful game of Telephone ever. For the whole customer troubleshooting part of the call, I have to tell her what needs to be done next, she tells her husband, and he tells the people on the other line. This makes it so the call lasts a lot longer than it needs to, and I can tell that she and her husband aren’t passing on all the details I am giving her to the tenants.

Surprise, surprise, the initial troubleshooting doesn’t work. Our protocol then is to have the customer text us some pictures of how they have things hooked up. This makes it so we can check that everything’s plugged in correctly, as well as making it much easier for us to instruct the customer on what to do next.

I explain this to the caller, but she yet again insists on making things harder than they need to be, saying that she will have the tenants text the photos to her husband, and her husband will then text those photos to us. So the call drags on even longer. Meanwhile, we’ve gone way past the goal that management has set for us on how long our calls should be, on average. This is the one thing they’re always on me to get better about, so I’m getting a little nervous.

I know that sometimes people call in stressed because their service isn’t working, and it’s really messing up their day. I totally understand that. So I try really hard to make them laugh, help them feel cared about, and break up some of the tension they’re bringing to the call.

As the call progresses, I think I might be making some progress in that regard with the customer, since she seems to be a little less loud and snippy with me. That is, up until the very end of the call, when it becomes clear that I won’t be able to help them over the phone, so I’ll have to have someone in the main office call her back. Because it’s the weekend, this means they’ll have to wait until Monday. After a bit more swearing, she decides to take out her frustrations on me, personally.

Customer: “Oh, and before I go, I want to tell you that your attitude during this call has been horrible.”

I am shocked and confused since I’ve been putting extra effort into trying to be extra nice and calm her down throughout the call and was thinking I may have partially succeeded.

Me: “Um, I’m very sorry, ma’am; that certainly wasn’t my intention, and I apologize if I came across that way.”

Customer: *Still angry* “Yeah, you sound as if you really hate working there!”

No, I just hate having to deal with control freaks who insist on doing things the hardest way possible… Yeah, I definitely had to take a break after that call to cool down.

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