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Voicing His Complaint

, , , , | Right | October 6, 2021

Our call center uses a very good, highly accurate caller ID system that’s linked up with our computer system that will pull up all the caller’s information, previous order history, etc. — provided the caller has ever called us from that number before.

During the first days of the global health crisis about a year ago, when everyone started working from home, they were calling us from cell phones, home phones — anything but their office phones — so our system wasn’t recognizing who they were. While many people were understanding, some people… not so much.

Caller: “Hi. I want to follow up on my order from yesterday.”

The screen has come up blank; he has called us from a number we haven’t encountered before.

Me: “Sure, I can help you out. Can I get your name?”

Caller: “John.”

Me: “Okay, John, and your last name?”

Caller: “It should be in your system.”

Me: “I’m afraid it’s not coming up for me today. Can I please have your last name?”

The caller switches instantaneously from perfectly normal to raging.

Caller: “Is this how you treat your loyal customers?! I’ve been buying from y’all for thirty years, and I’ve never had to give my last name ever before, and now you’re acting like you don’t know me?!”

Me: “I apologize, please don’t take it personally. But it looks like you’re calling us from a number you haven’t used before, and—”

Caller: “Yeah, I’m calling from my cell phone. So what?”

Me: “So, we don’t have a match for your cell phone number. If you just give me your last name or the company name, I should be able to—”

Caller: *Exploding*The number shouldn’t matter! This is John from [Company], and my voice sounds the same no matter what number I’m calling from!”

As my mind processes what he says, I can’t stop myself from blurting out:

Me: “I’m sorry, but do you think we recognize your information from your voice?”

He sputters angrily and hangs up.

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That’s One Super Supervisor

, , , , , | Working | October 5, 2021

I’ve been off work for almost a week with a bad infection. Although I’m back taking calls, I’m still exhausted and I still have a headache, but I’m nervous about having been off so long because it’s my second absence due to one of my disabilities playing up, and I’m only just at my three-month probation review. It’s important to note that we’re all working from home. 

My supervisor calls me to do both the review and my return to work. We’ve discussed my symptoms, what I did to get better, and if I’m ready to return to work.

Supervisor: “Okay, you’ve told me you’re ready to come back, but how are you really feeling? Off the record.”

Me: “Honestly, I’m pretty wiped. My head’s still pretty fuzzy, and I know if you checked my call stats for today they’re not going to be great. This meeting’s been a nice break.”

Supervisor: “What time are you on until?”

Me: “Seven, unfortunately.”

Supervisor: “That’s nonsense. You’re just back from being ill. Give me a second.”

He goes silent for a while and I hear a lot of typing.

Supervisor: “Okay, check your schedule again.”

I refresh the schedule software, and straight after my afternoon tea break, I have forty-five minutes of training and am only on calls again for thirty minutes before my shift ends. 

Me: “What training am I doing?”

Supervisor: “Chilling out. When we were in the office, I used to send people out to fetch stuff and called it ‘helping colleagues.’ Now it’s ‘training.’ Let me know if you’re having a really stressful day and I’ll book a meeting with you or training to give you a break from calls. We all need it sometimes.”

Me: “Thank you so much!”

Supervisor: “Now for your probation review. No suspense: you passed. Your absences are higher than ideal, but you work well when you’re here so I’m not going to punish you for being sick. I know you were worried about it.”

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The Price Is Just A Technicality

, , | Right | October 5, 2021

Customer: “I have a technical question about this product. Can you find someone to help me?”

Me: “I can help you. What’s your question?”

Customer: *Unsure* “Are you sure? I said this was a technical question.”

Me: “If I can’t answer it right away, I can find out. What’s your question?”

Customer: “How much does this cost?”

It might flavor the story to note that I’m female. I’m not 100% sure if that’s why the customer couldn’t believe I could tell him how much the item cost; I have many, many more examples where the sexism was much more blatant. In any case, dude, price is not a very technical question at all.

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Answering Is Not Your Calling

, , , | Right | October 4, 2021

My company aims to answer all phone calls within two rings. We achieve this goal over 90% of the time. Yes, this is the truth, and we have lots of data to back it up. Actually reaching a person in a reasonable amount of time startles a lot of people.

Me: “[Company], this is [My Name].”

Caller: *Clearly surprised* “Oh, you answered!”

Me: “Of course! How can I help?”

Caller: “I just needed to, um… Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to answer so quickly. Can I put you on hold?”

Cue holding for five minutes or more. Then, the caller came back and the actual transaction took maybe ninety seconds. The unfortunate part is that I got dinged for this call during my next review because the total call time was too long. And no, it did not matter that I was put on hold.

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After That, You’ll Want To Drink A Shirley Temple

, , , | Right | October 4, 2021

The overwhelming majority of orders are placed online these days, with a percentage done via email or phone, and a teeny, tiny fraction of people who will still physically mail orders. These tend to be elderly people who either don’t have access to or don’t like to use modern technology.

Me: “[Company], this is [My Name].”

Elderly Caller: *Shouting, in the way of someone losing their hearing* “Did you receive my order?”

Me: “I can check for you. Can I get your name and address, please?”

This turns out not to be an easy task. His last name is very unusual, and it takes many tries to get the spelling out of him because he won’t use or respond to phonetic prompts — “Was that S like ‘Stephen’ or F like ‘Frank’?” — and instead goes off on random, unrelated tangents.

About six minutes in, I get the information I need, and it becomes clear he didn’t place the order through our normal methods. Digging through our system for the mail-in orders takes some time, mainly because it’s used so rarely that I’m not all that familiar with it.

Me: “Please bear with me a moment. I’m going to see if we received that in the mail.”

Caller: “Okay, that’s fine. Did I ever tell you that I was in the army?”

Me: *Searching* “Mmmm? No, sir.”

Caller: “They sent me overseas to shoot Nazis. I was on a special forces detail. I was sent on a secret mission to protect Shirley Temple. I was her personal bodyguard in Europe. I punched Hitler in the face once.”

The story goes on much, MUCH longer than I could possibly ever record, each claim more outlandish than the last. It honestly would be amusing if I weren’t at work. My call is at about seventeen minutes now — our average call time is 180 seconds — and I long ago determined that we have not received his order. However, I am unable to get a word in edgewise with the customer. I have no problem hanging up on rude or abusive callers, but I feel bad hanging up on this clearly lonely elderly guy.

Caller: “—and then one day, I was at a bar and saw Louise Brooks peeing in an alley, and—” 

Me: “Sir, please, I have to go—”

The caller is blathering on. My supervisor has noticed by now that I’m still on the same call and is standing nearby signaling, “What’s going on?” I put the caller on mute. He is still blissfully yammering away.

Me: “I can’t get this guy to shut up, so I can’t disconnect.”

Supervisor: “Just hang up. You have my blessing.”

I let my supervisor know he’s my hero and take the caller off mute. I have to shout over him, as he still hasn’t stopped talking.


I finally disconnected. The call clocked in at twenty-five minutes and forty-seven seconds. I made notes about the request and sent it off for follow-up in a few days, with the following warning: “The customer is very talkative, mostly about unrelated things. Try not to let him go on tangents.”

I checked back on the request a few days later because I was curious. Turns out we finally did receive his order, but the credit card payment didn’t go through. The follow-up call was recorded at thirty-one minutes and twenty-two seconds.

I honestly felt a little bad; obviously, both times he was relishing the opportunity to speak to a human. I hope he’s found someone to keep him company… but someone who’s not a customer service representative just trying to do their job.

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