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We’ll come to you.

Being constantly in contact with people who call or write because they have a problem can be a stressful job. When I gave customer service reps the chance to speak up about their experiences, they talked without inhibitions. Customer conversations can highlight funny moments - and embarrassing ones.

Here’s the skinny:

1. We are very impatient and often expect a resolution before we’ve given them a chance to find out what the problem is. Pity they don’t read minds.

2. We don’t listen very well. Repeating the same stuff a couple of times does not seem to work either.

3. We expect that all will be solved in a nanosecond, even when the problem is complex and beyond our comprehension.

4. Despite all this talk about conversation, we’re still pretty much tuned into one channel: ours.

5. We can be very inappropriate about the details we share on ourselves. Need to know is a beautiful thing.

6. The most discouraging thing is when we don’t believe them or trust them.

7. We sometimes call for really trivial things that we could deal with easily if we took the time. Still, we don’t want to.

8. A forum or online support site often contains more information than any one rep can give us. We call anyway.

9. We don’t let them diagnose the problem. That makes the solution a mismatch if we were wrong.

10. It is sometimes easier to give us advice and point us in a direction than it is to explain that all is well, there is no problem.

11. We have unrealistic expectations of what customer service reps can do for us besides helping with the problem that was the reason for our call.

12. The potential for a shouting match or a rude line is always looming in the background. That makes for an uneasy conversation. They know it, you know it.

13. We all think that all customer service reps know everything there is to know about our use of their services. Depending on the company’s diagnostic tools in place, they may not.

14. The best customer service reps are those who are not afraid to say "I don’t know" and set out to find out. We don’t think so.

15. At least one third of all answers we get are coaxed out from sheer insistence. If we were more patient, we’d get better information.

16. Although they do not cry on the phone with you, they can have some pretty depressing days because of you.

17. We are often already biased towards them because of a past experience with the company they work for.

18. We sometimes expect they solve problems that relate to the products or services offered by other companies.

19. We hang up a lot.

20. They rely on management to make the changes required. We often put them between a rock and a hard place.

21. They know that we will make the time to take customer satisfaction surveys to say how bad the service was, but not take the time to explain how good it was.

On the other hand, we could easily modify this list to make it about them. What does that say about us?

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA •