Take A Message

By Bob Goldman

July 6, 2018 5 min read

This has happened to you, I'm sure.

You have a problem with your cable company or your telephone provider, or the emergency button on the key fob for your new Lamborghini Centenario Roadster has stopped working. You call customer service, and after poking your way through a phone tree of Paul Bunyan proportions, you eventually reach a human being, who helpfully explains that the cause of the problem is Y-O-U. That's when it strikes you: "I'm on the wrong end of this call."

Yes, we all dream of being in customer service. We can't be kings or queens, but we can have absolute power over the feckless peasants who dare question us.

Best of all, it's the one job where you get paid for infuriating your customers. If some poor schlub blows their top after waiting on line for 25 minutes before you say hello, tell them how important their call is, and then immediately disconnect, you're sure to win praise from the entire call center.

"Did you hear how the customer service representative waited until the caller actually believed they would get their answer before disconnecting," your manager will explain. "That's what this job is all about."

If such an elite position has seemed out of reach, there is hope. On CareerBuilder.com you will find a extremely informative article, titled "7 Telemarketing Tips -- How to Become a Pro."

Though well-meaning, the author doesn't understand that success for a customer service rep is not getting an answer for the caller, it's getting the caller to hang up and never call again. This is a misconception I can correct.

Tip No. 1 is "make sure you know how to pronounce the person's name correctly." This is important, so,"if you're unsure, research the proper punctuation online."

This is understandable with tricky names like "Joe" or "Mary," but even when your callers have easy names, like Wiz Khalifa or Deadmau5, put them on hold for 20 minutes while you hone your people skills by playing "Sniper Elite 4." When you come back to the call, just use Joe or Mary. Or both. Your caller will be so furious they're sure to hang up immediately.

"Have an A+ attitude" is tip No. 2. "Prospects will notice a negative tone in your voice," the article states. That's why it's important to start every call with a quick rundown of all the problems you're facing in your personal life. Point out that despite your problems, you're not running to some 800 number to beg for help. Once the depth of your moral superiority is grasped, the caller is sure to hang up in shame.

Tip No. 3 is to "stick (mostly) to the script." Good advice. No matter what problem your caller describes, be sure to give the standard answers on the piece of paper in front of you. It was drafted by teams of psychologists working with teams of sadists to generate frustration and rage. If your caller is able to hang in and hang on, feel free to modify the script with comforting language, such as "the standard warranty on that product ended yesterday and the repair you need will be super expensive. Too bad you were too cheap to purchase the extended warranty, wouldn't you say?"

"Practice, practice, practice" is tip No. 4. You are advised to "practice your phone calls with a family member." Excellent advice. If you can make your mother hang up on you, you can excel in customer service.

Tip No. 5 is to "stay focused." This won't be easy. On the average day, you may have to infuriate a hundred callers, each with a different problem you won't be able to solve. Great call center employees often paste an inspirational photo on their phone. An excellent example of warmth and compassion is Agent Smith from "The Matrix." If Smith doesn't do it for you, use Hannibal Lecter.

Tip No. 6 is to "become an expert." Good idea. And don't think it will take a lot of your time to "closely study all the features of the product or service." It doesn't have any.

"Take note of feedback" is tip No. 7. You're only human. There may be times when the sound of a caller sobbing will lower your defenses, and you'll actually be helpful. That's why, before you hang up on your caller, be sure to instruct them to ignore the "brief survey" at the end of the call.

A few positive compliments on your responsive and helpful support and your career in customer service could be in jeopardy.

Bob Goldman's weekly column, "Work Daze," can be found at creators.com.

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