Confessions of a Customer Service Representative

by Jeannieinabottle

Do you ever wonder what customer service representatives really think of you? Well, I am here to help you out with that mystery!

After working in customer service for over 15 years, I feel like I have a lot I can share. Even if you are not so interested in what customer service representatives think of you, I am going to tell you anyway.

I've worked in customer service in offices, call centers, retail stores, and restaurants. I feel like this wide variety of experiences have taught me a great deal about customers. It has also taught me a lot about how customer service reps deal with them. Let me share my knowledge with you!

I often smile to hide the pain.

It isn't always fun working in customer service.  As a matter of fact, depending on where you work and the job duties, sometimes it isn't fun at all.  However, it is always good to put your best foot forward.  Just because I am miserable doesn't mean I should drag the customers down with me.  My job is to make your day a little brighter, and unless I am completely depressed because I've been verbally abused by customers all day, I am going to do my job to the best of my ability.

The next time you go in a store or an office, just remember that happy customer service associate might not be that happy.  She or he is just smiling because it is her job.  Just because we seem agreeable with you, does mean we do agree with you.  Also, if you are a guy and I am smiling at you, 9 times out of 10, I am just being polite.  I am not hitting on you... A) that is not appropriate for work, and B) I am paid to be nice to you.

Sometimes I let you think you are right when you are clearly wrong.

As previously discussed, it is my job to be nice to you.  It is not always a picnic.  Some customers are just outright grumpy.  Other customers are extremely demanding or needy.  Still, there are customers that take the whole "the customer is always right" phrase too far.

Most of the time, I can simply give a customer what he or she wants.  Yes, this even means an unreasonable request can be granted at times.  I have plenty of customers and I often don't have time to argue.  Unless you totally offend me in some way, I will probably just give in because my job is not my life.  It is really no skin off my back if a customer makes a simple request that may bend the rules a little.  But don't ever think you are right just because we let you think you are right.  It just isn't appropriate to fight with every customer that asks for something ridiculous.

I am more likely to bend the rules for you if you are nice.

You know that old saying you get more flies with honey?  Well, it is still true.  Sometimes a customer asks for something that is totally not allowed.  You know what?  If you are a really super nice person to me, I might forget the rules and let you get what you want.  Yes, it is just that simple. 

The next time you want to use a coupon that expired yesterday or you want a full refund when it is against the company's policy, just be a really sweet, nice person and I will likely give you what you want.  If I can't give you what you want, I am usually willing to negotiate.

P.S. Yelling or whining does not work!  That often make me angry and I am likely to suddenly remember really strict policies you never knew existed.

If I remember you, it is probably a bad sign.

There are some customers I do remember because they are so nice.  If you like showing me photos of your grandchildren or you tip well, sure, all the associates will remember you.  However, we are more likely to remember the really annoying customers.  If you've made numerous special requests at a particular company and everyone remembers you when you walk in, chances are, they only remember you because you are obnoxious.  Sorry!

Many types of people fall into the annoying and memorable customer category.  Some examples of customers no one forgets are:

  • Overly needy customers
  • Thieves
  • Chronic returners (always returning merchandise on a regular basis)
  • Whiners
  • Creepy customers
  • Stalkers
  • Angry grumps
  • Loud talkers

If you feel you fall into any of those categories, it is not too late to change.  You may want to limit the amount of time you spend at those stores or offices for a while.  After you've gotten better and you are determined to stop acting in such a way, you can start to visit there more often.  Chances are, most of the workers will be gone by that time or they've already forgiven you.


Call Center Representative
Call Center Representative

I am not always paying attention to you on the phone.

It is important to listen to customers and help each person, but there are times when I am just not paying attention to you.  I am really sorry about that, but I am only human.  Sometimes when you call me at the office, I have other matters on my mind.  I am just not listening to every customer on the phone and there are several reasons why.

A) You talk too much.  Yes, I said it.  I am sorry.  After I've been working hours and hearing sob stories and angry rants, my brain can't process it all anymore.  I don't really need to know 5 different reasons why you need a refund.  Please just tell me you need a refund and give me one basic reason, and I will see what I can do.  When you ramble on and on, I don't even want to give you the refund.

B) I have other customers with more crucial issues. Yes, you are important!  We care about you and your business.  However, if you are calling about something silly, but someone else is on hold because he claims we cashed a check that we never received, well, I am going to be a bit more concerned about him.

C) I am working on too many things at once.  Back in the good old day, customer service reps were often only responsible for just that - customer service.  Now every company is trying to save a few bucks and they tend to dump as many job duties as possible on their workers.  This means when you call me to pay for a product, I might be running reports, sorting mail, and proofreading an important document that needs to go out in a few minutes... all at the same time.  Sometimes I don't even have the time to answer the phone, yet that is my main job.  I am very sorry if you happen to contact me at the wrong time!

Sometimes I enjoy just saying, "No!"

When a customer is rude or unreasonable, I will admit, I do get some secret joy out of saying, "No" at times.  It is not that I want to be mean to most customers.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  However, there are times when the day is not going well, I've been working for hours without a break, several customers have been mean to me, and then someone comes along that is totally rude.  If that person is demanding something that is just not possible, there is nothing I love more than saying, "Sorry, no I won't be able to do that for you."  Since it is rare to ever get to say, "No" in customer service, it makes saying it all the more delightful.

On a side note, an even greater joy came along every now and then when I was a manager.  If a customer was being rude about a certain situation and demanded to speak to a manager, there was nothing better than stating, "I am the manager.  As I previously stated, it is against the company's policy to do that for you.  Have a nice day."  Of course, that was pretty much the only joy I got from being a manager, but hey, at least it was something.

We do talk about you behind your back.

I am sure you sometimes walk out of a store and tell your friends, "Wow, can you believe how rude she was?" or "Can you believe how nice she was to that crazy customer?"  Well, we customer service representatives do the same thing!

As soon as your back is turned, we talk about certain customers, too.  Some customers are just normal, do their transaction, and then they are on their way.  But there are some customers that stand out.  If you are wearing an outlandish outfit, or you are rude, or you are carrying what we thought was a puppy, but that was your child, we are going to talk about you as soon as you leave.  Look, sometimes it is our only form of entertainment!  You would do it, too!

Keep in mind, customer service representative jobs are not always fun... some are never fun!  We have to get little joys out of things whenever we can.  Most people do not strive to have a customer service oriented job, it is just one of those things that happens, especially when the economy is bad.  Thanks for reading and be kind to your customer service reps... we remember you!


Updated: 05/06/2013, Jeannieinabottle
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Jeannieinabottle on 05/19/2014

Thanks so much! It is tough being in customer service sometimes.

Mira on 05/14/2014

I enjoyed your inside view, and the way you presented it. Nice page!

Jeannieinabottle on 05/21/2013

Thanks so much for checking out my article. And yes, often the policies are difficult for both the customer service workers and the customers. I think some customers don't realize that all the time.

katiem2 on 05/21/2013

It is a job and these people deserve respect, I always remind myself it's not their policies and procedures any time I call about trouble with a product. The biggest issue is time, I'm a very time oriented person as I feel so many of us are, once we buy something we don't want to deal with any issues. But again it is not their fault. For the most part I've dealt with very kind and thoughtful customer service people. Great Article.

Jeannieinabottle on 05/06/2013

Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, it can be tough at times. In general, most customers mean well. They just don't always understand how demanding the job can be at times.

pkmcr on 05/06/2013

Interesting to get an "inside" perspective and you make some really good points - we should all remember that Customer Service people are humans!

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