Shyness, Sighs and Service

It was the sigh that got me angry.  The customer service rep at Verizon was trying to transfer me to kingdom come instead of helping me.  This was after enduring several automated phone prompts to get to the right office.  When it was clear to me that she had no intention of giving me assistance, but just wanted to use me to fulfill her call quota, I asked for her supervisor.  This is when I heard the loud, very audible, breathy sigh.

The first thing I told her supervisor was that I didn’t appreciate the sigh.  I told him that my situation was complicated and, yes, perhaps I didn’t have all my records handy, but that I knew they were easily accessible via my name and address.

To Verizon’s credit, they had a very nice supervisor in the office I called. He apologized for the “sigh”, listened to my problem, indicated that indeed it was messy, and then solved it in a quick fashion.  Kudos to a fellow named Chris.

Living in Finland the last few years, I am not used to excellent customer service.  It just isn’t part of the Finnish scheme.  Finns will help you, but from my perspective many of their customer service people act as if they would rather fight an alligator.  They appear as if you are coming to their place of business to commit mass murder.

My perception and their actions are probably due to my “foreignness”.  Finns are by nature rather shy and some are embarrassed to have a native speaker hear their English.  What they don’t realize is that their English is pretty good.  But they don’t think so.

When I came back to the States, one of my initial culture shocks was how everyone greeted me when I arrived at their establishment, smiled, went our of their way to help me and in general conveyed a desire to meet my needs.  I was in customer service heaven, at least when I was dealing in person.  Since then, I have learned that all this niceness does not necessarily mean that I get good service. In fact, the person who set up my Verizon phone service spent a lot of time with me, was very nice, and insisted she would follow through on my order.  I learned when I reached the aforementioned supervisor that it had disappeared into some ethereal limbo.

My experience on the phone has also been less than satisfactory. And I am not talking about dealing with some call service in India. This week has been customer service hell on the phone, right here in the good old USA.  In addition to having to contact the phone company, I also have needed to discuss my energy bill with the local provider. Unfortunately, they aren’t really local.  They are somewhere in Missouri, hundreds of miles from my Virginia location.  It takes several days for a check to get there.   So I tend to be late paying the bill. But at least their headquarters are not in India.

This company has three options to pay their bill.  You can do it by phone, online or by check. Since my check wouldn’t make it on time, I went online. After registering on  their website and validating it, I attempted to pay.  The company’s website would not accept my new user name and password.   So after many frustrating minutes, I made a phone call.

Giving my card number to the customer service rep, I learned again that I did not have the information I needed to get service.  Again, this was after going through several recorded prompts. I didn’t fool around in  this case either. I asked for a supervisor, who handled my problem

I guess I am a terrible customer to deal with. For one, I used to train people in customer service and have very little patience for foul ups.  (I am now a teacher. Similarly, the worst students I have found are current or former teachers. They tend to have a high bar set for my performance in their classroom and seem to think they know better.) In addition to that, I am also something of a curmudgeon.

It’s a shame though that you have to reach the supervisory level to get anything done in customer service in America. Now I realize that there are good reasons for the bad service from peons. Having been a customer service rep, I know they are underworked, underpaid, stressed out, and treated poorly by their companies and by their clients.  But aren’t we all! As I moaned to my wife the other day, “I do my job; why can’t other people do  theirs?”


1 Comment

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One response to “Shyness, Sighs and Service

  1. Susan

    I have noticed heavy sighs come from those who are of Italian descent. I apologize for that sounding like a blanket statement – just an observation!

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