The primary reason I refuse to do phone customer service ever again.


This was a very long time ago, just as an FYI, and will probably be relatively long, so forgive me.

Many many moons ago I worked in a call center for a particular shipping company. During training we were taught that, no matter what the customer wanted, we were never to say, “No, I can’t do that,” we were to offer options that might satisfy their request. Now, we offered only limited and VERY expensive delivery on Saturdays and delivery was only between 8 AM and 12 PM, but customer service was available until midnight. After that set up, here we go!

I was working a full shift on a Saturday, 6 AM to 3 PM. It was long about 2 PM and I’m getting semi excited about quitting time. It’s been a long day of telling customers that we do not pick up our deliver standard packages on Saturdays, but I will gladly schedule a pick up for Monday if you would like me to do so. Enter customer grumble/complain then either schedule the pick up or hang up after complaining that we should be more amenable to customer requests blah blah whatever.

Now, I get THE CALL OF ALL CALLS. A gentleman in New York City is panicking. He ordered very expensive lobsters (live) from Maine to be delivered today for a dinner party and they have not arrived! Now, I know the warehouse is shut down by now and there’s very little I can do, but I’m willing to check and make sure it wasn’t delivered to the wrong address, or maybe left with a neighbor and the notice got lost. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I get him to calm down a bit, assuring him that I will do everything I can to help him out and ask him for his tracking number.

As soon as I pull up the tracking number I am completely confused by his panic and actually really impressed with the delivery driver. Usually they only attempt delivery one time. If you’re not there to sign for it, you’re not getting it until Monday, full stop. However, this driver had logged a record NINE ATTEMPTS at delivering this package, at about 15 minute intervals. I ask the customer if there were any delivery attempt notices left at his door? He says yes! There were TEN notices attached to his door. I asked him if he’d been home during this time and he impatiently tells me he had, and yes, he heard someone knocking on his door, but ignored it, figuring if it was his delivery they’d leave it outside his door and he’d get to it when he felt like it. I patiently explained to the gentleman that any shipment on a Saturday required a signature, and especially if it was a delivery of live animals. I told him that Saturday delivery is limited to certain hours and he was well outside of that delivery time.

(Maybe I should explain that this call center is in ARIZONA and he is in NEW YORK, so it is actually 5 PM his time.)

I advised him that his package would be delivered on Monday. He begins screaming at me that the lobsters would be dead by Monday and his dinner party was TONIGHT and he needed them RIGHT NOW!! I told him that, if he wouldn’t mind an extended hold, I would attempt to contact the warehouse in his area and see if there was anyone there who could help. I know damn well there isn’t, but I can’t say no, so… Instead of saying, “Sure, I’ll hold,” he tells me to “get off your fat a$$, get my package and deliver it to me RIGHT NOW!!!!”

Now, we had what we called panic buttons on our “phones” for when a customer became abusive and I hit my button. This button would both alert my manager and the Quality Control supervisor that something was going down. At that point my manager would come directly to my station and plug in so that he could hear and see exactly what was going on and take over the call if necessary. Quality Control was basically there to monitor my behavior and ensure that I was doing my level best to maintain protocol and not lose control of the conversation if at all possible.

In the meantime, I calmly explain to the gentleman that I was not in New York and was unable to comply with his request; however, I could, if he would allow me to place him on hold, contact the warehouse and see if there was anything I could do to rectify the situation for him. He finally stopped his diatribe and gave me permission to place him on hold.

By this time my manager is standing beside me and listening, as well as reading my screen, which included my notes of what he had told me. I gave my manager a run down and told him what the customer had said to me. He was also shocked that the driver had hung around and continued to try and deliver the package. He decided at that time that he would take over the call and asked me to go to his station to call the NYC warehouse on the off chance (read NO chance) that there was someone hanging around.

As I walked away, I heard my manager greet the man and begin explaining that he was a manager and would be handling his case from this moment on.

I called the NYC warehouse, no answer. I kept dialing over and over while also sending direct messages to the warehouse manager via the company messaging system. Zero response, as predicted. Saturdays are overtime for the warehouses, so they are encouraged to clear out as soon as the last truck comes in.

I go back to my station and tell my manager, no dice. Can’t get in touch with anyone via phone, DM, or email. My manager advises the customer that he is truly sorry, but we had been unable to contact anyone at the warehouse. Again, the package would be delivered first thing Monday (which is a lie, redeliveries always get done last). Was there anything else we could help him with? (This was our passive aggressive way of saying goodbye and f#@& right off). This guy, on the other hand, was having none of it. He was continuing to scream that he needed those lobsters. This was going to completely ruin his whole dinner party and it was entirely our fault because we were too lazy to just deliver his package as he was demanding.

Now, we are not allowed to disconnect a call under any circumstance and, usually, are not allowed to place a customer on hold without their permission; however, there is a caveat. If the customer has been advised of ALL of their options AND is refusing to accept those options AND is being personally abusive to the call taker, we were allowed to place them on a “cool off hold”. This requires us to tell the customer that we will now be placing them on hold in order to allow them a few minutes to collect themselves before we continue with their transaction. My manager decided this was the best option, advised the caller he would be placed on hold and sent him to muzak hell. After about 10 of these “cool down holds” (checking back in with the customer every 2 minutes), my manager put the guy on hold and left him there. He told me I could go home early and he’d make sure I was paid for the remaining 15 minutes of my shift.

The next work day (the following Tuesday) my manager told me that guy hung on in the hold queue for another TWO HOURS! I can’t imagine ever being that angry. I started looking for another job that week. I found one, turned in my notice and have not done phone customer service since.

People treat you like you’re not a real human being on the phone and the companies don’t treat you much better, with one notable exception. I did Microsoft tech support for a hot minute and that was wonderful. No dress code (we often came to work in our pajamas, plus all of us were pierced and tattooed), no call times and awesome support/management. I often miss that job.

Again, sorry for the long explanation, but it was a doozy of a call and one I will never forget lest I be drawn back into that insanity!


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