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How to Work with Customer Service Representatives

Updated on September 25, 2012
A Customer Service Rep
A Customer Service Rep | Source

Don't Just Yell

People need things.

We live in a capitalistic society in the United States. When we exchange money for goods and services we have an expectation of a level of quality from that good or service. So we have to deal with customer service. If we take it from a different point of view sometimes we need to deal with the people who have to process us in to an organization, hospital, or government service. In that way, we need to deal with those people.

The level of decorum, the social niceties, and just plain good manners are the only tools we have to make this process run well from our side.

I mention this only because we’ve all seen the alternative to not observing these unwritten rules. We’ve seen the guy in the supermarket screaming his head off at some hapless cashier because the bananas he bought had a spoiled bruise on them. The man will scream and scream at the innocent cashier. And the cashier, more often than not, will take this abuse for a limited amount of time like a mule in a hail storm. Then, very politely, the cashier will point a finger at a large sign labeled “Customer Service” and quietly instruct the maniac to go scream at them instead.

It’s a rite of passage that we all go through. We have a problem. We need to get it resolved. Call an 800 number and talk to the faceless voice on the other end.

In the event, you’ve been mercifully blessed in never having to work with a customer service rep or Client Services, you will need to know the best way to work with them effectively.

I will give you a few pointers on what to do and when to do it.

Here are the rules:

The Rules

In every situation you must remember, they are people just doing a job.

The bottom line is that if you treat them with dignity and respect, you’ll get farther than if you’re an unreasonable ass. Although, I can tell you, there is a time to play the unreasonable ass card.

  • Know why you called them.
    I know, it sounds stupid. Ever pick up the phone, dial customer service and have difficulty describing your issue or complaint. You’ve gone in unprepared. What you need to do is write down what the problem is. This works extraordinarily well if you’re dealing with a person over the phone. You can organize your thoughts and have a goal in mind of what an acceptable solution is.
  • Always take notes.
    No matter who you talk to, you should get a name and the time and date you called them. If you’re calling about a problem where they track the issues, you’ll be given a reference number. If you are on the phone with a representative and you’re likely to get transferred, ask the person the telephone number your being transferred to as well as the name of the person you’ll be talking to. People, especially angry people, have a tendency to get “accidentally” disconnected.

    Should you get advice that you need to follow, you’ll need to write that down. If you are supposed to go to a local branch office, you’ll need to write down the address or directions on how to get there. Or perhaps you’ve gotten a really impolite rep, you might want to jot some notes about the rep’s less than professional mannerisms so that perhaps his or her supervisor can have a word about their phone etiquette. You might be doing the next caller a service after they’ve had their attitude adjustment.
  • Be pleasant.
    You are more likely to get good service with a pleasant tone or just a good set of manners. Say “Please” and “Thank You”. Think about how you’d want to be treated if you had to deal with a hundred people with a chip on their shoulder every day. And after you ask their name, use their name. There’s power in using a name. Most importantly, after you’ve finished your call, tell them they’ve been helpful – unless, of course, they haven’t.
  • Know the difference between “being cooperative” and “being taken advantage of”.
    Some representatives think that being nice is being weak. I hate saying this, but sometimes, it’s true. Sometimes they just don’t want to help. They’ve had a long day. They’ve been screamed at a million times. And the first customer that shows anything less that stern business is going to get their pent up nastiness. It happens. Just know when you’re being taken advantage of and remember that you’re the client and you should not have to do the rep’s job. When this happens you should…
  • Know when to open a stern can of whupass.
    Yeah, I’ve had to do this one recently. This happens when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re right. You’ve gotten all your names, all your notes, and are now getting poor customer service and an attitude from someone who should know better. Hey, you tried. The two ways you can do this is to either very calmly say that you want to speak to their supervisor (not advisable as a common trick used in the business is that you’ll be sent to one of their co-workers who will be impersonating a “manager”). Or you can put that edge that we all know we have into our voice and tell them exactly who you’re going to call, call them by the name you just wrote down, and that you will be calling back after you find out who their boss is off their company’s web site.


Always remember, you’re the client.

Final Words

I got my start working the technical help desk at one of the largest brokerage houses of that time.

I was screamed at every day by traders who told me that my mother was a low down piece of filth. I can tell you that I generally worked harder for the people who didn’t do that. Also, because I did not have to answer to the public, I knew who was on the other end and who their boss was. Traders scream because they’re losing millions of dollars per minute.

You can empathize and know when they’re blowing off steam. You can also tell when their being abusive.

The rules of the game apply to customer service reps, people who work in government jobs, the DMV, and anyone who has immediate power over you, like the people who process you in at a hospitals.

Your first strategy is to be pleasant and smile. Because if you don’t , you can get royally screwed.

The cardinal rule is to remember that they are people who deserve some kind of dignity. Yes, they have a hard job. They get to hear people complain to them or yell at them all day. And if they don’t get that, then they get nothing but the monotony of the same thing over and over again.

It won’t cost you anything to be nice.

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