The Dark Side of Customer Service


Share on LinkedIn

I love customer service and spend hours each day, working, training, inspiring, promoting, and dreaming up ways to make customer service awesome. For all of the customer service talk and training that goes on, there’s a dark side to customer service that we’ve all seen too many times.

I recently came across a disturbing blog post with confessions of a customer service representative. It’s not pretty and it’s the reason why so many people hate customer service.

The mega corporations don’t send their customer service outside because of quality, they do it because it’s cheap. Shortcuts will be taken. When shortcuts are taken with employees in customer service, bad customer service happens.

What will it take for companies to realize that on the other end of the phone, or chat feature, or whatever “customer service” tool is a real, living, breathing person?

I don’t mean the customer. I’m referring to the customer service representative. Not placing adequate emphasis in connecting the right people with customer service gets us to where we are today.

What the customer thinks, feels, or wants is never a factor. From the moment your case/account/ticket/whatever comes to my attention…you are the enemy.

It’s easy to see the reason for the frustration with customer service. Of course it’s going to be a frustrating experience. Not much is going to get done. The incentive, too often, isn’t on getting things done. It’s in getting people off the phone.

Customer Service Confession 2 – Like the paycheck, but hate the job.

Everyone…insists you’ve made the right choice to begin this job. They tell you your “future” begins now. They assure you you’re “going places”.

During a hiring drive…you get hired in about 5 minutes flat. You get hired along with a horde of other people who have absolutely nothing in common.

Does that experience instill a feeling of importance? Would that inspire you to deliver the best customer service experience?

In order to attract the best employees and encourage the best performance, you need to treat people like the best. It’s not enough to just treat others like you want to be treated. Treat others based on the potential of what they can be.

The following can be found on the recruiting site for a major telecom, unfortunately known for poor customer service experience.

You provide world-class service…you will experience the same level of respect and care that our customers have come to value.

Customer Service Confession 3 – Pay enough to listen, not enough to do something.

If we get paid bare minimum, we will do bare minimum.

Remember what I said earlier about the living, breathing, real person on the other end of the phone? The customer service representative? Yes, believe it or not, customer service representative is a real person, with real needs. Customer service, unfortunately, is seen as a cost center. Since it doesn’t normally “sell”, it isn’t seen as a revenue generator, without generating revenue, it’s a prime area for business cost cutting.

How do we expect to get great service when we:

  • Expect professional work, at minimum wage pay.
  • Expect experienced employees, but only hire part time workers.
  • Expect experts to stay in customer service, but provide no incentives.
  • Expect great service, but measure employees against how many calls they churn out in an hour.
  • Expect dedicated people, but penalize them for bathroom breaks.

Some of the rules I’ve seen and hear in the customer service industry are just down right insulting. No, it’s not ok to start docking pay if the computer goes idle. We’re not in grade school anymore, we don’t need to ask for permission to go to the bathroom.

Customer Service Confession 4 – I never use my real name.

Working in customer service is like stripping; we’ve all had to do it at some point, and it’s not something we’re proud of.

Ouch. There’s a reason why it’s done. We create crazy customer service systems for tracking employees. These systems don’t emphasize providing quality service. The policies and practices we have to stick by are so un-customer friendly that we don’t dare associate our real name with the type of customer service we’re providing.

The State of Customer Service Today

Bad customer service isn’t the customer’s problem. It’s not the customer service agent’s problem. Bad customer service is a management problem. We’ve created the problem.

We create the company policies that customers hate. We create the rules and metrics that make employees hate their job. We create the environment of frustration and dissatisfaction. Why?

Is this the legacy we want to leave behind? When future generations look back, is this what we want them to remember about us? Making customer service meaningful can be done. Great customer service and customer experiences is up to us.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Flavio Martins
Flavio Martins is the VP of Operations and Customer Support at DigiCert, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise authentication services and high-assurance SSL certificates trusted by thousands of government, education, and Fortune 500 organizations. Flavio is an award-winning customer service blogger, customer service fanatic, and on a mission to show that organizations can use customer experience as a competitive advantage win customer loyalty. Blog: Win the Customer!


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here