I am the worst sort of person to be in customer service.
I’ve learned this more clearly over the years, but I knew it from the time I was 16, and began my first job with a drive-in A&W, in a smallish town, where I found I was very unsuited for waiting on people who ordered burgers and fries and onion rings, to then devour them in their cars, and to barely thank me, or not thank me at all, for bringing them their meals.
I learned, over time, through various other customer-service oriented jobs, that I am ill-suited to deal with people who think they have any right to demand something of me, without a “please” or “thank you”.
I do not like rudeness, or bad manners, or judgmental comments, looks, or behaviour.
For many years, on the advice of my dad (poor advice, in retrospect) that I should not go into journalism (there would be no jobs for a woman in the field, he advised), I trained and worked as a dental assistant. I would not recommend this field to anyone. Talk about under-appreciation. Working for anyone who has an ego that is undeserved and rarely earned, and is usually only gained by who you know, not what you know, can’t have any kind of good outcome. Oh, and let’s not forget that the only benefit working for a dentist is that you get (questionable) free dental care. Few dentists provide any kind of benefits for their employees.
Customer service has its place, I do not argue that point. And some people are genuinely suited to it. I admire those people. I, however, am not one of them.
My life lately has taken on an almost bohemian flare. I am perfectly comfortable with it. I gave up everything a few years ago, by choice, and I do not regret or miss anything. I do, however, still need to earn a living, and so I have taken on various temporary positions.
The most recent has been with a company which conducts surveys, procured through other companies under the guise of “customer service.” It’s an evening and occasional weekend job, which works well with my writing schedule. My job is to attend my computer-generated phone list, and conduct my survey. Most people are perfectly willing to participate in the survey. I am well-spoken, articulate, and polite.
Well, mostly polite. I have found that, when faced with certain rude individuals, I am as unsuited for this job, as I am for any customer service position.
For example, there was the call answered by a male, who, before I even completed my spiel, launched into a tirade against me. “Where did you get my number?” he demanded. I assured him it was computer-generated, that I did not have a compiled list before me. “And what the hell are you selling again?” he demanded. I assured him that I, personally, was not selling anything, that I was merely voicing a survey. “And what the hell if I say ‘yes’, what am I saying ‘yes’ to, and what are you going to do with it?” he demanded further irately.
That was all it took.
“You know what?” I said, rather tightly. “Forget it. I’m not doing this.” I moved my cursor over the “End call” button.
“What? Wait, what?” he interrupted, sounding dismayed.
“I’m not doing this with you,” I told him, annoyed.
“What? Why?” He sounded even more surprised.
“Because I don’t have to,” I told him acidly. “I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. Good day, sir.”
“No, okay no, wait,” he spluttered. “I’m sorry, that was–I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be ignorant, please, continue.”
I said nothing, cursor still poised over the “End call” button.
“Really, please, I didn’t mean to be ignorant.” He now sounded very contrite. He paused a beat, then added, “Really, I’m sorry, continue, please, let’s do the survey.”
“Fine,” I said shortly. And so I did. And he was very pleasant throughout. He even apologized again at the end. I was stiffly polite when I thanked him.
Now, obviously, I’m not supposed to act in this manner. I’m supposed to do my job, and put up with people who are rude and have bad manners (technically, that’s not exactly true; we don’t have to put up with rude behaviour, but most surveyors do not have the gumption to answer back). And it’s possible these calls are monitored (I assume, but don’t know the regularity of such), but frankly, I don’t give a flying fuck. No one has the right to treat me, a complete stranger who is only doing their job, in such a rude manner.
There have been other such receptions, but very few (I could include a few other examples, but you get the gist, and it would make this post overly lengthy.) For the most part, people are receptive to calls that are customer service oriented surveys, and are fine with giving their opinion. For those individuals who are not so receptive, given the chance in the face of their rude behaviour, I respond scathingly in part and do not put up with it. As I said, I am not the sort of person who should be in anything even remotely resembling customer service. While I certainly understand I must earn a living, what I am doing is hardly anything even close to offensive, and I refuse to be treated like some sort of parasite.
So the next time you receive an unexpected call, keep in mind that the person on the other end may only be conducting a simple, short survey, which may actually benefit you, the customer, in the end. There is no call for rude behaviour. Should you choose to be rude, you may get me on the other end, and I will give you back as good as I have received.
Which you quite likely deserved.