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Why are customer service people so rude and unhelpful?

Why are customer service people so rude and unhelpful?

Old Feb 28, 19, 10:37 pm
  #1  
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Why are customer service people so rude and unhelpful?

I know this is a broad question with many differences across companies/airlines. I think intuitively that it's not among the best paid jobs and can be very stressful... but recently I've had quite a few bad experiences which triggered me to open this discussion with additional questions:
.
  • Aren't they supposed to be the first point of contact when people have issues and need to talk to a human?
  • Aren't they supposed to know how to solve the problems that the automated systems (websites, booking systems etc) cannot?
  • Shouldn't companies/airlines invest more into ensuring they are better trained, respectful and can deal with real problems rather than just tell customers to wait on the line another 20 minutes and then to send an email to someone else who will reply weeks later?!
In terms of airline travel, booking premium fares or premium airlines (like CX) have been the only cases when I had a somewhat positive experience with customer service teams. Almost all other times I tried contacting customer service resulted in completely useless conversations. Is good customer service only for premium fare and premium airline passengers?

What has been your experience with customer service representatives?
Which airlines or companies have the best ones, which ones the worst?
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Last edited by TanyaHelenaP; Feb 28, 19 at 10:57 pm
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Old Mar 1, 19, 1:20 am
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I think it comes down to the fact that airlines generally operate in an oligopolistic market, just like cable or telephone companies. There is no market incentive to spend money improving customer service, because this will not result in more business.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 4:53 am
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My guess is that with what they are paid, you are not getting the most motivated and helpful employees. Add to that the fact that for many call centres it is virtually impossible to speak to a manager or escalate a problem, they can treat you as they wish with no real risk to themselves.

I understand that for some call centres, their performance is measured in the number of calls they handle, so just getting you off the phone is probably their biggest priority rather than really solving your problem.

Corporations also don't have much incentive to improve things. There is probably a bean counter somewhere who says that spending more than X on the call centre doesn't result in any added business or any better customer retention so they are happy to just have some customers unsatisfied. They know you won't take your business elsewhere because all of the other companies are exactly the same. For every 100 people threatening to leave X for Y, there are 100 threatening to leave Y for X.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 8:53 am
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I think that's a pretty broad brush. In my experience, with the exception of a few outliers I think everyone does their best to try to help under what can often be trying and emotionally charged circumstances.

Do the bad experiences leave a more indelible impression? Yes, because they are the exceptions and the human brain is wired to recognize anomalies. But, overall, I just can't agree with your premise.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 12:20 pm
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Because large service providers interpose these frontline people between unsympathetic, rigid, sometimes exploitative corporate policies and unhappy customers. The reps generally have little or no authority to satisfy customers (and some customers cannot be satisfied regardless), but maximum accountability. It is a recipe for burnout and frustration.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 12:43 pm
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This is absolutely not my experience. I generally have good and productive interactions with the CS people with whom I deal.

OP has not provided any specific examples and has stuck to broad generalizations which never work. Facts, facts, and facts are all that metter.

The key is making sure that one is presenting clear, concise issues with a clear and concise resolution sought and never blaming a CS person for not granting some request which is beyond an entitlement.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 1:31 pm
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I too have had generally favorable interactions with CSA's. That said, for many people travel is stressful even under the best of circumstances and as such when things occasionally go south, I've seen more than a few people who are rude and helpless to the CSAs. The job requires the patience of Job. My hat's off to them. ^
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Old Mar 1, 19, 2:27 pm
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You also have to understand that you are having one or maybe two experiences with them that day, while each rep is probably handling 40, 50, or even more calls per day, many of which are with angry, clueless, belligerent customers. And they've been doing this 5+ days a week for 8+ hours per day. Unfortunately, call center reps are actually humans with feelings and emotions and may not be at their best when they talk to you.

Also agree with BearX220 - generally, they have limited discretion to make decisions, but rather have to follow scripts, guidelines, processes, procedures, and policies. Anything outside that is either a no or an escalation - and they try to avoid escalations.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 3:21 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
This is absolutely not my experience. I generally have good and productive interactions with the CS people with whom I deal.

OP has not provided any specific examples and has stuck to broad generalizations which never work. Facts, facts, and facts are all that metter.

The key is making sure that one is presenting clear, concise issues with a clear and concise resolution sought and never blaming a CS person for not granting some request which is beyond an entitlement.
I agree. My last several interactions with airline CS-- both on the phone (RAs) and in person (GAs)-- have been positive. I didn't always get what I want but I always got at least as much as I was promised by company policy. That's an important aspect of getting good CS-- approach it with reasonable expectations. And, maintaining a positive demeanor generally gets one in return.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 7:04 pm
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Why are customer service people so rude and unhelpful?
Because their incentives are structured to discourage their behaving otherwise. This is likely the answer to many questions in commerce.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 7:22 pm
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1) Sometimes you can't always get your way, that doesn't always mean its the CS agent's fault.
2) Experience working in a call center really helps you get the most out of a CS agent experience.
3) Usually, when I have a bad experience with a CS agent, I realize it was my stress going into the call that helped make it difficult.
4) Most CS agents really are trying to help you solve a problem, not just serve as a conduit for you to express your dissatisfaction.
5) Sometimes CS agents have a bad day, or just got off a call where they were insulted, or are new. Some are just incompetent. But I haven't found many that way.



Sometimes, the biggest way to deal with a curt CS Agent who you feel might be rude is to be overly polite yourself. Thank you, please, etc. My southern accent gets thicker. It often works to soften their attitudes, or break down some defenses on their part.

I have been very lucky in that I haven't had an actual rude CS agent in a long time. Incompetent? Sometimes. Not willing or able to do what I want them to do, sometimes. But leave them in a better mood than when you found them, and you will find that you will be in a better mood as well. We are all humans.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 7:59 pm
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While 99/100 times I get a nice CS agent at whatever company I am calling up, it comes down to power and the type of company. Most CS agents at large corporations don't have a lot of power to just deal out whatever the customer demands. There is a script they have to follow and will get in trouble/get fired if they offer more then they are allowed to. For larger companies in oligopoly/monopoly markets, there is no competitiveness for the company to keep a customer, hence the lack of good will/compensation for something.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 8:08 pm
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Originally Posted by bitterproffit View Post
Sometimes, the biggest way to deal with a curt CS Agent who you feel might be rude is to be overly polite yourself. Thank you, please, etc.
I've tried this myself, must be white privilege as it doesn't work for me. I do always use please and thank you, however.
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Old Mar 1, 19, 8:40 pm
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There are many reasons.
Quality recruitment is absent.
There is hardly any training except the proceduaral.
No one ever tells them that we all have jobs because there are CUSTOMERS who buy our products. But for them we would not be eating tonight.
Supervision is lacking.
Measurement is quantitative and not qualitative.
CUSTOMERS are ill prepared to present their problem and ask for the moon..
The reason you see CUSTOMERS in bold and caps is, as a National CUSTOMER Relations Manager I adapted that to impress upon all that that is the most important person out there .
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Old Mar 1, 19, 8:46 pm
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Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
The reason you see CUSTOMERS in bold and caps is, as a National CUSTOMER Relations Manager I adapted that to impress upon all that that is the most important person out there .
+1

Jeff Bezos famously insisted on having an empty chair in boarding meetings. "For the customer."
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