I've just finished a three-month stint working for a company (which will remain unnamed) as a customer service representative. It was easily the worst job of my life, from being practically chained to my desk phone to dealing with pettiness from a seasoned supervisor during my short time there. I have not completed the seemingly-requisite and soul-killing year in my position, but I can tell you just three months was enough in that hellhole. I'm going to let you in one some tricks of the trade, not to dissuade you from the job, as I think it could be beneficial for some, but to let you know exactly what and who you're encountering when you call one of those infamous 800 numbers.
Firstly, and most importantly, let me tell you that the representative you're getting when you call is also a human being. They're not the ones responsible for your unexpected bill or poor service. The representative is just trying to do their job, and in most cases, is expected to always be nice and cheery despite screaming customers and rude attitudes. I was encouraged to keep grumpy or crying customers on the line, stopping just short of being cursed at or taking outright insults, in order to guarantee their happiness and provide quality service. The human answering the phone to answer your disgruntled questions didn't sign up to be your personal punching bag, so please don't treat them as such. The job is stressful and difficult enough without that unpleasant extra quirk.
Customer service representatives deal with life just like you. They may even empathize or cry with you over the phone about bad news. They're not robots, although the company may attempt to make them into an emotionless army. Between juggling multiple systems to search for accurate information, being required to meet certain service levels, and still managing to be kind over the phone to a faceless, screaming customer, a customer service rep doesn't exactly have it easy. Oh yeah, don't forget the phone itself rings incessantly, and they have to pick up precisely one ring later.
Let's move onto other aspects of the job, like the 15-minute breaks that often get rescheduled due to a long call or that fact that if a call runs over into lunch, one is required to finish that up before leaving for a desperate gobbling-down. It's worth it to mention that if a rep says they'll call you back, it probably won't be immediately due to strict scheduling commitments. The representatives in my former company have every second of their day scheduled into a management system, and must message a specific department if adjustments need to be made during the day. It's strict and makes one feel more inanimate than human. It's mentally draining work, and the calls don't stop just because a rep is tired.
Keep this in mind the next time you feel the need to take out your (misplaced) anger on the being that perkily chirps "hello" on the other end of the line. That person is attempting to do their job to the best of their ability and isn't trying to be deceptive or upset you. The best way to approach a call to an 800 number is to have your information ready, know what you want to ask, and be kind to the representative (although they'll strive to help you even if you're nasty). It's an unforgiving job filled with constant noise and stress.
Remember, the rep understands that you may be upset. They'll even commiserate or empathize with you, because they may have experienced the same problems you're currently confronting. The least you can do is see the person on the other end of the phone as a fellow human, and treat them as such. I guarantee you'll get better service and someone willing to go a smidgen above their job description if they hear a friendly voice on the other end of the line.
This post originally appeared on QuirkyDaily.com.