LIFE LESSONS FROM CUSTOMER SERVICE

Working on the front lines in a customer facing role feels like a crucial life skill that everyone should experience at some point during their working lives. It gives you a certain viewpoint and helps lead to empathy, patience, and kindness towards those workers in the future. For normal people anyways. How could you not want to be kind to a customer service representative if you’ve had the chance to be on the receiving end of the call? Especially knowing how unpleasant some customers are to deal with.

Let’s clear the air and set one thing straight. Rarely is it even the customer service worker’s fault. Did they break the product? No. Did they send out a marketing email promo that doesn’t work? No. Did they go on the coffee run and get your order wrong? No. Did they decide to completely pivot the business model screwing over current customers? No. Did they decide to acquire a rival company? No. Did they make empty promises during the sale? No. Did they fail to complete a thorough product test before shipping the update to production causing a major bug? No. Did they conjure up a storm that knocked out power, and thus the Internet, causing you to lose access to unsaved changes? No. Did they deliver the shipment in a careless way causing damage? No.

I could go on, but I feel like the main point here is very clear: the person you are talking to is merely a middle man attempting to help you, despite it not being their fault. Saints. Granted, you usually can’t go straight to the source, which, honestly, is the smartest thing companies ever implemented. That doesn’t make some of the responses warranted, though. But this post is not about how some of us really need to calm down. No, it’s about what working in the customer service industry teaches an individual.

Mute Buttons are Your Best Friend

Has there ever been a time where you’ve responded to someone without really thinking about what you’re saying, or the potential professional implications of those words? The mute button exists. Use the mute button. Think of it as a trial run. It could save your life.

Some Things Need to Run Their Course

Remember that time when you were really angry and summarized all of your feelings into one, concise sentence? Me neither, because that’s not a thing. Angry is to rambling as white is to rice. They go together – wait out the storm.

Patience Doesn’t Always Work

Patience is a virtue. And Oreos are delicious. Doesn’t mean they’re healthy. There are situations where being passive is not the right choice. Put your best fake smile on and go with blunt honesty. Don’t let the bulldogs walk over you because you appear willing to listen indefinitely.

Some People Are Just Sour Patch Kids

We all know the human Sour Patch Kids. The ones who are sour at first and absolutely ruin your appetite for no reason. Like, I don’t know who peed in your Cheerios this morning, but I did not do, whatever it is you’re upset about, to you. Your complaint isn’t even about our company.

Life is Short, Move On

Not everyone is worth your memory. Deal with it in the moment, then make like a goldfish and forget. Move on! You’ll be happier.

Sometimes It’s Better To Not Say Anything

Would you jump in front of a moving train? I certainly hope not. Know when you need to simply put your headset on the desk and SURF BUZZFEED for a bit until the anger train finally comes to a stop. If you get invested in an article and simply can’t return to the question, ask how it makes them feel to start that steam engine again.

You Won’t Always Have an Answer

There will come a point where you are no longer all-knowing. Where you will need to go find the answer and circle back. Don’t be disappointed, this buys you time and teaches you something! Might as well kill two birds with one stone. Maybe hot head will have cooled down in the meantime.

Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, And Dodge

When in doubt, follow the 5 D’s of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. Throw the department who put you in this mess under the bus. Did I spit on your pizza? No, that must have been an oversight from the cooking staff – I will follow up with them right away. Who me? No you must mean that team over there. Deflect for the win … and for your sanity. Besides they won’t be able to contact the real problem team to confirm.

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who would enjoy this post and want to share it with them, that would be awesome. Sharing is caring, after all. Don’t forget to subscribe to get these in your inbox twice weekly and follow TRP on Twitter for frequent musings. Thanks for reading!


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ALL OF MY THOUGHTS WAITING IN THE CHICK-FIL-A DRIVE-THRU LINE

Like a good Southerner, I understand that Chick-fil-A is part of the food pyramid. Not the whole base, but the second biggest tier for sure. Combined, of course, with Bojangles’ and their legendary sweet tea. In essence, people living south of Virginia are 50% chicken, 10% sweet tea, and 10% seasoned fries. The remaining 30% is gravy, banana pudding, and mac n’ cheese #math.

Since our sustenance relies heavily on the big red C, it’s imperative that I make regular appearances. Except on Sundays because the owners are clearly good southern christians and leave one day a week for home cooked meals at Grandma’s house. Unfortunately, I am not the only one living with this gratitude mindset. For all of the genius that is the CFA kitchen, their parking lot layouts leave a lot to be desired. Specifically the drive-thru portion of the design. Everyone, and their mothers, know that there is never a dead period at CFA. Everyone except the car space architects apparently.

It does not matter what time of day you get a hankering for waffle fries and magical chicken, there will be a full drive-thru line. 3:45PM on a Tuesday? Packed. 11:15AM on a Thursday? Can’t even get in the parking lot. Anytime before 10:30AM? Forget it! People will fight to get their Chick-n-Minis before the breakfast menu shuts down. They are also the only restaurant I know with an all day lunch rush. How is that even possible?! How is the whole world eating both an early, on time, and late lunch every day of the week every week of the year? That’s not possible. 

I’m sure we’ve all waited in a long drive-thru line before and been super thrilled about watching our gas efficiency rating drop consistently and trying to communicate with the employee through the high quality speaker system. How many times have you waited in a double drive-thru line? I don’t mean the supposedly more efficient double lane options. No, no. I mean the double line that occurs in the same way that you would draw a spiral. The drive-thru line is full and wraps all the way around the building. Um, what? Yes, you start in line near the speaker to order … but are the second to third layer of the circle. Is there anything more soul crushing when you’re hungry? No.

So clearly, as you can imagine, this line does not fall into the definition of fast food. It’s a slow burner. And time with your thoughts is a fun place to be. Well, fun may not be the right adjective. It’s an interesting place to be. My hungry thoughts are not on the same reading level as my well-fed thoughts. They get weird, they get abstract, they get confusing, they get twisted in circles (like the line I’m sitting in). It’s a black hole – one that I’m going to throw you into so you, too, can ponder these existential moments in my Chick-Fil-A waiting life:

  • Who taught the cows to spell? They didn’t do a good job
  • Who decided that the font should be a backwards foggy mirror attempt at writing?
  • Are CFA employees allowed to eat beef while at the office?
  • Does part of an employee’s non-compete contain information about dietary restrictions?
  • When will an employee be allowed to eat beef again?
  • Are all catered meals at corporate from CFA?
  • Has anyone ever pulled a prank and ordered Wendy’s or McDonald’s on “accident”?
  • Why was the chicken salad sandwich removed from the menu?
  • Why is there no option to supersize a meal? It could be the Fox option, get it
  • Is there a reason why sandwiches don’t come with a normal amount of pickles? What is so significant about two?
  • Is it a coincidence that the sun is always shining when I’m at CFA? No, it’s a sign from the heavens to eat mor chikin! (Side question: how did Google know to autocorrect that to the CFA version?! My mind just exploded)
  • Why were the color choices not orange? Like, you know, a chicken
  • How have I not moved at all?
  • If I use the app and place a mobile order while in the drive-thru, will I get my food faster? Spoiler: yes
  • Why is the peach milkshake not a year round treat? That’s the best option
  • Why do the cookies taste better when they’re catered?
  • How many times can an employee say ‘my pleasure’ before they explode?
  • How rapidly can I repeatedly say ‘thank you’ to test this out?
  • If the employees are taking my order, what is the point of moving through the line? Can they not also bring me the food?
  • Why is every parking lot so small? And tight? Neither is conducive for heavy drive-thru traffic
  • How many accidents happen each year in CFA parking lots? An acchickdent lol
  • Is there any way we could get a cow fence around the buildings? A normal fence with giant cutouts of the billboard cows? For full branding efforts
  • Do the billboard cows have names? If so, what are they?
  • How many free sandwiches are given away on Cow Appreciation Day?
  • Why don’t I own a full cow costume like a lot of the people here? Why do so many people own full cow costumes?
  • What if I had grown up in the North and not known about the mouth party that is CFA? The horror
  • How am I only one car closer to the goal?!

That feels like a sufficient share. Feel free to traverse that thought train at your own pace. Dive deeper into your feelings if you need to. Don’t if your care level for these questions is negative. You do you, but whatever path you decide, it’s better with a Chick-Fil-A sandwich and waffle fries. What drive-thru thoughts do you have while waiting to relieve the hangriness?

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who would enjoy this post and want to share it with them, that would be awesome. Sharing is caring, after all. Don’t forget to subscribe to get these in your inbox twice weekly and follow TRP on Twitter for frequent musings. Thanks for reading!


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DEAR CUSTOMER SUPPORT: YES, I’VE TRIED RESTARTING IT

This is for everyone, everywhere, who has ever had to get on the phone with a customer support agent. For all the time wasted listening to one jazz song on repeat over and over and over again endlessly. For all the poor souls trying to navigate through the dizzying maze of menus with only their voice. For all the phone batteries trying to keep up with the unusual increase of constant background activity. For all the family members who will get to relive the experience whenever their loved one is set free, or hung up on. For all the unresolved issues that will endlessly sit in the AI cloud because either the speaker was not able to successfully get to a representative, or they accidentally got yeeted out of the system by the robot for too many unsuccessful attempts to speak with a human – or because they gave up. For all the doodles that are created while waiting in the queue of troubled customers. And for all the food and alcohol that is stress consumed from being “on hold”.

You are not alone. I’m here for you. Having to contact customer support is one of the worst things that can get added to your to-do list. Besides, obviously, cleaning out the gutters, vacuuming the baseboards, and killing the spider that has decided to take up residence in the bathroom. Because you never have to get in touch if everything is just peachy. It’s usually due to a problem, or a frustration, right? Which puts you in an ideal mindset to have an adult conversation where good problem solving can occur and your active listening skills are professional level. 

When you’re frustrated, what’s something that won’t make you feel better? Giving commands to an AI machine. And not just giving commands – it’s more like one of two things: being given a multiple choice question where none of the answers are correct or talking to a brick wall. The menu is a million options long and none of them involve my most basic request to see what the current exchange rate of the Yen is?! Who is in charge of this? Or when you’ve made the educational guess that you belong in zero of the available categories and would like to speak to an actual human being so you can be more detailed about your issue (a.k.a really voice ALL of your complaints at once to someone who has to listen). Why is that harder than figuring out what in the world a jackfruit is? Where did it come from? How do you cut into it? What does one eat it with / how do you prepare it? Why is the outside so bumpy? Is that its protection from predators? What sorts of animals are endangering this fruit? Why does it look like it’s having a melon identity crisis? Is it more cantaloupe or honeydew? How do they get so big? Who first saw it and thought, you know what, that looks delicious and I want to eat it? These are all the questions I’m currently waiting on hold for to ask The Jackfruit Company. This one fruit is an endless sense of distress in my food life.

Anyways … when you finally get to speak to a representative, they usually ask you all the same things the robot just tortured you with. Account verification, what the issue can be generalized as, what the issue can be sub-generalized as, what the issue can be sub-sub-generalized as, if you’re a current customer, what your favorite color is, where you got those amazing new pants that show off all the work you’ve been putting in during leg days, when was the last time you ate a fruit, or a vegetable, did you try restarting it, etc. So … what was the point of going through the automated process if you have absolutely zero of the information that I’ve already provided? Do I have to now start my whole process over? Re-explain exactly why I’m calling? Try to ask for help without a hint of sarcasm, or hangriness, or giving away how annoyed I am?

Being a customer is challenging. Probably not as challenging as the customer service representative job, though. You get to experience every personality type … and mood. Whether you want to or not! My patience levels do not make me a good candidate for those types of positions. Didn’t stop me from trying for a few years, but I can’t honestly say that I miss it. Which is why I always try to remind myself that it isn’t their fault that I had to call in. They didn’t make, or break, the product that I’m currently unhappy with. They simply got stuck having to take my call. Meanwhile, I’ve upgraded my job status to one of those employees who is directly responsible for breakage and upset customers. Wow that is prime irony. Is that like the circle of jobs? Regardless, to all customer service representatives: I sincerely appreciate you, you are the real rockstars, and I apologize for all the work I will inevitably cause you and / or have caused you.

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who would enjoy this and want to share it with them, that would seriously mean a lot to me. I’m so grateful to all the current readers and subscribers. If you want to get these in your inbox twice weekly don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks for reading!


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THE OPTIMISM OF ROAD CONSTRUCTION CREWS

I’m all for optimism – it makes life so much more fun! Don’t agree? Alright, you pessimistic son of gun, clearly you need a hug and some Chewy Chips Ahoy (because they are everything that’s right in this world). Then you probably need to be slapped because no one else needs your negativity. Keep that mess to yourself.

Anyways, I digress, like a turn lane with no road to turn onto. Have you ever noticed how many turn lanes lead, well, nowhere? Who put them there? More importantly, what higher up approved the paving of said turn lane? And of course, who pitched the idea? Who woke up one morning and thought ‘This new road is going to be great, but if we put some random turn lanes in the public will think we plan to come back and maintain the road for future development’? Because that is what you think, right? Oh, clearly they are going to build something there, otherwise why put a turn lane in? And if they’re building something new they will want to make sure the road stays in decent shape to attract all the young, hip people to make this town a global hot spot for the yuppies .

The funniest part is you never see one of these stag turn lanes that have been freshly paved. They’re all slightly faded, the paint is cracking – clearly it’s been there for awhile and still it leads into the always desirable wooded area where a serial killer is probably waiting for you to wander in like the curious being you are. Or it goes to a swamp which is most intriguing because what on earth is being built there?! A water park?! A pool?! Last I checked solid structures on a liquid foundation don’t work…outside of Venice of course, which should be a wonder of the world.

I wish I could have the same optimistic outlook on potential future endeavors in my job. If I could go to my manager and say ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if I spent three months working on a project that will do NOTHING for our business currently, but if we decide one day down the road that it might be feasible for us to explore possibilities in that direction, I’d have laid the very first step by creating a Google Doc, putting a title on it, and formatting it to perfection…but nothing more’. What would the response be? Well, probably a drug test for starters, then some variation of ‘hell no, get back to work’!

So clearly my job doesn’t follow the optimism model that road construction companies do and what a shame that is. At the end of the day, those workers probably go home satisfied and feeling like a true team player. They set another crew up for success after all…at some point, maybe, in the future. Not only did they do their job, oh no! They went above and beyond and added turn lanes everywhere. Like Oprah. YOU GET A TURN LANE AND YOU GET A TURN LANE AND YOU GET A TURN LANE! EVERYBODY GETS A TURN LANE!

It could be worse though. There could be NO turn lanes. Then the whole country would be like Atlanta and everyone’s Google Maps would be purple during rush hour. Purple?! Yes, purple. I didn’t realize there could be traffic worse than the deep maroon color, but leave it to hotlanta to give us a new level of stoppage. They don’t even use the traffic lights because no one would move – there are traffic cops that man EVERY INTERSECTION to shut down the drivers who think that as long as they are in the act of turning it’s fine regardless of the impact it has on traffic going the other way. That’s a topic for ANOTHER TIME though.

Moral of the story: more turn lanes are better than no turn lanes. If nothing else they allow you to imagine what might be coming. And, as Albert Einstein said, ‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.’ So these seemingly random turn lanes are making us smarter…wow are road construction crews thoughtful!

Alright, jumping off my pedestal for now. If you know someone who is frustrated about the never-ending road construction, share this with them so they stop complaining and start realizing that it’s all for their greater good. Thanks for reading!


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