Surviving Customer Service 1

If you’d like a copy of your very own and not wait for it to unfold slowly, wander on over to my store to get one.


As you’ve no doubt noticed, we didn’t mention ‘Managers’ amongst your fellow workers. And there’s a very good reason, there are very few types of people you’ll actually work with and managers aren’t one of them.

Oh sure, they have an amazing ability to look busy with their folders and clipboards and ‘Profit Ratio vs. Aggregate Hourly Employee Cost Per Fuzzy Wuzzy Barfy Doodle Doll Sold Mid-Month Weekend Daytime Hours July/August Inclusive’ readouts from Corporate. But, truth be told, they spend most of their time reading the paper to look for another job and praying for a full staff so they don’t actually have to hit the floor and deal with customers.

So, fuck those lame ass losers.

We’re covering the people in the trenches with you. And, although you may think there are many different types in the customer service world, you’re wrong. After years of research we’ve narrowed it down to The 5 G’s:
Glammy, Giddy, Go-Go, Grumpy, and Gone.

Even though the titles sound self-explanatory, we have a book to fill so we’re going to start filling it by letting you know who’ll be on the front lines with you.

These people will become among the closest people to you for the three or four weeks you’ll know them. Why such a short time? The attrition rate in the customer service world rivals that of hemophiliacs in a razor factory.

They get lured away by ‘Toe’ Blake’s Odor-B-Gone Sock Store for the filthy lucre (there have been urban myths of hourly increases of almost fifty cents an hour. I, for one, am skeptical of such managerial largesse). Or they get a job in an entirely new field of employment.

But, usually, they race out of the building screaming while tearing off their ‘Team Colors’ after a rather torturous sales attempt with a mother, daughter, daughter’s sixteen friends of varying opinions, and their teething sibling.

As close as you’ll come to these people, a few things should be evidently clear.

1) Don’t bother remembering names and don’t always believe their nametags. I was Yolanda during a horrid holiday season selling sneakers.

2) Don’t tell them anything about your personal life unless you want it broadcast store and possibly nationwide. You may believe it to be a gesture of friendship, but it’s a reconnaissance mission in disguise. You may innocently mention that last night you kissed a basketball player after the big game but, come tomorrow, you’ll be the big game who did the basketball team. JV and varsity. All four teams.

3) If you work on commission, they will try to steal it. If you get paid by the hour, you’ll get crap for getting an extra half-hour. If you do a good job and the boss thanks you, you’re a brown-nosed suck up who can’t be trusted. No matter how good, bad, or indifferently you do your job, someone will find fault with it. Suck it up and beat them to the fuck off.

4) When an ‘issue’ arises, it could be as simple as moving a stapler or as complex as getting caught doing the ‘Denver Double Donut’ with a couple of Co-Workers significant others in the Personal Grooming aisle during the year end inventory, it’s best to understand that any apology offered will never suffice. So don’t bother. It’s not worth the effort. So, whenever an ‘issue’ arises, just remember the words of my sainted Mother,

“If you can’t say something nice about someone, make sure you say something hurtful enough to make them cry.”

Now that you getting the idea that the enemy’s to the right and barbwire’s to the left, let’s meet the people you’ll spend eight to fourteen hours a day, five to seven days a week, for the rest of your life with.

Remember, you may have many pleasant experiences and share kindred desires, but, at the end of the long, arduous day, everyone you work with is after one thing: to make you as miserable as they are! More, if possible and, trust me, it’s possible.

Whether the store is chic or geek, there’s always a Glammy lording their taste and genius over all. Whatever the hip, hot, most advanced product is they’ve had it for six months and, by the time they finally get it in their store, they are thoroughly over it and snort derisively at whomever would purchase such a passé item.

Glammy is adept at ignoring anything or anyone not directly related to them. To them, it’s all about the service foregoing that annoying customer part. They spend a major part of their shift on personal maintenance issues, such as: grooming, admiring, scoffing at people who admire them while they groom, talking on the phone, and hiding.

Don’t mistake this behavior for lack of product knowledge. Glammy will know every spec, size, and shade of every item in the store. The problem stems from any attempt to pass this information along.

Glammy will spend forty-five minutes regaling the customer with fanciful anecdotes about their use of this item. With facts skewed to highlight Glammy’s use or misuse of this product that is nothing more than an opinionated rant which has little to do with helping the customer make an informed decision.

If the customer breaks the gravitational pull of Glammy’s self-involvement, the useful data gathered is negligible at best. Again, it is not for lack of familiarity with the product, it is Glammy’s lack of ability to fathom why anyone would need any information other than the harrowing or vainglorious story that has been passed on to them about their travails with this item.

Once Glammy has exhausted all attempts to force the customer to blindly accept their opinion and are forced to answer a question they will be unable to impart anything useful about the product. After a frustrating twenty or thirty second attempting to the answer questions Glammy feels has already been answered, they will quickly flit away under a pretense of gathering some brochures for this indolent customer.

Which translates, ten minutes later, to an irate, impatient and confused customer being dropped on your lap to clean up. The good news is Glammy spends so much time with each customer this can only happen once an hour. Every day. Eight times a day.

Giddy has the highest potential for getting on your nerves. Don’t misunderstand, Giddy is, unfailingly, a wonderful, bright, and helpful person. Now knowing that, I think you can see how exasperating Giddy can be after ten or fifteen minutes.

No matter how many straight days of ‘voluntary’ overtime, insipid epistles from Corporate, or deliveries when the store is loaded with screaming, clinging customers, Giddy will blithely bounce from customer to stock room to loading dock with a smile on their lips and a song in their heart.

I’m pretty sure the first person to ‘Flip The Bird’ to someone was a Customer Service Representative and it was aimed squarely at a Giddy co-worker.

But customers love the Giddy one! They just can’t get enough of the intense personal attention. Giddy makes every customer feel as if they are the center of the universe.

Which is good for them because it’s the only thing keeping their job. On the whole, Giddy’s performance is comparable to that of a limbless butcher. Oh sure, they may know a shank from a rib eye but it’s more theory than hands on.

It’s during vital yet tedious times, such as pricing, filling out workman’s comp forms, cleaning snot from windows, when Giddy’s short-comings are most noticeable. Left with only their own cheerfulness to keep them warm it takes mere minutes for the cracks to begin to show.

To the untrained eye Giddy may seem to be their normal self. The smile is screwed on, the cheerfulness intact. But, look closely and you’ll see a frantic, frightened gerbil look about them. The pressure of having to accomplish a task in an orderly and accountable fashion causes fissures in their already tightly wound and manufactured personality.

As soon as a customer steps within sixteen feet of the door they’ll drop the task at hand and rush to the customer in their bid for a sixteenth straight ‘Customer Service Representative Of The Week’ award. While they’re ‘taking care of a customer’ the manager will inevitably notice the job they were doing is half and poorly completed. Which means you’ll be told to pick up the scraper and finish chiseling boogers off all kinds of interesting places around the building.

The most tiring of your co-workers is Go-Go. Go-Go has been known to pull consecutive doubles while never stopping long enough to actually accomplish anything. Anyone who sees Go-Go in action feels they are seeing the most attentive, hardest working, most competent employee ever invented.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the wake of Go-Go’s flurry of activity is a trail of half completed reports, barely cognizant order forms, and a gaggle of customers with unanswered questions still festering in their gaping maws.

No one ever complains about Go-Go’s fevered activity due to it’s constant motion. Customers would feel guilty stopping someone so desperately on a mission. Other Customer Service Representative’s would confront Go-Go about leaving projects and customers hanging for them to clean up if Go-Go could be stopped. But Go-Go is a force of nature. Like a storefront tsunami.

And Management loves that! It doesn’t matter the damage left behind by Go-Go, the racing around the store fills Management with a sense of usefulness. Like their life has meaning and people really need a combination fondue pot/blender. They equate motion with busy; busy with customers; customers with sales; and sales with cha-ching! A new twenty foot wide plasma screen TV for their living room with the bonus check!

That’s one of the prime reasons we find many ex-Go-Go’s in the Management ranks. Corporate loves their gung-ho attitude. It reminds them of their young and carefree days. So they carefully groom Go-Go to take over their beloved store when they get kicked upstairs. The fact that probably won’t happen or this camaraderie causes every other employee in the store to despise Go-Go does not deter these two. It’s the single-mindedness of their style that renders them useless and ineffective.

Perfect Management material.

The thin florescent light tubes illuminate with their pre-packaged glow. The floors are glistening with their carcinogenic sheen. The shelves stacked and unmolested. Even the customers seem capable of assisting themselves during their quest for more. The shift is progressing just fine. Your replacement has even shown up early.

Just then, when you’re starting to feel pretty good about your life, Grumpy will remind you that this is the calm before the storm. They’re just trying to lull you into a false sense of security. They’re pulling you into the ‘Gee, maybe this job doesn’t suck’ vortex to keep you coming back day after gawdforsaken day. And damned if, at that moment, a roving gang of mouth breathing cousin humpers doesn’t wandering on in.

Although Grumpy can seem like a downer, you’ll find only Grumpy will be there to help you clean up when the shit, inevitably, hits the fan. Why is this such a universal truth? Grumpy knows a fan on frenzy slings shit ubiquitously.

It’s also this fact that makes Grumpy someone you can count on to get a job done well and on time. Sure, customers are often unimpressed by the curt and monosyllabic sales pitch used by Grumpy, but when a customer wants a ‘Left-handed U-643B’ in beige with the curlicue embossing and gold leaf floret, only Grumpy will know where to find it.

This is not to say life with Grumpy will be problem free. Oh, there will be problems. They’ll mostly be in the smoothing of ruffled feathers milieu. Customers who need handholding find Grumpy unhelpful and rude.

It’s times like you’ll have to step in to reassure the customer that, no matter what they think they heard, it wasn’t Grumpy telling them a ‘Left-handed U-643B’ in beige with the curlicue embossing and gold leaf floret was going to be jammed up their ass if they didn’t complete the transaction now!

But this extra burden during your day will be repaid by Grumpy. Besides knowing where every item in the store is Grumpy will also know where every skeleton all the way up the corporate ladder is buried. That fact is one of the reasons Grumpy is still employed after voluminous customer complaints. It’s also the main reason Grumpy’s never been promoted. And if that knowledge doesn’t make you Grumpy, nothing will.

There are many good things to say about Gone. You’ll never have to clean up after Gone. Gone will never drop a customer in your lap. You’ll never have to make excuses for Gone. You’ll never have to help Gone out of a dicey situation.

Generally, you rarely need to respond to Gone at all. You will, however, have to do all the stocking  that was on their schedule; handle the customers in their department; and be forced to do ‘voluntary’ overtime because they’re short-handed and the truck is coming.

Of course, you’ll never be able to complain to Gone but not because whenever there’s a need for confrontation Gone is nowhere to be found. Gone makes it hard to complain because, on the rare occasion they’re there, they’re fun to be around.

Gone always has entertaining stories about filling the Manger’s car with shaving cream or the time they had a customer so confused they purchased $87.64 worth of useless add-ons for a product they didn’t want in the first place.

When Gone is cornered and must work, the product knowledge and customer manipulation is stunning. They work quickly when stocking and rarely make errors.

That’s because mistakes bring attention and attention makes it difficult to wander off undetected. They know errors or customer complaints force the Manager to put them on their radar and keep a tight rein on Gone. And, for Gone, that’s the signal it’s time to move on to the next misadventure.

Gone is the Customer Service Representative most likely to move from job to job on a whim. All Customer Service Representatives change jobs for numerous reasons: money, better hours, get away from that stinking ass boss, but Gone turns it into an art form. Gone has been know to have been at a new job for three weeks before anyone at the old jobs Corporate stops cutting payroll checks.

Gone is the only Customer Service Representative who quite often, given adequate time and battle scars, morphs into a different type of Customer Service Representative. Take the skill with customers and product, add in the expense of a desirable lifestyle and, before they know it, Gone is now the Customer Service Representative called: Grumpy.

If you’d like a copy of your very own and not wait for it to unfold slowly, wander on over to my store to get one.


2 responses to “Surviving Customer Service 1

  1. B&G- you were very kind to email me this manuscript and I very much enjoyed the first half that I read before it joined all the other half-read stuff on my computer and my bedside nightstand. I seem to have some serious issue with finishing things these days, or maybe it’s just starting too many things that’s the problem? WTF?

    Best of luck with your latest book. I really admire your hard work and discipline. My best friend was a comedian for quite a few years before becoming a therapist. No shit! 😀

  2. This was so true! I laughed so much at this. I can’t wait to read the next installment. It’s good to see you’ve kept up the same level of humor.

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