Surviving Customer Service 3

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.

Now that you understand who you’ll be bitching about and to whom, we’re going to cover the two major problems you’ll have during your long and torturous, I mean, happy and peppy career in customer service.

1) Service

2) Customers

What other industry is named after its biggest drawbacks? No, not even trash collector. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and many people collect what others would and do call trash.

But, in our industry, customers are nothing more than horrible, fetid creatures bent on snapping our wills and servicing them just doubles our pain. Even though they know we hate them that never stops them from barging in with their stupidity and worthlessness. As a matter of fact, there was a widely regarded study done by the Association of Service and Support (ASS) which concluded that our loathing only serves to empower them and draws them closer to us like shit to toilet paper.

Although ASS’ study makes a strong case for the invincibility of customers we are not without protection. If we take the old sports adage that the best offense is a good defense we can beat them at their own game. And their game, which you should never forget, is to force us to do everything they say and blame us for how it turns out.

The first thing you must assess when a customer approaches, is what ‘type’ of question they are asking. Although you may assume a question is a question is a question, nothing can be further from the truth.

For example, a customer finally hunts you down like a wounded quail and, while waving the item wildly, asks,

“How much is this 83-speed ‘relaxation’ massager?”

You first thought shouldn’t, but of course will be,

“What? The one by eight foot iridescent orange sign with the glowing price hanging above where you got this from isn’t visible enough, Chumbrain?”

Your first thought shouldn’t be about the customer at all. It should be about you because you must determine what type of question that is. In the above example, that’s a ‘Fact Question.’

A ‘Fact Question’ is one that can easily be answered and instantly corroborated by things such as, price tags, signage, brochures, and these little self explanatory pieces of waste called Fact Tags.

Of course, none of those useful devices will help because they failed (read: are too stupid) to find them. An 8-foot orange glowing banner with a fan slapping it around like a red headed stepchild screaming:

would be missed. So it’s up to us to explain the obvious. As always. Ain’t we the luckiest?

It is also a fact that we can stand there, advertising flyer with a picture and the price of the item in hand, and the customer will still make a case that the flyer at home had the item for eighty-seven cents less. The worst part is they truly believe that, out of the millions of flyers printed and distributed, theirs has a different price than the one inches in front of them.

Yeah, we once believed we’d have pleasant lives. I guess we’re all a little delusional. At least we’ve come to grips with it. Let’s take a moment and bless the inventor of alcohol.

After you’ve repeated yourself numerous times and steadfastly maintain the accuracy of your answer, all to no avail, there truly is only one thing left to say,

“Wait right here. I’ll get the manager.”

Oh sure, some see that as a cowards way out. Those tend to be people who’ve never experienced the pleasure of standing in front of a muumuu clad denizen of a lithium bottle, surrounded by her cloven hoofed tribe, who can’t decide between the ugly statue of something that could be a wolverine breast feeding a monkey or the ugly statue that, due the abstract nature of the piece, looks like a naked gerbil beer bottle opener (at least that’s what we used it for).

After spending a good chuck of your life servicing customers until you feel your frontal lobe quiver and slip down your nasal passage spilling onto your name tag, you’ll take any escape that appears.

The reason saying you’re going to get the manager works when encountering a ‘Fact Question’ is due to the fact that the customer, after a frustrating 8.3 millisecond wait, will become so irritated at the length of inattention they will place the item down and storm haughtily from the aisle and, if your co-workers are lucky, out of the store.

It’s actually very Zen like. If a customer bitches yet no Customer Service Representative is there to be bothered are they really shopping?

Even after experiencing an untenable situation such as the ‘Fact Question’ it’s a far simpler and glossed over situation than the other major question situation.

The other question resides in a gray area. It’s known as the ‘Land Mine Question.’ It’s a question with no definite answer written inches from the customer’s face. It’s a question that supposes:

1) the Customer Service Representative has intimate knowledge of the product and it’s uses

2) the Customer Service Representative has intimate knowledge of the customers distinct likes and dislikes

3) the Customer Service Representative is stupid enough to offer their opinion

It is a question such as,

“Do these pants make my ass look big?”

This is the granddaddy of ‘Land Mine Questions.’ It’s a question that, if you are even considering formulating a response to, you should carve out your tongue with a potato peeler (aisle 7) right now.

Although you may be tempted to answer a ‘Land Mine Question’ (in case you’re interested, the answer to the above question is, ‘Yes, they do, you careening pork sausage of death.’) due to innate helpfulness or desire for a bump in commissions, crush that desire like the job does your soul.

The mere utterance of a truncated consonant, whether shaded truth or obvious lie, will send you spiraling into a world of unimaginable pain and repercussions.

The problems arise due to the fact that, as a Customer Service Representative, it is your job to service the customer. You have a sworn duty to respond to any and all requests from this person who has such low self-esteem they’re seeking the opinion of a total stranger who hates them and wishes them a speedy farewell.

What to do?

Answer them with a response forged over the years in countless skirmishes on the slippery slope of stupid inquires:

Change the direction of the attention.

For instance, using the earlier sample,

“Do these pants make my ass look big?”

To maintain a professional persona and sense of self-preservation, your response would be,

“These sunglasses match those pants perfectly!”

The customer, easily distracted by the shiny and inane, will forget about the snugness of the pants on their fleshy behind, and consider the loveliness of the new found object.

This procedure works for any type of a ‘Land Mine Question.’ The trick is to move their attention from their primary point of interest (in the sample: ass) to a point as far away as possible (eyes).

If a customer asks a ‘Land Mine Question’ about, for instance, sunglasses your response could go as far down as their shoes. They ask about shoes? How about a hat? You can have a lot of fun if they ask about a belt. The choices there are endless! Be creative! Try to sell them a snorkel.

Be warned that ‘Land Mine Questions’ aren’t asked only about clothes. That would be too logical. Just spewing their cursed feeble-mindedness on clothiers. But no, every Customer Service Representative will hear the babble of ‘Land Mine Questions’ like an emotion-drowning river every single day. So remember to smile!

They’ll ask if a tennis racket will propel them onto the pro tour; or if a specific shade of eggshell will match a bedroom set you’ve never seen; or whether they’d enjoy the Filete de Salmon al Horno. All you can do is take a deep breath, look around and distract them with a salad fork. Stabbing them if you feel the situation necessitates.

Sure, you know the racket is of high quality, the paint will stick to the wall and the salmon delicious but, how can you predict the likes, dislikes or delusions of strangers?

So gently, smoothly, and with effortless grace lie. Sure, it’s underhanded and unhelpful but it’s not like you invited them to test your telepathy. It’s not like you invited them to talk to you either but there’s little you can do about that.

After all, you unlocked the door.

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.


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