I have just spent two hours on the phone with my mortgage company, talking to a customer service rep while staring at my computer screen. The latter showed the status of my account, which somehow did not at all match up with what the customer rep was telling me about my account.
The result is that my vision has gotten weirdly funky. There are things floating in front of my eyes that look like giant transparent stinkbugs. I am not making this up.
This will have been the third time I talk with the good people at Ditech. I have been switched to different offices and two times after holding on the phone for fifteen or twenty minutes, the calls were dropped. When that happened I started over again, going through the excruciating automated process of telling the female robot voice exactly who I am, where I am, and why I am.
Yesterday when I mentioned this to Arielle, who is very familiar with customer representative work, she pointed out the limited powers of an average customer rep. She told me that quite often, if the situation at hand gets complex—and mine is, since it involves real estate taxes, escrow accounts, and the Fairfax County bureaucracy—the customer reps have very little problem-solving options. They are there to respond to basic questions, but the better part of decision-making will reside with a supervisor or department head. The difficulty with this, from the standpoint of the client, is that one must go through the largely powerless service reps before getting to the supervisor. In my case, the supervisor was supposed to call me yesterday before three p.m. It is noon the next day and I have not heard from him or her.
I am unfailingly polite with customer reps. It’s not a fun job, listening to complaints all day. Shouting at them, being rude, cursing, threatening their families or tossing a phone across a room will not help one’s case.
It’s also a known fact that companies do not devote much training or funds to their service reps. In fact, one of the recurring themes in Forbes Magazine is the appalling lack of attention paid to the customer service departments by most companies. Training is non-existent or minimal, and burnout rates are high. One article quoted a rep as saying few people want to work in this area as it’s often a dead end.
I remember last year having a complaint about an automatic credit card charge for a magazine subscription I had cancelled. I called the 1-800 number and found myself speaking with a very pleasant woman in Kerala, India, where many years ago I had spent some time. We had a nice discussion about the weather, the politics, her favorite restaurant and her wish to come to America. She told me she had a younger brother in Chicago, an aunt on her father’s side in Sacramento, and many other salient facts of her life. She couldn’t do much about the subscription charge, however. But to her credit, she didn’t cause transparent stinkbugs to float before my eyes.