I get calls occasionally complaining about our customer service center which is more than a few time zones away. Some calls include the type of language that would get a cast member fired from Saturday Night Live, but most are totally fair.

The callers are angry. I try to do what I can to help, but I get it. Our customer service could be better. Like pretty much every company’s customer service department in 2019 — assuming you can get through in the first place.

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Last week, I had three interactions with customer service representatives. The only reason anyone calls customer service is because there is a problem of some sort, so frustration starts before the call begins.

The first had to do with health care. Weeks in into the process of obtaining coverage, I was still getting emails about needing verification for my dependents, despite having already produced numerous documents. Nothing in these emails or (on their website) explained specifically what was needed, just that what I had done was insufficient.

That meant calling customer service. And sitting on hold for 32 minutes. Once I finally got a person on the line I remarked how long I’d been on hold and that maybe they should consider hiring a few more representatives. No reaction, certainly no apology for the wait time, just straight into a lengthy conversation that included being put back on hold repeatedly before learning I would have to try a few more documents with no guarantee of success.

Then it came time for everyone’s favorite part of the customer service call after getting no assistance: “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Nah, I’m good, thanks.

Next, I needed to get in touch with my wireless carrier. I wanted to try to find a way to lower my bill, which now exceeds any monthly car payment I’ve ever had. It’s quite easy to buy things or add services online. Trying to cut services? Can’t be done. They make it so difficult to find contact information, I literally had to Google a customer service number.

I called and started thinking about what I wanted to say. I had plenty of time to get my thoughts in order. It took 47 minutes to reach a live person. I didn’t even bother with wait time banter.

To be fair, this representative was friendly, understandable and helpful. Which separated her from most of the reps I’ve had the misfortune to dial up, including my third of last week.

We purchased some home appliances from a local business that outsources its deliveries and installations. We were supposed to receive a call from the third party the day before delivery. Receiving no call, it was time for customer service.

It started with the guy asking me, did you get a call today? No, that’s why I’m calling you. I was told to hold on, he would call the deliverers. A few minutes later, he was back on saying he couldn’t get through, but I would get a call in the morning. I said that wouldn’t really help. The whole point was being able to plan ahead.

Getting agitated, he said it would probably be between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. I told him that’s a big window and I was under the impression I would get a more exact time. At that point, clearly angry — at me or the deliverers, I don’t know — he said sternly, “Look, I’m in Buffalo, New York. The deliverers are in Maryland. I can’t make them answer the phone. What do you want from me?”

I don’t know, for you to do your job without an attitude?

After not very politely finishing the conversation, it occurred to me how much I hate having to call customer service and how glad I am not to be in customer service having to deal with people like me.

Then I remembered, of course, that everyone with customers is in customer service. I have multiple interactions with customers every day online, over the phone, on the street.

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I’m far from perfect though I do my best. I try to help or at least point people in the right direction. Mostly I try to listen. Some customers want an answer. Others just want to vent.

Occasionally things go sideways and I’d love a do-over for some of the interactions I’ve had, usually the result of being yelled at for something over which I have absolutely no control.

Which is, of course, how every customer service person feels. The first woman I spoke with last week had nothing to do with the poorly explained benefits rules. The second couldn’t control the crazy wait time or high prices. The third really couldn’t make his deliverer answer the phone.

So I’m feeling more empathy toward customer service now. Hopefully you are, too. Even if you aren’t, is there anything else I can help you with?

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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