The year was 2003, I was 16 and filled with all the wide eyed enthusiasm of any teenager going out into the big bad world and starting their first job. Nerves aplenty, starting a new job is something we all go through and my first job was as a customer service rep in the call centre of a popular TV shopping network. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, all I knew was that I'd be getting paid, and I'd be making people happy... or so I thought.
Try and build this picture in your mind, a woman, in her 60s, screaming as loud as she possibly can right down your ear because she didn't receive her pair of £20 earrings. Then picture that same woman realising, while she is exercising her lungs on your left ear drum, that she did receive those earrings after all, and she'd just not yet opened the plain box she had received that day to see what was inside of it except while she was screaming.
You have that picture in your mind? Good. Well, most people would expect this old lady to apologise profusely, as most decent members of society would, but no, not this lady. Apologies were too good for her. She decided she was going to continue screaming, letting me know that the box should have been painted in bright colours and possibly should have been accompanied by a marching band, making it clear to her who it was from before she had even opened it.
It is the type of human being with whom those who work in customer service are all too familiar. The Bully.
Nearly 11 years on from that first day, a few jobs later, and I have developed the same cynicism as most fully grown adults, yet this is underpinned by a general hatred of all human beings, particularly customers. I still work in customer service as I work my way through my studies, and I have come to learn that my first screaming idiot customer, isn't all that unusual. You see, as a customer, people seem to have this internal belief that, because they are purchasing from your company a certain product or service, that if anything, even the slightest glitch, causes something to go wrong, they are well within their rights to shout, swear, scream at or belittle the first representative of the company they come across (I blame Anne Robinson).
It's all her fault
Now don't get me wrong, we all have those moments where we lose our cool and take it out on the person closest to us. Or we take it out on the person easily accessible via a free phone number and preferably not based in an Indian call centre, though we all have to vent, and if Ranjit in India is available, then what the hell, let's go nuts. Losing your temper is natural, but some customers still maintain the schoolyard mentality that, if I yell and scream as loudly and belligerently as possible, I will eventually get my way.
Buying a product and a service means you should rightly expect to receive that product or service, but it does not give you a license to pick on someone who is paid to at least be pleasant to you. If you go into a store to complain, or pick up the phone to enquire, you are speaking to a human being on the other side. They have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of how annoyed you may be, you have NO right to shout and scream at somebody just because they are employed by the company you're mad at.
If you're a customer who has been guilty of turning into an horrendous bully toward the customer service rep, here's a little tip for you. If you want to get the problem resolved, and if you want something done right, you treat the representatives tasked with helping you with the same kindness and patience they are paid to show you. Bullies are supposed to be left in the playground, keep that mentality in the past, and you will find the customer service agents, whether they're named Kevin or Geeta, will be a lot more willing to help you in your time of need. They, after all, retain the power to give you the resolution you so desperately desire.