On Hold (In Hell) With Customer Service

I’m a pretty chill guy, but one place I always lose my shit — where I literally end up shouting at the top of my lungs at a decibel that makes my daughter cry — is when I’m on a call with a customer service agent.

It’s my Achilles heel.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to keep the compassion flowing.

I think it’s the inherently impersonal nature of the call, the fact that it’s set up for us to fail as humans. The person on the other end of the line has a script, they have rules, and they’re not allowed to stray.

I have a problem I don’t fully understand.

And so the dance begins by two people on opposite sides of the world.

But we’re usually battling more than time zones.

It’s their job as an agent to prevent me from talking to their supervisors. They’ve been coached and disciplined to get me off the phone as quickly as possible. I know this because I’ve written resumes for their supervisors. It’s a metric they call “Average Resolution Time” or “Average Handle Time.” ART and AHT for short.

These customer service reps (CSRs), they have targets, and those targets are placed far above customer satisfaction, (CSAT). (Note how the word “customer” is completely eliminated?)

When companies get big enough, they no longer need my satisfaction, or anyone’s, for that matter. A poor customer rating doesn’t impact the business anymore so it drops down on the priority list.

It’s painful for me to step into an environment without compassion. It’s the same reason I avoid jail, the military, and investor meetings.

I prefer gray areas, dotted lines, the option to explain myself and my unique situation. Perhaps that’s my issue. I believe everything and everyone is unique. There is always a chance to see something from another angle.

I’ll always choose essays over multiple-choice questions. And, if I’m forced into multiple choice, I’m the guy who writes “depends…” in the margin, because there is always another way to look at things.

I hate boxes. They never have enough room for 2 people.

There’s always someone left on the outside.

And, when it’s compassion you seek, it feels crappy to be on the outside or the inside.

Can I put you on hold, sir?


Said with fake smile (SWFS).

I’m just not good at this.