Customer demands

Fancy a call-centre job in a nice sunny location? According to the Guardian the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have created one in Malaga and from the sounds of it you’ll be in for plenty of laughs courtesy of some poor deluded souls…..

The government had to set up a special call centre in Malaga, Spain, to filter inquiries. Recent ones included a request for Phil Collins’s telephone number and someone wanting to know the heir to the throne’s shoe size so she could send him a pair as a present. A caller in Malaga wanted to know in September where she could get Christmas lunch because everywhere she had rung so far was already full.

As funny as these things are the thing is I can well imagine that dealing with these calls isn’t always a pleasant experience as the callers are deadly serious and can become angry when you can’t actually help…. ‘but, I’m a customer’ I hear them cry…..therefore you should be making all my dreams come true… Isn’t that how customer service works?

I remember half chuckling and half wincing on hearing someones teenage sister had called ITV to complain about a contestant they liked being voted off the X-factor…I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the poor person in the call-centre being paid to take a verbal battering from waves of disappointed teen-girls all with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

A few times in my call-centre career I’ve had to scratch my head in wonder as to what planet some people are on. Once I had a lady get really, really angry that I couldn’t send flowers to Australia… when I explained that it was because of customs restrictions, and anyway the flowers wouldn’t survive, she came back with ‘well you should get them from a florist over there then why don’t you do that?’

 

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Shhh… don’t tell the customers the system’s down!

It seems I’ve spent today in battle with a number of IT related gremlins. To top it off some time late this afternoon the order system of a major client who we do overflow for went down. As companies never like losing out on potential revenue and customers never like calling back  it’s back to pen and paper on these occasions, but as the hastily photocopied templates were handed out we were told categorically “shhh don’t tell the customers the system’s down.”

The reasons for this radio silence appear to be down to the fact that for the orders we take we use our in-house developed and maintained IT system as opposed to the cliens own. Creaking at the seems with volume arising from a recent catalogue drop the system has however, been exceedingly slow of late and it’s subsequent failiure will presumably not make for a happy client if they were to find out that our system conked out like an old banger overheating in a bank holiday traffic jam.

But what do we tell customers, and is it ethical for us to pretend to them that everything is hunky dory when the signs are it is not? Above all Isn’t that the kind of farcical plotline you’d find in a comedy script; like the scene in the Peter Jackson film Braindead where the hapless protaganist Lionel pretends nothing is wrong with his mother who is visibly turning into a zombie to particularly gross effect round the dinner table and the film Goodbye Lenin where a boy pretends in the face of extreme practical difficulty that the Berlin wall remains in place for the sake of his sick mother.

And so it was – not just being unable to know how much the products were (the catalogue in question being pretty voluminous and us having next to zero product knowledge anyway) the funniest situation was where a man called to check on some stock availability……

 

Me: Hello xxxxx Inc, How can I help?

Customer: Hi, i’m just calling to find out if you have any of  product code whateveritisX in stock

Me: Ummm I’m afraid I don’t know

Customer: Can you check?

Me: Ermmmm well you see I’m afraid not quite right now

Customer: Why’s that?

Me: Ummmm, errrr well I’m not really at liberty to… I’m not able to I’m afraid

Customer: Is it because I’m too late?

Me: Yeeeeahh, well errr not really.

Customer: Oh, so how come you can’t?

Me: Errrrrrrr well I’m uh, not really sure

Customer; So I’m too late then?

Me: Well, err I suppose, it’s just that..

Customer: Why didn’t you just tell me in the first place…..   I’ll call back tomorrow. Goodbye.

Me: Err bye.