7 Customer Service Stories You Can’t Make Up

shockandaweOne of the ways I keep track of ideas for future blog posts is to jot down some quick notes in WordPress and save them as drafts for use at a later date.  I was looking through the handful of older drafts and started to notice a trend.  There are times in customer service where I have encountered a customer or situation that no level of training can prepare you for.  Some situations I’m still trying to make sense of and others I’m allowing to simmer until it seems appropriate to talk about them.  In somewhat general terms, let me illustrate what I’m talking about and remind you that these are in fact true stories.

1. Customer Uses The Restroom On The Phone- More than once I have been on a long call with a customer and while they are talking I hear what sounds like running water.  It’s in that moment you ask “Is that what I think it is” and it’s confirmed when you hear the toilet flush.  As a note to all customers, with HD telephony becoming more commonplace, it might be a better strategy to excuse yourself from the call and return only after you’ve taken care of business.  One of our supervisors loves to flush a toilet while doing test calls with new hires just to mess with them.  Let me know if you add that to your on boarding process.

2. Customer “Gets Hit” While On The Phone- Fortunately I no longer have the call recording to prove this but a number of years ago, a colleague of mine returned from placing the customer on hold to hear her making some very weird noises.  The dialog went something like this:

CSR: “Ma’am are you ok?”

Customer: “Hang on.  I’m getting hit.”

CSR: “You’re getting hit?  Do you need me to call the police?”

Customer: [more weird noises]

CSR: “Ma’am are you ok?”

Customer: “No I’M GETTING HIT.”

Icky.  I still feel gross after that one.  If you don’t know what I’m referring I’m sure you can find a wonderful description on UrbanDictionary.com.  You can’t make this stuff up.

3. CSR Falls Out Of His Chair During A Call- Have you ever gone to sit down and missed your chair?  Apparently that happens in customer service as well and it still makes me laugh to hear that call when it happened in our contact center.  We actually bought a seat belt to install on his desk chair.  He not longer works here but will never, ever live that down.

4. CSR Tries To Buy Alcohol With A Fake ID- I once took a group of our customer service representatives out to a nice dinner and when the waiter came to take our orders he looked at the guy sitting next to me and said “He needs to go! He’s under age and attempted to purchase alcohol at the bar with a fake ID.”  Allow me to suggest that you should just leave your fake ID at home when attending a work event.  Is that too much to ask?

5. CSR Attempts To Work A Shift Without A Working Telephone- At one stage in my customer service life I assumed an employee could be trusted to work a weekend shift from home.  Shame on me for not catching it immediately but found out about halfway through his shift that his phone wasn’t working and he hadn’t received any calls all day.  As the manager I’m as much the idiot as he was.

6. The Chauvinist Customer- I recently took an escalated call because the customer resorted to talking down to one of our female supervisors because she was in fact a woman.  When he got to me of course he was the perfect citizen with no hint of disrespect.  Guess what?  I went through the exact same troubleshooting steps she went through.  I still haven’t completely worked out how I should have handled that one and yes that guy is still our customer.

7. The Irrational Customer-  I once had a customer who had an issue (that didn’t end up being our fault) and would call and yell.  I didn’t realize I had previously spoken with him until he started yelling.  The pattern of his yelling had a neat roller coaster quality to it.  It got to a point where I called his bluff and said “You have two weeks to move your telephone number to another service and at that time we will cancel your account.”  You never know what kind of response you’ll get when you stick your neck out there like that.  To my surprise, he wrote back begging us to keep his account open and has been the model citizen ever since.

All of this is just further proof that just when you have customer service figured out, you don’t.  Not even close.  When you are dealing with people you should never be surprised when things like this happen and yet I find myself trying to figure out what category to lump these situations into.  Regardless, if you are a customer service professional, the key to your longevity is the ability at the end of the day to just sit back and laugh.  What else can you do?

If you read this post and think to yourself “This is nothing!  I have stories that put these to shame” please do tell.  Leave a comment on this post or feel free to Tweet or Facebook us with your story.

Update (12/16/2014)

I was recently contacted by a reader who shared some concern for the individual mentioned in #3.  While I make light of him falling out of his chair, I am pleased to say that he was not injured in the incident and went on to work for us for several more years.  We are still friends to this day and he does not suffer any hardship whatsoever as a result of this fall.  We are extremely sensitive to this line between humor and cruelty and would never, ever find humor in another’s pain or misfortune.

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Jeremy Watkin is a Product Marketing Manager at 8x8. He has more than 19 years of experience as a customer service professional leading high performing teams in the contact center. Jeremy has been recognized numerous times as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working you can typically find him spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis. Be sure to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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