All grown up and nowhere to hide

Dear Home Ec 101:

I hate and when I say hate, I mean it is with a loathing complete with skin crawling, heart palpitations, and cold sweats, to deal with customer service reps. Do you have any tips?

~Feeling shafted in Shakopee

Heather says:

I feel your pain, in every day life I am not the confident know-it-all you have come to love. I am quite shy and hate confrontation. With that said, I am learning to not be a pushover.

On the phone:

  1. Before dialing the phone rid yourself of distractions. If you have rugmonkeys give them a snack. In my house this is when I break the No TV rule.
  2. Write down any facts pertinent to the call. For example, if you are calling for appliance repair have the model and serial number as well as a general outline of the problem. If you are calling to report bad service, have your receipt, the time of the occurence and either the offender’s name or a clear description.
  3. Take a deep breath and envision the results you would like to achieve with the call.
  4. Be polite, in all liklihood the person you are speaking to is not paid enough to deal with irate customers. Address them by name, and write it down to use in the future, either when thanking them for their help or as a record of the steps you have taken. Being ugly will do you no favors in the longterm.
  5. Try to be patient. Chances are the representative you are speaking to must follow a strict flowchart of questions and procedures. They probably hate it as much as you do.
  6. Never use threats. If a situation is bad enough that legal action becomes necessary these will come back to haunt you.
  7. Thank the associate for their time and assistance before hanging up. If they were very helpful a quick thank you via e-mail to their supervisor may be in order.

In person:

  1. Before the encounter spend a few minutes on personal grooming. Knowing you look put together will help you feel put together. I am not advising breaking out the power suit and make-up, but rather making sure your shoes match, your hair is brushed, and there is no spit-up on your shoulder. We all have frazzled days, but it easier to be taken seriously when we don’t look at our wits’ end on the outside.
  2. Be prepared, prior to the meeting ensure you have any necessary documentation or identification.
  3. Again, take a deep breath and envision what you want to accomplish with the meeting.
  4. A firm handshake and eye contact go a long way to improving your overall presence. (Yes, eye contact is very difficult for me.)
  5. Be polite. Yelling and screaming may achieve temporary results, but you will be remembered and not in a good way. I spent ten years in the restaurant industry and there were few we hated more than those who threw tantrums to save a buck.
  6. At the end of the meeting thank the employee for their assistance. If they were especially helpful write a thank you to their manager; e-mail is sufficient.

If you ever want to know how not to behave google “customer rant.” Be forewarned, the language is usually graphic and explains the jaded worldview expressed by many customer service reps. No one wants to be known as that jerk from the web.


  1. Maria on May 17, 2011 at 5:16 am

    i agree with Heather's opinion.

    Perhaps you also need to be nice with them cause not all cs reps are evil, most of them are very patient. if the clients are very irate they still manage to be calm. they are trying to understand one's concern so we must also understand them
    My recent post Failure Is An Option But You Learn Anyway

  2. Heather on May 15, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    For the record, I don’t think customer service reps are evil, or out to get consumers. I feel they are normal folks with low paying jobs. I just hate confrontations, even those of a civil nature.

  3. traci on May 15, 2007 at 9:50 am

    check out they blog about consumer issues, and give lots of tips on how to deal with those awful customer service reps.