An Open Letter To Customer Service Managers

Dear Customer Service Manager,

I am your customer. I am not happy. I have been made to wade through computerized phone menu hell, where there is no option that says “If you’d like to speak with an actual live human being, press Zero”. In fact, if you press zero, your computerized phone menu hell hangs up the call. This is wrong.

After I’d waded through computerized phone menu hell, killing 10 minutes of time that could have been better served actually, um, servicing the customer (that’s me), I was connected to an agent for whom English was clearly the 4th or 5th language in her repertoire, and compensated for a lack of ability in the language by speaking softly at a low volume. This is wrong. I am your customer. I am in North America. I speak American English, but can handle British, Canadian, and Australian English without difficulty. I can sometimes even understand Punjabi English, but my skills in Hindi are notably lacking. The Customer Service agents you Manage should be fluent in the language of the customers they are serving.

Perhaps exacerbated by the lack of skill with the language, the agent also did not grasp that the in-home service contract I paid for covers… yes,  in-home service on the products I purchased from your company. It does not cover parts only, leaving the customer (that’s me) to dive into the bowels of my (in this case) not-quite-2-years-old, US$1400-retail-price refrigerator to replace the icemaker on my own *or* pay the technician to repair the refrigerator. It does not mean that the home service call (“Yes, that’s a refrigerator.”) is free but the actual repair costs me money (“Oh, you want me to use tools? Get out your credit card”). This is wrong.

Customer service means that when the customer (that’s me) asks to speak with someone on this continent, the agent should connect the customer (that’s me) with someone on this continent with all possible speed. The customer service agent should not put the customer (that’s me) on hold for 25 minutes before eventually transferring to me to an even deeper circle of computerized phone menu hell where the computer presented options but did not understand the response, which prompted the computer to hang up on the customer (that’s me). This is wrong.

Customer service means that when the customer (that’s me) calls back for the fourth time, wades yet again through computerized phone menu hell, and eventually gets another customer service agent, and the customer (that’s me) asks immediately to speak with a North American-based supervisor, I do not want to be lied to in barely-comprehensible Punjabi English that they are in North America, and no supervisors are available. This is wrong.

Customer service also means that when the customer service agent asks “What time is convenient for you?”, and the customer (that’s me) answers “Saturdays or weekdays after 5pm”, the customer service agent should make an appointment for one of those stated days/times. It does not mean repeatedly suggesting that either “Tuesday, between 8am and noon” or “Tuesday, between 1pm and 5pm” are the only valid responses, particularly after I have already stated quite clearly that “Tuesday is not a possibility for me, except after 5pm.” This is wrong.

Customer Service Manager. That very title means you are responsible for making the customer (that’s me) happy, either directly or through those whom you manage.

I am not happy.

I do not like the faceless “we don’t care, we don’t have to” attitude that computerized phone menu systems represent. They are a waste of my time. A good, well-trained, human being with the power to THINK and not just read from a script can solve the customer’s problem in a tenth of the time and with less than one-hundredth of the aggravation.

A happy customer can multiply your business many times by referring their friends, their neighbors, and their relatives to your business. They will become customers, who then refer still others to you. My family’s business worked that way. We fixed customer’s problems. We were booked solid for a couple weeks at a time. We did not advertise — our customers’ word-of-mouth was worth more than any ad in any media. This is where I learned the importance of taking care of the customer.

An angry customer, however, can cost you far more in sales than just that customer’s future business for precisely the same reasons: they will tell their friends, neighbors, and relatives about how shoddily they’ve been treated at your hands. These people will tell others, who will also stay away from your business.

What I do not understand is how a company can make such great products yet treat its customers so shabbily when the products need service. This does not encourage repeat purchases; quite the opposite, in fact.

I am your customer. You are the Customer Service Manager. Treat me well. That is your job.


Your Customer



    1. (I’m contemplating the idea of a Hewlett-Packard “not-quite-2-years-old, US$1400-retail-price refrigerator” and it has a certain charm, but I’m thinking not.)


      1. Ahhh didn’t see that. I worked for the company that sold the extended service plans etc to Staples, Radio Shack, and a whole ton of other store chains — I was so used to hearing customers complain about HP customer service which was outsourced to BFE, India that my response was a tad preprogrammed.

  1. Sounds like France, except that here they are French speakers based in France, but they won’t ever transfer you to a manager. *Sigh* I thought it was different in the USA. *heavy sigh*


    1. I thought it was different in the USA. Oh, hells no. Most call-centers now send you through several layers of computerized menu hell before you have even a remote chance of landing a human, and then you’re sent off to India or Malaysia or Indonesia where a guy who sounds like the small village elder in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (who was a real local elder who spoke no English and learned his lines phonetically) tells you his name is “Steve”. One of the many reasons I love doing business with LL Bean is that I can call them any time of day or night and get a Maine-accented American on the phone within seconds. They have steadfastly refused to outsource their customer service, and their business is thriving. This is not a coincidence.


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