Thursday, August 14, 2003

I think I'm going to establish my own personal award, for the worst customer interaction experience I have on any given day. I'll call it the "Harridan of the Day", and bestow it on whichever customer commits the worst verbal abuse, has the largest anger-management issues, or both.

The Harridan of the Day award for August 14 goes to the woman who I called when the technician who was supposed to work on her appliance took way longer than expected on a previous call. He wasn't going to have time to visit all the customers who remained on his route, and so he requested what's known as a "carryover" -- the customers who were scheduled toward the end of the his route would be rescheduled for a later day.

As I said yesterday, this is not news that people want to hear, and some of them get grouchy on the phone. I hear them out, because I've been a customer, too, and I know how frustrating it is when these things happen.

But there's grouchy and there's out-of-control. This particular customer brought "out-of-control" to whole new heights... or, more accurately, to new depths.

"WHAT?" she bellowed. "YOU MUST BE $%*#@& JOKING! I WAITED EIGHT F*****G HOURS AND YOU ARE FIXING MY REFRIGERATOR TO-DAY, DO YOU HEAR? TO-DAY! OR I'M CALLING MY F*****G LAWYER!!!!" She continued in that vein, refused to listen when I tried to give her the customer service number so she could register a complaint, refused to reschedule, refused to accept my putting her on hold, refused to stop screaming phrases that contained the F word. I couldn't even get a word in edgewise to tell her that I didn't have authority to dispatch another repairman today, but I wanted to put her on hold so I could talk to someone above me and work something out. If the supervisor couldn't get a same-day repairman visit, maybe they could escalate it so a repairman could come sooner than the "first available opening" listed on the computer system (which was several days away).

She just kept yelling into the receiver as if I wasn't even there. Finally after about seven sentences containing at least one F-bomb apiece, I said, "Ma'am, please hold" and hit the hold button.

Then I turned to Pat, the woman who appears to be in charge of the temp workers (of which I'm one). "This customer isn't only irate, they're swearing repeatedly. I just got bombarded with F words".

Pat was sympathetic. "Tell him that he needs to stop swearing or you'll have no choice but to hang up. You don't have to put up with that".

I laughed. "Believe it or not, this customer is a WOMAN", and gave her a cleaned-up version of what was said to me.

Pat was ticked that a customer could unleash a barrage of verbal abuse like that. But she was willing to work it so that a repairman would visit this foul-mouthed customer tomorrow.

I took The Harridan off hold and told her I'd talked to someone above me and we could schedule a repairman to come tomorrow.

No dice. "NO!!!! TO-DAY! DO YOU HEAR? OR I'M CALLING MY F*****G LAWYER, YOU $%*#@&!!!!" She continued on that vein some more, ignoring my request that she stop swearing, and capped it by hanging up on ME with one final insult.

I got my own form of revenge, though. I wrote in the comments area of her service order: "CUSTOMER WAS IRATE. REFUSED TO RESCHEDULE. SWORE REPEATEDLY (HER FAVORITE ADJECTIVE BEGINS WITH 'F')." At least now, the poor unfortunate schlep whose misfortune it is to call her back will be forewarned.

So, there you have it. The Harridan of the Day. I thought that YESTERDAY'S Customer from Hell was the worst ever, and couldn't imagine how anyone could sink lower than she did. Today's Harridan proved me wrong.

About fifteen minutes after this, I talked to Pat again. There are several different functions that take place in the routing department, which is where my assignment is. Some involve communicating with customers, as I've been doing, and some involve communicating with the technicians on the calls. I asked Pat, "Is there any particular duty in this department that doesn't involve breaking bad news to people? I think I'd like to learn that, too, and then do that for part of the day".

So she began to show me how they do what they call "messaging", which involves receiving and responding to the text messages that the technicians send back to the office throughout the day. The techs all have THE coolest laptops with them on jobs, which connect to the company's computer system wirelessly, and they are able to communicate with our office by sending and receiving text. I definitely want to take over at least some of the messaging duties, for at least part of every day, because this constant calling of customers to tell them their repairman isn't coming today is *wearing* on me. What I've done for the past two days is DEFINITELY not a job function that a person with clinical depression should pursue over the long haul, let's put it that way. I can put up with it for a while, and I will, but I won't keep at it if I see it's having an impact on my overall health.

I'll keep on pushing to take on messaging as part of my responsibilities, and then see what happens. Being able to alternate between being the Bearer of Bad Tidings and doing other things is going to be a deciding factor in how long I continue with this assignment.

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