Call centers are horrible because the people that staff them are stupid.

Call centers are terrible and have singlehandedly ruined legitimate customer service in America. I’ve had two terrible experiences in the past two weeks with them, both situations where my experience as a customer should have been simple and should have taken a few minutes tops, but instead turned into multi-day affairs solely because I had to go through telephone support call centers.

The main problem is that the people that staff them are very, very stupid.

Call centers are very low-wage, low-intelligence/education jobs, and they tend to attract only the dregs of society as employees in the first place. Criminal records, no high school education or basic G.E.D. tend to be par for the course. Even worse, the types of people that are able to stick it out and actually become long-term employees at these places are those that are possessed of a special sort of brain-dead stupidity, a zen-like ability to literally turn off the human part of their minds so that they can endure the monotony and constant workload of incoming calls. These people are somehow less than human, and they’re the ones that you’re going to be dealing with when you call up.

We all know that everything is scripted when you talk to someone at a call center - everything is a prompt on a screen, because their complete lack of intelligence means that they cannot be trusted or allowed to actually solve problems or practice any shred of autonomy. And with such poor education, their reading ability is usually stunted somewhere around the first grade level, so listening to them attempt to read off the prompts on their screen is a strange mixture of hilarious and infuriating at the same time:

The worst and most insulting aspect of the entire thing is that in 2008, with interactive web pages and so on, the only reason that somebody would need to call a customer service call center in the first place is for some sort of special circumstance that isn’t covered by the standard answers, forms, and rules on the website or on the script. This leaves the gaping yokel on the other end of the phone trying to apply completely irrelevant options on their script to your nuanced problem or question, which increases frustration and confusion for everyone involved.

If I had a simple, easy-to-fix situation, I wouldn’t need to be calling you in the first place! That’s why I’m calling, because the current rules and concepts in place do not apply to my situation and I need to talk to a human to get it sorted out!

The worst part is that these sample people, who are so ignorant and untrustworthy that they must read off of pre-prepared scripts like human robots, are actually given control over “accidentally” disconnecting your call, transferring you to other departments, putting and leaving you on hold with no intention of every picking back up, and so on. And they do this constantly and vindictively, or even when you just have a problem that doesn’t fit neatly into the script on their screen which, once again, is the entire reason that anyone would call a customer service call center in the first place. They’re so inhuman and undeserving of basic autonomy in the workplace that they’re confined to scripts that prevent them from any personal input or problem solving, but then they’re given control over disconnecting and transferring calls!? And once you “accidentally” get transferred to another department, you have to tell your whole situation all over again and then the same thing happens. Or you get disconnected and you have to go through the entire phone menu again and wait 15 minutes for a person to answer before repeating everything outlined in the previous paragraph once again.

Something must be done about this. It is literally ruining American business from the customer standpoint.

  • backs quietly out the door *

You could just ask to speak with a supervisor. That seems to work pretty well for me.

Also, it’s pretty useful to have a speakerphone. I make all of those calls from work with a speakerphone. Being put on “hold” is pretty painless if you can just surf the internet or do work without having a phone pressed to your ear.

I’ve had pretty good luck with US based call centers, we even joke around and talk about the weather, and usually my problem gets fixed quickly. To be honest you sound like a hysterical drama queen that most service people would quickly learn to dislike even over the phone. I think a lot of your problems with receiving decent service can be traced to your confrontational and contemptuous attitude, and any rational human would tend to direct you away from them as quickly as possible.

Actually, this is simply false; call center jobs are an entry level job for educated, technically proficient people as well. I’ve never worked in one, but I have conducted many, many audits on them, and it’s just pure bullshit to state that all call centre employees are losers. It’s an absolute falsehood.

Furthermore, the GREAT majority of callers to call centres do, in fact, ask questions that could have been answered by visiting the company’s web site, reading the usual customer literature, or just applying some common sense. It is simply good business practice to begin with the assumption that the next caller is just like nineteen of the last twenty.

I’m not sure what call center you reached, or for what company, but not all call centers are that bad. I worked in and out of one for several years (in and out with various positions, but with the same company). The company I worked for had their standards but it was harder to recruit good candidates and keep them because of the guidelines.

I’m talking call handle times with detailed quality standards. The company set the reps up to fail if they didnt “cheat”. This is why so many customers get slammed with extras, disconnected calls, and unnecessary transfers. Smart people who have ethics usually quit before getting fired because they couldnt cut it. The company had unrealistic guidelines and they lost many good employees and even some big customers because of it. The pay and benefits were actually pretty good, and the pre-employment screening was respectable.

Unfortunately, many times the interviewing party who said ay or nay was overworked or lacked the skills to determine if a person was actually a person for the job. Blame corporate America and their decisions to turn a buck at whatever cost - as long as their initual numbers look good, they do not care about the customer or their employees. They no longer want career/long-term employees, it’s cheaper to hire newcomers at lower wages and recycle when they have to.

No, I’ve worked in one, and it’s pretty much just that.

What you have to understand is that no matter what level of ability they had when they walked in the door, it will have been thoroughly screwed over. Very often, the managers have kneecapped the possibility of helping. Remember, they get measured on following the rules. If you call back 10 times, they get credit for 10 times the success!

Furthermore, management tends to jealously guard information, and often shut out employees so they cannot actually find the information or provide the services which are necessary.

I hate call centers. They’re very useful in many ways. They can solve 99% of the issues they’re called or in no time. And at a low cost for the company you’re dealing with.

But if you’re in the 1% of the customers with an unusual problem, they’re awful. Terrible. You can’t get anywhere. They’ll try to put you in one of the holes they know well, even if it doesn’t fit you at all. They’ll tell you you’re mistaken over and over again. They’ll transfer you to people who aren’t able to help you anymore than themselves. Next time you’ll call you’ll have to make again the same dance for exactly the same result. That is : no result at all. They aren’t trained to solve very specific issue. They sometimes don’t even know that this issue exists. They aren’t supposed to spend a long time with you so that you’ll be able to explain them the etails of your problems, so they are unwilling to do that, end even if you do, once again they haven’t been trained to solve or even understand it.
However, in most cases it’s not the staff’s fault (there are exceptions, of course, like som condescending jerks). It’s the company’s fault. Call centers are there to deal with the 99% of customers I was refering to. To deal with them quickly, politely, conveniently, cheaply and efficiently to the satisfaction of both parties.
The 1% , however, are fucked. The 99% call for the same 10 problems over and over again. The 1% have 427 different weird issues. The company isn’t going to train anybody to be able to deal with all these issues. But the company, very satisfied with the cheap concept of call centers doesn’t offer any way to deal with those problems. There are people, somewhere in the company who could at least understand what you’re talking about. And some who even could solve your peculiar problem. But you’ll never reach them. Ever. There’s no way to do so. Even if you spend days on the phone, hearing again and again the same menus, the same respondants asking you the same questions, answering you the ame irrelevant things, transfering you to the same unhelpful people.

So true. I had a deposit charged to my phone bill by mistake and took me MONTHS to get rid of it. Three hour-long phone calls, all starting exactly the same way:

Me: [explains situation]
Them: Okay, lemme just check to make sure the deposit was in fact wrongfully charged.
Me: But I’ve already talked to you guys. I’ve been told TWICE that it was charged in error. In fact, I was also told it had been taken care of. Twice. And it’s still showing up.
Them: Yes, but I just need to check and make sure that it was an error. Please hold.
Me: :: lights cigarette and resigns self to another hour-long call ::

There were probably a lot of ways to (re)start this topic that *didn’t *make the OP look like a complete asshole, but none of those gave him the opportunity to call people doing their jobs inhuman. And that has made all the difference.

I posted too early by mistake.
What I wanted to say is that the issue is twofold. Companies don’t propose an orientation service for people facing peculiar or unusual problems. And they don’t propose a follow-up of an individual situation by a specific employee (So that you won’t have to explain again and over again the same thing to 32 different persons, all starting from scratch only to discover, again and over again, that they can’t help you).

These services used to exist, before call centers came into existence. They had a lot of inconveniences. They were costly, they were slow. And indeed call centers were an improvement…in 99% of cases. But a number of companies (though not all) just completely abandonned any other kind of customer service, any other kind of company-customer relationship. The 1% are fucked.
Once, out of frustration, I gave up on roughly 500 that were owned to me, and another time around 800. A couple month ago, I got on the phone maybe 80 persons over 3 days. Amongst them maybe 5 even knew the existence of a (rare) service I was a customer for. The 75 others just gave irrelevant answers or transfered me back and forth, some apologetic, some almost insulting. Amongst the 5, none could help me. Because it wasn’t their job to do customer support. You see, everyhing is in the right place. Some people are paid to know, some people are paid to help you. Unfortunately they aren’t the same. It costed me three afternoons, and a lot of money in phone calls, to no avail. I gave up this time too, waiting to switch to another company where (probably a vain hope, nowadays) employees would know what services they sell. I of course don’t mention various other frustrating issues that were eventually, but painfully, solved.
I hate call centers.

I work in the US, but our “Tier One” call center is in Manila. They are the call center that customers use to request any kind of assistance from us.

They speak halting english and have no little or no idea what goes on in our work center. All of our tickets have verbiage cut-and-pasted from their scripted Q&A session with the customer. The company doesn’t even trust them to use FedEx’s website to track packages…that request is passed on to us. Ah, but I bet they get paid a lot less than the stateside workers that they replaced!

I have worked in 2 call centers, one for a major potato chip manufacturer and one for an insurance agency (not the agency I currently work for but one I worked in previously.) Both were staffed with well educated individuals who were doing their best to help as many people as possible. There were 2 major problems with the call centers, the first being that individual employees were not trained to handle every problem that came in. This created very well versed specialists who could handle any problem you had with nutrition and allergies, but if you found something foreign in your chips you had to speak to someone else and if you had a question about packaging or marketing you had to speak to yet another person. It sometimes takes a while to get where you need to be but this system guaranteed that when you got to speak to the right person they were properly trained and well equiped to solve your problem.

The second of which is that most of the customers I spoke with made Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel look like a Yale graduate. Not smart enough to have checked the website for an answer to their question or read their insurance policy for specific information, they called declaring their intent to sue the company for problems that were minor or not even a problem at all. They screamed and became surly and aggressive, demanding that the fact that their bag was only half full of chips meant that they were due a free bag even though bags are designed to be half full on purpose or that their unlicensed daughter wrecked their car and they should be covered for that even though they signed paperwork that was very clear as to the terms of their policy. The people that called and screamed and made life difficult quickly became people who were shuffled to another rep or were given just enough service to get rid of them. You didn’t gain anything by staying on the line and dealing with someone who is doing nothing but making your life miserable, it was better for the customer and for the rep to pass that person onto a manager that was better equiped to deal with the combination of hostility and stupid.

Occasionally there were customers who had real issues that hadn’t been addressed, but in the 3 years I worked for call centers I think I had 4 customers who had huge problems like the ones described in this thread. My rule of thumb is that if you are having problems that cause difficult situations regularly with more than 1 company it isn’t because call centers necessarily make things difficult but because more than likely you are difficult customer. Of course if you are speaking with reps in a foreign country I have no experience with that and I can’t say what kind of experience you might have with that situation so YMMV.

You know what? Fuck you.

I’m a former call center employee. Let me tell you, most of them aren’t stupid. Sure, some are. They generally get weeded out sooner or later. Uneducated? Perhaps in some cases, yes. But they’re smart enough to realize that call center work is among the highest paying positions that don’t require anything more than a high school diploma.

The problem really isn’t that there is this huge pool of stupid people. The problem is the companies that run the call centers. Try coming in with no experience in a call center, getting a week of training, and seeing how hot YOUR customer satisfaction surveys are when you’re trying to handle second tier technical support. Oh, and by the way, there is mandatory overtime so you’re tired and overworked… but you’ll get nagged if you go to the bathroom outside your designated two 15 minute breaks. If you’re trying to solve a difficult problem and it takes too long, a manager will be nagging you to get off the phone. You’re also using about 8 different systems that you received a collective total of half a day’s training on, that seem to have been designed by retarded monkeys for all the sense they make.

I tell you what - get hired into a call center and see how you fare. Try to aim for one in technical support. A lot of very intelligent people were shocked and appalled that they simply couldn’t hack it. It’s not in any way, shape, or form easy to handle 100 calls in a day with accuracy and pleasantness in what basically amounts to a sweatshop environment.

Most white collar people who came into my call center in hard times and tried to do the job couldn’t. With your smug attitude, I figure that only increases the odds that you’d wash out.

Oh, and I’ll note for your bullshit in the OP:

  • We required a high school diploma or equivalent and I don’t know of any non-telemarking call center that doesn’t, and I work in a call center town.

  • We had the strictest policy of criminal background checks of any employer I’ve worked for. Even a single DUI meant you were difficult to hire. These places do not fuck around when it comes to liability. Any crime of dishonesty (theft, fraud) or drug charge? No way.

For some reason I find it endlessly amusing when you can a Call center and they answer with an Enthusiatic. “Hello this is Steve, ACME call center; Assboink, Nebraska IN THE USA”. They are so proud of that fact.

Everything they say in the intro, they are required to say, and will get dinged if they don’t. When I worked in a call center (after I graduated college, BTW) it became so ingrained, I would occasionally answer my home phone this way.

“In the USA,” is probably a response to the continual shift of call centers to India as well.

This will get even more fun when Otto arrives…

For some reason, my bank is now requiring the tellers to add something, I suppose in support of Extreme Politeness.

More than one teller has said to me at the end of a transaction: “My pleasure”.

My first thought is “Thanks, Honey, my door don’t swing that way”. :stuck_out_tongue:

Kinda weird.

I’m still trying to imagine the sorts of people who’d contact a call center for potato chip problems.

I’ve had good chips, lousy chips, greasy chips, overcheesy chips, unhealthy chips, baked chips, stale chips, tasty chips - every sort of chip imaginable. And I’ve never
dreamed of calling a 1-800 number to gripe about chips. Even if I found a human head in the bag of chips I probably wouldn’t bother calling the Frito-Lay Help Line. It’s just mind-boggling. “I need Chip Technical Support - I can’t open the bag!”

Yeah, and we know that the “purpose” is to screw the customer - but who thinks a low-level staffer on the phone is going to solve the problem?

Must go now…this has made me hungry for a bag of chips.