Okay, here are the facts: I work in customer service for a national company that sends products to small elementary schools. I man a switchboard that gets phone calls from teachers and administrators in such schools all over the country. And before I had this job I had some modicum of respect for people in those professions. No more.

This may be extremely unfair, but hey, this is the Pit. It’s for taking out frustrations. So let me aim a metaphorical scream of frustration into cyberspace.

Caveat: lest anyone accuse me of being sexist, 98% of the people who call me are women. So these insults may seem to have a female slant, but that merely reflects the reality I deal with. (Hence, use of terms like “hoebag.”) Most of the things I am going to say also apply to the occasional man who calls as well.
First of all, did you go into teaching so you would never have to develop the brainpower to deal with anyone smarter than a 6-year-old? Are you absolutely INCAPABLE of drawing obvious conclusions about how basic business practices work?
Tip #1 - When I forward you to the person who handles your area and you get their voice mail, that does NOT mean press “0” to get back to me and say “She’s not there. Can you help me?” Listen you stupid bitch, if I could’ve helped you, why the fuck would I have forwarded you to somebody else?! They have voicemail for a reason. Leave a fucking message!
Tip #2 - Why in the motherfucking hell do you think you can just call us up and ask if you should be charging tax when you sell our products to your students? Do you think we have a bank of accountants on call? Taxes can vary by state, county, parish, municipality or even township. How the hell can we know whether you should be charging tax or how much, when youare there and we are here? We already hold your hand as much as humanly possible throughout the whole process. Figure it out yourself!
Tip #3 - From the numbers of people who “need help” figuring out our financial forms, you’d think the thing was written in Aramaic. I happen to know it is written on a sixth grade reading level. That’s right, sixth grade! That means your own STUDENTS should be able to figure it out. It doesn’t require anything harder than addition and subtraction. And you even have a calculator for that. Get a fucking clue!
Tip #4 - Don’t you feel just a liiiiitttle stupid calling us up and asking “when did we schedule delivery of your stuff”? I realize the logistics of running an elementary school with 50 students would probably make the Normandy landing of 1944 look easy, but if we can mark it on a calendar, why can’t you?
Tip #5 - Yes, we value our customers. That is why we have a customer help line. However, that does not mean you have carte blanche to ramble for 10 minutes before actually mentioning what you called about. I am personally responsible for six different phone lines, all of which can and have rung at once. So get to the fucking point!
Tip #6 - I am sorry that you left a message two hours ago and nobody has called you back yet. (I’m seriously not making this stuff up). Yes, it is most unfortunate that somebody is not frothing at the mouth to help you, since our company will net about $100 profit off your school. However, we have 10 people to handle every phone call from about 9,000 schools. So where does that put you, in the grand scheme of things?
Tip #7 - Our division of the company actually loses money. In fact, i have been told the only reason we haven’t been shut down is because we are considered usefull as a marketing device for the products sold to middle- and high schools. So given that, do not try to wheel and/or deal with me, or act like your school is the most important on the planet. Do you think our $100 net profit from your school is going to make or break us? Do you think anyone out there is even interested in selling anything to you the way we do? We don’t sell junk or trinkets here; we sell stuff kids genuinely want, for MUCH cheaper than they can get it anywhere else. So show some god damned gratitude!

Whew! I feel better.

So there! pthbthbpthbpthbbbbbbb!!!

Don’t you just wish you could type that up in a newsletter and send it to all your customers? It’s amazing how when people step outside of their specialty they seem to switch the ol’ brainaroo off. This is why I think everyone in North America should be required to work 6 months as a secretary/receptionist before they move on to any other field. So many people that deal with receptionist/secretary types daily have absolutely no idea how the job works, and why their demands are such a pain in the ass.

I forgot one.
Tip #8 - Like in any other ffice or organization, we have people leave early, go on vacation, go out on breaks, etc. If I know they are gone and offer to forward you to someone else, that does NOT mean “explain your whole problem at length to me.” It means would you like to talk to someone else?! I am the person who answers the phone. That does NOT mean i have all hte answers at my fingertips.

Great idea, but let’s make it two years. That way, it’ll really stick in the mind. :mad:

Hell, Lizard… This applies to pretty much anyone who answers a phone that “customers” can call.

I’m giving you an extremely vehement “me too!” on this one.

I’m amazed at the preponderance of fucktards out there in general, especially on those mornings (like this one) where folks are walking (and I use the term loosely) down the street and seem to have trouble simply getting “left, right, left, right” down. My grandfather has COWS that are smarter than most of the folks I deal with! Ugh. Bleah. Piffle.

I’d like to take this opportunity to bitch about the people that call me, as well.

I’m an office manager/loan processor. Lucky lucky me, I get to answer the phones. If the caller wants to talk to someone who is out of the office, or is on the phone, I offer to drop them into that person’s voice mail. Most people take me up on the offer.

But there is a special breed of person who wants ME to take their message. HATE HATE KILL KILL.

It’s the same amount of effort for the caller to leave a message with me, or with the voice mail. But if you leave it with me, there is the chance I will forget to give it. Whereas, if you leave a voice mail, you know it will get there.

But you just haaaaaave to inconvenience me, don’t you? The perfectly normal, mechanized version just isn’t good enough?



Kyla -

Can’t you just tell them that they’re not a “real American” if they don’t use voice mail? :wink:

JK, of course… But seriously, are you not allowed to refuse? Our receptionist here DOES NOT take messages (thus us only needing a singular receptionist). He just says “I’m sorry, I’m not permitted to do that, we have voice mail for that purpose.”

Oh, yes, this is annoying! I do not work in customer service, being the slave to executives that I am…but the silly (yet persistent) calls, the calls! People ring on the President’s line to sell maintenance plugs, which I’m sure our maintenance department would like to discuss if this person had taken the time to go through the automated phone system to the right department. I know the phone system leads to that department, and many others, in an efficient manner, as I am the voice for our automated phone system. I also know that administration is one of the first options, so laziness leads here, to me… It is a bit frustrating when I take the time to page through our phone book for obscure and trickily labeled departments, transfer them, and then have them calling me again because that person wasn’t in and they know I’m there and they need to give their sales pitch to someone. Now, I live to serve, but I can’t help, I can only transfer you again. I also can’t see through floors, and don’t know when that person will be back, persistently trying to get me to make a decision on your wonderful and mighty plug is not going to get anything done for either of us!

See, what you need is a PBX operator who will transfer to the right department immediately; in the case of people not answering the phone, you need pages to run around the building finding the right person to take the call.

Heck, I’m not having any luck finding a job. I could certainly use the work.

DISCLAIMER: the above-described system should be emplaced for the benefit of customers. Salesmen can go suck eggs, as far as I’m concerned.

Okeydokey, in exchange, here’s my tips for telephone answering people:

(1) When I ask “Is Mr. Such and Such available?”, it is a question. It is not a command to the effect of “please immediately transfer me to Mr. Such and Such’s voicemail.” There are exactly three possible responses to such a question: yes, no, and I don’t know. The reason why I ask this question is because frequently there are numerous people at your office that could potentially help me. If you insist on not responding at all, but rather transfering me immediately to the person’s voice mail, I will dial “0” and ask you if Mrs. Whatshername is available. This will continue until I’ve exhausted any and all persons that I’m interested in speaking with, and in the interests of economy, it’s simply far easier to answer the question so I don’t have to continually annoy you. If you don’t know, don’t sweat it. My office has all of a dozen people in it, and we can’t even keep track of who is in an out. The proper response at this point is “I don’t know, would you like for me to transfer you to his line?”

(2) Please and thank-you go a very long way towards making happy customers. In return, I use them as often as I can when dealing with receptionists, as well as liberal usage of the phrase “greatly appreciate.” But folks that answer the phone like I’ve just interrupted a private conversation reflect poorly on their organization.

(3) I insist that anyone who answers the phone for me find out who it is before I take the call. Don’t be shy about it, if a customer balks at answering such questions then they’re a total dick. If the person gives a name or company you’re not familiar with, try to find out to what the phone call is regarding. If they’re telemarketers, I have exactly zero interest in speaking with them, and you have every right to hang up.

(4) For god’s sake, don’t deal with angry customers. Transfer 'em to me, I’ll take care of them one way or the other. You’re not paid nearly enough to deal with that shit. And if they can’t be placated, then I’d rather it be my fault than yours.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. My only bit of advice for us guys on the other end is, at least once a day, try to think of something you can do to make your receptionists job a little easier… a good, happy receptionist is worth their weight in gold to a company. If you can tell they’re swamped, try to handle something that might normally fall under their job description yourself. Or, if possible, help out answering the phones (but only if you’re competent to handle it, which I estimate is roughly 2% of the American labor force outside of actual receptionists).

I wish. My company is not big on rules and regulations. My bosses would probably laugh and tell me to suck it up.

But I forbear. Full of HATE.

I actually do the same. It’s not that I’m not allowed to though. I’m pretty sure we have no formal policy on that here. But I can truthfully say that I am not allowed to leave my desk, and I have no idea if I will see the employee or not. Plus, I can’t see their desks from where I sit. Therefore, the only way to be sure a message will reach someone is to wait for it leave a voicemail.

desdinova, the first thing you mention actually doesn’t bother me. I see a difference between people asking for “someone else” to help them, and asking ME to do it. I spend a lot of time tracking down other people to answer calls intended for someone else, and consider it just another part of my job. In fact, I probably know the answer to whatever question they have 50% of the time. But it’s not easy to sit and calmly explain anything with half a dozen phone lines ringing.

The thing that really bothers me about this job is that I can tell I’m a little less polite now than when I started. :frowning:

Actually, upon reflection, all this makes me feel pretty good about how I make my calls.

I always try to look up the correct department to track somebody down, and when I can’t find, or figure out, what department to call and I call a receptionist, I always start off with who I am, where I work, what I’m doing, and ask who they think may be able to help me.

I don’t answer the phone all the time, but I hate it when people call up and don’t even introduce themselves or ask for a specific person. I get this all the time:

Me: Company name?

Them: Is my job ready?

Me: What company are you calling from?

Them: (Irate, as if I should know) Company name!

Me: Okay, which job are you looking for?

I mean, we have more than one customer. We do work for a number of companies, and I don’t automatically recognize everybody’s voice.

So I called IS and they said we have this, that the receptionist is the PBX operator. He then said that I’m no longer on the automated listing, so I can quit thinking it’s the laziness because of the ‘a’ in ‘administration’. I called up the automated line and my own voice made no mention of administration, hmmm…clearly IS switched the order of the listing behind my back AND took ‘admin’ off the listing, no way I could be wrong on this. Those tricky IS people. :smiley:

However, I still am getting the calls (only three silly calls as of today), it’s very confusing.

They gave me three options:

  1. The receptionist is transferring these calls.
  2. People are dialing the wrong number. They may have the name of the person they are trying to reach a bit confused. They may have my number, or the vp numbers on an old ‘pushy sales person prime contact list’.
  3. I am a wimp.

We have the ability to page, but I hate, hate, hate paging people for non-emergency calls. I’m new to this job, but my predecessor was the paging queen and I want to avoid certain negativities. It ruffled a lot of feathers, paging people while they sat at their desks for very minor issues, sending the message ‘your time is not valuable’.

Also, Transferring calls back down to the receptionist makes me feel guilty (see #3), as if I am not being ‘helpful’ to the company. Though she does have this big phone with many numbers and odd buttons, and I have to look up most numbers in the company phone book, I assume she may not have known who to transfer the call too, thus send it up to Lady. I just am hoping for no more confused people launching into abusive screams, only to have them realize after a few minutes, that no, I am not payroll.

If you can make these calls go away, I’ll put in a great word for you! We have openings for a network administrator and several IS management positions (but this is Minnesota) :wink: Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone can make stupid, lazy or rude people go away, nor can anything but time and experience teach me to deal with pushy people in a better manner.

I don’t mind following “the rules” for whatever company I’m calling regarding leaving messages, and not bothering the receptionist/phone person (our very own “office goddess” trained me well :slight_smile: ), but what bugs me is when you have a question, or need to speak to a person and what you need is not covered under the company’s automatic options.

If you need “A” press one, B press 2, C press three.

Then you wait through 15 of these options, and none of them come anywhere CLOSE to what you need. That’s when, unfortunately I have to explain my “story” to the poor phone answerer.

I make sure I tell him or her that my question isn’t listed under the automatic option system though, so that they know I’m not just going for the “easy fix”.

99% of the time they are understanding, but I’ve had one or two say “just use the system”.

And then I have this weird “Alice in Wonderland/Red Queen” conversation with them.

Me: I need to know X
Phone person: follow option 1.
Me: well actually I did, but option 1 covers A, and I need X
Phone person: did you try B?
Me: Yes, but it doesn’t have anything to do with X either,

etc etc

Oooh, goody, we’re bitching about stupid customers on the phone. Can I play, too?

  1. No, we are not your regular vet, nor are we associated with your regular vet. We are an independent emergency service. No, your vet will not meet you here. Our staff, and only our staff, will be treating your pet this evening. No, our fees do not cover anything done at your regular vet. Because we are not associated with your regular vet.

  2. Yes, I know your pet is the most fascinating and important animal in the world, but I just don’t have time to hear all about when and how you got him and the other details of his life. This is an emergency and trauma center, and we have a lot of critical patients to take care of. Please get to fucking point.

  3. I can only offer you three options: come in now, go to your regular vet tomorrow, or keep an eye on the animal and come in later if you feel it’s necessary. No, I can’t tell you what’s wrong with your animal based on a phone description. No, I cannot advise you to try treatments at home for liability reasons. Look, bitch, either come in or don’t; it’s your time and money and therefore your decision.

  4. No, I’m afraid I can’t let you speak to a radiologist or other specialist. Because the specialty practice closes at 6pm during the week, and it is currently 2:30 on Sunday morning. No, I’m not going to call and wake someone up to discuss the case with you, especially as you aren’t even our patient. If the other emergency clinic did the work-up, let them answer your questions.

  5. I’m afraid I need your name in order to give you an update on your pet or to check your computer records. We currently have 3 Molly’s in the building, and there are approximately 250 Precious’s in the computer. I am not clairvoyant, so give me a hand here, huh?

You know what I’d love… I’d love to have a “telephone pit day” once a year. A day where any time you’re on the phone you can say whatever you’d really like to say with no repurcussions.

The first thing I’d do is haul out a stack of resumes for a job I’m currently seeking to fill, and call the people to ask “What the hell were you thinking? No, really, I’m curious…”

Oh yeah, right, OP… The point is all of us tasked with answering a phone with members of the general(ly stupid) public on the other end could have one day to vent.

Don’t worry, guys, soon those pro-customer people will come along with their "How DARE you not want to talk to me about my moronic QUESTIONS? IT IS YOUR JOB to answer stupid questions, and if you’re not grateful, you’re some kind of communist!: