Who did you talk to?

[This was originally published in Capital of Nasty Volume IV Issue 17 and mirrored on attrition.org.]

I forget if it was a bank or Credit Card Company or the phone company that I was ‘talking’ with. I think anyone nearby would have classified it as an argument from the tone and volume of my voice. Until this phone call it never really hit me how often this happened, and how much anger it brought out of me. The snotty ‘service agent’ on the other side had asked me a single question, designed exclusively to give them a reason not to help you. “Do you remember who you talked to?

Of course I didn’t. Whatever agent I had spoken to three months ago might as well have been a conversation seventeen years ago. The conversation today reminded me that during the previous conversation, the other agent had explicitly told me of a policy or something else they were able to do for me. The agent today said otherwise. At this point I stopped my sarcastic replies and realized that this question was asked of me more and more.

It’s amazing that despite the incredible technology we have, large companies still do little tracking in regards to customer interaction. When you call in to make a change in your account or ask about one thing or another, the company will often log it. Unfortunately, few will log who you talked to. This is absurd since they will dutifully quiz you on just that during subsequent calls. If you make a call in January and talk to Sue, she may tell you that the bank will credit your account or that the car rental place will let a 24-year-old rent a car. When you check your statement or try to rent the following month, problems arise.

Now you find yourself talking to Bob who shows no record of any such credit, or any such exception to policy. It’s a matter of minutes before Bob will ask the loaded question: “Do you remember who you spoke to“? This is done under some stupid pretense that the given name of who you previously spoke with will magically resolve the situation. Bob acts like this name can be put into the computer and results will pour forth.

When the question is asked, you really have three options in answering this believe it or not. Each has its own merit:

  1. If the person is reasonable, you can try the logic approach. “Bob, there are over ten thousand employees in your organization right now. Do you really know them all by first name? Will me giving you some arbitrary name really resolve my problem?” The downside to this approach is that you are admitting you don’t remember whom you spoke with.
  2. Turn the question back on Bob. “Gee Bob, your customer tracking system should show who I spoke with since she failed to give her name.” I would hazard a guess that often times they DO know who you spoke with, they just don’t want to volunteer that name since it does nothing to resolve the current problem.
  3. “I talked to Jane.” Of course Bob knows Jane right? And no, you didn’t get her last name. Let Bob figure that part out. When Bob comes back to you with continued failure to resolve the issue, you can explicitly say that customer satisfaction will only come if you can talk to Jane or if Bob can honor Jane’s promises.

Each answer’s mileage will vary based on who you are speaking to. The fundamental thing to remember here is that question is designed to give the company an ‘out’ for providing customer service. Don’t let this tactic throw you off or weaken your argument. Be prepared to fire back with your own shots. Manage their expectations and customer service is still attainable.

So if these companies start to stick you with the blame simply because you were so irresponsible and forgot a name, take a deep breath and continue. Put sarcasm aside (as tempting as it may be to flame the ever loving hell out of them) and play the part of the innocent customer.

A customer that is very sure of himself and remembers with 100% certainty that he spoke with ‘Jane’ so long ago. Let them figure the rest out.

Byline: cult hero looks like an ordinary, over worked, computer genius know-how. However, deep undercover, he and the followers of his cult, spread fear and terror in the hearts of spammers.

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