Why Are Calls to Customer Service So Frustrating?

Poor customer service calls are often the result of poor business policies. Businesses that are not customer-centered often understaff customer service centers and don't train representatives on policies and ways to actually help customers. For their part, consumers can minimize frustration by not taking anger out on representatives, preparing for calls, and calling when they have time to fully resolve an issue.

Jeff Whelpley is the editor / author responsible for this content.
Mar 9, 2022

Just about everyone at some point in his or her life will have a problem with a product or service. While many of these problems can be resolved by making a call to the company's customer service department, many consumers dread doing so. In some cases, an individual will simply cut their losses and throw a product away or put up with bad service rather than having to deal with a customer service representative over the phone.

There are many reasons why consumers find it frustrating to deal with customer service departments over the phone. Below are a few of them:

Long wait times

One area of significant frustration for consumers is the experience of placing a call only to be put on hold for long periods of time. In fact, it is not uncommon for customers to wait for 10 minutes or more only to have the call eventually disconnected. This experience can be infuriating and can lead to a sense of helplessness in consumers.

Why do companies have these long wait times? In some cases, it's a matter of understaffing. The company is more concerned with maximizing profits than it is actually addressing customer issues. In some cases, company leadership may actually hope that the consumer will give up trying to call so that the company doesn't have to bother making things right.

Both these approaches reflect a bad business model that damages long-term relationships between customers and businesses. Sadly, this approach sometimes does work if a company has a monopoly within a market, such as utliity, cable, or internet companies.

Language barriers

Many companies outsource customer service calls to third-party call centers that are located outside the country where the company operates. Call staff may not always have the language skills necessary to understand and communicate with callers who have complex issues. Difficulty with communication can delay resolution and create conflict between callers and representatives.

Scripted responses

When businesses provide representatives with scripted responses that must be used during calls, frustration can occur for both caller and representative. In some cases, the scripts can be lengthy and uneccessary, which wastes time and annoys the caller. Scripted responses often do not have the nuance required to respond to individual's concern, which delays a resolution.

Scripted responses also can create a situation where the consumer feels that he or she is not important and is not being listened to by the representative. This can harm the relationship between consumers and businesses.

Customer Service System Problems

Customer service departments make use of computer systems that allow representatives to enter in details about calls, check account information, and resolve issues. Some of these computer systems are better designed than others. A system that is buggy and frequently slows down or stops working can make it impossible for customer service representatives to do their jobs. This results in lengthy calls or requests that customers call back when systems are working. Irate customers do not respond well to being asked to call back.

Another problem with some customer service systems is that they do not provide representatives with the ability to record information about a call so that other representatives and supervisors understand the situation if a case has to be transferred or escalated. Good systems are reliable and allow for detailed notetaking so that customer issues can be resolved.

Poorly trained & disempowered representatives

Some customer service representatives are poorly trained and do not necessarily understand a business's operations or policies. As a result, the representative may give bad information to the customer or may not be able to resolve an issue because the representative doesn't know how to do so.

Another problem is disempowered representatives who have very little control over the outcome of a customer service call. If representatives are unable to think and work outside the box to resolve customer issues, or can't do things such as authorize refunds, offer incentives, or offer compromises and price breaks, it can be frustrating for both representative and caller. This is particularly true if the representative is required to escalate the call to another representative or supervisor. While it is sometimes necessary for an escalation to take place, doing so involves a disruption with the call. The customer may find himself or herself having to repeat a story to a new representative every time an escalation takes place.

Bad company policies

Many companies have policies designed to improve profits while ignoring the customer experience. These companies often operate on the idea of that once the company has secured a customers business and has been paid, the company no longer has any obligation to stand behind its products or services.

Another problem is when a company has unclear policies regarding common customer issues such as order cancellations, refunds, exchanges and warranties. Confusing policies can lead to situations in which a customer believes that he or she has the right to a refund or cancelation, when the company's terms don't allow or severely limit these rights. This can create conflict and ill will between customers and businesses.

Companies that do not make allowances for normal consumer concerns and issues, such as changing their mind about a purchase, ordering the wrong size or color, or simply being dissatisfied with a purchase often have poor customer service policies and departments. Unfortunately, it is typically the customer service representative that bears the brunt of customer dissatisfaction.

Improving Customer Service Calls

In many, if not most, cases, the responsibility for bad customer service lies with businesses. However, there are several things that consumers can do to improve the experience of calling customer service.

Don't Call When Angry

Many people contact customer service when they are angry or frustrated. While this makes a certain amount of sense, after all, you don't call customer service when things are going well, it also can lead to very poor call outcomes and unnecessary frustration. If you call while you're angry, you are not as likely to be able to express yourself to the representative in a way that will help him or her understand your issue. In addition, you may end up agitating the customer service representative, further hampering constructive communication.

Take time to calm down before you make the call. If your situation is genuinely urgent, consider an alternate method of getting in touch, such as texting or chat. Why are you still may be irritated, the representative won't be able to hear the frustration in your voice.

Make Time for the Call

There isn't much that you can do to control the hiring practices of the companies you deal with. This may mean that you will be spending a significant amount of time on your customer service call. Make sure that you have at least 20 minutes or more to spend on the call. Well that may seem like a lot of time, it's better than having to hang up before speaking to somebody, or cutting the call short before you receive your desired resolution.

Some companies offer the option of scheduling a call from the company. This saves you from having to wait on hold for a representative and allows you to schedule your conversation at a time that works for you.

Prepare for the Call

Have everything you need to discuss your issue before placing a call to customer service. This includes things like your account number, bills and correspondence, information about your purchase (such as make and model number), proof of payment and other details that can help the customer service representative understand and research your case.

If you are calling about a malfunctioning product, be near the product so that you and the representative can work together to troubleshoot the problem or come up with a fix.

Also, be sure to have pen and paper handy, or some other way of taking notes. Take down the name of the person you are speaking to so that you can reference it if you have to call back.

Be Polite

Be polite to the representative during the call. It is OK to make it clear that you aren't happy about the situation or the response you've received from the company, but remember that the person you are speaking to is a human being with feelings. Also, he or she likely didn't cause your issue. Many customer service representatives are used to being treated poorly, so a kind, polite caller means a lot to them. This may also increase your chances of a resolution in your favor.

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Jeff truly believes that all customers deserve good service. He’s been building tools, inventing phone tree hacks and helping customers since before his days at GetHuman. He's also a Google GDE and involved in the Angular community.

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