Over the summer, I had the misfortune of working as a senior specialist at the largest privately owned bank in America. I worked in credit cards, which meant that I managed people’s borrowed money.
To make things even more interesting, my bank had decided to enter a series of very random but profitable brand partnerships, including Yale University’s alumni credit cards and, for whatever reason, the National Rifle Association’s credit cards. (Think of every stereotype of an NRA member, and then imagine picking up the phone to that stereotype hundreds of times a day. You can imagine how that went.) Below are the top 10 things I heard while on the phone at this horrendous summer job.
1. “That’s illegal.” Seriously. There is nothing that I haven’t been told is illegal. From charging interest to late fees and statement layout, nothing is off limits. My most memorable “that’s illegal” moment was when a customer forced me to find and read verbatim section 1026.53 of Regulation Z.
2. “Can I speak to your manager?” Ah, my favorite. People who have worked in retail can relate. You won’t waive a fee or make their interest charges disappear, so they think you just don’t have the authority to, and they want someone with authority. Here’s a secret: We have the authority. Including the authority to say no.
3. “I’d like to speak to someone in America, please.” This one always makes me laugh because we actually tell our customers where the call center is located in the beginning of our greeting (either Yankton, SD; Bloomfield, NE; or Omaha, NE), yet we get this too often. I’ve been transferred calls from a mere two rows away because someone requested to speak to someone in America. Once I even picked up the phone to a guy who was convinced he spoke to a terrorist the last time he called in.
4. “*Reader, insert disgusting sexual innuendo here.*” I don’t understand why people flirt with call center employees. When was the last time you told a call center employee to come live with you and they actually did? When was the last time you were even successful in getting a date with a call center employee? I want answers.
5. “Is this *reader, insert literally anything here*?” Wrong number calls, depending on the day, can compromise about half your shift, especially when customers insist they have the right number. I once spent a half hour arguing with someone about whether they’d reached Citibank or not.
6. “I will sue you.” Everyone’s always looking for a lawsuit, and they can certainly try if they want to. Eventually you get so many threats of lawsuits that you find your own snarky way to respond. Mine was to remind customers of the law and why they won’t win in court.
7. “*Reader, insert curse word here.*” Customers always forget that they’re on a recorded line, and when they don’t get what they want, verbal harassment is what they’ll resort to next. I’ve been called every curse word I know and then some new ones. But, customers, just remember that what you say can come back and bite you in the butt because we have the authority to hand those recordings over to the legal system should your actions warrant it.
8. “So I know you don’t really care, but…” Yup, you’re exactly right. I really don’t care. I take hundreds of calls a day and chances are, I’ve heard it all. And now that you’ve preceded whatever you’re going to say with the assumption that I don’t care, I have extra decided to not care.
9. “Is it okay if I put you on a brief hold while I…?” I hear this one a lot, and I have to say, I say it a lot, too. People are always doing the weirdest things while calling their bank. I’ve heard toilets in the background, family arguments, parents screaming at their children. Some guy once made me take a trip with him to a pharmacy while on the phone. Also, while we’re on the topic of holds, due to the inhumanity of call center breaks and lunches, I have put people on hold to eat before. So don’t feel bad.
10. “Pay my bill.” It’s the end of the call. You ask the scripted “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” At which point the customer inevitably makes a joke about paying their bill. Or giving them a million dollars. Every single one of them. They think they’re so original and hilarious, but little do they know that the person before them made this joke and the person after them also will make this joke. So here’s to me faking a laugh as hard as I’m faking my customer service persona.