Archive for January, 2017

What Percentage Of People Sitting In Idling Cars Are Up To No Good?

Posted in Poll Position, Polls on January 18, 2017 by Lupa


How Phone Customer Service Works

Posted in Customer Service, Print with tags , , on January 14, 2017 by Lupa
Closeup of a beautiful business customer service woman smiling

What they want you to think the call center is like.  Note the smiles and color scheme.

I spent a few years working as a customer service representative (CSR) in the financial services industry, spending a brief period of time as a quality assurance supervisor.  In my role in quality assurance I would evaluate about 30 calls a day, grade them and provide coaching sessions.  Eventually I worked in FOREX handling inquiries on trades that averaged 2 million dollars.  If you think someone is upset when they call the cable company because Pay Per View doesn’t work, imagine someone who isn’t sure if they executed a two million dollar deal and at what price.

There are some differences in how customer service is approached depending on the industry, product and client however one thing remains constant: the customer wants you to do something and often times it’s because something went wrong or was perceived that way.

To the company employing CSR’s one thing is valued over everything else: how many customers can a rep help in a day at the standard they set.  Time is money.  If a CSR is excellent in handling calls they have more leeway in the number of calls they can take.  Conversely if a rep is merely mediocre quality wise but averages a high call volume they will get a pass.

The best CSRs however can handle many calls, provide high quality support and never need to escalate a matter to supervisor.  Very few, and its usually those with a lot of experience, are able to reach the heights of CSR ability.

To be able to crank out a high call volume a rep needs to be able to dictate the pace of the call while remaining polite and performing research efficiently.  A CSR that has through knowledge of protocol and company information spends less time researching that for a customer.

A CSR must be able to identify when time is being wasted and nip it in the bud.  This can be because the customer is spending a lot of time on chit chat or unrelated matters.  Many people who call in like to talk the reps for whatever reason about anything.  Sometimes they are just lonely.  It’s common for customers to ask where you are and what the weather is like there.  A great CSR will be able to interject without interrupting and bring the call back on track without the customer feeling brushed off.

Another time waster is encouraging a customer’s belligerence whether voluntarily or involuntarily.  Most who call in do so because they have a problem and the fact they can’t see you naturally encourages their belligerence, as we see on the internet. Not only that but if the gripe is legitimate in their eyes the CSR is an extension of the company and is partially to blame.  A great rep mitigates belligerence by sounding alert, legitimately compassionate, knowledgeable and confident. There is never a need for a CSR to lay blame on a customer or challenge them when they get heated.  No one likes a smart ass.

Often a customer is bringing with them the poor experience they received from someone else so not only is something wrong for them as a customer they are already irritated by someone who did not provide the adequate customer service previously.  A CSR should never be engaging in argument with the customer or provoking them in any way.  This can be a challenge for many as some customers can be nasty, nasty people.

A customer will react to the person they are speaking to.  If you sound disinterested, it will bother them.  If you sound like someone is forcing you to do your job and you’d rather be anywhere else, it will show.  Likewise if you sound fake, this can annoy people.  If you sound unsure they will want to get confirmation from a supervisor.  All these things potentially waste time.

There really is no way to teach professionalism.  A CSR has to be able to never, ever take what a customer says personally.  They also have to take their work seriously.  While some people do get fulfillment out of CSR work, most would rather be doing something, often times anything else.  The customer has to always get the impression you are satisfied with your work.  They want to think they have a high paid, competent, happy individual servicing them.

All employers have protocol they want CSRs to perform, however the best CSRs can hit all these notes without sounding forced or canned.  This is key.

When a customer calls in and states the reason for a call the CSR in their response should succinctly summarize the reason and convey empathy.  If the customer’s payment was deducted in their records but not reflected on their account a CSR must apologize for the mistake and state what they will do to remedy the situation.  For example:

CSR: Thank you for calling xxxx my name is Lupa how can I assist you?

Caller:  Yeah you keep sending me bills for January but I paid it two weeks ago.  I called in last week and someone said they would fix it but never did.

CSR: I apologize for the inconvenience, that must be frustrating.  Allow me to see why your payment is not reflected on your account.  How was the payment made?

With this the CSR shows they take the caller’s matter seriously and can relate to it, creating rapport.  By stating in different words the caller’s concern they show their grasp of what the person is calling about and thereby give the impression they will be able to resolve the issue.

Always act like the customer is correct or did what they say even if you know they aren’t and they didn’t.

Caller: I used my debit card.

CSR: OK. May I place you on a brief hold while I look into this?

A CSR needs to always ask the customer if they can place them on hold if they need to research something or get assistance.  Never tell them you will put them on hold, ask them.  This makes the customer feel catered to.  If they know you are considerate they will believe you to be competent.  Depending on how long they will be on hold the CSR should periodically come back on the line to inform the customer they are still researching the issue and need more time.

As important as what is being said is how it is said. The best CSRs will have an irate customer apologizing by the end of the call because they killed them with kindness.  However if the sentiment is fake it is better to minimize how much of it you are conveying.  Likewise empathy is nothing without competence.  No one wants to hear I’m sorry and not get the problem solved.  Also when some people get a little sympathy they’ll lay the whole trip on you.  First was a billing error, next they are telling you how their mom died last week.

CSR: Sorry for the delay I am still researching this issue.  Can I continue to place you on hold?

Caller: Sure

CSR:  Thank you for holding.  I can verify payment has not been received on our end and we have not received any payment from you.  Have you confirmed through your bank they debited the money from you?

Caller:  No, but I remember paying it.

CSR:  If that is the case it could be an issue with your bank and you should see if they deducted the money from your account.  Usually in this situation it turns out to be an issue with the bank.  If you would like I can take your payment now over the phone and provide you a confirmation code for future reference in case this issue arises again.

Caller:  What if I get billed twice?

CSR:  In that event we would credit your account, however if your payment has not been acknowledged through our system after two weeks it will most likely not.  I have never seen that occur.  It is either a bank issue or a glitch in processing but I can assure you we have not received the payment.

Caller:  Ok let me check with my bank first.

CSR:  No problem.  You can always make a payment online or through our automated phone system.  Have I addressed all your concerns?

Caller:  Yes I believe so.

CSR:  If you continue to experience this issue please contact us.  Thank you for calling, have a good day.

The skilled CSR will always make sure the customer leaves the call with all of their concerns met and asking if they have any other inquiries is more important than it seems.  For their benefit they get to think if there is anything else they need and avoid calling again, which is exactly what the company wants.

Some CSRs are just naturally gifted.  I have seen people breeze through irate callers while reading the newspaper, completely unfazed.  Often times these CSRs also have a pleasant voice, which can really help in manipulating customers when they are irate or having them accept information they are skeptical of.

Getting What you Want From CSRs

When I call customer service I always get what I want and it isn’t by accident.

For one if you have a legitimate issue and you are irate about it you are more likely to have people go above and beyond however you must remain tactfully irate.  Once a person curses at the CSR the game is over and the customer loses.  No CSR is instructed to take abuse.

The idea is by expressing anger you are communicating you will be willing to take your business elsewhere as well as tell others about your negative experience.

I never need to become irate though I simply explain my previous work and the understanding irate customers can get increased support and say I would rather not get upset.

Another thing is if you are calling for someone else, say your wife, all you have to do is tell them your name is your wife’s.  The CSR is not a detective, not to mention there are males with typically female names and vice versa.  From their end they are covered.  They will never question why your voice sounds like Barry White but your name is Jenny.

If you can avoid it, do not call on a Monday.  Everyone calls on a Monday.  But don’t call at the end of the day on Friday either because people are trying to leave.

Just remember, besides the fact you are speaking to a human being they often have sensitive information about you.  Have some decency.  If that doesn’t motivate you remember your call is most likely being recorded and there is a good chance someone will hear what a jackass you were.


Actual Things People Have Said To Me

Posted in Actual Things People Have Said To Me, Dogs, Print, The 80's, Uncategorized with tags , on January 10, 2017 by Lupa


I had the following exchange today with someone I know and consider a friend:

Friend: Is he (Spuds Mackenzie) still alive?

Me: I don’t know, I’ve never met a 30 year old dog before.


Other than the mistaken belief that dogs can live longer than Jimi Hendrix my friend made another mistake: Spuds Mackenzie née Honey Tree Evil Eye was female.

Well the character Spuds was definitely male – a guy’s guy and perhaps the Most Interesting Dog In The World – but the actor was female.  And you thought she was good at her craft before, but so convincingly being able to play a different gender is nothing short of remarkable.

Honey Tree died at the age of 9 of kidney failure in 1993.  Was she perhaps getting high on her own supply?  The immense pressures of stardom can not be understood by those of us who have not experienced it first hand.  It has no comparison.

If you are like me and see a reference to something from your childhood on the internet and then google it to find out more and to experience it as an adult, Mental Floss has a typically interesting article on Spuds.




Thank You Hipsters

Posted in Current Events, NY/NJ, Op/Ed, Print with tags , , , , on January 8, 2017 by Lupa

You’ve done us a great service

It’s not often that New York City hipsters get the (positive) credit they so rightfully deserve.  Whether it is because they are bereft of contributions to the city or they have such a negative stigma attached to them no one is willing to go on the record to heap praise on them I can’t tell you.  What I can tell you is that they have removed a small burden from my shoulders.

They have made me not hesitant to tell native New Yorkers I am from Jersey.

While I can’t define exactly what a hipster is for you succinctly, it would be argued by most that New York City natives are incapable of being hipsters.  I wouldn’t argue that.  Exhibit A Lena Dunham, no more questions your honor, I rest my case.  The consensus however is that the prototypical NYC hipster is from the Midwest.

(And on a side note for all intents and purposes a full fledged native New Yorker is someone raised in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx  or Queens.  Staten Island is arguably more Jersey than Jersey and too remote (no train to the city, no bridge or tunnel to the city and mostly suburban Italian).  Long Island and Westchester don’t count.  Yonkers gets an honorable mention because they pay for it.)

ANYHOO, before New York became such a sought after, desirable destination for mass amounts of non Tri State area transplants people from Jersey were the number 1 object of scorn and ridicule for people living in Manhattan.  Traditionally NYC was, for most intents and purposes, Manhattan.  Manhattan is the Big Apple, the city so nice they named it twice, the City That Never Sleeps, what Frank Sinatra wanted to be a part of and Gotham.  To this day when you say “the city” you are exclusively talking about Manhattan.

At this time being from or living in the outer boroughs was the object of its own derision.  People from Brooklyn and Staten Island were mockingly referred to as “bridge and tunnel” though that term was favored by Manhattanites  (well to do residents of Manhattan.)  This contempt was mutual, as made evident in Saturday Night Fever. There was nothing “cool” at all about being a guido, though to be fair there still isn’t.

I consider myself a naturalized New Yorker.  I’m not from New York but I’ve legitimately earned the right to call myself a New Yorker.

My first distinct memory of New York City was in the late 80’s when I rode the Staten Island Ferry all day during the filming of the Let The River Run video by Carly Simon because my brother was an extra in it.  After that I was sporadically in the city to visit my father, but that was limited because it just wasn’t worth the risk.  I remember my father asking a cabbie what the most dangerous place in New York was with him suggesting it was “Alphabet City.”  The cabbie politely let him know it was the South Bronx, where I would coincidentally later live off and on for a period of 10 years.

In the mid 90’s which coincided with New York becoming significantly safer as well as me becoming old enough to do things on my own I started coming here more often taking the NJ Transit Northeast Corridor line to see my father or go to concerts.  By the late 90’s I was already coming strictly to sin like when I went to the first Million Marijuana March, smoked trees with some guys I met there and then we all went to buy porn.  Yes kiddos, we used to actually have to get porn in a store and actually pay for it.  Then I got into raves and the sinning in NY got out of control.  This was when a fake ID that I got at the Rt 18 flea market could get me in anywhere no problem at all.

In the early 2000’s I went to an audio technical school in the city and was there daily while living in Jers.  I didn’t officially become a New Yorker until 2004 when I briefly rented a room from a Jamaican couple in Harlem, the only time I have ever lived in Manhattan.  When I moved in the husband helped me move all my shit upstairs but they kicked me out because they had to let a repair guy in my room and saw the condition of it.  Suffice to say they watched me carry all the shit downstairs when I moved out.

In my mind though I became a New York resident when I lived in Jersey City a couple years prior in an area that was more NY than plenty of places in NYC.  There was no discernible difference.  Everyone had NY accents.  In fact someone I know from Queens recently told me that was the most hood place he’s ever been to.  Of course this was when you could tell people in NY you lived in Jersey City and those that knew where like damn.

These days I live in ungentrified Brooklyn and literally have no one in my life I see in New York on any kind of regular basis, even once in a blue moon, that didn’t grow up in NY or spent decades here.  Some, if not most, natives will never accept me as a New Yorker even knowing all the previously stated, particularly “hood” New Yorkers.  But I feel more comfortable in NY than Jersey and New York accents, which initially were quite jarring to me, have now become the default accent to my ears; standard American English is what has an accent to me now and it sounds out of place.  But I get it, no part of my childhood was spent living in New York.  Not only that I didn’t even grow up living in an urban environment.  It was basically geographically and with people like you see in the movie Clerks, which is one of the greatest and most authentic depictions of non northern NJ life ever.

I don’t know when it became okay to be from Jersey or at least not as bad but let’s peg it at 2010.  By then everything hipster, it’s accouterments, it’s locations were well and long defined.  In fact I am able to concede my entire argument is simply my perception and there’s probably many New York natives laughing their ass off at this heresy.  But they just never gave it thought.

What the hipsters did was show that New Yorkers have way more in common with typical Jersyans than not and that they all have a reference point for Jersey which they lack for the Midwest.

What New Yorker has never been to the Jersey shore or Atlantic City or Giant’s Stadium?  I don’t think I know any that can say that.  Don’t tell me NY pizza is great because of the water because Jers has completely different water and bangin pizza is easy to come by.  They have the same local TV stations, watch the same local news.  If you watched Channel 9 back in the day you were watching a Jersey product.  And while New York was out of control back in the day, there is nothing in NYC as dangerous as Camden and a lot of Newark.

The two places have ironically traded places.  In large swaths of NYC it feels generic and unauthentic.  It feels fake.  But most of Jers doesn’t feel like that.  It feels like it always did, at least to me when I go randomly once in a while.  It’s still undesirable to people not from there.  Ask a hipster in New York they’ll tell you.  They would NEVER live in Jersey.

Many NY natives have never even lived anywhere else, but I spent a few years in Denver.  Believe me once you go far enough from the tri state area they see no difference in people from NJ and NY at all.  People would ask me if I was from New York and I would say I was originally from NJ and it didn’t even register to them.  To them it was like what’s the difference?

Don’t get me wrong, we know how different NYC and Jersey are and how different the people are but its because we’re looking at it under a microscope.  Go to Cali and they are looking at it zoomed out a million times and to them they can’t see the different details.

So thank you hipsters.  When NY natives ask me where I’m from, even though most people think I grew up in Queens, I don’t have any qualms or dread about telling them I’m from Jersey.  It doesn’t matter if they even see me the same as a hipster and break my balls.  New York has changed so much not only because so many other types have moved here, but so many New York natives moved away, that the goalposts have changed.  I may not be a touchdown, but I’m a field goal and at the end of the day sometimes you just need any score to win the game.

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