Customer Service-The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Warning: Sarcasm will filter through

Recently I celebrated my first 6 years at one company. The first 4 years was almost butterflies and rainbows. I really enjoyed my work and I really like my company. I will always try and assist to the best of my abilities, wherever and whenever I can. Even by working overtime for a whole week at free will (No comment).

I have moved around a lot in the first 3 years. I started as a customer service agent, moved on to an after hour customer service agent, then back to day shift on the amendments team and then to an admin agent for amendments. I started off by taking between 80-100 calls a day. No jokes. This is real statistics. I used to get home and throw my own phone in my room and ignore it. Later I ended up despising a ringing phone. It is so bad, I still do not answer a phone unless I know who is calling. My family and friends know by now to send me an instant message. Do not phone me. The only person that still phones is my husband. I Should talk to him about it. Haha

The last 2 years have been really tough, not only on our industry, but hugely our operational agents.

Covid hit us and our industry very hard. Customers forget that they are working with humans who also have families and are experiencing more stress than the previous 4 years. Apart from the customers travel plans being interrupted and the disappointment that brought along, we have been dealing with much more behind the scenes that they can not see.

It breaks my heart that we sometimes have to listen to the kind of verbal abuse that these customers, who not too long ago sung our praises, throw at us.

The only thing I will say to this is the next time you speak to a customer service agent remember this, you are speaking to a mother, a father, a wife, someone who most likely lost someone to Covid, someone’s child and you do not know the situation of the person on the other side. This goes both ways. Be kind to one another. Everyone have a lot they are dealing with.

All right, this being said. Let’s get to the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the past 6 years I have dealt with very obnoxious, rude, a special kind of stupid, funny, sad and sometimes just normal people.

I thought it good to share some of the funny, sometimes really stupid questions, the rude, poor language and praise we get from our customers.

Phones first

When I answer the phone, or call someone ”Thank you for phoning (company name) this is Elré speaking” and then I get “Oh Hi Elmarie/Audi/Alrie/Alri/Elrise” So, I started articulating my name El(pause)ré. Even though I sound like a Grade 1 teacher doing syllables, it still does not help.

Answering the phone and the customer is going ballistic on the other side about how long they had to hold on and how dire their situation is and when you ask for the reference number you get the reply “Oh wait let me go back into my email and find the reference number quickly” So, what have you been doing the few minutes you had to wait to speak to someone?

Or you tell me you are having issues checking in and when I ask you “Do you see this and this” tell me “Oh let me log into the website first”.

Calls like these make other customers wait longer because you need to look for something. I always think to myself when I am phoning a call centre, be ready because you have a reference and a specific question relating to that reference and the agent is going to request it. Don’t be a dummy.

Contrary to popular believe agents do not want to chit chat. We do not mind if you jump right into the question as this speeds up the call and we can get you sorted and on your way faster. Asking me how I am is not necessary because I can promise you that should I be having a bad day you are the last person that wants to hear about it.

I had a man, quite rich in age, ask me once to please quote him on a flight between Lanseria and OR Tambo. First I was dumbstruck and then I had to inform the poor man that the airlines do not operate that route as the airports are more or less an hour’s drive from each other. Shame. Maybe he was just not feeling the drive from Johannesburg to Krugersdorp.

This passenger requested a bus ticket from Cape Town to Potchefstroom on the My City. Now, the My City only operates in and around Cape Town. She just could not understand why they would not take her to Potchefstroom. It took a lot of explaining and patience.

A client phoned one of my colleagues in the middle of the night to book a Vegan meal for the next day flight. I also once had a call just before midnight for a seat request on a flight that was almost ready for checking in at the airport.

I had a customer call and say: “Oh Hi, where am I flying from? Which airport?” My reaction was, like really? Were you present when you made the booking?

Sometimes I just sit in wonder.

Next, emails.

We receive funny emails, blood boiling emails, emails all in capital letters, one word emails, you name it. I don’t think I have seen it all, but here are a few.

I WANT TO BOOK – in the subject line with no further details –so would you like me to send you to hell? Timbaktu? Iraq? China? Put-sonder-water? Where would you like to go and when?

I had a client reply in response to the ticket email asking “Where is my ticket?” Halloooo, did you read the email and check the email before you responded? I do not think so. It takes a lot of self control to not be sarcastic in this situation.

The client wanted to travel to a different city due to the volcano that erupted in Bali but did not specify so we asked where do you want to go? The response: anywhere is South East Asia. I thought, lady, South East Asia is a big place. Some places you cannot fly to, you must drive or sometimes even walk. It is always advisable to be very specific with your request.

We receive a bunch of date change requests where people do not specify the dates they wish to travel so we need to ask them. So the questions sent was what date do you want to go? The response was 29 Nov or any time before the end of February where I don’t have to pay anything additional. Now let me explain something. We get so many emails like these and doing these quotes take times. We need to check every single day to find the lowest available. You can do a once of week/month view. Try and explain this to someone. This takes another few emails, it is not easier on a telephone line. It is also these customer, most of the time, when you went through every date who comes back and say “Oh, I can not travel on the suggested date”. See why we ask for specific dates/time frames.

On our quotes it says the following after the break down: Total: R0.00 per person per change (additional) Question from the passenger: So, is it (amount) per person? My response in my head, I don’t know-maybe?

We also receive quite a few of the next email. How much is a flight? That’s it, nothing else, no other info. So, can I send you to Timbuki land? We sometimes feel we want to send a quote to a random place on a random date.

Now, this next one had me cracking up. Gosh, I laughed out so loud!

A passenger writes to us: and the reason why we can not travel is because I realised I’m pregnant its a natural cause , something beyond our control, I personally don’t think this is fair. -Really? Were you not present when that happened? We should watch out people. Natural causes are dangerous.

Another funny one.

The passenger requested a refund and as per airline policy it is not much. After he/she was quoted the response came: “Hi there – please go ahead with the refund. At least I can buy a nice steak”. At least he had a sense of humour.

Now on our website you have to complete the name field with your first and second and third or how many names you have, but if you do not have a middle name you leave it blank.

A client sent this in regarding a name change: “Hi I bought a ticket for my daughter, she does not have a middle name so I inserted N/A (Not applicable) Her ticket now shows first name NA surname. Can you please amend and resend the e ticket”

She can thank the stars that the N/A was only showing on our side and not on the airline system. Airlines are very strict these days and most do not allow name changes, corrections maybe, but removing or adding names are most of the time a no-go. Luckily this was fixed quickly, but again, what are people doing behind the screen?

Another idea people have (and we get this a lot) is that you can swap and change between airlines like you do when you buy clothes on Zando or Superbalist. I had a lady so upset at me because she could not understand that we as the agency sell all the different airlines and we cannot swap and change between them. Let me explain this in a simple way. Even though we are 1 agency and we sell different airlines every single airline is managed separately. It is like buying from PnP and wanting to swap it at Checkers. Same principle. The only way to do that (if it’s an airline) is to cancel (with penalties) and book a whole new ticket.

The bad and the ugly.

My colleagues and I have gone through very rude language and personal insults. Let me share a few.

I was called a gas lamp. “Ek het alweer met ‘n gas lamp gepraat” – Could not believe my ears. This was said as I was about to transfer the call because the passenger chose the incorrect option. I wonder who is the Gas lamp now? I am still not 100% sure what she meant by that. Could be that the light is on but it is not very bright, who knows.

I had a call one evening from a guy who was freaking out because his ticket was not issued yet. Never mind that his card did not want to go through for the whole amount. He was hysterical. He phoned the person who was responsible for the flight and while he was talking to her he told her no he is on the other line with this chick and this company is f-ing up his flights. I snapped. I got his attention and I told him that I am no-one’s “chick” and that if he bad mouths my company again I will hang up. All I was trying on my side was to assist him. WOW! He changed instantly. So sweet and “my friend I am so stressed and I am sorry”. All I could do was roll my eyes. Some people. At the end the person who was responsible for the payment begged me to just issue the one ticket and get him off her back and then we laughed together at his unnecessary freak out.

We had this complaint once. You guys are so stupid. How can a flight from Johannesburg to New York only take 4 hours. You people don’t know what you talking about. How is it even possible for one to fly to America in 4 hours. Idiots you are.

This guy forgetting its called Time Zone’s.

In a response to a refund query our agent answered and then received this beautiful response: “don’t waste my time you f*ck refund is refund you mother f*ck”

Another agent responded with Good day, how are you? How may I assist you today? My name is… to which the client responded: “f*ck you”

I was trying to explain to a customer the breakdown of the refund quote. There were 5 people on the booking and the quote is per person-as always. I advised her to get to the total, just take the amount and multiple it by 5. She just did not want to understand this. This is now after she have spoken to numerous people and even one of my colleagues in the refund team.

At one point she uttered the words “you little whore” and I put the phone down. We do not have to take verbal abuse like that. If she swore I would have warned her as we do, but you do not attack me personally because your are being too daft to understand.

My colleague heard the whole conversation and the lady phoned back and told my colleague she does not understand why I put the phone down and my colleague just said “no ma’am, I heard the whole conversation”. That was the end. I do not know or care what happened after.

The Good

We do receive compliments from time to time as well, this is when people takes the time to write them. These days it is much easier to complain than to give credit where credit is due.

These are a few of my favourites.

Dear Elre

You are so wonderful! Thank you and your team so very, very much for your kindness and I’m sorry I didn’t hear your call and again, apologies for my error. I sincerely hope that when a time like this comes in each of your lives you will find people as kind and caring as you have been to us to ease you through it.

Thank you is not a big enough word.

The next one made me cry a bit.

Hello Elrie (hope spelling is correct)

Once again thank you for your help with my disaster on Fri 23rd Feb passenger (Name Surname) that you SOLVED IN SUCH AN AMAZINGLY PROFESSIONAL MANNER

I remember this one very well and this poor lady was so upset and stressed out. I am just happy there was a plan to be made.

I would like to compliment you, Company Name, for helping me get to Ireland for my Mum’s funeral. All my travel plans went wrong at the last minute due to a transit visa glitch. I was at the airport ready to fly and they told me I couldn’t. Stuff of nightmares. I contacted you and spoke to a lovely lady named Elrie (not sure of the spelling.) She calmed me down and made a plan for me in time for me to get on a flight about an hour later. Service of this level, in the circumstances I was in, really made me want to write your name in lights across the sky. A HUGE thank you. Thanks to you, I was able to say goodbye to my Mum.

Then, this has to be my favourite compliment ever received. Just look at this cute cartoon!

I even got a gorgeous ponytail. This is the coolest things ever.

Look, working with people is tiring and you deal with so many personalities in a day. I like solving problems, I like helping people. It takes a lot from me to not swear at some people for being rude. In some situations it is difficult not to let it get to you personally, but as the years gone by I have became a hard ass and I am going to have many more of the above. But let me tell you world, a pinch of salt. Take it with a pinch of salt. This does not mean I do not have bad days, there are plenty, but then you smile and wave and go on.

Tell me in the comments if you ever had funny or terrible things happen to you while working with customers.

E xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: