An Exercise in Self-Control

Losing My Cool

Losing My Cool

One of the remaining bastions of my small-mindedness and poor self-control has to do with dealing with customer service representatives (fondly referred to here as a CSR).  I’m sure if I knew any CSRs socially I would think they are lovely people who are in the job because they love to solve problems and help people.  The CSR would similarly think I seem to be a kind and non-judgmental person who is generally reasonable and logical.

On the phone, we would bear no resemblance to our social selves.   Or probably more accurately, I bear no resemblance to that kind, rational human being I generally try to be.

Not all CSRs are the sadistic, misogynistic people that I tend to perceive them to be.  There are some that are so good at their job, they just make me want to hum or sing for joy at how cared-for they make me feel.  That is a great CSR.   And I concede that CSR must be an incredibly tough, unenviable, thankless job that I would never want to undertake.

Nevertheless, despite reminding myself of what a good person the CSR must be, how they must be trying their best, it is way too easy for me to transform into the equivalent of The Hulk:  What do you MEAN you always add unwanted charges to the bill (for you, Verizon)?  What do you MEAN you have a 3 day return policy?  What do you MEAN it’s been 10 weeks and you still can’t ship it?  What do you MEAN your mistake created a major problem for me and you can’t (you mean WON’T) do anything to help me?  What do you MEAN that after being on hold for 20 minutes, I have to call back later?

When anticipating a particularly difficult CSR conversation, I try to be proactive in staging my inner world to be present, open-hearted, and forgiving.  I’m not going to lie.  It still ain’t easy, and I am frequently in pissed-off mode in no time at all despite my best efforts.  Yet I’m making progress.  My sweet, empathic younger son told me I only had one hand and one foot in “the box” last phone conversation with a CSR, which is a big improvement over my usual M.O. of being so deep in the box with CSRs I can see no daylight.

Fortunately the point of life is not to be perfect (pay attention, perfectionists), but to just keep trying to do better.   I’m making progress in that I don’t blame them anymore and am taking responsibility for my own impatience, temper, and feeling of entitlement that I deserve good service if I’m patronizing the business.  Yes, I might be entitled to that, but CSRs are only human too.  They are dealing with their own impatience and unreasonable company policies that inevitably trap themselves on the phone all day with a**holes like me.

So, CSRs everywhere:  I hope for your sake that I don’t end up on the other end of your telephone.  If I do, I apologize in advance for being testy and temperamental.  I’m doing my best, as I know you are too.

I love this story I read or heard somewhere about the Buddha.  Buddha once had a student who was always complaining, negative and nasty.  He was impatient and constantly needed attention.  He felt he deserved special treatment and would whine until he got what he wanted.  One day, someone asked Buddha why he kept this annoying student so close by, and the Buddha said, “He is not my student.  He is my teacher.”

So it is that CSRs and others like them are my teachers.  They teach me how to be a better person, to address my weaknesses,  to practice how to be more patient and forgiving, not only of a “difficult CSR” but of myself when I fall short of my expectations.  Now THAT is customer service.