Got the Ill-Communication: Adventures in Customer Service

Customer Service is the Alice In Wonderland of the economy.

You look down to see the ceiling, up to see the floor, right is left, left is right, left is sideways, and right is down.

It IS however a PERFECT example of where human communication goes WRONG, and goes wrong all the time.

In telephone customer service, this is multiplied by 100 and I’d even go so far as to say the method of communication is a lesson in chaos theory.

It is also a great lesson in the depravity in understanding even the most basic of abstract logic in our society.

This is not to mention, all the most classically prototypical, even blundering mistakes made in listening comprehension, linguistics, and semantics can be viewed here– ANY time you encounter it, not just some or a few times.

I have even gone so far as to yell out obscenities and call them names. This has been done, not to make life easier, but in sheer visceral defiance of irrationality and stupidity made into a job that pays.

Recently I blew up and screamed that I was going to “chop her (the reps) head off!” if she didn’t let me speak to a supervisor.

“I’m going to chop your head off!!” I screamed at her.

I’m not proud of that. I apologized and made sure she knew it.

However, I still maintain that these people are crazy:

All the intellectual-epistemological bankruptcy of our time can be sampled merely by talking to one of these automatons.

I used to think it was just foreigners or uneducated people who ran these jobs, but now I see the problem is deeply cultural and widespread. I also thought for a long time that perhaps the reps weren’t getting the information they needed. Another argument came from friends of mine: “They’re just scripted individuals who want to get through their workday.”

NO. NOOOO!!!

I’m sorry, but, you have to be dumb as a post not to get certain things that are missed ALL the time.

And, now I realize that the problem goes deeper: these people are being sincere!

Here is a near verbatim sample of an actual conversation I had today (just now actually) from a Wachovia Customer Service Rep for a Credit Card Hardship account I have.

Keep in mind all the principles of miscommunication and stupidity, and pay attention if you really wanna know what’s behind how these lemmings actually think.

The guy I talked to today was a caucasian, well spoken, articulate, possibly well educated, absolutely irrational man.

Behold the insanity…

Me: Hello, this is Neal Cormier.

Rep: Hello, how are you today sir?

Me: Fine, hey, when is the due date for my Wachovia hardship account?

Rep: Well sir, you might want to pay the amount by the 13th.

Me: Of this month?

Rep: Yes.

Me: What do you mean, I MIGHT want to pay the amount on the 13th? This is why I’m calling actually, I had understood previous to that that the payment should actually come out on May 1st, wouldn’t that make more sense since my first payment began on the 1st of April, this month?

Rep: Well I mean that it would reflect well on you if you did. (Note the ominous ambiguity, and the fact that he’s not answering my question.)

Me: Reflect well on me? Wait, isn’t the schedule set for the 13th of every month?

Rep: Well, if you want to know, the schedule is not really set, I mean there is no real schedule.

Me: No real schedule? What do you mean, I thought the payment schedule is for the 13th?

Rep: Well sir you made a payment on the 1st and the next payment can be done anytime within 30 days, since the program began on the 1st.

Me: Right, but doesn’t really answer my question: when is the deadline?

Rep: Deadline? There is no real deadline, I mean you’ll accrue late charges if you pay late…

Me: So there is a deadline! Wait, in my book a deadline for a scheduled payment is when you will receive a consequence for not making a payment, correct?

Rep: Right, that’s right, except that there is no real schedule.

Me: What do you mean, no real schedule?? But, wait, the deadline for my hardship program IS the 13th, isn’t that what you’re telling me?

Rep: Well, its the date that you incur a late fee if you don’t make the payment of $126.

Me: THAT’s a deadline, that IS a schedule, is it not?

Rep: Of sorts, not really cause you can pay it anytime, and you can make a payment anytime, see, you’re on a hardship program.

Me: Okay, but I don’t understand how your hardship program works, I never received any documentation on it, and you’re acting as if I should know.

Rep: Well you should, it’s your hardship program.

Me: I realize that, but did I not JUST say, that I never received any documentation???

Rep: You didn’t? Didn’t you receive a fax form, that entails your income and gives you a number to call for additional information.

Me: The fax form is NOT documentation. Do you understand what I mean by documentation?

Rep: Yes sir and I said that you may call that number to get information as per documentation on how the program works.

Me: Isn’t that this number?

Rep: Yes.

Me: So, can’t YOU tell me how it works.

Rep: Ah, no, customer service can.

Me: Isn’t that a different number?

Rep: Yes.

(Sweet Jesus)

ME: But didn’t you JUST say that THE NUMBER ON THE FAX WAS THE NUMBER FOR ADDITIONAL info as per documentation, since I didn’t receive any, and would that then be YOU???

Rep: Um, well, not necessarily, customer service can handle that.

(Deep Breath, Long Pause)

Me: What is the late fee by the way?

Rep: I couldn’t tell you that.

Me: Who could?

Rep: Customer service.

Me: But wait, didn’t you say that if I made a payment on the 1st, which I did, it was my first payment, that I could make a payment anytime in every thirty days after that?

Rep: Yes.

Me: So, if the first payment is on the 1st, and that’s when my hardship program began, then why is the deadline the 13th, which is now in 3 days, rather than the expected may 1st deadline?

Rep: Because that is the date we have set up for you to make payments. And, its not really a deadline.

Me: R-I-G-H-T. But didn’t you say that it was 30 days after the first payment, wouldn’t that then make my next payment, the first of May, not the 13th of April??

(Long Pause…)

Rep: Well, actually let me take a look at these notes here sir, can you hold?

Me: Yes.

—End—

This conversation is so riddled with logical fallacies that I won’t go over everything, but here are a few of the most glaring:

Note the first principle of ill-communication: ‘equivocation,’ in which ‘MIGHT’ was an ambiguous term to mean: ‘IS.’

Throughout the entire conversation he overlooked the fact that nearly all his wording meant something different here than it does anywhere else.

Down is the ceiling:

–“Well, if you want to know, the schedule is not really set, I mean there is no real schedule.”–

No real schedule? Which in the end he ends up admitting that there is a due date, though he doesn’t use that kind of definitive terminology, so a due date is actually just ‘the time beyond which you will have a late fee.’

The next item of insanity lies here:

–“So there is a deadline! Wait, in my book a deadline for a scheduled payment is when you will receive a consequence for not making a payment, correct?

Right, that’s right, except that there is no real schedule.”–

Now, he has evaded defining the word ‘deadline’ but repeating that there is no schedule, he has changed the subject by stating a ‘non-sequitur,’ which in logical terms simply means: conclusions that literally do not follow from the premises.

He has also possibly committed the fallacy of Irrelevant Conclusion (Ignorantio Elenchi).

“This fallacy occurs when a rhetorician adapts an argument purporting to establish a particular conclusion and directs it to prove a different conclusion.”

Look at this one again:

–“I realize that, but did I not JUST say, that I never received any documentation???

You didn’t? Didn’t you receive a fax form, that entails your income and gives you a number to call for additional information.

The fax form is NOT documentation.

Do you understand what I mean by documentation?

Yes sir and I said that you may call that number to get information as per documentation on how the program works.

Isn’t that this number?

Yes.

So, can’t YOU tell me how it works.

Ah, no, customer service can.

Isn’t that a different number?

Yes.

But didn’t you JUST say that THE NUMBER ON THE FAX WAS THE NUMBER FOR ADDITIONAL info as per documentation, since I didn’t receive any, and would that then be YOU???”–

This is simple blatant contradiction, note though his complete lack of acknowledgment of a totally obvious lapse of memory! Literally in the same paragraph (if it were writing) he says that documentation can be found through a Service Rep.

Through what number? His number. So does he know?

Of COURSE NOT.

My God.

Then, one would think that politely pointing our the contradiction might enlighten him:

“But didn’t you JUST say that THE NUMBER ON THE FAX WAS THE NUMBER FOR ADDITIONAL info as per documentation, since I didn’t receive any, and would that then be YOU???

Um, well, not necessarily, customer service can handle that.”

His way out??:

‘Not necessarily.’

NOT NECESSARILY???

That’s like saying I don’t NECESSARILY have an oven in the room while cooking dinner, or a TV isn’t present while watching television!

The most glaring contradiction of course is the fact that he initially stated the schedule AND the deadline, THEN went about trying to prove how neither really existed.

He even said the program began when the first payment started. Which happened on the 1st, making the next payment then, on the 1st, of next month, May. But NO. It’s on the 13th, why?

His answer: cause there will be a late fee.

My Goodness.

To date, I still don’t know why I have to pay on the 13th rather than what he himself said WAS the payment schedule.

Customer Service is land I do not get, say one thing, and get another, ask a question, and get the answer to a question you never asked.

One can never know these things when you are Alice traveling down the rabbit hole.

References:

http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/fallacies_list.html

www.nealcormier.com

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3 thoughts on “Got the Ill-Communication: Adventures in Customer Service

  1. Hey Neal-

    It can be amazing to witness severely baffling conversations with cust. service reps who are not as well trained as they could be. From a behind the scenes observations, this guy just didn’t care to explain anything to you- The logic behind cc statement periods may be viewed as bad worse, or ultimate poo. Any amount of debt incurred should be paid prior to around the 13th or so of the month (some companies may have dates slightly different), however this is usually done for reasons regarding the actual transmissions of the actual transaction-one factor of which most consumers aren’t aware is that credit cards usually settle in batches at the close of business each day. sometimes, batches won’t transfer for one reason or another (weekends, natural disasters, etc)-and then if all transactions aren’t available for billing, there would be a lot of billing discrepancies. It is my understanding that a few buffer days, if you will, are built in for processing buffers. the reason i’m explaing this, is that the middle of the month cycle is applicable to all accounts regardless of their inception…furthermore, there are grades of lateness-and certain penalties for according grades.
    hopefully this helps you understand the vagueness of the cust. service rep-

    i know that it’s frustrtating to deal with stupidity, but it’s sad and true that work ethic may be a thing of the past…noone seems to care as much anymore-

    however, i’m also here to tell you that there are many to whom i’d like to give an unofficial “shout out”-rock on:)

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