Translating the Language of Customer Service

I currently despise my internet company. It’s a long story, but I am not particularly happy. In their defense, however, I don’t know that my customer service experience would be vastly different with another internet company. Indeed, I have noticed that the customer service departments of large entities sound more and more the same as time goes by.

In addition to channeling me through 12 menus to get to the correct department, forcing me to enter on my small cell phone keypad every number associated with my account “followed by the pound sign”, putting me on hold long enough to watch every episode of Revenge (an apt show to watch while waiting), and then making me give all of my account information again verbally when the customer service representative finally says, “May I help you?”…there is the customer service lingo.

In an effort to thread the labyrinth, today’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday attempts to decode the language of customer service.

“Your call is important to us.” Translation: You are one of many calls from customers we are receiving today. We don’t know who the heck you are. Our marketing people told us to include that phrase to make you feel like you’re special. Do you feel special now?

“We are experiencing a higher call volume than usual.” Translation: There are a couple of possibilities here. First, we are understaffed. There aren’t nearly enough people answering phones for the number of people calling, even though we know it’s always bad between 11:00 and 1:00 Eastern time. But before you get too upset about us not finding enough qualified people, ask yourself, would you want this job? Second, you chose to call at the worst time possible. You and every other customer are having product issues at zero hour. If this were in person, you would have been trampled by now.

A customer service call center

“This call may be recorded for quality assurance.” Translation: Watch what you say to our representative. We’ve got you on tape like candid camera!

“Let me pull up your record to see what’s transpired.” Translation: All of that information you entered through your keypad was lost in cyberspace, or was simply an effort to keep you busy while you were waiting, so I have to enter everything you verbally told me again to figure out who you are and why I’m talking to you. Moreover, I need to read notes from previous customer service reps who will tell me what has happened with your account and how difficult a customer you are, so I can prepare or brace myself accordingly.

“I’m not seeing that here.” Translation: You lie.

“Our policy is . . .” Translation: The term “customer service” is a leftover from days when we might actually be able to vary our service according to the customer. These days, you are one speck among many, so you can either live with it or go to the next company which will likely have the same standard policy as ours. When you hear “our policy,” just start thinking of it as “God has spoken.”

“Could you hold while I consult my supervisor?” Translation: While you’re listening to easy tunes, I will be ranting about the idiot I’m on the phone with and seeing what we can do to shut you up already.

I expect flack from customer service representatives for this post. To be fair, I have had some excellent customer service experiences, albeit they stand out in my mind because they don’t occur nearly often enough. (Waving at you fabulous reps for your marvelous help!)

But as far as the customer service lingo goes, I’d prefer to dispense with the euphemistic phrases and just get down to brass tacks. Can you do anything for me or not?

Perhaps we customers should have our own phrases: “It’s not my policy to repeat myself.” Translation: I already gave the recorded voice my account information. Check with him!

So what customer service phrases have you encountered? And what would your translation be?

29 thoughts on “Translating the Language of Customer Service

  1. We’re sorry you’re experiencing issues. Translation: I don’t really give a rat’s hind end about your “issues,” but I have to act like I do if I want to keep my job.

    You are being connected to our customer service department in Scottsdale, Arizona. Translation: This is actually an advertisement on why you should use Discover Card instead of that other card, because we employ people from Arizona, who might or might not be Americans who speak understandable English.

    (Actually, Discover’s customer service is very good.) Fun post! Thanks for the LOLs.

  2. You’ve hit them all, Julie. This post is just too perfect. I’ve heard these phrases so often I begin talking into the phone and yelling at the computer-generated phrase speaker before a humanoid even answers. Needless to say I’m already ticked off before the human answers the call. But, you’re right, would I want the job? NO. I always try to laugh and joke with the person on the other end of the line and most of the time, things go okay.

    1. I actually feel for customer service reps who are given a script to work from full of phrases that irritate the customer. I just think customer service can be a joke when the person on the other line has no real authority to help you if your problem falls outside a few scripted issues. Thanks, Patti!

  3. I am just going to say: I feel your pain. Hang in there! And know the person on the other line is not purposely trying to make your life miserable…at least I don’t think so. πŸ™‚

    1. No, of course not. I feel for the representative who has been scripted more than a Shakespeare play (which I could watch while on hold waiting). The system is simply set up poorly where no one — neither rep, nor customer — has a pleasant experience. Thanks, Jess!

  4. I love it when a super low-price bargain magically (tragically) turns into a mega-buck spend during one phone call. Grateful to have wireless, but dude–let’s start with the truth from the get-go. πŸ˜‰ I’m happy to pay more for great, honest service. Such a relatable post, Julie!

  5. OMG ROFL! Loved this post and AMEN to that. So true.
    I find it sometimes so disheartening the level of customer service (it shouldn’t really even be called that any longer) that you can find out there. I agree, there are still some great people out there that provide wonderful service but it feels much infrequent to me.
    I’m with August, I’d be happy to pay more for GREAT service!!!
    We stayed in a hotel once that had hand prints on the headboard and after our shower “we were here…” appeared in the steamed glass. Upon complaint we were told that the owner KNOWS the cleaning lady and there’s “no way such an atrocity” could have occurred. Translation: YOU LIE!
    If I could have vomited on demand, I soooo would have. LOL!!

    1. I usually get great service when the CS representative is freed up to have a mostly unscripted conversation and they’ve been given good training or some authority to fix a problem. All too enough, that’s not the case, and they’re stuck using these stupid phrases that mean NADA.

      Handprints on a headboard? Message on the mirror? Did the owner think you MADE THAT UP??? Ugh.

  6. Awesome post. It can be very frustrating. I also love it when my need isn’t a menu option, but there is no option for “all other issues,” so I have to guess. But as you said, these poor service reps are given a script. I’ve worked in customer service before, though not help lines, and it’s very frustrating to be told how to resist certain complaints. What’s worse is when the customer says, “I want to speak to a manager,” and the manager comes out and gives in to their demands, making me look like an idiot, when the manager is the one who told us not to give in from the beginning. I’ll have to be living out of my car before I’ll work in retail again.

    1. I agree, Angela. I listen to all those options, and sometimes I end up yelling “none of the above” just before I press some number hoping to eventually get a person.

      You have my sympathy having worked in customer service. It’s got to be frustrating to deal with irate customers and have little authority to do anything about it.

  7. I hate the higher cal volume message. My utility company recording starts off that way no matter what time of day I call. It’s gotten to the point where I put up with more than I should just to avoid having to talk to a ‘customer service’ rep. Especially when it comes to a tech support issue.

    I’d like to say up front that I have zero problems with talking to someone from India…unless it involves a computer problem. They can’t deviate from their script at all. If you need to be in systems in your control panel, and you know it…but get there ahead of the script, they still have to give you the step-by-step instructions on how to arrive at that destination before they can tell you what you need to change. Grr!!!!! All I want to know is what to do once I’m there, lol.

    No, I wouldn’t want their jobs. And it’s not the reps that annoy me so much as the people profiting from the money I pay for substandard service.

    1. That’s strange because I’ve had some fabulous customer service from India regarding computer issues. I even told one guy “I’m already at ___ screen,” which was four steps or so ahead of his script, and he skipped right to where I was. But I totally agree that would be annoying to have to go through the steps. Obviously, my issue is not with the people, but the LANGUAGE of customer service that isn’t customer service at all. Get off the script sometimes!

      Thanks for coming by, Kristy!

  8. You used to be able to get a human being by repeatedly pushing 0. Then, too many people figured out that trick and it no longer works.

    My favorite customer service phrase:

    “Well, it should be working” — This means, “I don’t know how to fix your issue, and you might as well just hang up and stop bugging me.”

  9. Thanks Julie for putting a humorous spin on an annoying subject. I’m sure they’ll pop into my mind when I’m on hold. πŸ™‚

  10. Funny! Of course it would be more funny if it weren’t so true. I really hate calling customer service these days. It seems like I never get anywhere unless I speak to the supervisor and then I have to wait forever. I’ve even had some tell me they don’t have supervisors. WTH? I know they don’t own the HUGE corporation. I guess they think we’re all stupid or we’ll just get so frustrated we’ll go away. I agree with Natalie. It shouldn’t even be called customer service any longer. Because usually it’s not about being of service to the customer. Sorry. Couldn’t think of anything humorous to add. Can you tell I’ve been on the phone with someone myself today? It’s a wonder I have hair left. πŸ™‚

    1. I recently told my husband I often use humor when a situation is frustrating or sad because it provides some relief to it. I guess that’s my take here, Rhonda!

      How does a company not have supervisors? Maybe they eliminated that word. Perhaps you should just say you’ve worn through this starting pitcher and need the relief one to come on the phone. πŸ™‚

  11. Just today I was having a problem with my itunes account and my husband said, why don’t you try customer service. I laughed and laughed. One of my doctor’s now has this kind of “customer service” system–it is terrible. Basically means yea, we don’t consider you that important anymore. My dr actually gave me his cell phone number and email because he is helpless to the system. So nuts. Love your funny take Julie πŸ™‚

    1. Does iTunes have customer service? I guess they do.

      One of my favorite doctors also gave me his personal cell phone number. I have never had to use it, but it gave me great comfort to know that I wouldn’t be passed around like a hot potato before reaching my doctor. Thanks, Coleen!

  12. Good laugh, Julie. I particularly like it when they say β€œWe are experiencing a higher call volume than usual” because if you’re (say) ATT its been the same for the passed thirty years, so it’s a pretty lame excuse.

    Having said that I have had some people who are helpful and sound genuine and afterwards I do thing well of the company they represented.


    1. Thanks, Nigel. Actually my favorite new form of customer service is online chat. I just skip over the scripted phrases, and somehow it doesn’t irritate me as much when there isn’t a voice behind them.

      I also think well of a company that provides genuine customer service. It’s rarer and rarer but well-worth noting. In fact, I’ll go out of my way to sing the praises of a company that has great customer service.

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