Why Customer Service Representatives Might Be Deliberately Making Your Experience Worse

Former reps reveal what they say happened at the other end of the phone.

ByABC News
March 26, 2015, 3:25 PM

— -- More and more disgruntled customers are posting personal horror stories online about their interactions with customer service representatives at call enters.

But former service representatives Mark Pavlic and Jacob Curtis recently told ABC News’ “20/20” that the stress of the job and even the customers themselves are sometimes responsible for those negative experiences.

“You almost never have anything good happen to you at work,” Pavlic, a former cable company agent, told “20/20.” “And I think that that makes the job stressful.”

“You're just entry-level position,” Curtis, who worked for a home security company, said. “You just do what you're told.”

“The reality is that our negative customer service experiences are far more memorable than our positive ones and we typically embellish those negative events to anyone that will listen thereby affecting the original source business well beyond that single frustrated customer,” Bill Crutcher, the president of the National Customer Service Association, said in a statement to ABC News.

He added: “Our Chapter organizations, journal contributors, class attendees and general membership assure us that there are many organizations whose true culture is one of excellent customer service--internally and externally. Small and large employers alike are role-modeling and empowering a staff focus on service excellence through routine and training and consistent messaging; encouraging employees to do what it takes to provide a positive customer experience every time.”

Pavlic and Curtis revealed what they say really went on at the other end of the phone line and why representatives may actually be deliberately antagonizing their customers.

1. There’s a lot of pressure on customer service representatives.

Pavlic and Curtis say the reason customer service representatives have such bad experiences is that it’s one of the worst jobs in the world. They say it’s no surprise that some overworked and lowly paid representatives lash out at their own customers.

“It's not an easy job, because you're trying to appease the company that you work for and then you're trying to appease the angry customer who disagrees with the policies,” Pavlic said.

They say a manager is also often hovering over your shoulder, timing and monitoring calls.

“And then having to do this a hundred times a day; it's very emotionally draining,” Curtis told “20/20.” “And it's call after call after call. You get maybe 30 seconds, if you're lucky, in between calls.”

2. They have little to no power to fix issues.

Representatives’ hands are often tied when it comes to fixing the problem in the first place, according to Pavlic and Curtis.

“I mean, the policies are very set in stone, and you can't really override them,” Curtis said. “What's also difficult is that it's not really your fault, and the customer takes it out on you.”

3. Representatives might transfer difficult customers on purpose.

According to these former customer service representatives, unruly customers are dealt with by being transferred from department to department.

“You just transfer them to another department, not your problem anymore,” Curtis said. “Because there's no repercussions for you as the customer service rep. It's all of a sudden with one click of a button, ‘Hey, I'm going to transfer you.’ All your problems are resolved. It's so nice to do.”

“I can say that it has happened, even by people sitting next to me,” Pavlic said. “They've transferred people back into the queue.”

4. Good luck getting an actual supervisor on the phone.

“The company does not want you to get to the supervisor, because it takes up the supervisor's resources and time,” Curtis said.

Pavlic says customers who want to talk to a supervisor might actually be talking to someone pretending to be a supervisor.

“It's essentially -- they have a different job title than us, but they have no real power over a normal customer service representative,” Pavlic said.

“I had the same thing at my company. You were told, ‘You are a supervisor,’” Curtis said. “So you can tell the customer you're a supervisor. Even though they don’t, they're not supervising anyone.”

5. Agents are mostly playing the “sell game” instead of helping you with problems.

In their experiences, Pavlic and Curtis say there was a focus on sales over customer service.

“You definitely spend the majority of your time trying to push something on them that they don't want pushed on them,” Curtis said, “trying to sell them something.”