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Calling All Customer Service Reps....Don't Be A Douche!

What is the actual role of a Customer Service Representative (CSR)?

As a person who has been on the high end of this position in some form, mostly in the animal medical world, for the last 20 years, I can tell you the answer is not simple.

But I can also tell you it's not a position for everyone and everyone should stop treating it as such.

I have a Young Living Essential Oil business, I am a substitute in my local school district, I have ran front office for a high end security company in California, and as mentioned, spent quite a bit of time running a front office as a CSRM in veterinary clinics. From Kansas to Oregon to South Carolina, I have literally seen and heard it all.  Sadly, the bad rap we get is because there is always that one person who thinks they are GOD because they are at the front, meaning they are the first and last person you will look at or speak to.  

You know who is the worst, in my opinion?..the bad apple that gets hired to work the front in the animal medical field. 

There is a special place in the afterworld for them, but I am a better person than that so I won't tell you where it is, and I'm sure you can guess it anyway.

I very recently, within the last week, had to rush my sweet 2.5 year old Pom-Pin (pomeranian/miniature pinscher) to our local emergency vet.  Now, anytime I go somewhere outside of our family veterinarians I cringe.  No veterinary technician or veterinarian wants to have a "know-it-all" come in and try to out speak them.  On the flip side, no one who has been in that field wants to be spoken down to when they could actually speak with the professional on a more real basis.  But that's not the point of this.  

This is...don't be a douche!  Yes, I used that word, I mean it in every context and I'll say it again or in any way I need to until only the right people apply and are hired for such an important role.

Back to my story.

I called the clinic I was headed to, it was after 10 pm, and a heads up in the vet world for an emergency is always appreciated.  Arrived within 10 minutes and was greeted by a somewhat tired but pleasant young lady.  AWESOME, I was going to get in quick, my Jola pup was going to be seen in a decent amount of time and all was looking up.  The CSR called a tech to come check on her while I filled out my papers and they took her back right away to be safe.  I mean for all intents and purposes, I could not have been having a better appointment, circumstance not considered, and my mind for the first time was put at ease going somewhere new. 

The doctor came in, he was amazing.  Another major bonus.  We agreed on hospitalization and a treatment plan and I was sent back to the front to put my deposit down and check out.  I wish I never would have went back up front.

New CSR.  She was not nearly as friendly and I hadn't even spoken to her yet.  She was dealing with another distraught fur-momma and very rudely, might I add.  Her non-verbal demeanor was rigid and cold right down to her unevenly lipsticked pursed lips.  You know the look, you've seen it on Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmations, or if you're not into kid classics, on Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.  It's not a good look...on anyone. And it sure as hell is not a welcoming gesture to an an individual in a heightened state of an emotional roller coaster.  

As I stood at the second check out counter and focused all my attention on how this scene was going to unfold. No one wants to see a mental breakdown scene from 'Ol Yeller in an emergency vet lobby, so being nosey was a coping mechanism.  I could not believe my eyes or ears.  

This employee (I refuse to call her a CSR from here forward) could not, would not, did not have the time of day to let even a fully calm and collected person finish a sentence, take a breath or switch standing positions without curtly cutting them off, berating them in tone of voice and stature and plainly not giving hoot about their emotional needs.  So you can imagine how patient she was with a distraught client.  

I can only guess that smoke could literally be seen coming from my ears, the reds of my puffy eyes fully visible and heaving chest showing I was undeniably agitated. 

I get it, they are not therapists, but they did choose to work in a field that requires sympathy and empathy on a daily basis.  You wouldn't take your grandma to an ER and tolerate that kind of nonchalant disregard for human well-being.  After a few minutes of this exchange the client in front of me was done.  She expressed her thoughts, letting the CSR know exactly how rude, heartless and careless she was being, at which point, the employee turns to me and says "I need you to come from that window to behind this lady, so once I have her out of here I can get you out of here."

Are you kidding me?!

So now, she not only fully gave the other client the proverbial middle finger and asked me to invade what little personal space the other client did have to discuss finances and go back over her treatment plan once more, but fully let me know she didn't give a rat's hairy back side about her job, the client or the patient.  She cares about the paycheck.  

Luckily, I have a great best friend who lives in a time zone two hours later than mine, so I can text her at these hours and she can be privy to my complete irritation levels of ranting and talk me down as they progress. 

Then it was my turn, but only after I held the door open for the previous puppy parent, tell her we'll be praying for her and give her a big hug. Yes, this is how I treated all my former clients and let's not forget how far a hug, even from a stranger, can go in times of sorrow.  I turn back to the "lady" and get ready for a roller coaster of "bite your tongue, Courtney," "hold your voice, Courtney" and "for goodness sake, keep your hands to yourself, Courtney."

Just as I expected.  Cold, short questions right from the start.  "And your name is?", "Cash or Credit?", "Bye." 

No how can I help you finish your visit?  No explanation of the electronic forms I am signing.  No follow up to make sure I have all my questions answered and am actually comfortable leaving my family member with them overnight.  

Lucky for her I don't work that way so it went more like this: "Hi, thanks for asking. My name is Courtney, what's yours?"  

HA!  Maybe I shouldn't take inner gratification in this little win, but I do.  She was mad that I was nice and I couldn't believe her lips were able to get even smaller than they already were from the constant, permanent, frozen, pursed form they obviously already lived in.

I can't make this up, people! 

Unsociable, cranky people have no business at a front desk! 

Payment time.  Turns out my card was not my card, it was my husband's and had his name on it.  This was not a problem when I gave the first payment to the original CSR just to be seen by the vet, but apparently was now.  I told her to run it as debit so no ID verification would be needed like the sweet girl from check-in did.  Alas, I was not dealing with her anymore, I was now dealing with "Hela."

Now is as good a time as any to let her know that while texting Ms. Carly, I realized I needed clarification of a statement the doctor made.  As expected, this request was basically brushed off.

Backlash on wanting to accept the card, harsh/rude verbiage on how I can't just call Corey to verify permission to use card. I didn't ask for or need that information, I am fully aware your ID needs to match the name on the credit card you are using and the verbal authorization over the phone is not accepted if you  are using someone else's card.  I'm not an idiot, and she needed to stop that condescending tone immediately.  But it wasn't a credit card, it was a debit card.

"Woman!  There is only a counter between us and I can jump like a flying ninja when warranted." I really wanted to say this as both of our tones became more and more irritated toward each other.  P.S. it's her job not to sound unpleasant but rather understanding and accommodating. 

Bonus, she already had the card in the terminal, a quick reach and entry of the pin...and paid.  Nothing she can do now. A quick scowl from her and she handed me my receipt and started to turn her back. 

"Will this nightmare ever be over?"

Hopefully soon, but it wasn't yet. She tried to "shoo" me out the door without letting me get my clarification. I again won that battle and she got up to go speak to the doctor.  

Please tell me why it had to become a game of "I win" for a customer/client to get someone to do their job.  "I'm sorry, did I inconvenience and interrupt your social media time?" - insert sarcastic tone.

She came back, again as foreseen, she most likely did not speak to anyone, but went around a corner and came up with her own answer to get me out the door.  A few more words exchanged. Made my point that she was not understanding me, rephrased the question every way possible so it's in the most basic, literal English context.  Obviously, I was not going to go anywhere but crazy town, but I was going to have my question answered by the doctor before walking out that door.

The realization that I am not leaving without talking to them or at the very least getting the actual question answered finally sinks in and I get my answer.  

It should not of been this hard.  I should not have had to go through all this.  The CSR is there to ensure my pet's well-being from the second I walk in the door until the second I leave.  That means taking care of me.  Everyone in between those time frames counts on the front staff to make their job easier, so they can focus on the actual medical care and needs of the patient.  Having a bad relationship with the client only complicates this.

Following morning.  Get up. Get ready. Stop at clinic for quick update before off to my CSR sub-job.  Guess what, great experience.  New front desk faces, smiles, and genuine want to help.  

Sadly, the interaction I had with the first and last girl thus far, won't take the salty taste out of my mouth for all that has been done.  Great veterinarian, would highly recommend. Great veterinary technician, would request her if I had to go back.  Horrible exit that makes me want to drive the extra 28 miles to Greenville, SC should I need an emergency appointment ever again.  

What business, medical or non, wants to have a review like this? 

Furthermore, who wants to be treated this way?

Pet owners will go to the ends of the earth for their fur-babies.  They will spend their last penny and then sell off everything they have so their companion is cared for. Keeping them happy is vital.

I am in no way saying it's never the "customers" fault for these bad interactions.  I'm just saying that is a completely different type of blog.

In Summary...
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't speak.  
If you can't look at someone kindly, close your eyes.
If you don't have patience, walk away.
If you don't have a heart, follow the yellow brick road.

If one or more of these apply to you, don't get a job as a CSR.

Coming at you blunt and I'll be back soon!


*The average person does not have an emergency fund for human medical emergency needs, so you can imagine what percentage of people have one for their fur family members.  

On the same side of that, veterinary clinics don't have co-pay plans or "treat now, pay later" programs like most human walk-in clinics or emergency rooms.  Now you can get some animal medical insurance through companies like Nationwide Pet or Healthy Paws, and it's relatively affordable, but most places won't tell you this until you need it, thus making the option null and void. 

There are also programs like Care Credit. Care Credit is a type of "credit card" that is only for use in the medical fields, not just veterinary clinics.  It has awesome rates including no interest for certain periods of time and is relatively easy to be approved for compared to your standard Visa/Mastercard.

These options need to be more publicized.  Do your part to share and educate.  Every pet life deserves every possible chance.


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