Confessions Of A Customer Service Rep: Dishonesty Is Part Of The Job

cell phone customer service

So who is that person on the other end of the line when you call customer service to troubleshoot problems with your cell phone? What's the experience like for him or her?

As it turns out, the customer service rep is probably having worse thoughts than you'd imagined, if you believe Reddit user Cyberphonic, who claims to have worked for a year and a half in customer service for a major cell phone company. According to Cyberphonic, the culture is more dysfunctional than even some of the products that the industry creates. [Note: Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" section uses anonymous sources, which can't be verified. Excerpts that appear here retain their original spelling and grammar.]

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In sizing up how customers get treated, here's how Cyberphonic put it: "I regretted not being more honest with my customers about their options for cancellation or managing their bills." The rep later added, "I felt like a scumbag at the end of most days." (The gender of Cyberphonic was not apparent from the Reddit post.)

Regardless of how excruciating the experience is for everyone involved, customer service jobs are growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sector is expected to see 15 percent growth by 2020. Current average annual salary is $30,460 per year, according to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. (Are you looking for work as a customer service rep? Start your job search here.)

Cyberphonic reports leaving the industry after having worked at one of the big four mobile networks. (The rep preferred not to mention the name of the employer, but insisted they all have the same culture.) Cyberphonic then explained the modus operandi behind the dissembling in the industry: "The retail sales team will lie their ass off to get commission and then say, 'Well the fees, etc. were outlined in the contract.' "

Not everyone in the sector agrees with Cyberphonic's dismal assessment of the field. According to the job search aggregator,, cell phone industry employees, including customer service representatives, gave 4 out of 5 stars to their employers, the four major cell phone companies. And customers appear to be equally satisfied. According to a report put out by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index in May, 3 out of 4 cell phone customers say they are satisfied with the customer service they receive.

Cyberphonic says customer service reps are receptive to helping out customers -- if treated nicely. "Most of the workers hate the company more than you do, so be nice, get them on your side and don't be pushy." Indeed, it's important to charm the reps, Cyberphonic says, because "supervisors have the ability to approve adjustments for just about everything. And a good agent can talk their [supervisor] into issuing an account credit for just about anyone."

The rep described some of the common tricks, and called out two that might sound familiar to customers:

1. Giving two-year contracts with five lines to people who make $28,000 a year, and so "can't afford a [$]300 phone bill."

2. "Keeping people on the phone for two hours and transferring them to five departments instead of just issuing a $20 credit."

"Pretty sh--ty," was how Cyberphonic assessed the treatment of customers.

And so this year, the rep left the job for which pay was "phenomenal" and the work was "easy." (Cyberphonic didn't get into specifics about actual salary figures.) And the schedule wasn't too bad either: 24 personal days a year, in addition to two weeks vacation a year and paid holidays. "The schedule," Cyberphonic added, "was very flexible and overtime incentives and benefits are some of the best I've worked with."

How did the rep feel about foreign customer services representatives doing the work?

In spite of the rebuke of current industry approaches, Cyberphonic did maintain the importance of not just the work itself, but also crucially having it done by workers who can fully understand and communicate. "You can get straight talk for $30 a month but if something goes wrong, you're best off throwing your phone in a fire." And so the comparable rate of $80 for an American rep is worth it, Cyberphonic said.

When speaking in general about the telecommunications industry, was there any company whose product was worth admiring?

Apple and its iPhone. They do their work "extremely well," are great with user-friendliness, and if Apple "finds a software problem (which is rare) it is usually fixed in 24 hours. This isn't the case with Androids."

And what about crazy experiences on the job?

They are common, said Cyberphonic, and calls come "from people who just needed someone to talk to." But bizarre phone calls can go further than attempts for a little intimacy. One time, the rep said, a man called from a subway at around 1 a.m., requesting to see his wife's Facebook messages, something his company obviously didn't have access to. The caller suspected his wife of cheating on him. "I kept explaining to him that he needed to talk to his wife," the rep said, and "not his phone company."

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I cannot disagree more with the aol's policy in general. they run a very shady business, and even if some people were doing okay with their service, it is probably because they have the same warped up mentality as them. but be careful, because just like aol chat online, karma will fight back and do away with this company the same way! someone is going to end up whistle-blowing any time soon.

December 24 2012 at 8:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This really disgusts me. I am a customer service rep and I am NOT dishonest with my customers. I love the company I work for and my company and myself do the best we can to help when someone calls. We are told if we see ways that the customer can save money such as rate plan high so banking too many mins, data usage low for 2 months when they are on a higher plan, mobile subscriptions, ect. we are to explain this to our customer and ask if they want to change. Paying attention to the account and saving a customer money makes for a happy customer that will remain loyal to your company.

September 20 2012 at 4:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Considine

With this tough economy, there is only one way to win and survive....CUSTOMER SERVICE and eliminating the WAYMISH's in your company. WAYMISH is an acronym for: Why Are You Making It So Hard…for Me to give You my money? It represents all the slights and indifferences made by employees and organizations that lead customers to believe that you don't really want their business. Things like not listening to what the customer is saying, putting policies ahead of common sense, not attempting to resolve complaints, etc. Institutionalizingan anti-WAYMISH philosophy and empowerment processes will help avert a majority of these aggravating incidents and provide the “grease” needed to ease the friction, should an upsetting situation occur. More examples are always at Making your customer service people into hard sell salespeople is a big mistake...Take care of the customer, solve the problem, THEN they will be an ADVOCATE and make up for any slamming or hard sell that you can get them to do.

September 20 2012 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked in Customer Service for 27 years, in a variety of businesses from retail sales to brokerages, and I have to say that I don't even recognize the profession. What most people practice, for whatever reason, I call "Customers Serve Us", since the overwhelming attitude seems to be 'go away, you old biddy, and let me get back to important things like filing my nails!'. Re-assigning large portions of American Customer Service to individuals who have no idea about the country or its people, nor do they care, is as foolish and counter-productive as doing away with human feedback at all, in favor of labyrinthine 'customer help lines' that help no one do anything except give up on the company and take their business elsewhere.
One of the first things that I learned was , "Just remember who's overhead and who's profit." Customer Service reps aren't there to lie for the company, but they aren't there to hack off the customers either.

September 20 2012 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This rep is so full of it. I used to work as a customer service rep for ATT. We weren't asked to upsell. The only thing this rep said that was true was that if you're polite to a rep, they're more willing to help you and go the extra mile but not because they hate who they work for. Reps are trained to diffuse situations with belligerent customers and treat all politely and professionally. Never had customers calling in just to have someone to talk to. Don't know who this rep worked for but where I worked, if we kept a customer on the phone for 2 hours to avoid giving a $20 credit and transferred them around, we'd be fired. The motto of customer service is "one and done" and to handle each call as quickly as possible.

Reps have fairly generous limits on the amount of credit they can issue without involving a supervisor and when the credit requested is over their limit, will happily pass you to a supervisor who can approve higher credits. Lying about cancellations and payment options is bogus. If someone wants to cancel, you transfer them to the retention department. As for payment options, everyday I extended payment deadlines for people who were having difficulty paying and would suggest ways they could lower their bill. It was common to drasticly reduce bills of customers, whose kids had ran them up texting, if they'd move to an unlimited text plan or block texting on their kids' phones. Also, BS about saddling people with bills they can't afford. New service requests are granted based on credit reviews. The malcontent should identify himself and the company worked for because most of what's being said is totally bogus.

Companies are beginning to learn that outsourcing customer service isn't worth the few dollars in salary saved. I had one little old black lady call in tears because her grandchildren, who she was raising, had ran up a bill that was a couple of thousand dollars. Her Southern accent was so thick that I had difficulty understanding it and she'd just spoken to an Indian rep who she couldn't understand. Her first words were, "Thank God, you're an American." My supervisor approved of writing off all but her basic charges. Customer service reps are trained to maintain good relationships with customers not to risk losing a $75/mo. account by giving the customer a run-around on issuing a $20 credit on a disputed charge.

September 20 2012 at 5:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Billionaire presidential candidate and software tycoon Ray Hopewood explains how a "reorganization and realignment" of the company's software support accelerated sales and increased profitability for his mega-software company :-)

September 19 2012 at 9:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why didn't this person have the GUTS to just do the right thing and try every means to help the customers?

September 19 2012 at 9:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I used ot work in customer service for Verizon through a contractor. I finally walked off the job - because no matter how deep in trouble calling customers were - they demanded that we sell them mor eproduct! Damdest shady business I cnathink off. thi shappen 4 years ago and I can assure you it has not gotten any better.

September 19 2012 at 9:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

i worked in customer svc for a health insurance co. i never lied to my customers, many times i would feel bad for them and give them ways to get around the system or get things approved. at the end of the day you have to hope that that good karma for helping others will come back to you

September 19 2012 at 9:01 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

real customer service has been gone for at least 30 years

September 19 2012 at 8:53 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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