When Customer Service Hell is Story Telling Heaven

After spending the last few years researching complaining psychology, I’ve heard many stories and anecdotes about complaints—thousands of them! The other day someone asked me if the sheer volume of complaints I’m exposed to have made them indistinguishable in my mind, whether they’ve blended into one large whine-a-thon. In fact, there is a certain category of complaints I recall so well, I can recite every one of them as if they happened to me personally (which fortunately, most of them did not). What makes these complaints so memorable to me is they all made me laugh, either because the story itself was hilarious or because the storyteller made it so.

What makes a good story, at least to me, is humor. Complaints, by their very nature, can be the perfect foil for juxtaposing a frustrating or annoying situation with hilarious commentary or snarky observations. We all complain about a huge variety of topics, many of which are far too serious for humor but the context that often provides the most amusing stories is our encounters with customer service.

My own stories of customer service woes are usually related to my name. Guy Winch is a simple name, one would think, with my both first and last names having only one syllable, yet it gets butchered more regularly than turkeys at thanksgiving. The following exchange took place with a Dell technical support representative some years ago.

I called about my printer malfunctioning just when I was printing out my notes before leaving to give a lecture. Needless to say, I was stressed for time and irritable. After being on hold for many minutes, getting disconnected and calling again, I was put through to a representative with a strong Indian accent

“Thank you for calling Dell. My name is Tiffany. How may I help you today?”

“I’m having problems with my printer.”

“I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems with your Dell printer. May I have your name please, Sir?”

            “It’s Guy Winch.”

            “Thank you. May I call you Buy?”

            “I prefer Guy.”

            “Yes, Mr. Gay. How can I help you today?”

            “You can start by getting my name right…Tiffany. It’s Guy. Guy Winch.”

            “Yes, of course. Sorry, Sir. Is Die Wench Correct?”

            “Only if you’re channeling Jack the Ripper.”

            “Who…? I… Sorry, how may I help you with your printer today, Mr. Wench?”

The full version of the encounter, which encompassed three representatives, all butchering my name in different ways, is in my book, The Squeaky Wheel (pages 216-217). Although I was quite annoyed at the time, I couldn’t wait to finish the call and document the interaction because I knew I would find it hilarious as soon as my irritability passed and I knew that made it a good story.

I’ve also heard many dramatic customer service stories, as well as many heartwarming ones and some which were incredibly touching. They were good stories all. But the real crowd pleasers are always the funny ones.

Customer service can be hell but add in humor and you’re in story telling heaven.

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Copyright 2011 Guy Winch