Coffee is for closers, but not on your customer service line


If you have any sort of credit card or bank account, you’ll probably recognize this scenario: You call the customer service number with a simple question or request. But the customer service rep doesn’t want to answer right away. Instead, they launch into a lengthy dissertation about some special offer for their “valued customers”. Usually this is for a free trial of some service that you don’t want or need. So you tell them 4 or 5 times that you’re not interested, and eventually they give up and answer your questions. This is annoying, but quite common.

So when I called American Express with a basic question the other day, I wasn’t that surprised to get yet another sales pitch. But what did surprise me was that the customer service rep could barely speak English. It was painful to hear him make the slow, labored pitch for some worthless finance plan. And it lowered my opinion of American Express quite a bit — especially since I’ve been a cardholder for over a decade. This is apparently the sort of experience they serve up to their longstanding customers.

Alright, let me get to the point: Virtually every respectable company lets you opt-out of information sharing with their affiliates, so you don’t get spammed with lots of offers in the mail. But I’ve yet to see any option to decline all these “free offers” that seem to accompany every call to customer service. For those of us lucky enough to have control over how our own firms handle this sort of thing, let’s try to think about the mindset of a customer when he or she calls in. If they’re calling with a question or to report a problem, there’s a pretty good chance they won’t take kindly to spam that has nothing to do with their problem or motivation. Even better, give customers a way to opt-out of these offers. That way, you won’t waste time and money — and sap customer goodwill — by blaring out offers they don’t want to hear.