Five Things you should never say to a Customer Service Representative

They are people first

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

How a company is perceived by customers can mean the difference between the success and failure of that corporation. Some companies do a great job ensuring their customers have a positive experience. Others, however, do not. And when that happens, customers will contact the company to complain.

That often means they call a customer service line to request the company correct an error, replace an item or refund a product. It’s up to the customer service representative (CSR) to ensure these transactions are handled smoothly.

In many cases, customer service representatives are the first interaction customers have with the company. Because the CSR is the first person someone talks to, they often get the brunt of someone’s ire about their negative experience with the company.

Unfortunately, these vital positions are also the lowest-paid positions. While the pay inequity of employees at large companies is another post — seriously Jeff Bezos how can you spend ALL that money — trickle some of it down your organization.

I’ve worked in customer service almost my entire professional career. I’ve seen a few things over the course of my twenty-year-plus career. Here are five things you should never say to a customer service representative.

1. I know it’s not your fault

I worked in customer service for over twenty years. I often heard people say this line to me in a middle of a rant about the company I worked for. It was like the customer suddenly came to the realization there was a human at the other end of the phone. The customer service representative knows whatever terrible situation occurred with your purchase wasn’t their fault.

When you say this, it just means you’ve realized you’re being rude. You haven’t apologized to the representative. And instead of saying that line, tell the customer service representative you’re sorry for being an asshole. You’ll be more likely to get what you want when you are nice to front-line employees. It’s amazing that more people don’t know that.

2. I was on hold for x of minutes

When you tell the person on the other end of the phone how long you waited, you are essentially repeating what they’ve heard their entire shift. The customer service representative probably gets two fifteen-minute breaks and if they’re lucky a thirty-minute lunch. The rest of the time, they are talking to customers who let them know how inconvenienced they’ve been by being on hold.

The customer service representative may be handling calls in less than two minutes, but the volume is so high, they don’t get a chance to take a breath between calls. They may also be evaluated by ridiculous call standards that often they can’t control. Show some patience.

3. They need to pay you more

I’ve heard the words, “They need to pay you more,” so many times I can’t tell you. It usually happens once I’ve calmed down the frustrated and/or disgruntled customer and been able to solve their problem.

Customer service jobs are usually the lowest-paying jobs someone can have. The customer service representative is well aware they need to be paid more. If you want to acknowledge the representative for helping you, the best thing you can do is ask to speak to their supervisor and tell them what a great job they did. Or if you are asked to take a survey at the end of the call — take it and talk about how the CSR gave great customer service and was a wonderful representative for the company.

Be sure to get the person’s name or ID#. “You should get paid more,” doesn’t get them more pay, giving them great feedback to people who matter can.

4. You don’t know what you’re doing

I’ve heard this a few times. It’s demoralizing to hear this from a customer. Before you say this to a CSR, please consider that this person is doing their best to assist you. If they move slower than you’d like or don’t seem confident in their answers, you might consider that this person got pulled onto the phones with inadequate training and is trying to pivot the best they can. Maybe they work in another department and are filling in for someone who didn’t make it to work that day. There could be a lot going on behind the scenes that you are unaware of.

Saying those words isn’t helping anyone. You do in fact make the situation worse. If you become hostile to the CSR, the person just has to take it no matter the situation. If you hung up on a person at one place I worked, you would be fired on the spot no matter how rude or inappropriate the caller might have been.

One thing that person on the other end of the phone does know — and that’s you’re an asshole. Be patient.

5. You sound hot

Another favorite is “Where are you?” You sound hot and any other personal questions, are things you should just avoid asking the CSR. You may think you’re being nice, but really, it’s distracting. In many cases, they’ve been instructed not to provide personal information about themselves, so it’s best not to ask.

If you’re a guy and you ask a woman these questions, it just comes off as being totally creepy. Just don’t.


Working a job where you’re dealing with the public all day is one of the most difficult things you can do. If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know this is true. When you call a customer service line, pretend you’re talking to your favorite aunt — be kind and polite.

The CSR is doing his/her best.

Writer, Midwesterner, Amateur Cat Herder, Nap Enthusiast. Previously, Contributing Editor for CWIM.

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