By Dan Clay
Needless to say (especially living in Washington, DC) it’s hard to find a conversation topic that elicits the same reaction from everyone. But my experience working in customer service reveals one commonality across all ages, nationalities, races, and eye colors: If you tell someone you work in customer service, they’ll tell you their latest call center catastrophe. Your former classmate was transferred four times before he found out why his computer screen went blue. Your aunt could have swept the floors of Madison Square Garden in the time it took her cable company to pick up the phone. And all your friend’s husband wants to know is what it takes to talk to a human being. Like it or not, these stories reflexively pour out whenever we answer the inevitable question, “What do you do?”
Our industry certainly receives a disproportionate share of public scorn. But thankfully, some comedians channel this frustration into something funnier than the typical cocktail party venting session. Which brings me to my question: What’s the funniest customer service scene you’ve ever seen? (learn about my favorites after the jump)
Mine, without contest, comes during an Ellen Degeneres stand-up routine. While questioning the necessity of instructions on shampoo bottles (is it really that complicated?), Ellen envisions the confused callers the shampoo 1-800 line must handle (the relevant portion occurs from 0:45 – 3:15)
Ellen’s of course not the only comedian to crack us up at customer service’s expense. Seinfeld seemed to have it out for telemarketers and rental car clerks. Little Britain continues to get laughs every time the computer says no. Turns out even Mad TV can be funny when it’s poking fun at customer service; the show provides a rare gem in the form of a short-fused fast-food employee seemingly inconvenienced by the mere presence of customers. (Customer service finally got a moment of glory in Slumdog Millionaire – the hero at one point serves tea in a call center but goes on to become…well, I won’t ruin the ending for those who haven’t seen it already)
To bring this all back to an unfortunate reality: for many people, the funniest YouTube videos about customer service are not from comedians but from real-life company interactions—and the impact from social media negative word of mouth is anything but funny. For CCC members, we actually have a tool that will help you track online word of mouth and help prevent your customer service from becoming fodder for the next viral video sensation.
But back to the fun – will you join me on my break from the day-to-day rigors by answering, what’s your favorite customer service spoof?