Call Center Customer Woes: Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us




Bring up the subject of customer service phone calls and the blood pressure of everyone within earshot rises exponentially. Otherwise calm, rational, and intelligent people go into extended rants about a call center industry that seems to grow more inhuman and unhelpful with every phone call we make. And Americans make more than 43 billion customer service calls to call centers each year. Whether it's the interminable hold times, the outsourced call center agents who can't speak English or the multitude of buttons to press and automated voices to listen to before reaching someone at a call center with a measurable pulse—who hasn't felt exasperated at the abuse, neglect and wasted time we experience when all we want is help, and maybe a little human kindness?

Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us is journalist Emily Yellin's engaging, funny, and far-reaching exploration of the multibillion-dollar call center industry and its surprising inner-workings. Yellin reveals the real human beings and often surreal corporate policies lurking behind its aggravating faèade. After reading this first-ever investigation of the customer service world, you'll never view your call-center encounters in quite the same way.

Since customer service has a role in just about every industry on earth, Yellin travels the country and the world, meeting a wide range of customer service reps, call center reps, corporate decision makers, industry watchers, and Internet-based consumer activists. She spends time at outsourced call centers for Office Depot in Argentina and Microsoft in Egypt. She gets to know the Mormon wives who answer customer service callsto Jet Blue's call center from their homes in Salt Lake City. She listens in on call center phone calls from around the globe at a FedEx customer service call center in Memphis. She meets with the creators of the yearly Customer Rage Study, customer experience specialists at Credit Suisse in Zurich, the founder and CEO of FedEx, and the CEO of the rising Internet retailer Zappos.com. Yellin finds out which country complains about service the most (Sweden), interviews an actress who provides the voice for automated answering systems at many big corporations, and talks to the people who run a Web site GetHuman.com that posts codes for bypassing automated voices and getting to an actual human being at more than five hundred major companies and call centers.

Yellin weaves her vast reporting into an entertaining narrative that sheds light on the complex forces that create our infuriating call center experiences. She chronicles how the Internet and global competition are forcing businesses to take their customers' needs more seriously and offers hope from people inside and outside the globalized corporate world fighting to make call centers and customer service better for us all.

Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us cuts through corporate jargon and consumer distress to provide an eye-opening and animated account of the way companies treat their customers, how customers treat the people who serve them, and how technology, globalization, class, race, gender and culture influence these interactions in call centers. Frustrated customers, smart executives and dedicated customer service reps alike will find this lively examination of the crossroads of world commerce at call centers—the point where businesses and their customers meet—illuminating and essential.

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