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Four Heartbreaking Stories of Customer Service Agents "Not Allowed to Help"

In our #FreeToHelp project, we want to learn what frontline customer service agents can do, will do, and wish they could do to help customers. And while we are doing our best to keep our project positive, we have to know what's not working, too.

We won't be launching a #NotAllowedToHelp project, but I did want to learn about customer service agents being prevented from doing their jobs. So, I braced myself and Googled "customer service" + "not allowed to help." This search yielded 1,150,000 results, my friends. That's a lotta customers left in the lurch and a lotta customer service agents shut down.

1. Reps were not allowed to choose quicker shipping method so deliveries can arrive on time. A building contractor needed expedited shipping for a product, so he could start a job on time. However, customer service reps weren't allowed to choose to air freight the order--which would have enabled him to meet the customer's schedule--or find the parts from other stocking locations. Increased shipping costs weren't the problem. It's just that customer service reps weren't allowed to choose a quicker shipping method.

2. Comcast reps were forced to use a misleading script. Lots of customers have bedrock bad feelings for Comcast. The company's customer service has been lousy for years. In 2016, Washington state filed suit against Comcast for making misleading claims about its monthly "Service Protection Plan." The attorney bringing the suit believed that the customer service scripts given to Comcast representatives deliberately misled customers. Talk about not being #FreeToHelp or even speak the truth!

3. IRS reps were able to answer only 47% of customers' calls because the agency is underfunded. It's impossible for customer service representatives to be #FreeToHelp if there simply aren't enough people to do the job. Wait times for taxpayers calling the IRS for help range from 30 to 60 minutes!

4. Bank of American reps were offered only inadequate computer-based trainings on important banking topics such as balance transfers and fee disclosures. Because the training was so mechanized, and there wasn't any opportunity to ask questions, the reps were worried that they weren't able to do their jobs correctly. But they got lots of detailed training about "deepening the relationship" with customers, a.k.a. selling them something. So, were they #FreeToHelp? No, not so much.

Customer service professionals can't triumph over bad policies, bad managers, or lack of training. They're not superheroes, after all! I take that back. Many of them--the good ones espeically--are.

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