Back to top

Some helpful tidbits

Cover of Waiting for Service: an In
A review of Waiting for Service: an Insider’s Account of Why Customer Service is Broken and Tips to Avoid Bad Service by Ama Tenumah

I heard a radio interview with Amas Tenumah about his book, Waiting for Service: an Insider’s Account of Why Customer Service is Broken and Tips to Avoid Bad Service. I was eager to read this book for two reasons: 1) to improve my attitude and patience when dealing with customer service at, say, AT&T, and 2) to improve my own skills in delivering customer service.

Tenumah, a motivational speaker and former customer service consultant, writes that most businesses have small customer service departments and budgets - and little incentive to improve. This is news?

Is there a way to keep our interactions with, say, AT&T, short and pleasant? Is there a secret way in? Not generally.

His tips:
— Lower your expectations.
— Be kind to the customer service rep you finally reach. They are low in hierarchy and poorly trained and paid.
— Ask to speak with sales rather than customer service. Your wait will be shorter as they have incentives to make sales. (I did wonder: wouldn’t sales just route you back to customer service?)
— If you’re stuck at an airport, contact the airline via their app or social media while waiting in line for a human.
— Send your complaint to company execs via snail mail.
— He lists websites that might be helpful including this list of company contacts:

So what did I learn from this book? The company contacts may actually be useful. Callers who are jerks are called “Karens.” There is no secret back door. People who have time and stamina and a voice - that is, those of us with privilege - have a better chance of getting service. Sadly, not news.

The concise book was a little helpful, even if much of it was known to me. Finally, he invites us to scan a QR code to his website to sign up for daily customer service tips. I did so a few days ago. Nothing yet. I am still on hold.

--reviewed by Jill M.

Jun 20, 2023