The Lamentations of Amazon Customer Service Agents

We have brought you quite a few firsthand accounts of the misery of working for Amazon at all levels, from the corporate offices to the warehouses. Today, we bring you tales of woe from the people who answer Amazon's customer service calls.

We present to you two stories from customer service agents. The first:

I am sure some of the folks that actually emailed you probably have quite a bit more to deal with by being in the office, but I am not sure if you've heard anything from the Work From Home folks. We don't have as difficult a time as some of the people that work onsite, but there are other troubles brewing for us that make the job less than desirable, and it's based off our customers. Let me begin by explaining how our metrics work. We are timed on all our calls & have goals set for hold times, talk times, and after call work (just like all call centers are). But the biggest issue we have going on right now relates to the metric we get from customers answering the survey at the end of our emails. We are expected to have a certain percentage of "No" responses. Obviously the lower the percentage, the better we are doing, in management's eyes, to keep people happy. This system is FLAWED. Why? Because we have some customers out there that decide, even though we solved their problem, to click "No" instead of "Yes" and we have no information on WHY unless the customer leaves any additional comments (98% of people that say "No" don't seem to bother, even if we fulfilled their request). So basically, if the customer does not leave any feedback as to why they chose "No", we are stuck with management telling us our tone wasn't nice enough, or our apology was insincere (yes, really). We have asked our upper management to change the formatting so that in order to click NO, you need to explain why you are saying No. Unfortunately that didn't fly.

To add insult to injury, that is our TOP determining metric. As of March of this year, if our percentage for this metric is so high that it puts us in the "lower 15%" of our work group, we immediately get our first written warning. After 4 weeks of "Performance Improvement Plan" which is supposed to include 2 coachings from our Leads each week (and we only ever get 1), if we slip into that 15% again we are given our final. So now is where we run into being overly stressed & very unhappy. It's not uncommon to hear that some of us are on anxiety & depression meds, or experience frequent migraines. We have agents that have been leaders on other teams seasonally, and top performers who are now on their final warnings, all because we have NO way of knowing why people are clicking no if we resolved their issue (yes, there are customers that don't like our policies, or that we can't do exactly what they request of us, I'm not referring to these, as they are expected). And the worst part is we are expected to take ownership of those responses, even if we did nothing wrong. The management team refuses to do anything about it, and the worst part is, the new policy went into effect without any notice to us. Not only that, but when we asked for the new policy in writing, we are told that things can change at will & we are not required to be notified prior to these changes taking effect. How can we "follow" the rules if they are changed at a moment's notice? How can they enforce policy that isn't even written or available for us to review?

And another:

I have worked in several call centers over the years and absolutely loved Amazon when I started in 2011. I could work from home and not have a manager hovering over me. I was able to shuffle out of bed, get coffee, and still be in my pajamas until lunch. It was laid back and the only thing we really had to do was make the customer happy; remail a lost package, help a customer place an order online, or refund orders.

We were ranked on a system they called EDR (Expressed Dissatisfaction Rate) which was based on the customer survey sent out that states "Did I Resolve Your Problem?" Most reps loved EDR, it took into account for every single call you had taken. Now, they rate you on NRR, the Negative Response Rate. They take the number of NOs you receive and divide them by the number of Yesses received. They provide you with "goals" that most people have difficulty meeting. If I took 80 calls in one week and only received 15 Yes responses and 3 NOS my NRR is 20%. Anyone in the bottom 15% is being written up and eventually fired.

Even if you meet their "goals" and have one bad week it can ruin you. I would assume that a rep that has the least amount of disappointed customers and less NOs would be a great employee, but unless you get 10 customers to say YES to for each NO you receive, you are above goal. It appears that anyone that has recently used FMLA, or been here longer than a year is being targeted. They are asking people to write their letters of resignation instead of being fired. I'm assuming this is to prevent unemployment payout.

Most employees are so stressed that they are getting sick mentally and physically. Anytime we are messaged or asked to chat with our CSMs, we wonder "Is this it?" We are belittled and told that "we should know our stats and where we stand in ranking," yet the site that shows those figures doesn't work. They will tell you how great your tone is and then when you are written up they tell you just how awful you sounded. There is no consistency to the way they manage anything. They have different departments doing so much that it's no wonder people don't have the right information to provide to their customers...

The hiring wage in Washington in 2011 was $12.10 an hour. Now, they are hiring at $10.00. Anyone above that is struggling to keep their jobs as Amazon wants to remain frugal. For those of us that have put in a good two to three years, this is the end of the Amazon road. We are told our stats are terrible, but not able to see where we rank. We just have to believe what they tell us...

When we get NOs we are told we should try harder! Even if there is absolutely nothing we can do. I've had customers call and yell about their video not playing and come to find it it was purchased from iTunes, yet they are dissatisfied. Would many of us work at Amazon if we had known this? Nope! It is like being in a relationship and finding out they weren't serious about the relationship after two and a half years. It is soul crushing!

[Photo: Getty. You can email the author of this post at Hamilton@Gawker.com]