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Life Stories

“The Art of Customer Support: Turning Challenges into Solutions”

This lesson is designed to build your critical-thinking skills in English as you read, listen, and answer different types of comprehension and discussion questions.

Pre-Listening Activities for Teachers

Although these questions are related to classroom instruction, independent learners can reflect on the ideas and topic to prepare for the listening portion of the lesson.

  1. Discussion: Setting the Scene Before introducing the story, initiate a class discussion about online shopping experiences. Ask students if they have ever received damaged goods or faced any challenges with their online purchases. Encourage them to share their funny or frustrating stories related to shopping. This activity will help students relate to the theme of the story and build anticipation for what might happen to the customer in the story.
  2. Vocabulary Preview: Comic Vocabulary Prepare a list of humorous and comic-related vocabulary words from the story, such as “quirky,” “chipper,” “tense,” “comical,” “lighthearted,” etc. Have students work in pairs or small groups to guess the meanings of these words based on context or prior knowledge. As a class, discuss the meanings and encourage students to use the words in sentences to reinforce their understanding.
  3. Predicting the Plot: What’s the Story About? Divide the class into groups and give each group a brief summary of the story without revealing the ending. Ask students to predict what might happen in the story based on the information provided. Encourage them to speculate on the potential interactions between the call center employee and the frustrated customer. After a few minutes, have each group share their predictions with the class.
  4. Role-Play: Customer and Call Center Employee Pair up students and assign one as the customer (Mrs. Jenkins) and the other as the call center employee (Max). Provide them with a scenario where the customer receives a damaged computer and wants to return it. Have the pairs practice a role-play dialogue, taking turns being the customer and the call center employee. This activity will help students get into the mindset of the characters and improve their listening skills by recognizing similar situations during the actual story.


    Listen and read the story and answer the questions. Key vocabulary words are marked in bold.


    A language activity from Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab.

    There once was a quirky call center employee named Max, and he had a reputation for his cheerful demeanor, but today, he was about to face a customer like no other.

    Ring! Ring! The phone jolted Max out of his daydreams. He picked up the call with his usual charm, “Hello! You’ve reached the tech-tastic support team. I’m Max, and I’m here to make your day better. How may I help you?”

    On the other end, a frustrated voice erupted, “My day couldn’t be worse, and I don’t need your chipper attitude!” The customer, Mrs. Jenkins, had ordered a computer and received it in a disastrous condition.

    “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that! Let’s get this sorted out right away,” Max replied, trying to keep his positivity intact.

    Mrs. Jenkins described the computer’s lamentable state, listing off a series of damages that even a tornado would envy. Max could practically picture the poor laptop’s woeful expression.

    “That sounds like a catastrophe!” Max exclaimed, suppressing a laugh. “I assure you, we’ll take care of it. Can you please provide your order number?”

    As Mrs. Jenkins struggled to find the order number, Max heard crashing sounds in the background. “Um, ma’am, is everything alright over there?” he inquired, curiosity piqued.

    “Everything’s falling apart just like this computer!” she grumbled, finally giving Max the order number.

    Max checked the order details and noticed that Mrs. Jenkins had opted for express shipping. He couldn’t resist a joke, “I guess your computer took the ‘express’ shipping too seriously! It couldn’t wait to meet you.”

    Mrs. Jenkins chuckled despite her frustration. “Well, it arrived with a bang, that’s for sure.”

    “I’m glad we could find some humor in this,” Max said, happy to have eased the tension slightly. “Now, let’s arrange the return of the computer. We’ll have a courier pick it up, and you’ll get a full refund or a replacement, whichever you prefer.”

    “Okay, but I want a new one, and I want it to arrive in one piece!” she insisted.

    “Absolutely, ma’am! I’ll make sure it’s wrapped like a mummy in bubble wrap,” Max reassured her.

    As he processed the return request, Mrs. Jenkins couldn’t help but smile at Max’s absurd humor. The call took a comical turn as Max narrated an imaginary adventure of her computer’s return journey, complete with a wild joyride on a delivery truck.

    Eventually, the return process was complete, and Mrs. Jenkins was finally satisfied. “You know, Max, you’ve managed to turn my frustration into amusement. Thanks for that,” she said genuinely.

    “My pleasure! Remember, laughter is the best tech-support medicine,” Max replied with a grin.

    What began as a tense call turned into a lighthearted, humorous interaction between Max and Mrs. Jenkins. From that day on, Max became known as the call center’s “Comedy Customer Care Specialist,” bringing laughter to customers and colleagues alike.

    And so, the lesson we learn from the story is that even in the midst of tense moments, a little humor can go a long way in brightening someone’s day.

    Comprehension Questions: Self-Grading Quiz

    Comprehension Questions in Text Format

    1. What is the main problem the customer, Mrs. Jenkins, is facing?
    a) Her computer is too slow.
    b) Her computer arrived damaged.
    c) She received the wrong color computer.
    d) Her computer is missing some accessories.

    2. How does Max, the call center employee, respond to Mrs. Jenkins’ frustration?
    a) He dismisses her complaints.
    b) He offers a full refund without asking questions.
    c) He tries to keep his positivity and humor intact.
    d) He transfers her call to a different department.

    3. Why does Mrs. Jenkins find Max’s humor amusing despite her frustration?
    a) She appreciates his attempts to distract her from the problem.
    b) She thinks the situation is genuinely hilarious.
    c) She is a fan of stand-up comedy and recognizes Max’s talent.
    d) She finds his humor offensive but laughs to be polite.

    4. What options does Max provide to resolve Mrs. Jenkins’ issue with the damaged computer?
    a) A discount on her next purchase
    b) A coupon for a future order
    c) A full refund or a replacement computer
    d) A complimentary accessory for her computer

    5. How does Max earn the nickname “Comedy Customer Care Specialist”?
    a) He is always cracking jokes at the expense of customers.
    b) He incorporates humor into his customer interactions.
    c) He participates in comedy clubs during his free time.
    d) He plays pranks on his colleagues at the call center.

    Answers and Explanations

    1.  The correct answer is b) Her computer arrived damaged. In the story, Mrs. Jenkins calls the call center to report that her computer has arrived in a disastrous condition with various damages.

    2. The correct answer is c) He tries to keep his positivity and humor intact. In the story, despite Mrs. Jenkins’ frustration, Max maintains his cheerful demeanor and uses humor to ease the tension.

    3. The correct answer is a) She appreciates his attempts to distract her from the problem. Mrs. Jenkins finds Max’s humor amusing because it helps to alleviate her frustration and lighten the mood during the call.

    4. The correct answer is c) A full refund or a replacement computer. In the story, Max offers Mrs. Jenkins the option of either getting a full refund for the damaged computer or receiving a replacement.

    5. The correct answer is b) He incorporates humor into his customer interactions. Max earns the nickname “Comedy Customer Care Specialist” because he uses humor while interacting with customers, as illustrated in the story. His ability to bring laughter to customers and colleagues sets him apart in the call center.

    Discussion Questions

    Intermediate (Recall and Comprehend):

    1. How did Max, the call center employee, respond to Mrs. Jenkins’ frustration? Why do you think he chose to use humor in this situation?

    2. What were some of the damages that Mrs. Jenkins’ computer had when it arrived? How did Max react when she described the condition of the computer?

    3. How did Max handle Mrs. Jenkins’ request for a resolution to the issue? What options did he provide, and why do you think these options were suitable?

    4. Why do you think Mrs. Jenkins found Max’s humor amusing despite her frustration? How did his humor impact the overall tone of their conversation?

    5. Max earned the nickname “Comedy Customer Care Specialist.” What do you think this title means, and how did he earn it based on his interaction with Mrs. Jenkins?

    Advanced (Analyze and Interpret):

    1. Analyze the role of humor in customer service interactions. How can humor be both beneficial and risky in such situations? Provide examples of when humor might be appropriate and when it might be best to avoid it.

    2. Reflect on Max’s customer service skills and his ability to handle challenging situations. What other qualities besides humor do you think make him effective in his role as a call center employee?

    3. Discuss the psychological impact of humor in stressful situations. How can humor help reduce tension and build rapport between customer service representatives and customers?

    4. In the story, Mrs. Jenkins appreciated Max’s humor despite her frustration. Why do you think a positive customer experience is essential, even when dealing with problems like receiving damaged goods? How can a positive experience impact a customer’s loyalty to a company?

    5. Role-play a different scenario where a customer is facing a significant issue with a product, but the customer service representative does not handle the situation effectively. What could have been done differently to turn this negative experience into a positive one, similar to Max’s interaction with Mrs. Jenkins?

      Class Activities

      These post-listening activities add visual (seeing), auditory (listening), kinesthetic (moving), and tactile (touching) elements to engage students in meaningful ways based on their learning styles.

      1. Write a Script: “Max’s Comedy Show” Divide the students into small groups and assign each group a different scene from the story where Max uses humor to interact with Mrs. Jenkins. Instruct the groups to write a script for a comedy show based on their assigned scene. They can expand on Max’s humorous responses and create additional comical situations. Encourage them to practice their scripts and perform them in front of the class, showcasing their creativity and understanding of the story’s humor.

      2. Customer Service Training Role-Play Pair up students and have them role-play a customer service scenario. One student will act as a call center employee, while the other will play a frustrated customer with an issue regarding a product or service. The students should apply the customer service skills they observed in Max’s interaction with Mrs. Jenkins. After the role-plays, facilitate a class discussion on the importance of empathy, active listening, and incorporating humor when appropriate in customer service interactions.

      3. Create a Comic Strip In small groups, students can create a comic strip based on the story. They should depict the key moments when Max uses humor to handle Mrs. Jenkins’ issue with the damaged computer. Encourage them to use speech bubbles, captions, and illustrations that capture the essence of the story’s humor. After completing their comic strips, each group can present their creation to the class, explaining how they interpreted the humorous elements of the story.

      4. Bonus Activity: Write a Letter to Max As a final activity, have the students write a letter to Max, expressing their thoughts about his approach to customer service and how his humor positively impacted the customer’s experience. They can also share personal anecdotes related to humorous customer service interactions they’ve had. Collect the letters and mail them to a fictional address for Max at the call center if possible. It’s a fun way to reinforce the themes of the story and show appreciation for exceptional customer service.

      Language Game

      Here’s a possible classroom language activity based on the story and topic. Look at each problem and scenario and roleplay with a partner. Possible solutions are listed afterward.

      Customer Problems and Scenarios:

      1. Problem: “My laptop won’t turn on, and I have an urgent work deadline.” Scenario: The customer needs immediate assistance to troubleshoot the laptop issue.

      2. Problem: “I received the wrong color of the product I ordered online.” Scenario: The customer is disappointed with the color mismatch and wants a resolution.

      3. Problem: “My order was supposed to arrive two days ago, but it’s still not here.” Scenario: The customer is frustrated with the delay in receiving their order.

      4. Problem: “I accidentally deleted all my files on the computer I purchased.” Scenario: The customer is stressed out and needs help recovering their data.

      5. Problem: “I’m having trouble setting up the new smart device I bought.” Scenario: The customer needs assistance with the setup process.

      6. Problem: “The product I received has missing parts.” Scenario: The customer is frustrated and needs the missing parts to use the product.

      7. Problem: “I received a damaged product in the mail.” Scenario: The customer is upset about the damaged item and wants a replacement.

      8. Problem: “I accidentally made a duplicate purchase and need a refund.” Scenario: The customer realizes they have unintentionally made the same purchase twice.

      9. Problem: “The website is not working, and I can’t complete my order.” Scenario: The customer is frustrated with technical issues on the website.

      10. Problem: “The product I received doesn’t match the description online.” Scenario: The customer is disappointed with the product’s appearance or features.

      11. Problem: “I’m having difficulty redeeming a discount code at checkout.” Scenario: The customer wants to apply a discount to their purchase but encounters issues.

      12. Problem: “The software I purchased is not compatible with my operating system.” Scenario: The customer needs help resolving the compatibility issue.

      13. Problem: “I can’t log in to my account, and I need access to my purchase history.” Scenario: The customer is frustrated about being locked out of their account.

      14. Problem: “The item I received as a gift is not the right size.” Scenario: The customer received a gift that doesn’t fit, and they want to exchange it.

      15. Problem: “I accidentally placed the wrong order and need to cancel it.” Scenario: The customer realizes they ordered the wrong product or quantity.

      16. Problem: “The product I received is defective and doesn’t work as expected.” Scenario: The customer is frustrated with the non-functional product.

      17. Problem: “I’m having difficulty navigating the website to find the product I want.” Scenario: The customer needs assistance in finding a specific product on the website.

      18. Problem: “I’m not satisfied with the customer service I received during my previous interaction.” Scenario: The customer had a negative experience with a previous customer service representative.

      19. Problem: “I received a different product from what I ordered.” Scenario: The customer is disappointed with receiving the wrong product.

      Possible Solutions:

      1. The customer service representative guides the customer through basic troubleshooting steps to identify and resolve the problem. If the issue persists, they arrange for expedited repair or replacement.

      2. The customer service representative apologizes for the error and arranges for a return and replacement of the correct color. They may also offer a discount or coupon for the inconvenience.

      3. The customer service representative tracks the order and provides updates on its status. If necessary, they offer expedited shipping or a partial refund for the late delivery.

      4. The customer service representative offers empathetic support and suggests data recovery options. They may also direct the customer to tutorials or tools to retrieve their deleted files.

      5. The customer service representative provides step-by-step instructions over the phone or via a video call to help the customer set up the device successfully.

      6. The customer service representative apologizes for the oversight and arranges for the missing parts to be shipped to the customer promptly.

      7. The customer service representative offers sincere apologies and arranges for a return and replacement of the damaged product.

      8. The customer service representative confirms the duplicate purchase and processes a refund for the extra transaction.

      9. The customer service representative troubleshoots the website issue and helps the customer complete their order manually.

      10. The customer service representative offers options for return and refund or provides information on how to use the product effectively to meet the customer’s needs.

      11. The customer service representative verifies the discount code and successfully assists the customer in applying it to their order.

      12. The customer service representative helps the customer find a compatible version of the software or offers a refund if no suitable alternative is available.

      13. The customer service representative guides the customer through the account recovery process or resets the password to restore access.

      14. The customer service representative facilitates an exchange for the correct size or provides a gift card if the desired size is unavailable.

      15. The customer service representative cancels the order upon verification and arranges for a refund if necessary.

      16. The customer service representative apologizes for the inconvenience and arranges for a return, replacement, or refund.

      17. The customer service representative guides the customer through the website’s navigation and search features to locate the desired product.

      18. The customer service representative apologizes for the previous experience and ensures a more positive and satisfactory interaction.

      19. The customer service representative arranges for a return and replacement of the correct product or offers a full refund.

      Different AI technologies, including ChatGPT and an AI voice generator, were used in a collaborative way to prepare the content for this lesson.
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