Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

I'll have to transfer you to another department.

No, I can't offer you a refund. This was your fault.

You should have read the rules and regulations.

Those are just the three of the sentences, uttered in monotone, that I've heard from customer service agents over the years.

As time has wafted ever onward, it seems that two elements of customer service have slipped inexorably downward: the service part and the customer-oriented part.

But perhaps it's all in my head. Perhaps customers are nastier than ever and customer service agents are the saints of the business universe.

Well, here's a piece of research performed by the Marchex Institute, a group of data scientists and analysts who claim to be very clever.

The most stunning statistic they uncovered might make you wince.

While 79 percent of customers are polite to customer service agents on calls, a mere 57 percent of customer service agents reciprocate.

Yes, you only have slightly more than a 50 percent chance of getting on the phone and finding a nice person on the other end of the line.

You might imagine that working in customer service requires staff to be polite. It seems not. Perhaps it's the training. Or perhaps only misanthropes get jobs in customer service.

And here's where we pause to think about United Airlines. Oh, all airlines really. In so many of the incidents that have recently been reported, the attitude of the customer service agent has almost instantly been hostile.

Think about the most recent, in which a professional musician says a United Airlines customer service agent attacked her and tried to wrestle her luggage from her.

These numbers suggest the problem might be far worse than one has imagined. If the calls as as bad as the Marchex Institute says, imagine what the in-person interactions are like. 

You, though, want a little optimism. That's because you're basically a nice, polite human being. Or, at least, you want to be.

Here's something from the Marchex research report: "When agents were polite to callers, the average call was more than three minutes longer versus when they used rude or disparaging terms, providing more time for agents to try to sell and close a sale."

The research also says that if you're polite as a customer, you have a 50 percent better chance of getting a discount or a deal.

You see, politeness might work. Creating a better mood for the interaction might just allow for commerce to rear its beautiful head. It offers the promise of surprise and satisfaction.

Then again, humans are unhappy souls. Increasingly, they feel it's OK to project this unhappiness on others.

I blame Twitter, of course.

Published on: Jun 9, 2017
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