Off Center
Imagine a world in which customer service agents spoke their mind on every call. What if, instead of always trying to soothe angry and abusive customers with forced empathy, agents voiced how they really felt?

How interesting it would be if such scripted statements as “I understand your frustration” were replaced with such authentic ones as “It’s probably just karma.” How exciting things would get if, in place of “I’m going to do everything I can to rectify this problem,” agents instead said, “I make $7.50/hour, sit in a cubicle the size of a gym locker, and have worked the last 17 weekends in a row – go ahead, Mr. Johnson at 105 Elm St., I dare you to scream at me again.”

True, customer satisfaction and loyalty would likely take a vicious dip, but so would agent turnover. Several studies haves indicated that contact center employees who are encouraged to freely express themselves at work are more productive, more engaged and less likely to burn customers in effigy while chanting passages from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Think about it, most of your agents currently do the “right” thing by offering empathy and understanding to irate callers, only to be berated and lambasted by the customer anyway. The end result? High employee burnout/attrition in addition to the already existent low customer satisfaction. By empowering agents to fire back at furious callers, you at least win one of the two battles.   

And just think of the entertainment value for those in your contact center who are tasked with evaluating calls for quality purposes. QA staff would get plenty of healthy, stress-reducing comic relief while listening to customer-agent interactions such as the one featured below:

Agent: Thank you for calling Narcissist Fitness Customer Care. My name doesn’t matter. How can I help you?

Caller: I’ve called you stupid people twice already asking you to cancel my membership. Why are you still charging my credit card!?

Agent: Could you please yell a bit louder, sir? That way the folks in Membership will hear you directly and I won’t have to go through the trouble of processing your request.

Caller: Are you getting smart with me?

Agent: Oh, no sir. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. You were right before  – we’re all quite stupid here.

Caller: I want to speak to your supervisor this instant!

Agent: No you don’t – he’s even dumber than I am.

Caller: Listen, cancel my membership once and for all! And stop sending me your annoying monthly fitness newsletter – it’s paper-wasters like you who are destroying all the forests.

Agent: Oh good, you’re concerned about the environment. In that case, you really shouldn’t cancel your membership. You wouldn’t believe all the paperwork involved.

Caller: I can’t believe this! I’ve never been treated like this in all my life!

Agent: Thanks.We’ve been getting a LOT of attention for our customer service lately.

Caller: If you don’t cancel my membership today, I’ll do everything I can so that you lose your job!

Agent: Good luck, sir. I’ve been doing everything I can to lose my job for months now, to no avail.

Caller: Knock it off! I’m not playing around here. You’d better cancel my…

Agent: Okay, okay. Let me bring up your account. Can I have the last four digits of your Social Security Number please?

Caller: 7322

Agent: Can you please confirm your last name?

Caller: Pierce

Agent: Thank you. Let’s see here – ah, there’s the problem.

Caller: What is it?

Agent: Your cancellation request was denied.

Caller: What are you talking about? How can you deny my cancellation request?

Agent: Well, when you signed up, I see you listed the following as your main goals: “Lose 50 lbs”, “increase muscular strength”, and “improve cardiovascular condition”.

Caller: Yeah, so?

Agent: Have you achieved those goals?

Caller: Um, not exactly.

Agent: Of course you haven’t – you’ve only been a member for two months. That’s why we aren’t letting you cancel your membership yet. We really want to see you succeed!