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!

Caller:[click]


2/3/2012 12:13:01 am

OMG that was too funny! I shared it with my team- with a big warning NOT to try this at home (or work). Thanks, Greg!

Reply
2/3/2012 12:25:26 am

Happy to hear you enjoyed my shenanigans, Ellen. Even happier that you had the wherewithal to issue the disclaimer to your agents.

Thanks for reading, and for reaching out!

Best,

GL

Reply
Kevin Carly
2/3/2012 04:13:26 am

GL,

This is the best yet. If I weren't a man, I would briefly consider having your surrogate children.

I'm sharing with as many people as I can so that we can get your minion readers up to 8!

Kev

Reply
2/3/2012 04:20:56 am

8? Expecting my readership to double in size like that is awfully ambitious, Kevin. You might want to set the bar a bit lower.

But thanks for trying!

-GL

Reply
2/6/2012 11:02:16 am

Thanks for the humor.

Reply
2/7/2012 07:07:08 pm

This is the best piece of business humour in a lllooonnngggg time. Do you have more ???
Even the advice that comes with it of letting the agents go, has merit.
I am trying my hand at office humour / satire in my Blog but seeing your post have far to go.

Reply
2/7/2012 10:18:36 pm

Grateful for the very kind praise, Ankur. Yes, there is lots more where that came from. Probably too much if you ask some people. I've been writing contact center humor and satire professionally since 1994. Odd way to make a living, I know.

Hopefully by now you have had time to peruse more of my Off Center posts. Even more hopefully you have laughed a lot.

Best,

GL

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