A simple tip to make customer service calls a lot less painful

Make frustrating customer service calls a lot less painful with this simple tip.

A simple tip to make customer service calls a lot less painful

Customer service calls can be painful. But a recent study has revealed a way in which these calls can be a lot less frustrating – and it’s so simple.

Okay, let’s paint the picture. You have a problem with your internet connection. You dial the customer service number and you are asked to press one, two, three or four depending on the nature of your call. You press one, and the automated service leads you to a second series of ‘press one, two, three, four or hold the line’ messages. You finally think that you’ve pressed all the right buttons and you are put on hold and told your call will be answered shortly. Shortly. Yeah right …

We’ve all been there.

By the time your call is finally answered, you’re in a right state and the first person to whom you speak is the most obvious target of your ire. And if there’s even a hint of an accent, well, needless to say, things can often get a little heated.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has revealed a simple tweak which, when applied, makes such calls a lot less painful.

The study analysed around 10,000 calls and over 36 hours of talk time. In about 80 per cent of the calls, it found that the caller exhibited signs of aggression. This made it more likely that the customer service employee would become defensive and the call would spiral into an uncomfortable experience that often ended poorly for both parties.

But when the callers were civil and polite, fewer than five per cent of the calls escalated to the point of rudeness on the employee’s behalf.

It also found that ‘targeted aggression’ is the most powerful trigger of frustrating customer service calls.

So, here’s the simple tweak: stop using first-person pronouns when referring to your issue. For instance, instead of saying “I have a problem with your product” say “this product is giving me trouble. Can you help me?”

By shifting the blame away from the person to whom you’re talking, they are less likely to become offended and they are more likely to help you get what you want from the call.

“If customers change their language so that it’s less about the employee and more about the product or problem in question, they can improve the quality of the customer service they get,” said study author David Walker.

It pays to remember that during these calls you are (albeit eventually) talking to a human being. Put yourself in their shoes – when someone makes your job difficult, how likely are you to want to help them?

Read the study at psycnet.apa.org

Do you think this is good advice? What are your tips for making customer service calls less painful?



    To make a comment, please register or login

    3rd Feb 2017
    Good comment it is only human nature if you are nice to the person its amazing how things can go your way.
    Nan Norma
    3rd Feb 2017
    When that happens to me I usually start by says "Please don't take this personally but I'm really angry, annoyed, or whatever." I find I do get some sympathy and therefore some help.
    3rd Feb 2017
    Oh this is difficult on so many levels.
    Have you ever tried to fix a computer billing error.
    Month after month of multiple hours of phone transfers, wait music, throwing the blame back on the customer, explaining the issue over and over and over, and then finally faux promises that the issue is fixed.
    All this seems to run consecutively with me trying to politely understand a strong Indian/English accent.
    3rd Feb 2017
    It is only common sense that, if a caller is aggressive, the call is not going to go well. You will not get any sympathy from the customer service representative. If the caller gets abusive, the CSR may well hang up, and so they should.
    I have always found the patient, friendly approach the best way to resolve problems. Be well prepared for the call, have all relevant information at hand and give the CSR as much background info to the problem as you can.
    My approach with service providers has always been "softly, softly, catchee monkey". If you want to let off steam, you can always do it after you have put down the phone. Go out into the garden and abuse a tree or something.
    Polly Esther
    3rd Feb 2017
    Yes what has been stated above is all very true, but when you are with a company that is really on the nose, then what. Not mentioning names but I am with a company whose name starts with a capital Telstra and the internet is continually dropping out. Got to the stage where I don't bother ringing them anymore, just cross my fingers and eventually it comes back on. Well it has so far. However, it's funny, they still send me their standard email message that states "thanks for contacting us, and how was your 'Telstra' experience today?
    Telstra seems to be always malfunctioning and really does smell.
    I need a new phone and internet service, but am wary of who to trust.
    They may all be of similar ilk. I am sorting through various offers, wish me luck please.
    3rd Feb 2017
    Give Vodafone a go Polly very rarely had a problem and if there is one they let you know. I have used them for at least a dozen years, however of course they do not operate in all areas.
    A. N. Onymous
    3rd Feb 2017
    Polly Esther,
    This site might help you:
    casper dude
    3rd Feb 2017
    Treat those how you would like to be treated yourself. Don't lower yourself to being rude and aggressive, even though you feel like it sometimes. Customer service is very poor in many companies now, not all, but many. Keep your head and results will be better.
    3rd Feb 2017
    same apply s to any conversation a bit of Curtsy goes a long way
    3rd Feb 2017
    With all due respect to all the commentators, you are discussing the symptom, not the cause. The cause is businesses treating their customers with contempt by failing to employ sufficient enquiry staff, and outsourcing enquiries to overseas call centres. The answer may be to boycott companies which do this to their customers. Perhaps someone could put up a web site so that we consumers can submit information on businesses (by industry category) which employ local customer service operators. I'll start the ball rolling by saying I continue to use NRMA Insurance for my insurances, and Click Energy for my electricity because I can speak to a person who can understand my problem, and can fix my problem. On the other side of the ledger,I terminated my internet account with TPG because I could barely understand their operators, and they couldn't fix problems anyway.
    Nan Norma
    3rd Feb 2017
    Yes Karl, I'll second that, NRMA has been great. . Optus has been very good too, except they are rather sexist.
    The Librarian
    3rd Feb 2017
    The real issue here is not the customer but the business and their bad customer service. Telstra is a prime example of how not to do it. Customer service staff need to be able to properly deal with the problem or if not immediately pass onto someone who can. They need to understand how their system really works and be able to converse clearly in the language(s) of the customer. They need to follow up and ensure that the problem has been fixed and ring back etc when they have promised they will. They also need to be contactable directly if follow up is needed. None of these things are often done successfully by Telstra customer service staff. None of these are difficult to do if you train staff properly. Customer anger is quite appropriate but ideally should be directed at the incompetent managers who have set up and run what they call customer service.
    3rd Feb 2017
    There are a few (very few) companies which offer to call you back. That makes the process stressless. Unfortunately many refuse to do this and one has to wonder if they do not want to speak to you or the miniscule cost of putting in the software to achieve this is too much. Either way it is what it is.
    7th Feb 2017
    I usually try to do these calls when I can put my phone on speaker and sit with a cuppa while I enjoy watching what is happening in my garden while I wait. I then I usually have very pleasant chats and get what I need done without stress. I work full time, so this can be tricky sometimes, so it doesn't always work.
    I did have a very hard time with Telstra a few years back though, but having people outright lie to you over and over test anyone's patience. Optus has been a very pleasant experience compared to the Telstra one, but I do find going to their outlet works particularly well. The lovely younger generations seem to love showing me how to make things work and often just do it for me. But there I go off on one of my chats...

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