By the time you’re frustrated enough to give customer service a call, being nice may be the last thing on your mind. But choosing your words carefully could help improve the quality of service you get.
After analyzing over 30 hours of calls between customers and call center representives, faculty of management assistant professor David Walker and his colleagues found that callers who used positive words were more likely to receive better service.
But when callers used second person pronouns (such as “you” and “your”) and interrupted the employee, customer service worsened in more than 35% of calls. The research suggests that having a little compassion toward stressed-out employees can go a long way.
Focus on the problem
By mixing positive language (like great and fine) into the conversation, customers can alleviate some the stress that service employees often experience on the job. An employee who isn’t the target of aggressive words or phrases is less likely to have a negative reaction, the researchers said.
"In general, when customers use aggressive words or phrases to personally target customer service employees, or when they interrupt the person they are talking to, we found that the employee's negative reaction is much stronger," said study co-author Danielle van Jaarsveld, associate professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business.
Incivility breeds incivility
The study, published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology, was one of the first to show that using specific words can undermine the quality of service that a customer gets.
“Customers need to remember that they're dealing with human beings,” he concluded.