Why do we get angry at customer service?

I speculate that the majority of time we are angry at customer service people is largely due to believing we understand the whole picture, resulting in feeling a sense of entitlement; when in reality we simply do not see the whole picture. This is evidenced by the calming effect that results which abates a person’s anger at customer service, once that person is given an explanation that adequately provides a reasonable explanation for why the service was poor.

Granted, there are most certainly times when anger at customer service is justified. Consider Comcast for example – known to have one of the worst customer service in the world. However, even with Comcast, the complexities of a large-scale businesses operation which result in the problems for which the customer is complaining, usually, if not always, elude the customer on the other end of the phone. I can guarantee you that in almost every instance, a customer’s anger will be curtailed by a simple, reasonable explanation, even if that explanation does not solve the actual issue. The problem then, is likely caused by the customer believing that they have the whole picture, who naively neglect to consider the complexity if the operation which led to their call.

For most of my life (thus far), I have tended to get upset with customer service quite easily. Sometimes it’s because the service is poor, other times the wait times are long, or often the agent seems to not be very knowledgeable. I assume that I understand the entire picture. However, perhaps highly intelligent people are even more likely to fall victim this naive approach, because it’s so easy to assume you understand what’s going on, since so little information to what is really going on is ever given. Whose ever fault that is, is beside the point.

In my personal experience, as I reflect over the past couple of decades of my life, I realize that in almost every situation, I later discover that there is a lot more to the story. Moreover, I realize that when I have been on the business end of a certain service, I am far more likely to be understanding, when truly knowing what it’s like to be the customer service or business owner myself. Seeing and understanding what is really involved with the services behind which used to make me angry when it had problems or failed, helps to significantly mitigate my negative feelings against the company.

Granted, as a business and service provider, a business should normally take on this responsibility to provide an adequate level of service. Even though providing a high level of service may be extremely demanding, it is still the responsibility of the business to know it and rectify it. However, the problem of a customer’s anger is not usually in the reality that many businesses even intentionally fail to provide an adequate level of service; but rather that the customer thought they understood the depth involved, but really had barely scratched the tip of the iceberg.

An iceberg really is a good analogy for customer service. A customer only sees the very tip of the iceberg, which is the perceived amount of work involved in providing service; when in reality, most of the work involved is hidden from view, underwater. The customer sees the tip of the iceberg, and wonders why there is a hole in the bottom of the ship leaking water. What usually happened is that something beyond the surface caused the hole, not what could be seen. If a customer could see the remaining 90% of the iceberg which lies stealthily below the surface, they would be much more understanding, because it is a truly staggering amount of work involved to provide the seemingly simple service.

So next time before you yell at the service person over the phone, consider that the 100% that you think you can see is really only 10%, and that 90% is hidden from view below the surface. Cut that customer service rep a little slack. You might be surprised at the level of service you begin receiving from everyone when you start being the customer who is understanding even when things go awry.

Rather than trying to simply not be angry (which is generally a futile endeavour), instead visualize the iceberg and recognize that almost always, 90% exists below the surface. No matter how much of genius you really are, no one is psychic. So consider maybe you just don’t have the whole picture, and let this knowledge give you patience you never knew you had.

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