Road rage and customer service in America are quite similar.  One reason customer service stinks is that companies don’t know their customers.  How could they?  Most customer service is delivered via phone, email, or a chat window.  Most American service isn’t even “made in America”.

Over-crowding – in the 1950s a scientist conducted studies involving over-crowded rats.  (One interpretation contained here.)  A simplistic summary is that overcrowding rats caused them to become aggressive to one another.  If you run a customer service center I have a plea for you.  Stand up, walk outside your office and look around.  Does the scene resemble over-crowding?  Are your service representatives measured by average speed of answer, time to resolve a question/call?  The quality of the service can be only as good as the people you have and their efficacy is impacted by work conditions.

Anonymity – wearing their invisibility cloaks, drivers feel they can treat other drivers (who are people) poorly.  Pedestrians don’t treat each other as rudely as drivers treat each other.  When was the last time you heard of a fist-fight related to one person entering a revolving door before another?  How about someone slipping ahead on an on ramp?  Similarly face-to-face service is more civil than that provided over a phone.  People still crave relationships and responsive customer service is just that – a relationship, albeit brief.  Even if we must provide service via phone or chat window or email, we must preserve the relationship with customers.

Loss of Control – road rage is borne of a feeling of intense frustration.  And that frustration boils over into poor decisions which are at best rude and at worst deadly.  Customer service representatives who lack the tools to solve a problem provide little value to customers – who recognize the fact and grow frustrated.  Likewise, customer service representatives who have no control aren’t engaged and it shows.

The pivot point is that unless you take great care in delivering service, your customers may feel more like victims of road rage than valued stakeholders.  Customer service has gotten a bad reputation and deservedly so. I saw a television commercial extolling the virtues of “speaking with an actual person.”  Imagine that, an actual person! What a sad commentary of how impersonal our service culture has become.  To reverse this trend, treat your people with respect and trust your team, create relationships with customers, and provide tools and training to the people who are charged with earning repeat business and maintaining a respected reputation.

Road Rage and Customer Service
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Steps to Employee Engagement

I read a good post at HBR not too long ago whose premise was that if your employees don’t know...

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