Towards the end of March, Olga Khazan published an article in the Atlantic asking why people were behaving so strangely. The article describes that in addition to widespread and acclaimed applause for healthcare workers during the epidemic, we also saw a general increase in impatience, rudeness and, in general, antisocial behavior. At the same time.
The article lists how people punched gate agents at airports in various ways, got lost in planes, skidded off the ramps, drove their cars recklessly, caused more accidents and became more violent towards doctors and nurses.
Shocked by this increase in rude and indecent behavior, Khazan investigated why we are seeing an increase in such behavior. After talking to a number of experts, he concluded that, as a social person, the last two years of lock-down and movement restrictions have changed us.
This may seem like an obvious thing in conclusion, but he added that for many, the last two years have come a long way in easing the bonds and social norms that usually bind us together, and it is the relaxation that breaks the rules and the norm Has led to growth.
Robert Sampson, a Harvard sociologist, wrote in the article, “We are more likely to break the rules if our ties to society are weakened.”
The service and experience sectors have not been able to avoid these changes and have recently experienced their own growth of hostility and offensive behavior.
A study by The Institute of Customer Service in the UK found that more than half of all customer-oriented workers have experienced abuse and adversity since the outbreak began.
Meanwhile, in a recent podcast, Irwin’s Joel Bailey told me that a study conducted by the charity Ditch the Label found that “the incidence and discussion of online hate speech has increased by 38% since the onset of the epidemic.”
But, it’s not just agents who are abusing. Some of them are also avoiding it.
Netomi, a leading provider of AI-powered virtual agents, released some new research in January of this year called The State of Customer Service, and some of their results are startling.
Here are some relevant and compelling headlines:
- 33% of customers shouted or swore to the customer service agent,
- 5% of clients admit to threatening an agent’s work, and more than 3% admit to threatening to physically attack an agent,
- 73% of consumers report being rude to a customer service agent,
- 44% experienced an agent being aroused, and 38% experienced an agent being annoyed, and
- Finally, more than 25% of all clients report that they have experienced an agent being hostile or insane towards them.
Now, the report reveals many more insights, including impatience levels, complaints about long wait times, and how long it takes to resolve a problem.
However, the results are shocking in how customers and agents treat each other alone. These are not what we should expect from a brand or organization that is proud of the service and provides it or tries to use the service and experience as a differentiator.
However, they show that agents are also suffering from the same stress and strain that people and other members of the public have.
So, is this the way to go now? Is it new normal?
At the end of his article, Khazan says that experts believe that with the relaxation of restrictions, much of the increase in rudeness and hostility will fade, the effects of the epidemic will diminish, and we will gradually return to pre-epidemic stability.
This is not acceptable for customer service interactions.
This is unacceptable because it is tantamount to saying that when things get back to normal, it is okay to abuse more agents and customers.
That’s not right.
I want to see brands and consumers do more to address this.
In terms of brands, I’d like to see brands double the amount of behavior they expect from their agents. But, I also want them to be aware of the high level of demand that their service and support teams are facing and how much pressure it is under.
I want to see their agents provide the support they need to do a good job, whether it’s the right equipment, flexible schedules or some performance metrics relaxation. In fact, I would like to see their agents do whatever it takes to balance wellness, performance and customer satisfaction.
Then, I want brands to be clear about the behavior they expect from their customers and to work with the results when a customer becomes abusive or hostile. If they do not, their inaction clearly suggests that it is in their best interests to abuse agents.
Finally, I would like to urge customers to be more aware and respectful of what they are trying to do. It helps to be polite, courteous and patient when trying to get services.
The same goes for those who serve customers.