Being more positive and less personal helps getting better customer service

People complain about customer service all the time. It looks like consultants are just always tired and irritated and cannot be bothered to really care about their customers. A new research from the University of British Columbia has found that carefully choosing words when talking to customer service employees can dramatically increase the quality of service.

Getting better customer service is easy – you just have to use more positive language and be less personal. Image credit: Senado Federal – Alô Senado via Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0

Of course, being rude always provokes rudeness – that is not a new scientific discovery. However, it is always hard to be polite, when you call to complain – no one calls customer service to tell how happy they are about their product. This new research pointed at some words that are specifically irritating for customer service employees and are most likely to evoke poor service. The general advice is actually to avoid being personal. In other words, instead of saying “your cell phone plan is horrible” one should say “this cell phone plan is horrible”. The consultant should not be addressed personally and should not feel attacked to deliver quality service.

How did scientists come up with their conclusions? They analysed 36 hours of calls and over 100,000 words, taken out from real conversations between customers and consultants from customer service. Unsurprisingly, they found that 80 % of all the calls contained a lot of rude language, some of it plain aggressive. In all the remaining 20 % of the cases, only 5 % of calls had some problems – usually employee making a bad joke or raising his voice in impatience. One thing that consistently worsened calls – addressing the employee personally (using “your”, ”you” and so on).

On the other hand, using positive language significantly improved the quality of the service. It means that the service depends heavily on the choice of words that customer is using. General advice would be to direct your words towards the problem – the product or the service. David Walker, lead author of the study, said: “Employees can handle a lot, but when aggressive language and interruptions happen together—combined with minimal positive language from the customer—employees get to a point where customer service quality suffers”.

Both sides should always remember that at the other end there is an actual person. They should try helping each other rather than consider oneself superior or more important.