New Research Confirms – Honey Preferred Over Vinegar, Part One

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In July of 2016, inContact conducted a survey of more than 500 Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) to gather insights about their workplace environment, motivators and challenges. This deep dive study provides a glimpse into working on the front lines of the customer service industry. Please download the full report for complete details.

In honor of National Customer Service Week, let’s revisit a celebrated example of a CSR taking the “above and beyond” mantra to an all-time high:

A Zappos employee recently had a customer-service call that lasted 10 hours and 43 minutes, breaking an internal record at the Amazon-owned online retailer… On June 11, in Zappos’ Las Vegas headquarters, Steven Weinstein answered a call from a customer who needed some help with an order of a few items. The two began to chat, and even after she was helped, she stayed on the line… Weinstein said he took only one break during the nearly 11-hour period, about 2 1/2 hours in, to go to the bathroom. One of his colleagues brought him food and water during the call… At Zappos, call-center employees are trained to use interactions with customers as a way to build relationships, not make a sale. If a call is going long during a particularly busy time, it’s up to the Contact Center Manager, or Floor Supervisor, to assign more people to calls rather than to encourage an employee to end a call early… The record that Weinstein broke was set by Mary Tennant in 2012 at nine hours, 37 minutes. Weinstein said he didn’t stay on the line for so long “just for the sake of breaking” the record — he wanted to impress his customer. “The connection was so strong that we could have talked for 18 hours if we really wanted,” he said.

Now that we have seen one end of the customer service experience spectrum, let’s further explore Section 2 of the report which focuses on CSR Insights for the Consumer. The first thing that stands out is the overall and daily motivations for CSRs. The results suggest most CSRs have a good deal of the Zappos zest for customer care in them.

  • CSRs Overall Motivation – the part of their job they like the most – is “Helping Customers”
    • “Helping Customers” was selected nearly twice as much as the second and third most popular motivations, combined
  • CSRs Daily Motivation – their primary concern on a day-to-day basis – is “Solving Customer Issues”
    • Again, the combined total of the second and third most popular selections were equal to the total of “Solving Customer Issues”

What does this tell us about the typical CSR you might interact with? They are there to help you, and not just because that is the root purpose of their job, because they want to and enjoy doing so.

In stark contrast, we asked CSRs to select their biggest challenge. Was it inadequate or difficult-to-use systems? The odd hours and frequently changing schedules? Maybe management and rapidly changing priorities or lack of training? Sure, some of those registered, but all paled in comparison to the number one challenge… the customer. “Angry and Rude Customers” was the biggest challenge facing CSRs and nearly doubled all other challenges, combined. Imagine a scenario where your job is to help customers, and the thing you like best about this job is helping customers, but irony of all ironies, it’s the customer that makes your job more difficult!

What can we, the consumer, do to improve our own customer service experience? Please continue on to Part Two for more details.