A little bit of empathy can go a long way. My current role working as a call centre agent has made me reconsider the customer – company relationship. Dealing with the occasional irate or unreasonable customer is part of the job. I always try to be polite and patient when dealing with customers. A willingness to acknowledge mistakes on both sides tends to lead to a quicker more amenable solution. Helping a dissatisfied customer is satisfying. That feeling of satisfaction is diminished when an individual fails to appreciate the efforts of the employee.
Being physically present but, at least partly on a deeper level, emotionally absent comes at a cost. Wulsin et al.’s (2014:1817) judgement, based on a thorough study of 214,213 people, covering 55 industries in western Pennsylvania, of some the difficulties associated with bus driving and similarly poor performing occupations seem reasonable including, as they state, a:
“Greater effort–reward imbalance, emotional labor, and lack of physical activity at work, although no lower levels of job control or higher levels of work/family conflict”.
The authors concluded that bus drivers were the most likely to suffer from depression (Wulsin et al., 2014).
What can employers do? In a call centre environment, companies can make targets obtainable and avoid the worst excesses described in Carter et al. (2011).
What can customers do? Appreciate that a conversation, even a transactional one, has a minimum of two parties. Both of whom have the right to be treated with respect. Remember to be nice..
Ashforth, B.E. and Humphrey, R.H., 1993. Emotional labor in service roles: The influence of identity. Academy of management review, 18(1), pp.88-115.
Wulsin, L., Alterman, T., Bushnell, P. T., Li, J. and Shen, R. (2014) ‘Prevalence rates for depression by industry: a claims database analysis.’ Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49(11) pp. 1805-1821
Carter, B., Danford, A., Howcroft, D., Richardson, H., Smith, A. and Taylor, P., 2011. ‘All they lack is a chain’: lean and the new performance management in the British civil service. New Technology, Work and Employment, 26(2), pp.83-97.