Gifts will be exchanged and returned this week for all sorts of reasons. Wrong size, bad color, maybe missing parts.

Whatever the source of your dissatisfaction, your choice of words and tone when dealing with customer service may determine the quality of service you receive, a new study reveals.

“We know that customer service quality suffers when customers are rude or aggressive to employees,” said study author David Walker. He’s an assistant professor in the faculty of management at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Okanagan.

“If customers change their language, so that it’s less about the employee and more about the product or problem in question, they can improve the quality of the customer service they get,” Walker added.

The researchers analyzed 36 hours of customer calls to a Canadian call center. They found that customers were frequently rude — they used aggressive language or interrupted customer service employees in 80 percent of the calls. In 35 percent of such cases, this led to negative responses, such as a raised voice or blunt comment, from the workers.

“But our research is one of the first to pinpoint the specific words service employees hear from customers that can undermine the quality of customer service,” Walker added in a university news release.

Making the complaint personal tends to backfire. Saying, “Your product is garbage” is far more likely to trigger a negative retort than saying, “This product is garbage,” the researchers found.

And sprinkling positive words such as “great” and “fine” into the conversation reduced negative reactions, the study found.


Only 5 percent of customers who did not use accusatory language had problems with customer service workers, the study authors said.

“In general, when customers use aggressive words or phrases to personally target customer service employees, or when they interrupt the person they are talking to, we found that the employee’s negative reaction is much stronger,” said study co-author Danielle van Jaarsveld, an associate professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

The findings suggest that customers will get better service by using positive language and following conversation rules, the researchers said.

“Customers need to remember that they’re dealing with human beings,” he added.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

More information

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities shows what teachers do to improve students’ behavior.

Source: HealthDay

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