The customer is always angry – here’s why

·3-min read

Regarding your article (‘Don’t take it out on our staff!’: How did Britain become so angry?, 4 August), in the mid-1990s, when I was 21 and working as a software developer at a well-known burger restaurant chain, I was often sworn at by our customers. The company sent us on courses to help us deal with difficult customers and communicate more effectively. It really helped. Since then, I’ve been involved in the mass rollout of IT systems and seen the effects on society over the past 30 years. Recently, I’ve worked in customer service myself.

I believe that the increasing aggression to staff is driven by two major factors. The first has been a rise in bureaucracy, much of which is enforced by computer systems that can’t handle situations outside the norm, and the corresponding increase in processes and regulations. We are conditioned to expect rigid processes and inexperienced staff who are unable to show initiative. Diminishing margins mean that smaller companies simply don’t have the staff to deal with our problems.

The second major factor is the erosion of society, underpinned by families and friends living further away from each other, the increasing complexity of modern life, stress, poor mental health and unhealthy amounts of time spent online and in echo chambers, reinforcing our extreme thoughts.

When poorly socialised people clash with bureaucratically dehumanised people, the former, I believe, are often crying out for some humanity and agency, for themselves and from the people they are abusing. This is a symptom of an increasingly dehumanised society.
Gary McKillion
Wortley, South Yorkshire

• The simple answer to why people are so angry is that often organisations will use methods to make certain actions as frustrating as possible to deter people. Most of the time, these are things like dealing with errors or complaints, cancelling services, or gaining access to key people. They may be confusing, time-consuming, or have onerous requirements to fulfil.

It’s little wonder that when a consumer finally does get through to a human being, they end up in a bad mood and often frustrated, dealing with a company representative who will often have little ability to resolve some of the more complex issues that customers can face.

Ultimately, organisations have ended up creating a system where everything is the customer’s problem, taking little responsibility for the issues and upset they cause, and the actual people in such systems – the few in people-facing roles – end up bearing the full brunt of customer frustration. Combine this with minimal respect for the job, poor pay and bad working conditions, and you end up with a negative working environment.

Ultimately, it is a race to the bottom for those in customer service and customers, as organisations care less and less about anything other than their bottom line or stock price.
Christina Freeman
Dagenham, London

• You ignore the impact of “skimpflation” on customers. It’s hard to be cheery when it’s taken 40 minutes for a call to be answered, followed by another 10 wrestling with a bot that doesn’t understand you. Abuse is never OK, but the poor customer service person who picks up after that dehumanising experience doesn’t stand a chance of a friendly encounter.
Louise Richmond

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