An Unhappy Customer Service Agent is More Than a Meme

Unhappy customer service agent

An Unhappy Customer Service Agent is More Than a Meme

An unhappy customer service agent is more than a meme, it is a problem with a solution. 

Emotional Cost – Case in Point: Facebook Moderators

Late last month, Rep. Katie Porter ( D-Calif.) called out Mark Zuckerberg during a House Financial Services meeting for the treatment of content moderators which she likened to “straight out of an episode of Black Mirror.” 

Customer service whether it is as a content moderator, contact center agent or customer sales rep is emotionally taxing. Agents routinely have to match their emotional output with the professional standards set by the company. 

This emotional output comes with a cost, but not hazard pay, at least not yet. There’s a class action lawsuit currently working its way through California courts. It argues that Facebook is responsible for PTSD and Trauma inducing working conditions affecting content moderators. 

Facebook uses content moderators to facilitate a positive environment for their users and advertisers, but has yet to provide an emotional support systems for these workers.  You might think that Facebook is a behemoth and their issues aren’t relevant to your business, but each business has emotional landmines. It takes serious work for a customer service rep to create an exemplary experience under duress with a smile. Benign customer service issues can rapidly morph into nightmares or there wouldn’t be so many hashtags for bad customer service: #CustomerServiceFail #badservice #refund #servicefail #noservice.

Agent Environment Management – Creating Empathy and Support

Managing a customer contact center well includes addressing more than customer emotions. Agents shape brand identity. Unhappy customer service agents have a hard time presenting a positive image. Maintaining a positive agent environment is essential to an empathetic brand image. 

Providing customer service is simple in theory. In practice it’s not only difficult, it’s nuanced. It requires agent support for emotional harassment, verbal abuse and enormous pressure. When management proactively connects with agents they can connect with customers. 

Understanding the feelings of others and addressing them in a humane way is fundamental to empathetic culture, both customer facing and internal. Kent Hillyer, Head of Customer Care at genetic testing company 23andMe is known for intensive customer service training. 

Agents train for months before engaging with customers. Not s. Not hours. Months! Agents are taught both sympathy and empathy with mock calls to prepare them for common uncomfortable conversations on genetic lineage. Sometimes the answer to “Who’s your Daddy?” is unexpected and upsetting. This is traumatic for both the customer and the contact center agent.

“At 23andMe, Hillyer often encourages representatives to go for a walk after an intense call, or cracks open a bottle of wine to help them decompress.”  This is a far cry from what Rep. Katie Porter accused Zuckerberg of in the House meeting where she detailed a limit of nine minutes of supervised crying in a stairwell for content monitors of Facebook.

Let Technology Help – CSAT and ASAT

Technology does not equate to a lack of empathy. AI tools exist to facilitate a more empathetic company culture by alerting managers to agent abuse. Managers can then encourage agents to take that walk, to decompress (the wine is a nice touch). 


Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is important, but don’t miss the ROI opportunities of agent satisfaction (ASAT). I helped design CSAT.AI, and I am proud of the feature that lets managers monitor agents specifically to assist with issues that can trigger anguish or trauma. It also automates QA, monitoring if the customer’s question was answered with empathy.  If you have any questions ask me, Kellyne Clapper, Director of Operations at Navedas.

Kellyne Clapper Director of Operations
Kellyne Clapper, Director of Operations at Navedas