A nation on hold wants to talk to a manager

“He kept screaming, ‘The governor said we don’t have to wear masks anymore,'” Mr O’Brien said. The woman’s response – that they were always required in places with a certain number of workers – only angered him even more.

Eventually the owner arrived and “told the customer never to come back,” said Mr. O’Brien.

It’s not just your imagination; the behavior is really worse. In a study of 1,000 American adults during the pandemic, 48% of adults and 55% of workers said that in November 2020, they expected civility in America to improve after the election.

By August, improvement expectations had fallen to 30 percent overall and 37 percent among workers. Overall, only 39 percent of those polled said they thought America’s tone was civil. The study also found that people who didn’t have to work with clients were happier than those who did.

“There is a growing delta between office workers and those who interact with consumers,” said Micho Spring, president of the global business practice for strategic communications firm Weber Shandwick, who helped conduct the study. .

At the same time, many consumers are rightly wronged by what they see as poor service at companies that do much of their business online – retailers, cable operators, car rental companies, etc. . – and who seem almost gleefully interested in preventing customers from speaking. to real people.

“The pandemic has allowed many companies to reduce their focus on the quality of the customer experience they provide,” said Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer service consulting firm.

Part of the problem is the mismatch between expectations and reality, said Melissa Swift, U.S. head of transformation at consultancy Mercer. Before the pandemic, she said, consumers had been won over by the idea of ​​the “frictionless economy” – the idea that you could get whatever you wanted, when you wanted it.

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