Why Suffering Belongs In Any Customer Service Conversation

The differences between chosen and unchosen suffering can make or break a customer service experience. Here’s how to insert a better understanding of suffering into our customer service conversations:

If you put me on hold with terrible music (unchosen suffering), every synth-clarinet sadistic coo increases my agitation until the “ZERO ZERO ZERO REAL PERSON LIVE AGENT” picks up. 

If you thank me for calling and giving you the chance to solve your problem, and then ask to put me on hold while you figure it out, we’re getting somewhere. 

The more we feel unheard, unlistened to, or like we’re in line at the DMV – the more we’ll feel exposed to unchosen suffering. It feels unjust. It feels painful. It feels… wrong. 

However, as soon as choice, care, and agency are instilled into our suffering – we start to feel at least somewhat in control and begin anticipating the outcome we are there for in the first place. 

It’s like having a surprise English exam on Saturday morning with your coffee versus saying, “I think I’ll do the crossword today.” They’re both work, but our perception about the experience and the anticipated reward shape everything. 

Businesses can easily boost their customer experience by remembering this idea, and making sure any suffering their customers experience preserves a sense of choice through the process.

If you’re going to make them suffer, remember that preserving choice is the only way to preserve value.

ps. Paul Bloom has a whole book on chosen and unchosen suffering called “The Sweet Spot.” Check it out and/or listen to his recent interview on EconTalk.

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