I was on the phone with an agent on a support line the other day and I told her that I was sorry.

No, I didn’t apologize…

I’d done nothing wrong… Yes, I was upset, I was disappointed, I was frustrated.

But I’d treated the agent with the utmost respect and courtesy and didn’t take it out on her.  Such is the subtle difference between saying ‘Sorry,’ and apologizing.  You can be sorry for someone’s circumstances for which you have no responsibility.  On the other hand, you should apologize if you do something wrong.  In this case, it was the former, not the latter.

So I did tell her that I was sorry…

I was sorry that she had to work for a brand and leadership that so distrusted and disrespected their own agents that they refused to allow her to address my issue… leaving her unarmed and unauthorized to do what, from the Customer’s perspective (and hers as well, based on her guarded words) seemed the most obvious and clear thing to do to make things right.

What a truly horrible employer this was, to not only do its Customers so badly, but also to make making it right so incredibly impossible for their own employees.  Tell us—your customers—to go to hell, sure…but what about those poor people you cynically call your “team”?  You invested in them…told them they’re terribly important to you, spent time and effort teaching them about your policies and your procedures and tools.  Heck, you pay them to disappoint your Customers.

So I’m sorry… I’m sorry I have to deal with your terrible brand, yes.  But I’m also sorry—more so, in a way—that your boss would put you in the position to make you enforce your company’s terrible policies, offer no way out for your Customers, then on top of it put you in the position to have to suffer the abuse you likely encounter from less magnanimous Customers who likely do take it out on you.  Oh sure…I imagine this poor agent spends most of the day simultaneously defending a policy she disagrees with while enduring the slings and arrows of Customers who just want the same thing that she’d want if in her Customers’ position.

Human empathy is a tremendous quality to have, and as I’ve mentioned before, part of being both the best and worst Customers, as CX professionals, is that we’re expected to be gracious and not take it out on the support team members who happen to take our calls.  It’s tough that we, as CXers, may have higher expectations, but it’s vital we constantly keep things in perspective and not take it out on the Customer-facing folks we encounter when we’re Customers ourselves.  In fact, that’s part of it…recognizing that, by and large (of course, there are always exceptions, and for that matter, from time to time, an agent genuinely is having a bad day or maybe even is a bad agent), anybody you encounter on a help line wants to help.  Not only is that sense of empathy and personability one of the things that even bad CX brands hire for to fill these roles, but the job itself is unlikely to attract people who don’t at least have some disposition toward wanting to help people.

So, no.  Don’t take it out on them…take pity on them.  You’ll maybe get what you need (after an escalation perhaps, or even if not, it’s not usually the end of the world).  But those poor souls are at the mercy of playing a nearly impossible role for a brand that clearly doesn’t care about them any more than they do about their Customers.  But by the way, shame on the brand.