Bad customer habits fuel discontent among customer service agents
Customer service (CS) agents are generally empathetic people who strive to be helpful to angry and upset customers. But they’re also often the most vulnerable employees in an organization to social engineering attacks.
Increases in online sales over the past couple of years have led to more customer disputes, returns, and refunds. As a result, many customer service agents are seeing more return and refund requests today than when they first started working in their positions.
But many of those refund requests come from customers using social engineering tactics to get refunds or professional refunding services. And many CS agents may be unprepared to de-escalate customers who resort to crying, threats, anger, and other manipulative behaviors.
To further investigate social engineering trends in the customer service industry, Kount surveyed 1,000 CS agents who work for online retailers and process refunds and returns. The survey reveals:
- How often customers request refunds without returning items
- How often CS agents refund items without receipts or after a refund/return window closes
- How CS agents respond to customers who resorted to crying, anger, aggression, threats, or other excessive or manipulative tactics
- How often CS agents consider quitting their jobs over excessive or manipulative customers
CS agents see customers leaning in to new refund trends
It’s no secret that some businesses would rather a customer keep an item and issue a refund than pay for shipping and processing to get the item back. And consumer refund trends show online shoppers have caught on.
In turn, customer service agents interact with customers daily who intentionally try to get refunds for items without returning them. For example, 82.92% of CS agents say customers try to get refunds without returning items up to 15 times a day. Some CS agents say customers try to get refunds for items without returning them over 20 times per day.
Many customers resort to manipulative tactics to obtain refunds
To get these refunds, customers often resort to social engineering techniques that appeal to CS agents’ vulnerabilities and emotions. Of the CS agents surveyed, 70.93% said they’ve interacted with a customer who resorted to crying, anger, aggression, threats, or other excessive or manipulative tactics to obtain a refund.
And these kinds of interactions can be challenging to handle, especially if an agent isn’t prepared or has dealt with other complicated refund processes during the same day. It’s enough to make a person question their livelihood. 30.42% of CS agents who experience manipulative customers consider quitting their jobs most or all of the time.
Customer service policies antithetical to stopping social engineering
Many CS agents are trained to act as though the customer is always right or do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. In some organizations, agents are evaluated based on the quality of their calls or customer reviews. Companies often incentivize excellent performance and make examples of less-than-perfect customer interactions.
When customers have legitimate disputes, these kinds of customer-centric service policies are great. However, they may encourage CS agents to give refunds to customers committing refund fraud or forgo the company’s return or refund policies to avoid further confrontation.
49.05% of CS agents have refunded an item without a receipt or after the refund or return window closed. Among them, 17.72% process refunds outside of the company’s policy most of the time.
Some agents may not be well-versed in the art of social engineering, so they immediately try to resolve customer complaints when the customer starts using manipulative tactics. Others may not realize they could be working with a refunding service posing as a legitimate customer to get refunds for high-dollar items.
In response to customers who resort to excessive or manipulative tactics to get refunds, 24.64% of CS agents empathize with the customer and either give them a refund or credit their account.
Career longevity marked by more returns, socially engineered refunds
55.55% of CS agents say they process more returns today, compared to when they started in their departments. Among them, 74.12% say that more customers resort to excessive or manipulative tactics to obtain refunds today, compared to when they started working in their departments.
As customer service agents progress in their careers, they process more returns and interact with more customers who resort to excessive or manipulative tactics to get refunds. And with 31.55% of CS agents saying that customers use excessive or manipulative tactics every day, it’s unlikely these refund tactics will go away anytime soon.