Compassionate Control is Still Control


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Watership Down is Richard Adams’ best-selling novel about a group of wild rabbits forced to abandon their warren and travel across England in search of a new home. Along their journey they encounter a group of caged rabbits–pets of a young boy. Opening the cage door, the wild rabbits invite the boy’s pets to join them on their cross-country adventure. “Who will protect us from the big dog?” they asked, moving to the back of their cage. “And, how will we get food; the little boy always feeds us?” The wild rabbits’ answer was much like Col. Hogan’s answer to Sgt. Schultz’ question in Hogan’s Heroes: “Colonel, why do you keep trying to escape when we treat you so well?”

Compassionate control is still control. Customer communications can be the target of caring constriction and kind control, leaving the customer caged by the conversation. Controlling communication can also leave the service provider with the illusion the relationship with customers is a positive one. When the restaurant maitre de hears, “Fine,” in response to his “Is everything alright?” question, he fails to realize he has caged the guest into a controlling query wired to favor an affirmative answer.

So, what is the most popular closing question used today by call center operators? You’ve heard it many times: “Is there anything else I can help you with?” It sounds like a benign search for a contented ending. In reality, customers hear it as a directive to end the dialogue in an effort to keep “call handle time” to a minimum. Asking customers, “What else can I help you with?” or some other open-ended question, creates customers the freedom to explore other issues that can lead to first call resolution. Escaping from directed dialogue, customers feel heard and valued.

Are you warmly controlling your customers with directive dialogue? Or are you uncaging customer conversations to pursue the wild journey of authentic relationships?

Chip Bell
Chip R. Bell is the founder of the Chip Bell Group ( and a renowned keynote speaker and customer loyalty consultant. Dr. Bell has authored several best-selling books including The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and, with John Patterson, Take Their Breath Away. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, will be released in February.


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