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Did You Know the Top Songs in America are Written About Call Centers?

Brian Cantor

Aiming to communicate their unique messages—and carve unique niches in the marketplace—musicians turn to nearly every concept imaginable for their lyrical inspiration. From discussions of religion, to love, to sex, to their trucks, to their bodies, to their enemies, singers and songwriters know few bounds when it comes to crafting their musical masterpieces (or, as is often the case in the mainstream, pulp).

But the key qualifiers in that paragraph are nearly every and few bounds, because while singers will boast about birthdays, Fridays, parking lot parties, the sounds foxes make and love in the club, they seem far shier about one particular topic: the call center.

While that omission might make sense to the mainstream—call centers do not seem superficially sexy enough to warrant musical exploration—it likely baffles those who work in customer service environments. After all, the combination of internal politics, clashing objectives and internal struggles represent immensely-relatable topics, and they thus seem more than worthy of musical allusion. Certainly more so than the concept of letting dogs out.

And so perhaps it is not that popular musicians are ignoring the call center but instead that we are missing their obvious references.

If that is the case, we might need to consider what the current top five songs in America are really about:

#1 – Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus

Written from the perspective of Cyrus, a brokenhearted call center agent, "Wrecking Ball" addresses the hurdle facing employees who wish to be customer-centric

Designed for those driven by complacency rather than love for the customer, many call centers establish figurative walls to separate the agent from the customer and from the core of the organization.

In such centers, the agent’s job is not to personally invest themselves in the needs of the customer or the business; it is to do as they are instructed by their supervisors and policies. They are fulfilling tasks; not contributing emotion.

An agent interested in creating meaningful relationships between brand and customer would require a wrecking ball to break down the walls. Even though he cared more about the team than anyone, his effort would be perceived as that of an aggressor, and one who is unwelcomed, unappreciated and unpermitted at that. Eventually, he would lose the war – his inability to serve the customers about whom he cares deeply would grow too disheartening. And his inability to contribute to the central direction of the business—using his own instinct and the voice of the customer—would grow disillusioning.

On top of all that loss and heartbreak, he might even have to deal with the further anguish of being chastised for his failure to adhere blindly to policy and protocol, as if doing all he could to satisfy the customer and the business’ stakeholders are crimes.

#2 – Roar – Katy Perry

Bad customer service spent many decades as an accepted way of life. No matter what brands said in their marketing messages, when customers contacted support lines, they would be made to feel small and powerless. Their profession of desires would spur no action on the part of agents, and their threats to take their business elsewhere would be written off as insignificant, if not baseless.

Today’s environment is changing that perception. As a frustrated customer, Katy Perry decided it was time to stop being held down by greedy brands and start reiterating the fact that as the customer, she is the one with the power. She is the one in control. She is the one who roars. And your call center is going to hear her.

Thanks to social media and an increased emphasis on the customer experience, customers not only have the ability to communicate their brand autonomy but the influence to make brands take notice. The individual customer of today is far more powerful than the trivialized customer of yesteryear, and as a result, businesses have no choice but to recognize that influence, recognize that power and provide the customer with the respect, agency and support he or she truly deserves.

#3 – Royals – Lorde

The role of a customer service representative is the most meaningful one in business. You might not know it based on salary reports and glamor, but Lorde, a wiser-than-her-years teenage call center agent, most certainly does.

It might not come with the sex appeal of running financial reports, litigating patents or conducting business meetings while cycling at the gym, and it certainly does not produce enough income to purchase gold teeth, Cristal and private jets. But it comes with assurance that one is the heart of a business, a voice for the customer and often the difference between the creation of customer retention and attrition.

Those with the appropriate perspective towards business unequivocally embrace the customer service function. They do not need the superficial riches of middle and mid-senior management positions; they need the emotional significance of bringing the business closer to its customers.

Agents with that mindset—one that confirms the importance of their job above all salary considerations—are certain to become the organization’s most valuable frontline employees. And though they might never be royals, they will command the reverence of any organization wise enough to recognize what it has in customer- and business-centric agents.

#4 – Wake Me Up – Avicii

Call them naðve all you want, but those agents and leaders who truly believe in customer centricity have no shame in closing their eyes and letting their beating hearts direct them in the call center. They do not fear decisions that, first and foremost, make life better for customers.

Jaded, bitter businessmen who believe themselves to be wise might stress the importance of efficiency metrics and deflecting calls, but the best customer service professionals are content to let the organization ride on the strength of customer-centricity.

Customer service agents only have two ears and one headset – they can’t carry the weight of every conflicting order and objective thrown their way. So why not just let the most intuitive one—the voice of the customer—serve as the guide.

And when all is said and done, and all the internal politics, heartache and back-and-forth have subsided, those businesses who put customers and their satisfaction first will possess the financial results most worthy of bragging.

#5 – Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke, Pharrell & TI

Ever the dynamic musicians, Robin Thicke, Pharrell and TI fused two messages into their smash hit "Blurred Lines."

Their first is directed at call center and business leaders who claim to be customer-centric but struggle to mask their lust for those sexy stakeholders and their assets.

They preach the right messages about being at the mercy of customers, with whom they claim to be in a committed relationship, but when they step into the boardroom or contact center floor, things change. Suddenly, they reveal that they can be courted by stakeholders who put short-sighted business concerns, such as efficiency metrics and un-customer-centric policies and procedures, into action. Their appreciation for customer satisfaction becomes a thirst for operational efficiency.

And though the short-sighted stakeholders who encourage such lewd behavior are thrilled, they end up destroying relationships of true importance to the business.

Not limited to that concern, the trio also addresses the impact of those customers who refrain from being explicit in their sentiment. Since some customers stew in silence and refrain from offering negative feedback, they lead agents—and businesses—to mistake their complacency for satisfaction. As a result, the business makes decisions based on faulty intelligence and ends up driving itself further away from the desires of its customers. And in the long run, that could be tantamount to handing its customers over to the competition.