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The Complexity of Communication

Despite my many years as both a Professor of Communication and consultant for the Call Center Industry, I am still amazed by the complexity of human communication.  If we pause for just a moment to consider the sheer number of situational possibilities before an agent greets a customer, the complexity is staggering.  Allow me the liberty to be painfully specific.  A customer can be seeking assistance about a number of different issues (e.g., billing, general questions, sales, repair, and retention) via at least four communication channels (voice, chat, email, social media).  Furthermore, both agent and customer possess 1 of at least 32 distinct personality types (i.e., combinations of neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness) and are presently experiencing a unique emotional state (happy, sad, disgusted, angry, surprised, or fearful).  Lastly, both customer and agent are influenced by culturally-based instrumental values (individualism, hierarchy, structure, gender roles, and emotional expressiveness).  So, how much situational complexity exists prior to greeting a customer?

5 X 4 X 25 X 25 X 6 X 6 X 25 X 25 = 754,974,720 Situations

Yes, before an agent says “hello,” there are over 750 million situations that can frame the conversation.  Once again, I am astonished by the complexity of communication.