Their reaction to the deviations of others from expectancy depends on what they have to lose or gain...how we react to violations depend on reward value, or what we expect to get from the relationship. Thus a man is likely to react more positively towards an attractive younger woman standing close than a larger man from an out-group" (Expectancy violations theory, 2008, Changing Minds). I have noticed that irate customers who genuinely need or want my help can be placated if I adopt a pleasant demeanor, even if it violates their negative expectations, because of the reward they can receive in terms of establishing a positive and human connection with me as an individual.
However, customers who come only to vent will usually not be moved, no matter what I say or do, they will complain about every aspect of the experience regardless of how I behave, so it is best to let them 'say their piece' and move on. Obviously they 'get' less out of warm, human interactions than other callers, and I have little leverage with them, other than to deal with their request. I admit I notice expectancy violations theory exemplified in my own behavior. Call center workers have scripted responses and guidelines to which they have to adhere. Calls are recorded for quality and training purposes, which are calibrated and graded using a scorecard. If a person is rude, I will usually adhere to these guidelines by the letter, as I have nothing to gain by deviating from them, even if the customer becomes angry and frustrated because I am not giving him or her additional information. But if a customer is polite, since I can gain the sense of happiness of genuinely helping someone, I will add to my scripted formula as well, so the caller can get some added satisfaction from the call, and I can get the reward of added satisfaction from my work. Expectancy theory has proved invaluable at work, because it has enabled me to understand people's hostility better -- I have often been a customer on the other side of a poorly staffed hotline, and I can understand why people would approach the process with trepidation. Provided they listen to me and understand that I am not like the other call centers they have dealt with in the past, I try to embody the type of staff member I would like to meet, were I caller. I subvert their initial expectations and make myself seem more human, which makes them more compliant and accommodating.
Social exchange theory has also proved helpful in my work. "Exchange theory explains how we feel about a relationship with another person as depending on our perceptions of: the balance between what we put into the relationship and what we get out of it, the kind of relationship we deserve, the chances of having a better relationship with someone else" (Social exchange theory, 2008, Changing Minds). Because of the distanced nature of the medium of telephone exchange, people often feel as if they have very little investment in the relationship. Because the people I deal with 'put very little' into the relationship in terms of their agreeability, I have to put all that much more into the relationship, and try to make up for it in helpfulness if things are to proceed smoothly. Changing the perception and the give and take ratio between myself and a caller, by giving more of my humanity, makes the other individual want to give more back to me in terms of patience. Exchange theory also explains why calls are monitored and 'graded' by Phillip Morris -- although I always try to do my best at whatever job I perform, I know that if some people were not monitored, the quality of their responses might decline, given that a lack of 'quality control' would cause them to invest less effort in their work involving social exchanges.
Expectancy violations theory (2008). Changing Minds. Available November 29, 2008 at http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/expectancy_violations.htm
Griffin, Em. First Look at Communication Theory. New York McGraw-Hill.
Available November 29, 2008 at http://www.afirstlook.com/docs/cogdiss.pdf
Kearsley, Greg. (1994). Cognitive dissonance. Theory into practice.
Available November 29, 2008 at http://tip.psychology.org/festinge.html
Social exchange theory. (2008). Changing Minds. Available November 29, 2008 at http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/social_exchange.htm