Social Question

jca's avatar

People who work with customers or in customer service: How do you take the abuse without telling people off?

Asked by jca (35976points) January 29th, 2011

I don’t know how people who work with customers or in customer service take abuse from the customers without telling them off. How do you do it? Does it take a special personality? How do you just let that s*** slide off your back?

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25 Answers

Mikewlf337's avatar

Simple. They get paid to hear it and they simply don’t care. I was never in constomer service but that is basically how they think. They don’t give a crap how upset you are.

talljasperman's avatar

By being afraid to lose ones job and becoming homeless… later I got sick of it and started calling the cops on anyone who was threatening or harassing… I truly believed I was doing the community a favor.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@talljasperman did the cops do anything? Could you prove anything? Point being that sometimes poor service means angry customers.

choreplay's avatar

You get sarcastically nice and let them make asses of themselves by the way they are acting.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Sometimes it’s easier than others. Like, if you can stay emotionally distanced, you can see what a tool someone is being and then, feel superior and know the interaction will end eventually. It’s when you get drawn in emotionally (frustrated, hurt, outraged, or whatever) that it starts to take a toll on you.

Myself, personally, I have a couple of techniques, ‘Ice Queen’ and ‘Sarcasto-tron’. If someone is being a real dick for no reason, they will get their needs met, but by an emotionless robot who doesn’t see them. Something about this technique very often turns the person around and they start being nice. I couldn’t explain how I do it, seems it’s more vibe-y than anything. Cold as ice, baby. Cold as ice.

Sarcasto-tron is when I’m feeling spicy. I will be sarcastic, sometimes I toe or just go past what I think is the line and I get a bit scared I’ll get in trouble, but I don’t know, no one has ever complained. Sometimes the person is too dumb or clueless to even realize I just insulted them.

I pretty much hate the general public, but that’s my job and I’m actually pretty damn good at it. :P

boxer3's avatar

For me, I figure someone who disrespects me at work for a reason thats typically not of much importance… not really worth my time in regards to getting worked up over it.

At the end of the day, my life doesnt collaspe because rude customer accused/ yelled at me for xyz.

Sometimes I think its funny in the sense that people get worked up over some pretty ridiculous stuff, and sort of feel sorry for that person and figure that they must have one stressful life if something like being out biscuits crushes their day to the point where they cut me down personally for it.

However, I’m human- so occasionally its not
as easy as that so on days when it does get to me.
deep breaths and thoughts in my head about what I’d like
to say to that person generally is enough til it passes haha.

Seelix's avatar

Actually, this was the hardest part of retail for me. Unfortunately, I was going through a nervous breakdown in my last months of working retail, and that ultimately led me to quit.

Mikewlf337's avatar

sometimes the customer is wrong and a wrong customer can be a dick. The thing is sometimes it actually is the company’s fault and not the customers. Sometimes a company can be so uncaring and so disrespectful to the customer that the customer gets irate.

talljasperman's avatar

@Mikewlf337 the cops just put the drunks in the drunk tank for a day and let them sleep it off… the mistake was putting a 24 hour store in the middle of a small tourist town with 17 bars… and not giving employees any training in security. the stores not open in night anymore…and they don’t serve expired food to unsuspecting drunks.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

They’re probably having a bad day/week and I shouldn’t make it worse. Opposing forces cause friction. Let them get it out of their system and deal with them afterwards. If they’re just a jackass, fighting with them will only make it worse.

faye's avatar

I worked customer service at Zellers years ago. I got very fast at typing on the cash register to get the experience done! Anyone horrendous would get the manager. I don’t remember anyone too horrible. Hutterite people would pick something off a shelf and try to return it saying it was a gift so, of course, they didn’t have a receipt. It was so blatant. One lady had an underskirt made with lots of pockets and she had filled the pockets with half-price Hallowe’en candy. She got caught because the elastic waist couldn’t hold the weight of it!!

Anemone's avatar

I worked in customer service in a call-center for many years and I truly believe it has helped me in other areas. Most of what I dealt with was normal, pleasant interactions like placing orders and helping people figure out what they needed for a particular job. But every so often, I’d get someone who was upset or angry, and I’d have to deal with them in a way that both solved the problem and (hopefully) preserved or increased their regard for the company. Usually what I did was some combination of 1) dealing with the problem, not the emotion, and 2) acknowledging in a sincere way how they felt. In other words, I tried to be sympathetic and efficient, but not let it get personal. Try to reframe it as if you’re in it together, trying to solve a problem. Inwardly, I often rationalized that their anger wasn’t related to me; they were just having a hard day and/or the situation really was pretty messed up. That said, there were a couple of times when someone’s attitude really got to me and I ended up crying in frustration after getting off the phone with them.

It might help to have a friendly, but somewhat detached personality. However, I also believe that the attitude can be learned and practiced.

JLeslie's avatar

The mean customer is far and few between. The majority of the time peope are friendly and thankful for your help. When you get a person who is unhappy with the service given, the right thing to do is to thank them for letting me know they were disatisfied and try to fix the situation. If they are just on a rant and literally abusive, then someone else is called in to diffuse the interaction. If the person continues to be out of control they will be escorted out of the store.

Sunny2's avatar

It can be very frustrating to work with a dissatisfied or demanding customer. I worked box office for a community theater box office as a volunteer. It’s amazing how unpleasant people can be. I would stay calm and explain why they couldn’t have a particular seat on a particular night. I felt kind of sorry for the ones who stayed irritated . They had to live with a personality or circumstances that made them that way. I’m sure that if a theater seat could make them so upset, so could lots of little things that don’t go exactly their way. Sounds like Hell to me.

jazmina88's avatar

I had a stress ball I would squeeze and a crystal to hold.

Some folks put the customer on hold, for meanness….or to disengage for a minute.
I didnt, not want to hurt my call time.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I’m lucky that if customers get abusive with me I can pass them onto a senior managerand let them deal with it. I’m certainly not paid enough to take crap for other peoples decisions. However, I have to say that it’s very rare that this happens. I can’t rememer the last time I had a really abusive customer. I speak to plenty of people that wantto have a moan but that isn’t a problem. I listen to them, agree with them (they like that) and try to come up with a solution to make them feel better.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@JLeslie“The mean customer is far and few between.”—yeah, if you’re lucky. Or, if you work somewhere like, say, Lakeview Resort, mean customers are the rule, not the exception.

downtide's avatar

I’ve worked in customer service for many years and I think it does require a specific sort of personality. When we recruit staff, on average only 1 in 12 who are taken on, will survive three months. The rest quit because they can’t cope, or are sacked because they can’t cope and still refuse to quit. You have to be able to detach yourself from what the angry customer is saying, and not take it personally, and at the same time you have to be extremely polite at all times.

I never lose my temper with an angry customer. If a customer is rude and abusive to me they get three warnings, and on the third, I hang up and put a note on their account to say what they did and said, and the date. No-one gets paid enough to take that kind of abuse.

Part of the art of being a good advisor is being able to calm an angry person down, and I’m actually pretty good at that. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken a complaint from somene who’s angry, and they’ve gone away saying “thank god there’s someone in that place who knows what he’s doing.”

Another skill is to be able to tell a customer that they are wrong, because that saying “the customer is always right” is just not true at all. Most of the time the customer IS wrong, and I have to be able to prove it. So quite a bit of my job involves off-the-phone investigations; listening to call recordings, going through archives of mail sent and received, etc. This isn’t something that the ordinary front-line call-handlers do: I only get this part of the job because of my experience and more senior position.

coffeenut's avatar

Working with angry customers is fine….Working with stupid customers is worse…...Working with angry Stupid customers is really bad….this site helps though

flutherother's avatar

You get used to it as you learn the patterns of behaviour you can expect. I can usually quickly identify the caller as one of a type and automatically respond in the best way to calm them down, assure them their complaint will be efficiently dealt with and get them off the phone. I very rarely get emotionally involved with the angry callers; their anger is usually a fuss about very little.

JLeslie's avatar

@MissAnthrope It is hard for me to believe you have a lot of mean customers there? Are you just talking about demanding cusomers?

MissAnthrope's avatar

@JLeslie – No, demanding is demanding, rude is rude, mean is mean.. I’m able to differentiate. I’ve been waiting tables for 10 years and have a total of about 16 years’ worth of customer service-type positions. I have seen a really wide range of people in this time. So, to answer your question, the customers at Lakeview were horrendous. I don’t know if that place was cursed or what, but the type of people it attracted tended to be very unpleasant on top of being demanding and acting extremely entitled.

As a contrast, I worked at a country club prior to that and most of the people were fine. Annoying sometimes, yes, but generally polite and happy. Weddings were super fun and a total pleasure to work because everyone was so happy and generally well-behaved.

The weddings at Lakeview, I dreaded. They sucked and the people sucked, just bad attitudes and treating us like crap. Sometimes asking for or wanting just ridiculous stuff, too. Not to mention the outrageous behavior people would try to get away with. I personally witnessed so much debauchery that it blew my mind. I saw a server get a coffee cup thrown at her because the guy was drunk and for some reason, he was offended she was collecting unused coffee cups well after dinner service. I am so glad I don’t work there anymore, that place sucked so bad, on so many levels.

JLeslie's avatar

@MissAnthrope Got it. Were they from a certain part of the country? Or, a different social class than other places you have worked? Was there some sort of generalization you made about the people staying at Lakeview compared to other places?

MissAnthrope's avatar

@JLeslie – Yes, two different states, but adjoining ones that weren’t terribly apart in culture. In thinking about it right now, I realized that Morgantown (where Lakeview is) was the unfriendliest place I have lived in the States. France has the honorable #1 spot on the global list. That is probably a factor.

I also suspect that Lakeview is the least expensive option for staging events in that area, so they just really get everybody. Now, I am not at all implying that poor people have no manners, because trust me, plenty of rich people wouldn’t know manners if it bit them in the ass. It just seemed like we got a lot of trashy behavior, but what do you expect when you’re affordable enough for the frat and sorority parties at WVU (a total party school)?

JLeslie's avatar

@MissAnthrope Interesting. Yeah, I don’t think we can generalize necessarily by wealth. Some wealthy people treat “the help” horribly, and others are just wonderful. Frat parties are a whole different story. That probably has more to do with age and maturity.

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