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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What coping mechanisms did you use to deal with difficult or angry callers at your job?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30549points) 3 weeks ago

In my job, I get many calls. Some are from people who are experiencing distress or anger, and they are often agitated.

I would like to know how you handled these types of people in your life? Did you experience the difficulties on the phone, or did you deal with these issues with people face-to-face?

What skills worked to help you maintain your cool demeanor?

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8 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

In the back of my mind is a reminder to myself that it is not directed at me, it is not personal.

And I respond in a calm, slow voice. And I will also say, early on, that their issue may take some time to resolve.

CWOTUS's avatar

Prior to the turn of the century, I had a job for four years as a Quality Assurance analyst for an RTA furniture manufacturer. (RTA = ready to assemble; that is, flat-packed laminate-surface particle board items.) I hated the furniture, but I needed a job, and even though I didn’t consider the product to be “fine furniture” in any way it was a decent product “for the money”. Still, not my top choice, but at least honest work for an honest company.

The Customer Service people often got calls for “missing hardware” which wasn’t actually missing, which we were able to determine pretty quickly after seeing that a number of the calls were duplicates: They’d call on Monday about “missing hardware” and then call again on Friday after receiving what we sent them, no questions asked, to say that it was still missing.

I started to take some of those calls in an attempt to figure out what was really going on. And boy, were those people mad when they determined that a) we had shorted them on the proper hardware in the first place, then b) sent them “the wrong stuff” in response to the first call and now c) transferred their call to me in an apparent attempt (they presumed) to foist off the issue on a dupe and get rid of them.

So I’d generally get an earful – and just listen. I’d ask some questions, calmly, about things that they were saying that I didn’t hear or understand, but mostly it was just “listen and acknowledge” their frustration and anger. After I had heard them out and they were settled down that I wasn’t blowing them off, ignoring them or shouting them down, and they were calmer, we’d talk about what was usually the real issue. And nine times out of ten it was a misunderstanding of the instructions which was pretty easily resolved.

I started to build a database from the (usual) misunderstandings of our instruction manuals – which I could later talk to the illustrators about how to describe and show commonly confusing steps more clearly – and get the people on the line to understand that they really did have the right hardware, but it was the instructions that they were misreading.

It was pretty gratifying to actually hear the flash of understanding when they “got it” and made the proper assembly moves, or we could fix other common assembly issues with no muss, no fuss, and it was also helpful to our sales group to get the instructions clarified where they were frequently misunderstood.

Once in a while if someone started swearing at me during the first part, I would warn them that I could handle their anger and frustration, but not to make it personal. If they ignored me, then I would hang up on them. (The first time took some real thought on my part!) Then they’d call back, get transferred to me again (it was a smallish company), and realize that they’d better be nice – even if angry and still frustrated – and complete the process civilly.

I actually ended up liking that part of the job quite a bit.

flutherother's avatar

1. I’d let them vent.
2. Then try to establish what the problem is.
3. I would then see what I could to resolve the issue and explain to the caller what would be done.
4. Put the phone down after a warning if they became abusive.

People are usually nicer face to face in my experience.

Inspired_2write's avatar

One views things differently once they have had grown up with angry outbursts in their families or having their own children that threw tantrums.
Much is the same for adults..except its a Adult Tantrum borne out of frustration from the feeling that no one listens ( hmm I wonder why?) ..
The solution is to LIsten , but as soon as their voices become loud or swearing etc occurs I would say” Just a second Sir” ( usually dominant males are doing this) “i will place you on hold for about a min as I search your acct” ( which I had no access too, but it was a stalling method to get him calmed down and to let him think that I WAS checking his account.
I went back online with the caller where he started to swear again etc..I JUST LISTENED..waiting for him to realize the silence. He finally go his anger out then thought that I ( as so many did before me) had hung up on him? I heard him say in the background to his wife(?)...I think they hung up on me? That was when I calmly
answered “No, I did not….I am still here”. He asked me what was I doing? I told him “Listening to him”. He realized that he had been frustrated and belligerent to me and promptly apologised! From then on we talked calmly and was able resolve his problem by replacing his VCR or getting it repaired? He profusely apologized to me and told me that I was the first to NOT hang up on him and the First TO LISTEN to him.
That was an eye opening experience and I hope that HE learned to treat Customer Service in the future with more respect as that will get his problems solved quicker.

There is a course that people can take its called “How to Handle Difficult People”

Number one : Listen with empathy as they may be agitated and talk quickly since many have hung up or given up talking with them.

Number two: It not you but the Company that you represent that they are angry with.
In one case I transferred his call directly to the President of the Company! ( LOL) To let that President realize what his customers felt about his poor products.
By the way that President cancelled all orders for that particular product.

Number three: When you get too many of the same problems with the merchandise, realize these complaints will multiply and YOU will get many more outrage directed at you.

Decide whether you want to be associated with a Company with inferior merchandise who won’t take responsibility for there products failure to please it consumers and look for another better job with a better environment of responsible Owners.
I quit that Customer Service job after only working a month of “angry Customers” ..some who threatened to blow up that Store.( we worked some distance away from the Store for that very reason.
In future I suggest all products have in there literature about said product to have a note about HOW to expect Service and treat Customer Service Representatives .

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Take a deep breath before and during all calls.
Understand you may not be able to get to a final solution with all calls, it may take time, and someone else to get to resolution.
Listen and take notes, if you don’t understand ask them to clarify.
Go slow.

I was the back-up for Customer Support at a Dot Com in the 2000 and 2001, I’d get a message on my computer screen that the CSR was sending me an issue and a customer too, it went straight to my phone. We had people that had just got their first email account on AOL, so it took time to get them to fix the problem at their end. We sold the software and sometimes we had to try to get the person on the other end to figure out how to connect a printer to their PC.

Muad_Dib's avatar

I compulsively stress-ate and drank so much during working hours that I put on 20 lbs in a year.

I eventually quit because I recognized it was turning me into a horrible person and was bad for both my physical and mental health.

I, however, was working in customer service for a parasitic retail organization, and there was no “greater good” I could convince myself I was working toward. It was thankless labor that forced me to lie to people in order to protect the company from their customers.

JLeslie's avatar

Thank them for letting me know there is a problem, empathize where I can, and solve it the best I can.

NomoreY_A's avatar

I only had to deal with two situations like that. When I worked security in a hospital apparently we had two guys who tried to hit on some nurses or office ladies. There were two occasions when irate/hubby/ boyfriends called looking for so and so threatening to kick thier ass. Then telling me to tell them this or that. On both occasi8ons I let them rant, then stated two things clearly- 1) I’m not your messenger service, and 2) if you want to kick this guys ass, dont do it on my facility. Because then you will have issues with me, and you don’t want to have issues with me. Guess they got my point, neither of them ever called back.

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