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Tips for Handling Difficult Callers at Work
Do you have a desk job that requires answering phones? Are some of those callers hostile? Do you ever wish you could just tell them off and then hang up? Yes, sometimes, people forget that they are talking to other human beings on the phone, especially when they are in a situation that requires immediate attention or have money or a service at stake. It’s not always easy to keep your emotions in check when dealing with difficult people. Here are some tips for getting through those rough calls at work.
- Let them talk: Give them the floor to get their frustrations out. Listen to every detail. Write it down so that you can reference what they’re saying when it’s your turn to talk and show that you are listening. Even if they get off topic, let them tell their story straight through. The longer they vent, the easier they will calm themselves down so that they are in a rational mindset to give you time to help solve their problem. Chances are, they will apologize for getting upset before you even have a chance to apologize for their being inconvenienced.
- Get upset with them, not at them: When a caller is ranting and raving, it’s usually because they feel misunderstood or that they have a fight on their hands. Put yourself on their side, and show them that you want to solve their problem as much as they do. Let them know that you understand where they are coming from. Stay professional, but show them you care. For example, “Yes, Mr. Jones, this is unfair. This situation could have been worse than it already is. Your account could have bounced. You could have been penalized. I’m going to get on this right away and make sure that it doesn’t happen again!”
- If you can’t help them, tell them who can. Don’t waste a caller’s time. If you don’t have the answers, transfer them to someone who does or put them on hold and get the information for them. Make it as easy on the caller as possible. If you are transferring them, tell them how that other person can help, the name and job title of that person or any other encouraging details to show them that they are going to get the help they need.
- Don’t use generic terms: Nothing makes me feel like someone doesn’t really care or is really listening when they use generic phrases like, “I’m sorry to hear that,” “thank you for your patience” or “I know how you feel.” These to me sound like, “I’m trying to make you shut up or get you off the phone so that you’ll stop yelling at me”. Give specifics when relaying your feeling about their situation. Again, stay professional, but don’t be a robot using these generic phrases with every caller, especially the callers who are upset.
- Don’t lose your cool. If you get a caller who just needs a human punching bag then just be the punching bag. Remember that they are at their wits end, and you are just the target. Something has driven them to this hostile state, or that’s just the way they are to people in your position, and nothing you say is going to change their attitude. They’re not targeting you specifically; they are targeting your job title. After all, they don’t really know you, and even if they accuse you of having an attitude or being unqualified for your job, just remember that the only way that you can change their mind or at least get them off the phone is to solve their problem. It’s unfortunate that you have to take the beating, but that’s just part of your job description. Just because the caller has forgotten that you are not at fault and that you are a person who has feelings doesn’t mean that you should retaliate and give them a taste of their own medicine. Make sure you always stay professional and give the best answer you can. If you feel that you can’t control your emotions, try to pass the call on to a manager or someone else who can help and hasn’t been worn down by the caller yet.
Jobs that require talking on the phone can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. It takes someone with a thick skin yet has a patient and understanding attitude required do their job well. The most important thing to remember is to treat people the way that you want to be treated, with seriousness and respect. So, when you have to call in to a company for help or to voice a complaint, you should be the ideal caller, even if the person on the other line is less than superior at their job, whether it be in skill or attitude. The fewer irate callers that are out there, the easier it will be to solve problems over the phone.