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louiethecat
 
need tips on how to deal with abusive people over the phone

I'll try not to make this too much of a tldr.

I recently was hired at a company (a law firm) as a receptionist/switchboard operator. I have been answering phones and working in customer service for about five years. However, nothing could have prepared me for the batshit insanity that happened yesterday.

For half of the day, my primary responsibility is answering phones. The office I work at is VERY large (over 700 people), so the phone rings about 200 times an hour. My job is to make sure that people are transferred quickly to the people they need to speak with, and my goal is to make sure that people in the switchboard queue are on hold for no longer than 30 seconds.

The vast majority of people I deal with are either internal personell asking for conference room scedules/phone extentions/email adresses or clients asking to be connected to their attourneys. ALL of the internal personel who call me know EXACTLY what I do, and why I do it. Most of the time, I am treated with politeness and respect.

Nothing could have prepared me for what was, in my (and my coworker's opinions), the equivalent of a customer atomic bomb.

I had a queue of about five calls. I wanted to get them transferred as quickly as possible, because I was needed to cover for another receptionist who was about to take his lunch. I answered the phone in my usual manner...

Me: "Good afternon, XYZ firm."
Caller: "Yes, hello, *chuckle* can you tell me if *Insert name of the founder of our company who the company is named for* is still alive? Can I speak with him?"
Me: *A little stunned, and a little bit suspicious that this might be a sales call, and perhaps in a tone of voice that's not quite as chipper as my usual tone*: "Uhhh...was there anyone that I could transfer you to, sir?"
Caller:"...ARE YOU GOING TO BE RUDE TO ME?!?!"
Me: ".....*stunned silence*"
Caller: "I AM A CLIENT! GIVE ME YOUR NAME!"
Me: "...uhhhhh..."
Caller: "I TOLD YOU TO GIVE ME YOUR NAME! I WILL TELL YOU WHO TO CONNECT ME TO AS SOON AS I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!"
Me: "..*still stunned*..uhh..."
Caller: "GIVE ME YOUR NAME! GIVE ME YOUR NAME! GIVE ME YOUR NAME!!!!!!!"
Me: "*becasue I am legally obligated to identify myself* *insert name*"
Caller: "YOU ARE GOING TO HEAR ABOUT THIS!!! I AM GOING TO SEE TO IT THAT YOU LOSE YOUR JOB! CONNECT ME TO *insert name of lawer*

After I connected the call, I sat there stunned...and then all these other calls about the incident came in.

The attourney I transferred him to called me about fifteen minutes later. She told me that he was "livid", and had sent her several emails, and that she had to do some "damage control." I sat there stunned, and started to cry. I honestly thought that I was going to lose my job becasue a certain client was PSYCHOTIC.

My coworkers told me that I had nothing to worry about. They knew about the partifular lawyer that this jerk was working with; and that she esentially was just putting her superiority complex out on me (she apparently does this all the time), so I shouldn't take what she says personally. Also, my coworkers and supervisors know that I am NEVER rude to customers. I am ALWAYS professional, and I take great pride in being able to do my job well.

Luckily for my peace of mind, this jackass made the mistake of...continuing to be a jackass. He called again while I was out, and did the same thing to my coworker...and my supervisor...and a legal secretary. So, instead of being a respected client of our firm, this jerkoff turned himself into a laughingstock. The manager of my department also took time to let me know that I was okay, that I was just doing my job, and that it wasn't my fault that this guy was so horrible. She also said that she was going to "have words" with the lawyer who called me and said that she had to do "damage control..." Apparently, she violated a staff procedure or something.

Any and all complaints about me were dropped because this jackass didn't seem to grasp the fact that nobody was going to take a single word of what he said seriously if he was just going to verbally rape people all day.

However, this asshat got to me. I was crying for about an hour, not necessarily because of what was said but beause he was taking the time to try to hurt me, ME, because I didn't have the time to joke around with him at the beginning of our conversation.

My workplace has been nothing but amazing. The management knows EXACTLY what I put up with, and they took the time to make sure that I knew that I had their support.

My question to you, Genmay, the place where all asshats (myself being one of them, occasionally ) tend to congregate, is how to deal with jerks like this in the future? I know that they are few and far between in my workplace environment, but how do I not take those attacks so personally?

Cliffs:
1. I'm a receptionist
2. Caller is a total dickwad and tries to get me in trouble because I wouldn't go along with his little "joke"
3. I get super upset, even though my management and coworkers are on my side
4. How to not get upset at these jerkoffs?
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Old 07-14-2011, 10:51 PM louiethecat is offline  
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herrysmart
 
You should not lose your confidence and hope.
Old 07-15-2011, 05:32 AM herrysmart is offline  
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herrysmart
 
When your management and coworkers are at your site then why you get upset. There is no need to worry in this case. One other thing that can be done in case of these type of jackasses, is this that all the call are recorded so if again this type of issue comes, you can justify yourself by saying that the higher management can check the call details.
Old 07-15-2011, 10:04 PM herrysmart is offline  
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coalesce
 
Well, you're a girl and you're gonna be more emotional than a guy. I think its silly to spend an hour crying over some else being an idiot. I don't know how strict they enforce policies at your work but I've hung up on people before at my job lol.
Old 07-15-2011, 10:38 PM coalesce is offline  
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matt00926
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Be polite and redirect the conversation so that you show you're in control and not bothered by their stupidity. I had a client at work last night spend the whole time trying to insult me and get under my skin; I exhibited that I didn't give a shit/kept calm and cool, found his petty insults amusing, remained polite and professional, and redirected him a few times so that I was the one asking the questions, and at the end of our conversation he actually said that he liked me and that I was an alright guy.

Just remember that it's just a random guy connected to you on a phone, he doesn't know anything about you and he was going to try and fuck with anyone that answered the phone, not just you.
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Old 07-16-2011, 07:14 AM matt00926 is offline  
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RazorWind
 
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I think what I would do is think to myself "Man, I'm glad my life isn't so empty and meaningless that I have to amuse myself by calling up random receptionists and harassing them."

I'd also strongly suspect that this probably happens at family or criminal law offices from time to time, and that now that you know that this can happen, it likely won't upset you as much the next time. If it's the type of law office where the clients are generally businesses, I'd imagine it probably doesn't happen all that often, and you won't need to worry about it much.
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Old 07-18-2011, 12:29 PM RazorWind is offline  
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Sage2k
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When I used to work at hotel I had to deal with idiot jerks all the time.

If it was over the phone, I would just stop talking completely until they calmed down or hung up.

If it was in person I would stare them in the face and ignore them completely until they calm down and ask me a question in a nice rational tone.

It was great. They would yell and yell and yell and then stop, look around, realize they look like fools, and calm down.
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Old 07-18-2011, 04:51 PM Sage2k is offline  
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Gibonius
 
I've worked both customer service and reception. Reception was generally better, but I got a lot of angry assholes at customer service that wanted to attack somebody. You basically cannot let yourself take it personally. Whatever they're doing is either them being pissed off at the company, or just an expression of a personality flaw.

Now, obviously "don't take it personality" is easier said than done. It's a matter of training and personality. Some people just don't give a shit and never have a problem. Others of us have to work at it. You can do it though, just go in with that mentality every time, and try to hold it when negative interactions occur. You'll get better at it over time, things will bother you less and less.
Old 07-19-2011, 01:48 PM Gibonius is offline  
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Pleb
 
I work in IT, probably one of the more 'abuse susceptible' areas... one time I almost snapped at a client and I talked to my boss about it, and he put it in a good perspective that I would have never seen myself.

Not an exact quote, but the gist:
"The user is frustrated, they can't do their work, they've got deadlines, and they don't know how to fix the problem. They're scared, they're calling the Helpdesk because they don't know what to do, and for a lot of people it can be demeaning to themselves to even ask for help."

This may not apply literally/directly to you, but I think you might be able to apply that principle to what you do and find it easier to not take things personally.
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:22 AM Pleb is offline  
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SmashingPumpkins
 
I usually say

"(ma'am or sir), if you cannot keep this call professional, I will be disconnecting. How exactly may I be of assistance to you?"

if they keep going I usually go "due to the nature of this call I will no longer be able to provide service and will be disconnecting. Thanks for calling XYZ firm and have a wonderful day"


don't take shit. not from a lawyer and not from a client. It's not worth it. A fucking switchboard job is not worth feeling that way.

if they want something I can't do I put a positive spin on it, instead of telling them what I can do, tell them what I can do.

"No problem, I can help get you connected to someone, is there someone you're working with specifically?"

or something of that nature. you sound like many people who answer phones, I've worked in call centers for years and I just don't take shit anymore. my calls are recorded so I kill them with kindness. if they aren't i'd tell them to fuck off. they can't record you without your knowledge so if they're going to go after you all you have to do is deny it. if it's not in your nature they'll just take it as the client being in a bad mood and taking out on the first person they come in contact with. and if they don't understand that, you shouldn't bother working for them.


edit: or place them on hold until they calm down. HOLD > wait 30 seconds or so and answer another call or two > go back "are you ready to be professional?" and if they continue > HOLD > try again. They'll hang up and call back or calm down. either way they gotta go through you. think of yourself as john wayne toilet paper. you don't take shit from anybody.
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:53 PM SmashingPumpkins is offline  
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Panda Monium
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pleb View Post
I work in IT, probably one of the more 'abuse susceptible' areas... one time I almost snapped at a client and I talked to my boss about it, and he put it in a good perspective that I would have never seen myself.

Not an exact quote, but the gist:
"The user is frustrated, they can't do their work, they've got deadlines, and they don't know how to fix the problem. They're scared, they're calling the Helpdesk because they don't know what to do, and for a lot of people it can be demeaning to themselves to even ask for help."

This may not apply literally/directly to you, but I think you might be able to apply that principle to what you do and find it easier to not take things personally.

This. After several years of abusive customers on phone and in person, I felt like one day I "snapped." Not in a bad way. Somehow, out of nowhere, this exact realization came into my head. That person is likely miserable as it is. But you can choose to go about your day without fixating on it. At the end of the day, will their "mean words" really have a direct impact on your life?
Old 08-22-2011, 10:17 AM Panda Monium is offline  
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