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Dealing with Verbal Abuse

Author billgehl
#1 | Posted: 19 Feb 2007 03:46 
When a caller simply wants to chew someone out - with no legimate reason - what techniques have you used to handle such a call. Thanks.

Author KarenSB
#2 | Posted: 20 Feb 2007 12:24 
For what it's worth, I believe there is no such thing as no legitimate reason. There is always a reason. It may not be valid, it may not have anything to do with you, your company, your product...but there is always a reason. For the customer the reason is always legitimate.

It the anger/animosity is coming at me out of the blue, I first try to determine its root. If it is within my power to fix, I fix it. Meaning that if the root cause does have something to do with me, my company, my product...then it is my problem and I deal with it.

If the root cause does not have to do with me or mine, then I weight the value of the customer. A known or unknown? A usually good/great customer or not? Then I proceed according to my determination. If a good/great customer is having a bad day...I care and let them dump on me. I listen and try to say the right things. Or I just listen. If this is a not so good customer, I view this as my opportunity to turn them into a good/great customer. Again, I listen, show them I care, and let them dump within reason, i.e., they don't tend to get the same latitude as a good/great customer. This is relationship building.

All that said, bottom line though, is the extent of the "verbal abuse." There are things that are not tolerable, no matter the weight of the customer nor the root cause of the problem. Personal attacks, profanity, threats against person are a few examples. Either they get themselves under control...and pronto...or else they are invited to call back when they are calmer. When I have to go to this extreme measure, I do everything within my power to ensure that if/when they call back, they call ME. I do not want them unloading on someone else, especially an unsuspecting staff member.

Then, and this is a just a personal thingie, there are those upset people who start the conversation, or somewhere in the conversation insert this little gem, "You don't seem to understand....". I always shut down that train of thought, immediately and abruptly. I may be many things, but stupid and unsympathetic are personal affronts! (Like I said, a personal thingie!!)

Finally, I always, always, always do a follow-up call with the person. They may need a day or two, a week or two...depending on the circumstances. But I always follow up. "How are you feeling about the situation now?" "Did the suggestions I made help?" "Did I fix the problem for you?"

And then, the all-important question...the $64,000 question if you will..."Should this ever happen again, what will you do?" Because you see, if I've fixed it for them, if I've made it better in any way whatsoever, I want to get a commitment from them and a recognition of that commitment. I want to hear "You have helped, and if it should happen, I will call you."

This is the stuff from which raving fans are made. This is my opportunity to shine for them, and turn them from a ranting to a raving.

I hope this helps.

Author anagram100
#3 | Posted: 20 Feb 2007 13:13 
The level of abuse is the key. I agree with Karen, personal attacks and profanity are just not acceptable on any level whatever the reason.

If I take over a call I let the customer talk until they run out of steam, using active listening techniques so they are aware I am still listening and at the same time I'm making notes. My first question is normally then to offer to call them back so save them the cost of the call. I tell them if I need to, that I will need to look at the account notes etc and give them a call back in 10 - 15 minutes.

Then it depends on the nature of the call, but generally, I summarize what they've said and anything I can verify from what I've looked at. I ask them what their expectations of the situation were and what they are now. Then I provide my solution answers etc.

Like Karen, I then take personal ownership of the situation and call the customer back even if all I'm saying is I'm still looking into it. The customer then understands they're at the top of my list and are the most important thing to me at the time. Once the situation has been resolved I will normally follow up with a call or e-mail a couple of weeks later as well.

Taking action to prevent the call happening again and sharing what happened with team leaders and advisors is also something I do.

Calmness is the key throughout and communication of your resolve to make it better for them.

Just my tuppence worth.

Author ayaree
#4 | Posted: 24 Feb 2007 17:31 
Bill, I was at first curious to know whether you were asking this as a recipient of such chewing out or as someone who wants to be an advocate for an employee faced with that situation. But I guess it doesn't matter, since it would be important to know how to handle it in either case.

When you say "no legitimate reason," I don't know if that means the caller was taking out his frustrations on somebody and there was no relationship to the specific topic at hand or if he was upset with the way the call was handled despite the customer service person doing what they "should" have been doing.

In either case, there needs to be a record of the experience, and then the right channels need to hear about it.

When it comes to handling the experience of being beaten up on the phone, I think the person on the receiving end of the abuse needs to picture the dreadful verbiage sliding down a hill (create your own metaphors), whatever it takes for a person to manage not to become ensnared in the negativity. Offer silence for the bulk of the venom to be spent, but insert calm rejoinders that show recognition of "what has been going wrong" but not necessarily offering a defeat (this whole operation really is in the wrong). The caller needs to hear someone who empathizes, someone who "knows"; not someone who joins in on the negative agenda and "loves" (know thy customer, don't love thy customer). The "abusive caller" needs to be won over by hearing a trigger, after several moments of calm installments of "Oh" and "That makes sense, you're right", that convinces him that he has someone that is trying to make his experience matter and maybe that person handling him will be able to hold the keys to a solution. He won't feel that if he has not been coaxed into believing that you are on the same level. If a reasonable tone or silence in the "abusive caller" emerges, then this would be an opportunity to list out any facts that he has not understood, willing or not, and also an opportunity to build on the case that "you" are the difference he needed to speak with. ("I'm glad you were able to reach me, now we're gonna put this to rest for you.")

I could be wrong, but I think in your post you were looking for ways to handle the experience of being beaten up over the phone as it happens, and in response I have tried to describe how I would "woo someone over," using my imagination and my experience.

If that's not what you were you after, can you come back and let us know?

Author patilint
#5 | Posted: 14 Mar 2007 06:37 
I think if the customer is abusive- foul language, direct attack at you etc. you have the right not to continue the conversation. Depending on your company's policy- I would advise the customer that you cannot continue the conversation under the current conditions and you will call him back; or if your company prefers, you could refer him to a manger. Somehow, alot of irate customers respond entirely different when dealing with the "manager' -I think its a mental thing - they feel they are at the top of the chain and will get resolution. Little do they know that the manager usually turns the problem right back to the CSR or whomever to resolve.
If it is just a "difficult" customer then take charge. Use your skills, feel like you have the knowledge and skill to solve this problem.
If its someone that just wants to vent- then let them vent ... a few 'yes' or 'I see" or "I understand" will let them vent and then calm down a bit. Then you can work your magic and take care of the problem...Of course, if you can't help them, then say that and let them know that you will find someone who can help them....
Really listen to what they are saying to make sure you do understand their concerns and then act.

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 Dealing with Verbal Abuse

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