When an angry caller turns into an abusive caller, it's time for call center 911! In this lesson, you'll learn more about the best ways to identify abusive callers and how to handle abusive calls.
Have you ever heard the phrase ''seeing red?'' This statement is usually uttered in a sentence like, ''I was so angry I was seeing red!'' What's with this colorful description?
An abusive caller is a sticky situation in a call center environment.
People who describe themselves or others as ''seeing red'' are so enraged that their anger overtakes them. It's like a bull staring at a matador's waving red cape: the bull sees red and charges out of something more than anger.
Working in a call center, agents may find themselves dealing with customers who are seeing red, for one reason or another. Handling angry callers is almost a given, but dealing with abusive callers is another matter altogether. In this lesson, we'll go over some ways to handle abusive callers in a call center.
The first thing to know when dealing with abusive callers is that these are not your typically angered consumers. It's not someone who is unhappy because their package didn't arrive in time or because a service technician was late showing up for an appointment. Abusive callers take their anger to another level by launching into an all-out verbal attack on the call center agent that might include personal attacks or profanity leveled directly at the customer service representative. In an abusive call situation there is extreme hostility aimed at the employee who has fielded the call.
How do you deal with this type of caller when they're perhaps yelling or cursing and you can't get a word in edgewise?
Handling an Abusive Caller
- Start by doing nothing. That's right! Stay calm, listen quietly, and wait for the caller to finish their tirade.
- Once you're able to speak, keep the tone and volume of your voice low to try to diffuse the situation. Apologize, whether you think the situation warrants an apology or not. Something as simple as ''I'm sorry you've experienced this'' or ''I want to apologize for the inconvenience you've experienced'' can be a good place to start.
- Identify solutions immediately. If you're following these steps, you've already been listening and have hopefully picked up on the root cause of the problem that is causing so much distress. You should be able to formulate a plan of action to reach a resolution and tell the consumer what that is. Try to get the customer to agree to the resolution or look for a win-win situation for everyone involved.
- Be ready to issue warnings. No matter how hard you work to resolve a customer's problems, you may not be able to soothe the savage beast. Give warnings to consumers who continue to threaten or curse at you. A good example might be, ''If you keep using abusive language toward me, I will have to disconnect this call.'' A good rule of thumb for giving warnings is to give up to three, increasing in firmness, before terminating the call. For example: ''Mr. Stephens, I have warned you three times to stop using profanity toward me, and now I am going to terminate the call.'' Give the customer the option to call back or resume the call when they have cooled off. But, how do you know when to terminate a call? That can be a tricky decision to make, and is often up to the discretion of the agent and any procedures your company has already established. A good list of reasons might be personal insults, yelling or screaming, using profanity, threats of physical violence, or other extreme conditions such as threatening to come to your workplace with a weapon.
- If you're forced to terminate a call, report it. Once you conclude a call with an abusive caller, be certain to follow any company procedures by filing a written report or speaking with a manager. The basics of the abusive call should probably also be logged in that customer's file so that future agents are equipped with that knowledge.
Learning From an Abusive Caller
Make no mistake about it, abusive calls can be a learning tool for the entire call center. They aren't pleasant to be on the receiving end of, but there's a lot that can be learned about how to handle abusive callers simply by listening to and analyzing these types of call recordings. Analyzing calls of this type could help in the following ways:
- Identifying the difference between angry and abusive callers
- Developing policies and procedures for handling these types of calls
- Looking for ways to diffuse volatile situations before they escalate out of control
- Discovering types of behaviors that warrant terminating a call
- Coaching agents on ways to handle difficult calls and customers
- Improving your customer service overall
Listening to customer service calls typically involves scoring, comparing calls against performance benchmarks, and then using that data to do any of the tasks we just reviewed.
Dealing with angry callers is a part of any call center's everyday business. Dealing with abusive callers, however - those people who launch into verbal attacks, personal threats, and cursing - should not be. Agents confronted with an abusive caller should start by listening quietly and remaining calm until the caller stops talking. Once you begin speaking, keep the volume and tone of your voice low and even to try to diffuse the situation. Immediately work to identify a solution to the caller's problem and present it to them. If abusive conditions continue, proceed by warning the caller - up to three times, if necessary - and terminate the call if things do not improve. When the call ends, speak to a supervisor or manager immediately and alert them of the situation. Call centers can - and should - use recordings of abusive calls to learn more about how to improve their procedures and identify ways to improve these types of situations. This typically involves a call scoring process and then analyzing the results to better your call center practices.