Demon Callers: How to Hold Your Temper
If you work at a help desk, you inevitably will encounter callers you might classify as the devil. They might be verbally abusive, miserably impatient and fond of interrupting with verbal castigations while you, the imperiled help desk analyst, attempt to give them the technical assistance they obviously need.
As with any customer service-oriented position, working on a help desk requires you to deal with people in crisis, who are notoriously short-tempered and tough to handle. Not all callers are demons, certainly, but there are enough of them that those who field calls on the help desk will need strategies to help them hold on to their tempers and do their job effectively.
Be Sympathetic/Empathic. Sure, everyone has problems, and adults should know enough not to take their troubles out on others, particularly those who want to help. But the nature of many help desk calls is one of crisis, trouble and difficulty. Imagine disgruntled end-users: They are stressed out, they’re tired from commuting four hours back and forth each day on a crowded train.
Maybe they’re having marital problems, or they have a sick child or even a sick Chihuahua. Maybe they’re feeling threatened on the job or fearful of their position in our volatile, changeable employment market. Further, the report their computer just blinked out of existence (and the reason for their call) was for a meeting the next day that could ease or encourage that fear.
It’s not hard to feel sorry for this person, right? Begin with a sincere, “Wow. That’s not good at all. I’m so sorry you’re having that problem. If you could bear with me for a short while, I’ll gather some information, and we’ll get you up and running in no time. OK?” Being nice can suck the air right out of callers’ anger because they are assured you will listen, you want to help and are capable of doing so.
Be Well-Trained. Make sure you’ve been coached well on different strategies to effectively handle frustrated callers. According to helpdeskcoach.com, upset customers often don’t listen well. When help desk agents attempt to placate them with logic, they can become even more agitated, which can lengthen the call and actually make the caller believe no one cares or that help desk personnel are incapable. Training can offer listening skills and tips on asking appropriate questions to uncover problems and keep solution-driven conversations on track. Training also can teach help desk staff to keep their personal reactions under control in a stressful situation.
Be polite. Two wrongs don’t make a right, so responding to a cranky caller in kind likely will exacerbate the situation and lengthen call time. Cranky callers who’ve been on the phone awhile with no solution in sight also are more likely to complain to the help desk supervisor and bad-mouth the organization if their crankiness is met with more crankiness.
Instead, once calls have been satisfactorily resolved, helpdeskcoach.com suggests deploying a “teachable” moment that might encourage callers to employ self-help next time, which can reduce volume for the help desk call center. Before signing off, ask the caller if he or she has any other issues and offer future assistance. And before hanging up, remember: Always thank the caller.