Customer Service Help: The Chronic Nuisance Caller

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Since calling on the phone is so easy, some people will call repeatedly to voice their concerns, or because they are lonely. Often such callers don’t have any particular issue that can be dealt with through problem-solving, and they can eat up lots of time because they call so often.

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One of the challenges government faces is that it must appear to be accessible to all citizens to voice their concerns. For that reason it’s difficult to “cut someone off” completely by refusing to answer their phone calls, and you can’t really “order” them to stop calling. In effect the only things you can do are a) to elicit their cooperation and b) to set and enforce assertively constructed limits.

Often, chronic callers are fairly pleasant, so you can request, suggest or assert that one call per [day, week] is all you can handle, but that you would be happy to spend a few minutes talking if it’s once a [day, week]. Then if the person calls more often, or the caller tries to extend each call beyond a minute or two, apply limits and enforce them. Eventually, your chronic caller will “learn the rules” and abide by them, and/or call somewhere else for his or her conversations.

Certainly, it’s understandable if this doesn’t fit your busy schedule, and if you have many chronic callers, you aren’t going to be able to give this “service” to callers. However, keep in mind that you don’t have the control to never answer the calls of chronic callers or to hang up on them. If you do either, you may be called on the carpet yourself. Investing a little time once in a while may be preferable to creating a situation where there is head to head open conflict.

If the chronic caller is calling about a specific issue — an issue you cannot help him or her with, then look to redirect the person to talk to someone who has more authority (Redirect tactic). Offer a phone number if possible, or an addresss (e-mail or otherwise), and do so courteously. Consider asking the person to call you back in a week or two to let ;you know how it all turned out.

If you have an “over-caller”, someone who calls repeatedly in a short time for someone else in the office who is unavailable, here’s what to do.

Caller: Is George Pappas in?

Employee: No, he’s still away from his desk. Is this Ms. Merryweather calling?

Caller: Yes, it is. Why is he never in his office, or is he dodging my calls. I need to talk to him urgently, and he’s not calling back.

Employee: (1) I can see you are pretty concerned, so here’s what I can do. (2) I handle all of Mr. Pappas messages, and I promise you that I will give this to him personally, by hand, and let him know that you’d like to speak to him immediately. (3) I know he’s very busy today, so let me set up an appointment for a phone call. I’ll call you at 3:30 on the dot, and that way you don’t have to sit by the phone all day. (4) How’s that sound?

In (1) the employee acknowledges the caller’s feelings and concerns. In (2), assurances are given and a promise, and in (3) the employee offers to solve the immediate problem of getting the two connected. In (4) the employee uses a question to provide a sense of choice.

Of course, what you say will depend on what commitments you can reasonably make. If the person continues to call back, then return to the promise, set assertive limits, enforce them, and end the conversation with “Mrs. Merriweather, I’ll speak to you at 3:30. Bye for now”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.

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