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Old 05-25-2019, 12:22 AM
 
799 posts, read 1,302,509 times
Reputation: 1150

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I work at a company in a department that is driven by customers. I reconcile bank accounts for people in the Real Estate industry. Customers are sent a Monthly Report as well as a Daily Reports.


Here's what happened:

The other day, this lady calls me and has me on speaker phone with herself and other lady. She starts talking about her reports but she doesn't tell which report she was talking about (the monthly or daily). So I am scrambling to find the report while she is talking about some numbers on the report.

She kept saying things like "I have to know what you need from me to make this right". I told her that I don't audit her account (sometimes they think we are auditors or CPA's that have almighty power over their data, but we are none of those things.)

Then I figure out which report it is and said that those numbers don't ever match back to the bank statement and she said in a very mean & angry voice We have had this conversation many times and I've told you this has to happen). I never remember speaking to her. I got some emails years ago from her but I don't ever recall having a phone conversation with her.

So my next plan of action was "ok what do you want"? and I just reran her reports.


She was making it out to be the end of the world and it wasn't. The report she was looking was for information only and the numbers are part cleared and uncleared items and those can't match the bank statement because the bank statement does not have uncleared items on it. How would it know about them anyway because in the bank's mind the only items that matter are cleared items.

When she said: We have had this conversation many times and I've told you this has to happen. and I am pretty sure that we never EVER had a conversation in the entire time of I've had her as a customer.

Her tone was condescending and belittling and were meant to hurt me and make me feel stupid. I said nothing and I think I could have said something in a nice way to stop her dead in her tracks.

What could I have done? I don't want to make her mad but I do want to stand up for myself.
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Old 05-25-2019, 12:48 AM
 
Location: Western Washington
9,416 posts, read 8,661,419 times
Reputation: 16191
Unfortunately, standing up for yourself is not a high priority in this type of job. The customer wants what they want, and your employer wants you to keep the customer happy. In all likelihood, the customer knows that they haven’t asked you specifically to change the format of the report, they just know it is safe for them to take their frustration out on you.

The rule of thumb is de-escalation, and the techniques are very similar to selling something. You want to sympathize with the customer, and you want to get them to agree with you.

Start by saying something like:

I understand. These reports have so much information that they can be confusing. Isn’t that annoying?

To which your client pretty much has to say yes. This is exactly the point, they are starting to agree with you.

If there is confusion over which report it is, use that to generate another point of agreement. Such as:

We send so many reports that it is necessary to make sure we are talking about the same one. I know that the formatting is similar so that they can be confused. I wish that the reports came out a bit differently (suggest something) so that it would be easier to differentiate. What do you think?

Again, they will probably agree, or offer a suggestion that they think is better, to which you agree.

Next, focus on the thing that annoys them. If it is the uncleared items, your next step is:

Uncleared items are so annoying, aren’t they? (Client agrees). I wish the banking system could do something so that we wouldn’t have to see these things, it would be much easier for everybody, wouldn’t it? (Client agrees). Let’s see what we can do to get you the information you need from these existing reports. (Client hopefully agrees)

If you really cannot get them the info they want, or it is out of scope for your job, bump it to thesppropriate department.
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Old 05-25-2019, 05:26 AM
 
4,204 posts, read 3,071,900 times
Reputation: 7355
This is exactly why I no longer work with customers outside of my own colleagues, I couldn't let someone belittle me in such a way and turn the other cheek.

But you ARE in a customer service role from what it sounds like so unfortunately you simply have to kill them with niceness. "I'm sorry, I will get that to you right away. If you could just confirm with me which report you need I'll be happy to produce that for you in the next 5 minutes" sort of stuff. If you confront them in any way it will only further incense people and they'll end up formally complaining to your manager/company and then you'll really regret it.

In the end you'll likely get more satisfaction from calming someone down and appeasing them vs. trying to one-up them.
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Old 05-25-2019, 06:19 AM
 
7,052 posts, read 3,867,770 times
Reputation: 18665
Have you taken the time to understand what the customer really wants/needs? Is your bank actually supplying what they need but doing in such a confusing manner, the customer can't get to it? Perfect chance for process improve to delight the customer. Or is the bank not supplying what they need? Are the policies that are in place supportive of the customer or against the customer? Serious question. Some places and departments make rules and policies that make things easy on themselves but difficult on the customer. Our financial depart for example has several policies that make their job easier because they don't have to deal with the customer and our customer is right; it's the policy that's wrong which puts us in the middle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fishbrains View Post
Ö.Start by saying something like:

I understand. These reports have so much information that they can be confusing. Isnít that annoying?

To which your client pretty much has to say yes. This is exactly the point, they are starting to agree with you.

If there is confusion over which report it is, use that to generate another point of agreement. Such as:

We send so many reports that it is necessary to make sure we are talking about the same one. I know that the formatting is similar so that they can be confused. I wish that the reports came out a bit differently (suggest something) so that it would be easier to differentiate. What do you think?

Again, they will probably agree, or offer a suggestion that they think is better, to which you agree.

Next, focus on the thing that annoys them. If it is the uncleared items, your next step is:

Uncleared items are so annoying, arenít they? (Client agrees). I wish the banking system could do something so that we wouldnít have to see these things, it would be much easier for everybody, wouldnít it? (Client agrees). Letís see what we can do to get you the information you need from these existing reports. (Client hopefully agrees)

If you really cannot get them the info they want, or it is out of scope for your job, bump it to the sppropriate department.
I have to say, if I were the customer and began getting condescension like that, it wouldn't resolve things, it would tick me off even more because you're calling me stupid and speaking to me like a little child yet not doing anything to actually fix my problem. Plus, everything you are getting me to agree with is an internal problem with your bank and now you're admitting you (the bank) knows it's a problem and doesn't care to fix it. You might get me off the phone, but I'll be moving my business elsewhere to someone who will provide it.
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Old 05-25-2019, 06:20 AM
 
1,100 posts, read 645,814 times
Reputation: 1984
I have a lot of experience working in customer focused environments and can empathize with you just how tough and difficult they can be. Being put on the spot in front of demanding customers is not fun at all and can wreck serious stress on you. I no longer work in these environments but occasionally I will have to deal with clients or people who represent them and have gratitude for escaping those places, and also respect for people who face customers for a living.

The first thing you must do is detach yourself from the situation and become more like an actor who is playing a part. The customer is not shouting at you personally - they don't care who you are. They are only demanding answers from the service which they've paid for and you're simply a front for them to vent their frustrations. This takes a little work and investment, but it becomes so much easier when you unplug yourself from the scene that way.

The second thing is to be endlessly professional. The way you speak is so important with de-escalating a situation. Fishbrains has some good suggestions about how to find common ground, but your grammar and tone of voice must also be of a good standard, as it can easily irritate a customer if they perceive you as sloppy or stupid. Try to observe others who are more experienced as well and how they generally tend to deal with customers - the positive aspects at least.

If you are starting to realize that the customer is simply loading emotional baggage onto you, stop what you're doing and say "Excuse me, I'm only trying to help" or "Please allow me to help you". "I'm sorry about what is happening, let me try to fix things" etc. This is also helpful if they are constantly interrupting you. Otherwise they can end up whining forever and that's no good for anyone, because as a rep you have a responsibility to control the conversation.

Also it's okay to feel hurt when you're insulted or mistreated. Some people might say just grow a thick skin and "deal with it", but I've never found that acceptable. Being insulted is a problem. When you get sworn at, yelled at, belittled, or patronized, stop what you are doing, and prioritize improving the relationship with that caller. Investigate them, probe them, learn from them, get something out of the situation instead of being a human punchbag.

Being insulted is a fact of life in customer service. I cannot believe some of the things I have heard. In my last call center job it was unusual to have a day without a customer losing their complete $?!% over something. I saw people crying at their desks several times. The most extreme call I ever heard about was a caller who threatened to rape the family of the rep. Their account was cancelled immediately and the supervisor called the cops.
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Old 05-25-2019, 06:24 AM
 
Location: Florida
5,693 posts, read 3,758,983 times
Reputation: 10649
I don't work in customer service, but I'd probably say something like, "I understand how frustrating this is. I'll re-run the reports and help you get to the bottom of it." Or whatever. She probably had a conversation with someone else at the company or maybe she gets a different person each time she calls with the same issue. Can you escalate her concern to someone higher up than you are?
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Old 05-25-2019, 06:40 AM
 
Location: Brentwood, Tennessee
44,477 posts, read 42,969,955 times
Reputation: 86128
Quote:
Originally Posted by luckygirl15 View Post

... but she doesn't tell which report she was talking about (the monthly or daily). So I am scrambling to find the report while she is talking about some numbers on the report.
... Politely ask her, "Ma'am, could you clarify whether you're referring to the daily report or the monthly report?" Ask clarifying questions rather than trying to scramble and find it yourself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luckygirl15 View Post

What could I have done? I don't want to make her mad but I do want to stand up for myself.
This kind of situation is not the time to stand up for yourself. It's not about you. She doesn't know you. She is mad at the company and the situation, not you.

All you can do is try to give her help that relates to your job and your department. No need to argue or attempt to set her straight even if her facts are wrong. If you can't help her, transfer her to someone who can.
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Old 05-25-2019, 08:23 AM
 
4,932 posts, read 4,192,827 times
Reputation: 10457
Isn't there a log for each customer file where you state the date, why they contacted you, & the action you took?

If I ever have a difficult contact person as a client rep, I find pulling up their file & reviewing it with them diffuses any of their revisionistic claims to have-- "called you before about xyz...".
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Old 05-25-2019, 09:14 AM
 
1,953 posts, read 770,885 times
Reputation: 4175
The customer is always right. There is nothing you can do but smile and say "how can I help you?" Getting upset is counterproductive. Since you are being paid to do this, you have to know your place and be a good little slave. That is what customer service is all about. If you don't like it you can quit and be hired on as another slave somewhere else. Sorry, this is rather blunt but that is the way it is.
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Old 05-25-2019, 09:44 AM
 
21,524 posts, read 17,106,755 times
Reputation: 40166
Quote:
Originally Posted by luckygirl15 View Post
I work at a company in a department that is driven by customers. I reconcile bank accounts for people in the Real Estate industry. Customers are sent a Monthly Report as well as a Daily Reports.


Here's what happened:

The other day, this lady calls me and has me on speaker phone with herself and other lady. She starts talking about her reports but she doesn't tell which report she was talking about (the monthly or daily). So I am scrambling to find the report while she is talking about some numbers on the report.

She kept saying things like "I have to know what you need from me to make this right". I told her that I don't audit her account (sometimes they think we are auditors or CPA's that have almighty power over their data, but we are none of those things.)

Then I figure out which report it is and said that those numbers don't ever match back to the bank statement and she said in a very mean & angry voice We have had this conversation many times and I've told you this has to happen). I never remember speaking to her. I got some emails years ago from her but I don't ever recall having a phone conversation with her.

So my next plan of action was "ok what do you want"? and I just reran her reports.


She was making it out to be the end of the world and it wasn't. The report she was looking was for information only and the numbers are part cleared and uncleared items and those can't match the bank statement because the bank statement does not have uncleared items on it. How would it know about them anyway because in the bank's mind the only items that matter are cleared items.

When she said: We have had this conversation many times and I've told you this has to happen. and I am pretty sure that we never EVER had a conversation in the entire time of I've had her as a customer.

Her tone was condescending and belittling and were meant to hurt me and make me feel stupid. I said nothing and I think I could have said something in a nice way to stop her dead in her tracks.

What could I have done? I don't want to make her mad but I do want to stand up for myself.
You can’t do anything other than what you did, other than get her a manager. You certainly can’t get defensive or call her out. I’ve been in customer driven businesses my whole life. Just be as professional as possible. Maybe she had the convo with someone else. I get infuriated if I have an ongoing issue with Verizon or someone and when I call days after it was supposed to have been resolved, I have to start the story all over again because none of the previous reps wrote a note under my account on anything we discussed in the previous hour long call, and the new person offers up solutions we already tried.
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