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Welcome To Not Always Right, [New Hire]!

, , , | Working | January 12, 2021

I’m training a new employee in a side-by-side where he sits next to me and looks at the screen at what I’m doing while listening in on the call with a second headset. I’m a middle-aged woman with lots of experience in customer services and as a trainer. My trainee is a young man just starting his first job.

I’ve just deescalated a very angry customer and fulfilled his request.

Me: “Thank you for your business and have a great weekend!” *Click*

New Hire: “Wow, that sounded so sincere! As if you really meant it!”

Me: “That’s probably because I meant it.”

New Hire: “But he was so rude!”

Me: “He wasn’t rude, though. Just angry. And rightfully so. Had I been double charged and then dealt with like this, I’d be angry, too.”

New Hire: “But still he could have been friendlier! He was so unfriendly and curt. He should… I don’t know. He should care more for you. That was a lot you had to do and it was so complicated to sort out.”

Me: “Why should he? As far as he knows, I’m paid to do this job. And my job is to take calls of people who have issues with us. I’m here to take care of them and not the other way around. Besides, that was a huge mess-up from our side and it’s the fourth time he had to call to sort that out; for that, he was still very friendly and patient.”

The customer was indeed very friendly, although curt and rightfully angry.

New Hire: “Well, I still found him to be very rude! He accused you of lying when you told him everything was sorted now.”

Me: “No, he didn’t accuse me of lying. He just asked for written confirmation because he’s been told three times already that the issue had been sorted and still got an invoice.”

New Hire: “I don’t see how that’s not rude. He still didn’t believe you, and you even gave him a gift card! I’d never given him a gift card after that.”

I shrug and let it go. It doesn’t seem worth the effort. It’s clear he doesn’t get it. The customer had a serious complaint and had to call repeatedly to get it solved even though it should have been a one-click issue. I felt he deserved a gift card. I take the next call, hoping I’ll get a really rude customer to show the new hire the difference and that he’ll understand then why I didn’t think the other customer was rude.

I promptly get my wish fulfilled. The next customer comes in yelling over my greeting already. She’s totally outraged at something and it’s a hassle to just get her to confirm her data to get up her account.

Then, it turns out the thing she’s so outraged about is a billing difference of just 5€. After a price check, I confirm she’s right. She has indeed been overcharged 5€ on her 650€ order. I apologize, correct the overcharge, and send her a corrected bill. She screeches about my incompetence, the incompetence of the company as a whole, and my family’s incompetence the whole time. But I bring this to an end and even manage to distract her from asking for a manager. She demands all kinds of things, all of which I turn down.

Me: “I’m sorry for your inconvenience. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Have a great weekend.” *Click*

The new trainee sits next to me completely stunned.

New Hire: “Wow.”

Me: “Well, yes. That was one rude customer. Any questions?”

New Hire: “How could you stay so calm? How could you let her say all this to you?”

Me: “Oh, that’s easy. I don’t care about her. I don’t care about any of them, really.”

The new hire looks at me as if I’ve grown a second head and I feel the urge to explain some more.

Me: “You see, I don’t care much for people in general. I’m not interested in their feelings, I don’t care for their opinions, and it doesn’t matter to me at all how they behave. If they’re too loud, I turn the volume at my headset down. All I care for is getting through the day as smoothly as possible, going home, and getting my money. The easiest way to achieve that is by doing everything strictly by the book. Follow the script to a T. Don’t get involved. Don’t believe anything you can’t see in the system.

“If there’s something wrong, correct it. If there isn’t, let them know as gently as possible. Stay firm and don’t get involved in discussions or try to dispute opinions; those people are not worth your time or thoughts more than necessary.

“Regarding gift cards and courtesies: here’s the guideline. Just do what it says; it gives a very good lead to keep good customers happy by compensating our faults and drive scammers away who don’t get any. Don’t try doing favours to bad customers to make them like you. They won’t. Don’t try to punish customers you don’t like, either. They’ll only call again and hassle a colleague.”

New Hire: “…”

Me: “Don’t forget, those people haven’t called you and they don’t talk to you, either. So don’t behave as if they do.”

New Hire: “Well, with whom do they think they’re speaking, then?”

Me: “The company, of course. It’s their number they’ve called. If you’re lucky, they realize during the call that you’re a real person. And you have a little wiggle room when it comes to compensation and I tell you, it’s very satisfying to use that on customers like the man we had first and give them the next higher gift card for being still so friendly. But in the end, if you really want this job, you need to separate yourself from it. Stop caring what a total stranger has to say about a person they don’t even acknowledge.”

New Hire: “So… just do the job it is, then.”

Me: “Right. Just do what you’re paid for and do it to your best ability. You’re paid for taking calls, analysing issues, compensating if needed, and following the guidelines. That is why I can honestly say, ‘Thank you for your call,’ even to nasty people. It’s my job. I don’t get paid to get angry or care for their opinions. So why bother? As long as other people mess up and those customers call, I’ve got a job and get paid.

“Besides, didn’t you hear that woman getting all agitated when she couldn’t get a reaction out of me? Wasn’t that funny? How she howled and b****ed and I still told her no? It was so obvious she wanted me to shrivel and snivel in front of her and she didn’t get it!”

The new hire laughs a little and looks at me in a different way.

New Hire: “Yeah, I guess you’re right. They definitely don’t pay enough for us to be therapists for anger management.”

After that, he listened less to how the customers talked to me but started concentrating on what issues they had and how to solve them. We made very good progress that day, and the next day, I let him take the calls and assisted him with the tasks from the side. He was very good and finished his training much faster than expected. We still work together and I’m very proud of him since he has become one of our best workers.

It’s hard not to care about the nasty customers, but if the new hires can get the knack of it, they often find that the job can be quite funny, too, and that it has its benefits.


This story is part of our Best Of January 2021 roundup!

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