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How to handle abusive BPO customers

By Merril Diniz
Last updated on: January 20, 2005 15:56 IST
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BPOEver been at the receiving end of an abusive phone call?

Call centre employee Steena was. She was abused in filthy language by two US-based RJs.

If you work at a call centre, you might be exposed to the choicest expletives every day!

Belligerent customers will call in to complain about a service, lose their cool, lash out, get abusive and put your patience to the test.

How do you deal with such a situation?

How do you maintain your cool when all you really want to do is explode, dig into your own vocabulary of obscenities and yell back?

But your job includes keeping your cool; tackling irate customers is part of the deal.

Nasha Fitter, of Fitter Solutions, which imparts training to BPO personnel, has some useful tips to offer:  

1Perfect the art of counting from one to 10.

This will help you to become more patient as well as increase your level of concentration. After all, the objective is to resolve the customer's problem.

2Keep your voice calm.

It has a calming effect on the customer and conveys that you are in control.

3. Request the customer politely to speak slowly, clearly and lower his/ her volume.

This way, you can understand and resolve the problem faster.

4. If you are getting very agitated, keep the customer on hold.

Do this for a second or two, take a deep breath and get back to your call.

5Keep a photograph of someone you love or a picture that calms you on your desktop or next to you.

Look at it for reassurance and moral support.

6. In case a call gets out of hand, transfer it to your team leader or supervisor.

S/ he could step in and tackle the customer.

7Some organisations allow you to ask the customer to refrain from using abusive language.

Check with your company's policy.

8. After an abusive phone call, de-stress with a breathing technique or yoga.

Use the de-stressing facilities at your workplace.

For instance, take a short break to play a spot of table tennis, slam dunk at the basketball court, vent your anger on a punching bag or play with your organisation's new pup (this is a new innovation adopted by certain call centres)!

9. Press the mute button and swear back.

As your customer rattles off the abuses, you may be tempted to press the mute button and swear back silently, even as you switch to your sweetest tone when talking to him or her!

10If you have had a very taxing day with too many distressing calls, chat with your team leader.

S/ he will play counsellor and reassure you that the abuse was directed at the company, not at you.

The last word

As a customer service executive, it is important to empathise with the customer, rather than view him/ her as the enemy.

A positive and mature attitude is what will really make you excel at your job and climb the echelons in the service industry!

Image: Rajesh Karkera


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Merril Diniz