Well, I’ve made it to Wednesday. I was actually surprised how easy it was on Monday. The tone was set by one of my first customers who despite it being Monday and despite having to phone in a complaint was exceptionally good humoured and even laughing at the fact that, as well as her flowers being in a bad state when they arrived, due to a typo at our end the card accompanying her flowers said “thanks for being the beat mum to us” when it should have read best mum. I felt somehow lifted by this exchange as for other people this would have been carte blanche to scream into the receiver. In fact I only had one difficult call on Monday; difficult because the customer wanted a replacement of a greater value to her original order “as a goodwill gesture.”
Unfortunately goodwill was thin on the ground when I informed her that my management had given clear instructions via a memo that we were strictly only to offer either a refund, or replacement to the value of the original order. This led to threats to go to trading standards and take the company to court as the goods supplied were not “fit for purpose” (as an aside I blame the politician, former Home Secretary John Reid for introducing this phrase into the general lexicon). I advised that it would be unlikely to succeed as the company were offering a full-refund which would satisfy the law according to the Sale of Goods act. My customer tried to change tack conceding the legal point, but pressing home the moral point. I again informed them of the contents of management’s memo and offered to take their details down to pass onto management. At this point they tried to play the call centre game of offering to hold on the line until a manager was available. As a general rule they never are available as having to persuade a manager to come over and take the call is taken to be the sign of an operator who can’t handle a call. There is however, also the effect this kind of ‘sit-in’ protest on your phone line has on your call time average so as an operator you need to get them off the line fast. Summoning my experience I called the customers bluff cooly telling the customer that a manager would not be available for a considerable time. They took the offer of a call-back. Crisis averted.
Both Tuesday and today have however, been tougher. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly on Monday I was psychologically well prepared for the onslaught. This meant I was able to keep my cool and draw on all my experience and training to maintain just the right level of engagement; this being neither over, or under engaged. It also helped that I was refreshed from the weekend as by Tuesday I felt all emoted out. Hearing the same story again and again, Soaking up the anger, frustration, disappointment and having to sooth with a measured tone and well chosen apologies became more difficult as my patience began to expire. The apologies began to dry up, the active listening turned to bored disinterest and I found myself begin to become drawn into playing the blame game. Strangely I also find things become more difficult as the complaints begin to thin-out. I find that in the midst of the storm I can keep focused and keep afloat in a way that I am unable to do when hit by an unexpected freak wave. Not just freak waves, but also boomerangs. These are unhappy customers for whom the solution goes wrong, a refund not processed in the expected timescale, or a replacement which is also wrong. These people are doubly unhappy and very, very difficult to deal with as the solutions we can offer have been exhausted so it’s as if we’re out of ammo.
Then we run.