Not every caller will make your day. Some callers will make your stress levels skyrocket (a difficult caller) and others can genuinely hurt you or make you feel worthless (an abusive caller).
Telling the difference between the two isn’t as simple as it may sound – while neither a difficult nor abusive caller is a pleasure to deal with, they are both capable of being quite rude, insulting, and inflammatory. So why do you need to know the difference between the two?
If you’re dealing with a difficult caller, the interaction can potentially be saved and end with the caller being satisfied. If you’re dealing with an abusive caller, there isn’t much hope. Below, we’ll cover some of the signs that you’re dealing with a difficult vs. abusive caller and the steps to take once you know who you’re dealing with.
The Difference Between a Difficult and an Abusive Caller
A difficult caller…
- Can go from 0-60 quickly, but doesn’t stay enraged
- May make demands or requests that seem unreasonable
- Might calm down if transferred to another agent
- May act annoyed and frustrated at you or the company
- Might whine, cry, shout, or otherwise emotionally respond
- May threaten to suspend business with the company
- Might talk fast or at an inappropriate volume
- Could use flirtation to try to get better service
- May keep you on the phone for long periods of time
A difficult caller is frustrating, but doesn’t pose a real threat and doesn’t resort to personal insults or non-stop shouting. While a difficult caller may certainly be rude, they will usually be somewhat understanding and may even apologize for their behavior once a solution is found. A difficult caller is usually a good customer who is simply frustrated.
An abusive caller…
- Insults you personally
- Insults the company repeatedly
- Threatens your safety, your job, or threatens legal action
- Mocks and belittles you
- Curses or uses inappropriate language repeatedly
- Twists your words and attempts at finding solutions
- Won’t stop shouting long enough to listen to you
- Doesn’t want to find a solution, only wants to insult and shout
A difficult caller can be brought back to reality and usually, you’ll be able to work together to find a solution. An abusive caller, however, is hopeless and should be disconnected before they cause too much harm. Your personal safety and security is important, and there is no reason to allow a genuinely abusive caller to take up your work time.
Dealing with an abusive caller
If you realize that you are dealing with an abusive caller, change your tactics from “working toward diffusion and a solution” to “disconnecting as soon as possible.” You probably won’t be able to save an interaction with an abusive caller, so now is the time to be firm and adhere to company policy.
- “I cannot tolerate this type of threatening or abusive language. I encourage you to call back another time. I will now disconnect the call.”
- “I am happy to help find a solution, but until you are calm enough to speak without shouting, I will not be able to help. Please call back at another time.”
- “We do not allow abusive language or threats. I will disconnect now and encourage you to call back later.”
Finally, if you do end up dealing with an abusive caller, take a few minutes afterward to practice a little self-care. It may sound frivolous, but being on the receiving end of someone’s verbal abuse can be draining and bad for your self-esteem. Put down the phone and pick something from this list to take your mind off the unpleasant interaction:
- Do some breathing exercises at your desk
- Take a quick walk outside
- Say a prayer or meditate
- Review the company policy you just upheld to boost your confidence
- Call a friend or family member (just to chat, not to relay the details of the call)
- Confide in a coworker or friend
- Have a light snack
- Do a puzzle or crossword