How to Behave When Calling a Call Center - The Worst Types of Customers

Working as an agent or customer service representative (CSR) in a call center can be difficult and the main reason for this is because of the customers you have to deal with.

Customers who you have to work with over the phone are much worse than customers who you're dealing with in person and face to face for many reasons. The most obvious reason is that they have nobody looking at them so they may feel less inhibited and will feel more comfortable with saying things over the phone that they wouldn't normally say to a person's face.

I've worked in many different call centers in my life so I've developed a thick skin to these types of customers and I generally handle them well now that I've managed to develop social skills when dealing with these people.

These specific skills are referred to as "soft skills" and it's an appropriate term because you usually use them to soften a person up and get them to stop being so angry or rude to you. This isn't the real reason they're called "soft" skills, but it's how I like to think of them because learning how to use them has definitely helped me deal with certain customers I normally would have hung the phone up on back in my rebel days.

But regardless of how skilled you are in dealing with intolerable people, there will always be a number of people you'll deal with every day that will get on your nerves and make your day more difficult as an agent. Trying to help people with their problems is hard enough, but when customers make the situation harder than it has to be, even tenured agents can sometimes lose their temper or call it quits and find a new profession over it.

With that said, I've put together a list of some of the most common things that customers do wrong when calling in to a call center while seeking some form of assistance. A detailed guide on why most bad calls turn into bad calls, if you will. Because some customers behave like this, they end up making things harder on everyone including themselves and they run up an agent's handle time on each phone call (the duration or length of a phone call in minute).

So maybe you're an agent who is all too familiar with these scenarios and maybe it makes you feel better to hear that other people are dealing with the same thing as you while at work every day, or maybe you're someone who will call in to a call center one day and you just really want to know how to behave when doing so.

Providing Too Much Information

I'd say that in about 1 out of every 4 calls I take there's a customer on the other end of the telephone who's giving me way more information than I need in order to assist them. When calling any type of customer service for a company, you should only give information that is relevant or will help you in getting assistance.

The problem with this is that most people just don't have the foggiest clue as to what is relevant and what is not. That's certainly not their fault, but they also shouldn't try to do the call center agent's job for them.

It's the job of the customer service representative or agent to ask questions and to gather the information that they need in order to assist the customer. The agent is the one who knows what information they need so they know what questions to ask. But when a customer starts volunteering too much information, it can cause a short call to turn into a very long one for no logical reason whatsoever.

As an example, one of the call center jobs that I worked was for a telephone and communications company. I would receive calls from customers who were interested in signing up for a phone or internet service and I'd get them registered and process their payments as well.

Sometimes the customers would start giving me too much information while I was trying to get through each question I had to ask them. I would ask them a question, and they'd answer it but then go into too details and what should have been a one or two word response has now turned into three minutes of unnecessary talking that I'm not even listening to because I know it's not relevant.

All I'm thinking during this time is "I wish this customer would stop talking for a moment so I can move on to the third question and get their bill paid."

Then of course, there's people who have called your company already just recently and are now calling in again to receive an update on their case or with their service. So instead of stating "I've called in a few days ago and I would like an update on my case and here's my case number" they always have to waste both our time by telling me their entire life story and all the things that the previous agents already went over with them.

Sometimes I wish I could say to them "hey lady! I don't need to know every detail that our company is already aware of. You already told the first agent all those details What I want to know is why are you calling in today. Did you not receive a scheduled callback or something to that effect? Let's just stick to giving me details about what's changed between your last call and now. I can see all the details of your last call now that I have your case number so you don't need to repeat them. Thank you."

Remaining On the Line When There is Noise Interference

Please, for the love of god, do not continue a call if the agent on the other end states that they are having a hard time hearing you. Unless you're calling 911 or it's an absolute emergency, there is absolutely no reason for you to continue a phone call when the person on the other end is having trouble understanding what you're saying.

This is one of my biggest gripes when it comes to working with customers over the phone because a lot of times a phone call that takes 30 minutes could easily have been a 5 minute call if the customer had just decided to call me back from a landline, a better phone, or a more suitable environment.

A scenario of this would be a mother calling in to discuss billing information with me while her child is screaming in the background or a TV's volume is blaring. I'll drop a clear hint for the customer and tell her that I'm having trouble hearing her, but she'll insist on staying on the line rather than calling back when she's away from said screaming child or blaring TV.

So I'll end up having to ask her to repeat everything she says or backtrack and have her re-explain things to me simply because I can't hear her well. All this repeating and trying to clarify with customers can prolong a call and wastes both of our time when she could simply call back when she's in a quieter environment and get the assistance she's seeking in less than 5 minutes.

Other examples of this would be people talking on cell phones while walking in the wind, or even worse, calling from their hands-free/touchless systems while driving around in their cars. They don't realize that with a lot of these hands-free systems in vehicles nowadays, the person on the other hand has a hard time hearing them because the sound of the vehicle driving down the road vibrates through the vehicle and is heard by the listener on the other end of the phone call. Gee, do you think you could simply pull over or call me in 20 minutes when you're not driving, please?

Unfortunately, as an agent in a call center I'm usually not able to tell a customer to call me back because this could come off as call avoidance by the other employees in my company who listen to my calls and evaluate them for quality assurance (QA). If you're not willing to take a call as a call center agent they can penalize you and your paychecks can suffer or you could possibly lose your job. So I'm at the mercy of the customers on the other end who are coming to me for assistance. Isn't that ironic!?

Being Too Suspicious of Verification

Another thing that really gets on my nerves is when a caller is too suspicious of me or the questions I'm asking. They'll often call my company and like most call center companies, I have to verify some information in order to document the call.

Customers don't always understand documentation and how it works, so they'll often become suspicious of the questions you're asking. They don't understand that when you ask for a person's address, it's usually so you can document the call so if they do call in the future for any reason, there is a record or a history of their calls that can be referenced by future agents who take their calls.

They will often think that you're asking for their address so solicit them with products or mailings, or that you're asking for their phone number in order to conduct future cold calls to their residence or to sell the information to third-party companies who will use it to solicit them. Sure, we live in a world where these types of things can and do happen, but not normally by top 20 Fortune 500 companies or legitimate companies that everyone is familiar with.

By becoming suspicious and stopping the flow of communication by stating things like "why are you asking these questions?" and "why is this relevant to my question?", customers are turning a short call into a long call because the verification process is just like a gateway to the real conversation. It's what most agents have to do before they can even begin to assist a customer because documentation is very important to most companies nowadays and helps us assist customers in the future if they should ever refer to past phone calls and we need to pull those records for any reason.

Being Angry At Others Because You Called the Wrong Number

It should be common sense to any person that if you call the wrong number, you should never get mad at the person you called by mistake simply because they can't assist you. I take about 30 to 40 phone calls per day while at work. That's about 4 to 5 calls per hour.

Out of these 30 or 40 phone calls I take everyday, there's always at least 4 or 5 people that are trying to reach departments other than my own. So I will have to politely explain to them that they've called the wrong number and I will offer to transfer them over to the correct department. Usually this goes smoothly, but not always.

Every now and then there's a customer who tries to resist being transferred and argues with me because they want me to assist them because they don't want to be "bounced around" or don't want to "get the run around". These can be the most difficult customers because they ignore all logic simply because they are impatient and want answers to their questions or solutions to their problems immediately.

I worked in a call center that dealt with helping customers get repairs for their vehicles. We also had a billing department that primarily assisted with any types of questions or assistance that are related to car loans and things of that nature. At least twice a day I'd get calls specifically for the billing department and I'd have to explain to customers how my department only assists with repairs themselves and not anything related to finances.

Every so often a customer would say to me "why can't you just help me pay my bill for this car loan because I don't want to be transferred!"

These are some of the worst types of calls that you can get as an agent because these customers are not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed and this can turn a 20 second conversation of "Oh you've reached the wrong department. Let me transfer you" into a 10 minute argument with an agent explaining why they can't take a call and a customer arguing how they don't want to be transferred.

The customer never stops to think "Oh wait a second, this agent knows nothing about helping me pay a bill because they didn't sit through weeks of training on the matter and probably don't even have the same computer programs to process my payment that a person in the financial department has!"

Please stop wasting your time and mine. Instead of wasting 10 minutes arguing with someone who obviously can't help you, just go with the flow and allow them to transfer you so that they can get you to someone quicker who actually can help you.

Whining to the Agent About Things They Can't Control

A huge time waster for both the agent and the customer is when customers complain about things that the agent has absolutely no control over. A scenario where this commonly occurs would be when a customer complains to me about how long they had to remain on hold or how difficult the menu prompts were.

If you're a customer and you're trying to make improvements within a company, something like that only warrants a quick one sentence feedback response. All you have to say is "The hold time before you answered the call was very long so could you please provide my feedback to your company so they can improve this.". An agent would then most likely say in response to that "Yes Sir/Maam, I apologize about the wait time and I've documented your feedback for my company to review. So how can I help you today?".

But the problem with some customers is that they like to whine and ramble on about how long the wait time was or other things such as this. They will spend 3 to 4 minutes just talking about how it shouldn't be that long of a wait and how upsetting this was to them. They really want a shoulder to lean on and an ear to cry into. That's really the true reason they'll often whine for an unnecessary amount of time.

The agent can only do so much when you say something like that, and letting their company know about is probably one of the only options they have. So will typically do everything they can do within seconds of you mentioning it, by submitting it to their company as feedback for review or something along those lines.

Spending 3 minutes whining about it after they've told you that they've submitted it for review delays you from getting assistance for your real problem which is the reason you're calling the company to begin with.

Calling When You Don't Have Time for Phone Calls

This one's similar to the scenarios where people refuse to call you back when they're in noisy environments. There's always at least one rude person that I encounter on the calls each week who states they are in a hurry and don't have time for me to do proper research for them.

"Research" is the word I use to refer to any time I have to go into my computer programs or guides to look up information for a customer. The majority of calls in some call centers require some form of research.

I worked for a video game console company and we had to help them troubleshoot when their gaming consoles were having problems or broke. So a person would call up and tell me that their console has broke and when they try to play video games all they see is a black screen on their television.

So in order to look up reasons why they'd see a black screen, I'd have to look at a guide on my computer and this could take up to three minutes to review it all and find a solution for the customer. Instead of staying on the phone for three minutes and having the customer listening to dead air, I'd ask them if I could put them on hold for up to 2-3 minutes while I "review my resources".

Usually they don't complain about this but sometimes I'd get a person who would say something in response to this such as "Why can't you just answer my question? I'm kind of in a hurry and don't have 2-3 minutes." So either I'd have to explain whY I have to research and they'd become angry a lot of times, or they'd simply say that they don't want to be put on hold because they're afraid it will take too long.

They don't realize that whether you put them on hold or not, you still have to spend the same amount of time researching their questions or problems. These people only made things more difficult for the both of us because now I can't put them on hold and have to try to look for a solution to their problem while we're both on the phone and able to hear each other.

So without the hold music on, they often feel the need to make conversation with you to make the silence a little less awkward.

But this conversation can not only distract an agent and delay the time it takes for them to find a solution, but can also bring about other things that they'll need to research which can take even more time. An example of this would be the scenario I mentioned earlier where I'd have to document any vehicle symptoms that a person mentions while working at the car company.

I could be researching one thing about the car and while I'm doing that this genius on the other end of the phone decides to tell me that their headlight broke on their vehicle last year but they got it fixed. Great, now I have to document that and spend more time looking up information regarding that which probably won't even help them since it was a concern that happened a year ago.

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