Was I Wrong To Talk Back To A Customer?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about warning for talking back to a customer:

What about this situation? After repeatedly trying to help someone with a problem, when she calls back you hear her tell another tech that is talking to her on the phone, that you were rude. You respond back you were not rude and can’t help it if she can’t understand English. Would that be wrong to do? The original question, before editing:vafter repeatedly telling someone that’s not the problem. when they call back you hear them say you are rude. you respond back you were not rude and can’t help it if they can’t understand English, while with another tech that is talking to her on speakerphone.

Signed, Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

I’ve attempted to rewrite your question in a format that reflects what I think you meant. If it doesn’t reflect that, please send us another one with a bit more detail about what happened. If I read it correctly, you may have gotten in trouble for saying something discourteous about a customer who was complaining about you. Either the customer reported you or a coworker did or you were overheard by a supervisor. I think you were asking if you should or could get in trouble for that remark. Or perhaps you are talking about a coworker and wondering what should happen to him or her.

Phone assistance is probably one of the most frustrating jobs there is because of the difficulty in hearing and understanding. On the other hand, you aren’t having to deal with close personal contact which has its own problems. But the bottom line is that when you take a job of that nature you know that there will be frustrations so you have to become able to handle them. I can imagine it becomes frustrating when someone isn’t understanding what you are saying. But, it might help you to remember that the customer’s brains are probably whirring as they try desperately to understand! They are more anxious to solve their problem than you are and would understand if they could.Think about all the horror stories you have heard about rude telephone assistance. It happens all too often. But if both the tech and the customer decide to fight back by being rude or waiting and being rude to the next person they deal with, what good does that do? So, a customer feels stressful and you feel frustrated. But, who is it that has the helping role at that moment? You. And who is it who feels the most vulnerable and powerless at that moment? The customer.They know they have to get the answers from you and probably they can tell within a few seconds that the answers are going to be confusing. They want to understand.

When you say their lack of understanding is because they don’t understand English, it’s not only discourteous, it’s hurtful and demeaning. They react with anger and bitterness.*If they speak another language by birth, it’s an ethnic put-down. *If they are elderly or older, they think of it as implying they have a mental problem. *If it’s someone who has been trying and trying to understand, it makes them feel like their efforts to understand were wasted.Overall, saying, “I can’t help it if she can’t understand English”, Or, more personally, “I can’t help it if you don’t understand English” would never be considered good judgment or appropriate. I’m sure you know that and I’m also sure you’re concerned about what might happen.If you have the opportunity to talk to your manager about it, all you can do is apologize profusely and ask what you can do to make it right. You might be asked to call the customer. You might receive a formal action or be put on a probationary status or something else decided upon by your manager or those higher.

The important thing is to demonstrate that you not only realize you were wrong but that you are committed to never doing it again.Maybe you can discuss a plan you have for getting assistance when you feel yourself becoming so frustrated and angry. Or, maybe you will have an idea for something you can do to remind yourself of your responsibility to be courteous, as part of your job. But, you will probably need to clearly show that you can be trusted to never respond that way again.None of this may apply to your question, but perhaps you can use it. As I said, if you want to resubmit your question withe more detail, please do so.Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.