Miserable SOB's & the (Self) Entitled

I have run a few call centers, now, and one of the things that you learn early on in that business is that customers come in a few basic buckets. Each bucket has its own needs and requires its own approach. Today, we're going to talk about two of the hardest buckets to tote.

Let’s start with the group that everyone really wants to talk about, anyway: Miserable SOB’s. Don’t you hate those? They have a shitty attitude and a shitty life, they’re having a shitty day, and all they want to do is spread that shit around. Whether complaining about something that was actually their fault, a change that actually makes things better for everyone but them, or some perceived bit of tomfuckery that was actually an honest mistake, Miserable SOB’s are the bane of customer service and support teams everywhere.

I know that you or your call center manager(s) and staff have probably been to more seminars and classes regarding this class of customer than you can count. How can so few people (roughly 3% of customers - less, if you’re lucky) inspire so much attention and dread?

And, of course, the big one: How do you handle them?

That’s not really what you’re asking, though, is it? If you’ve been to even one webinar on the topic, you already know what to say. The real question is, how do you successfully rebound from an MSOB call so that it doesn’t make you feel shitty for the rest of your day?

Simple: Pity them.

They have a shitty attitude, a shitty day and a shitty life for a reason. You’ll probably never know what it is. You don’t need to know. Maybe their parents were just like them, or worse. Maybe their spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend treats them badly, or just left. Maybe they just found out that they got passed over for a job or a raise that they deserved, or found out that they’ll be laid off right after the holidays.

Maybe their son or daughter died.

The thing is, no one thinks of themselves as a Miserable SOB, but all of us have been one. The secret to not letting that call shit on the rest of your day is to ignore your natural instinct to bitch back or talk down. Instead, feel sorry for the miserable SOB. They have a shitty life, and you (hopefully) don’t. Why not be the little bit of sunshine in their otherwise shitty day? Whether or not they reciprocate, you’ll feel better, and isn’t that what you wanted to hear, anyway?

Who died and made them king (or, more likely, queen), anyway? No one, that’s who! You don’t give a rat’s ass that they’re doctor so-and-so’s wife, or that your company or another employee has ‘always done’ this or that for them, even when you know damned well that they didn’t, or they shouldn’t have, or that you’ll get in trouble if you do.

These royal-pains-in-the-ass constitute about 5% of customers, but consume roughly 20% of your resources, including your time and the time of your employees. And in return, they wheedle for every discount (whether entitled to them or not), freebie, and exception that you’re dumb enough to give them.

And there’s the issue in a nutshell: It’s not them, it’s you. They wouldn’t act like this if you didn’t encourage it by letting them have what they want. In the end, they are no different than spoiled children (hell, we both know that’s exactly what they’ve been since conception), and should be treated exactly the same way that you cure a spoiled child:

Say no.

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