As a 24 hour telephone answering service, Office Response deal with their fair share of abusive, hoax and prank calls.
Although I work within the Customer Services department, each month I spend a few hours in our contact centre taking calls – it keeps me in touch with the expectations of our customers and their callers. This has meant that, along with handling a variety of normal calls, I’ve dealt with a few challenging calls myself. I wonder, though, if these hoax callers ever stop to consider their actions.
One person who will be is Mr Barry Doherty from York who was recently jailed for making 50 silent calls to the emergency services in the space of an hour. To reflect the severity of his crime, and in the hope of deterring future incidences, Doherty is now subject to an antisocial behaviour order which forbids him from making false 999 calls or from contacting the emergency services unless it is a genuine emergency. Controversially, the ASBO also forbids him from possessing a mobile phone or SIM card for the next five years.
At Office Response, our call handling agents are trained to deal with hoax, abusive and prank calls as standard. Every call is different and so the process requires a certain amount of sensitivity. If the caller is abusive or rude, our agents are trained to follow a three step system:
- They let the caller know, politely, that their behaviour is inappropriate and that, if they continue, the agent will terminate the call. For example, “Please do not swear at me like that or I will be required to terminate the call.”
- If the caller continues, the agent will reiterate that the caller is acting inappropriately in a firm but civil manner, ie. “If you continue to speak to me in that way, Sir/Madam, I will terminate the call.”
- If the caller persists, the agent will explain that they cannot continue with the call.
Just as every call is different, some hoax calls are easier to shake off than others. They are a nuisance to agents and can easily make the difference between a good and a bad day. Luckily, there’s a certain amount of camaraderie in our Contact Centre and our supervisors are always on hand to offer advice when you need it. The majority of hoax calls are made by children but, alarmingly, we do also receive problem calls from adults.
Please remember that there are consequences to these types of calls so if you are aware of someone that makes them you might want to advise them about of Mr Barry Doherty.
By Sarah Krekorian
Customer Services Representative