“YOU RUINED MY WEEKEND!” screamed the man on the other end of the phone.
We got this kind of phone call from time to time at the store.
Someone would have come in, likely on a Thursday, and bought some part that they needed to repair their boat.
Their enjoyment of their weekend was, in fact, entirely predicated on using THAT PART to fix their boat.
Trailered boats aside, our store was relatively inland compared to where our customers boats actually were – by a couple hours drive. We were located near where they lived, not where they recreated. It made for convenient shopping, but not so convenient, uh, actually selecting the right damn part that they needed. And it would be especially inconvenient to drive back to the store, and back to their boat, doubly so if they had already started drinking (the more complex the repair, the more beers needed).
On the times where they didn’t select the right part (or perhaps it broke, or perhaps, even they weren’t sold the right part – which happened sometimes but not as often as the customer being wrong), some customers who were of particularly foul temper would choose to berate whoever it was who answered the phone, blaming us personally for their situation.
Usually though, the person working Saturday or Sunday wasn’t likely the person working that past Thursday, who sold them the part – but the weekend crew go the brunt of the complaints.
After being on the receiving end of a particularly bad call, I went and talked to my manager to try to explain the customer’s issue. He could tell that I was shaken and he asked what happened. I related a tale of many F-bombs and a truly unsolvable & unwinnable situation.
He told me, “Chris, you never have to take that kind of abuse from a customer. If they ever start cussing at you or making it personal, give them my name, and my number, then hang up the phone.”
Having that level of support – knowing that at work there was someone I could depend on in that way felt really great. It was definitely a lesson that I carry with me today. I try to make it a point to always be available for my team when the burden of client work, or a particular situation, gets unbearably unreasonable.
It’s important for your team to know you’ve got their back. If you aren’t sure they know that, make it explicitly clear to them, and when they need you, be there to back up your word.