Customer from Hell #13: The Time Waster


“I have a challenge with a patient,” a subscriber, who is a long-term care facility nurse, wrote in. “She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. But she calls for me at least once or twice a day when there’s really nothing she needs. Sometimes she fabricates things as an excuse to call, and once I’m there it’s often difficult for me to leave without appearing rude. What should I do?” It’s a common challenge faced by people who work in customer service. Some customers just seem intent on taking advantage of our good natures and wasting our time.

As may be obvious, these are customers who are a little lonely, and crave a friendly face. In many ways, it’s a testimony to your customer service skills that these individuals look to you as someone with whom they feel a connection. It’s unfortunate, but the most common strategy people seem to use with this kind of customer is to try and distance themselves. They try to avoid the customer as much as possible – and when they do have an interaction, they rush through it, minimizing conversation. There couldn’t be a worse approach.

This is a customer who is desperate for interaction, and would like to think of you as a friend. Getting the cold shoulder from a friend, however tenuous the connection, will only add to her loneliness. The best solution I’ve seen is not to diminish the connection with the customer, but to build on it.

Be as friendly and accommodating as you know how. When you have to leave, let her know that you would love to stay and chat but “duty calls.” Make sure she understands how busy you are – confide in her how heavy your workload is. She’ll appreciate the personal confidence, and as your ‘friend’ she’ll empathize with you. Over time she may feel less inclined to add to your workload challenges.

There are no guarantees, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of having taken a much more gracious and human approach than many others do.

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