You don't have to put up with them.
The Helplines Partnership provides training for not-for-profit call centres and helplines, and says that employers should give call handlers the discretion to end an abusive call. This is defined as one involving sexist, racist or homophobic language, direct threats, or swearing down the phone.
Your employer should:
- set out clear guidelines;
- tell staff they will get back-up if a call is terminated;
- provide training in handling an angry call. Techniques include not being defensive, acknowledging the anger felt by the caller, and trying to encourage the caller to move on to the service issue involved;
- the Helplines Partnership believes that you can generally work with an angry caller, although inevitably, some cases progress to abuse, and may need to be terminated, using the agreed guidelines; and
- provide time away from the phones, and other support, after an abusive call. Depending on the emotions involved in an angry or abusive call, staff may need time away from the phone to recover. In certain cases, e.g. with a particularly distressing call, counselling may be appropriate, or a debriefing conversation with a colleague or supervisor.