5 Nightmare Call Center Customer Personalities and How to Handle Them

By Shauna Geraghty

0 min read

Customer Personalities

Every once in a while, call center customer service reps are forced to deal with a problematic caller. These customers are usually frustrated, but sometimes they just chat too much. Handling even frustrating customers correctly is essential to building customer loyalty.

In fact, eighty-nine percent of people have stopped giving their business to a company after enduring subpar call center experiences, so it’s important to offer them 100 percent, even if they’re not giving you the same respect. No matter which problematic customer type you’re dealing with, we’ve got some great tips on how to manage.

The Chatty Cathy

There’s talkative and then there’s excessive. Your typical Chatty Cathy can be difficult to identify at first. Often, these overly enthusiastic over sharers seem genuinely friendly, and most of them are. It’s just that when they start to fill you in on the details of their son’s graduation party, suddenly you realize this is going to be a long call, and you have five callers on hold. So how do you deal? Here are a few simple tips for handling a Chatty Cathy in the call center:

  • Do everything in your power to keep the conversation focused. That means not opening areas for potential new conversation. Don’t ask questions about unrelated topics (for example, ”Oh Cathy- how many are you inviting to your son’s graduation party?”). When the conversation shifts away from the reason for the call, offer short, yet polite answers, but immediately regain focus on the matter at hand.
  • Keep talking. Often, Chatty Cathys feel the need to fill any silence with conversation. To avoid a new conversation starting up, keep talking, asking questions and offering solutions and resolutions.
  • Remember to stay friendly. It is possible to remain friendly and focused. Stay up beat and positive, while reminding the customer of the reason they called.

The Angry Al

Angry Al is the guy who calls you after he’s already at the end of his rope. Many times, an angry customer is troubleshooting. They’re frustrated because they’ve tried everything in their power to fix a broken product or find a way to make their product work, but it still remains problematic. So, by the time they reach you, they’re snappy, annoyed or, worse, actually yelling. Here’s how to manage:

  • The key to handling an Angry Al is sympathy. Most of the time, when we’re having a bad day, we just want a friend on our side. Be that friend. Imagine how you would feel if you were that customer and then apologize honestly, not just for a general inconvenience, but for the specific issue at hand.
  • An angry caller could be annoyed because they’ve been put on hold for an extended period of time. If you suspect this to be the case, work as efficiently and quickly as you possibly can in an effort to resolve their issue.
  • Remember not to take it personally. The customer is annoyed because of an inconvenience that was never your fault in the first place. They’re just having a bad day, so take a deep breath and shrug it off.

The Negative Nancy

A Negative Nancy is actually one of the trickiest call center personalities to handle. The reason she (or he) is such a challenge is because they’re not outright yelling, like say an Angry Al, and they’re not over sharing too much, like a Chatty Cathy.

Instead, they’re dropping often passive-aggressive remarks about your product or service. It can be challenging to know if you should address these concerns or not, since they don’t seem truly angry about them, but more like a disappointed parent. It actually is usually best to confront their disappointment, with great tact. Here’s how:

  • First and foremost, remain positive. Negative Nancys have a way of getting us down, but don’t let them. Literally keep a smile on your face and it will come across through your voice.
  • Next, help her solve her issue as efficiently as you can to show her that she did choose the right company.
  • Offer any advice for avoiding the issue in the future. It’s very important to avoid sounding condescending in any way when you offer advice, but it could help restore her (or his) faith in the company. Remember, a smile goes a long way, even over the phone!

The Confused Cody

The Confused Cody accounts for majority of the calls you’ll receive. Cody isn’t necessarily angry or frustrated yet. He’s not talking your ear off either. He’s just confused and trying to either figure out how to use a product, complete a purchase or some other general question. Here’s how to handle a confused customer as smoothly as possible:

  • Be patient and listen. This customer is not alone. Tons of people need a hand when they’re trying to figure out how to put something together, use a new technology or complete an order. In fact, 83% of consumers need some kind of customer service help when attempting to complete an online order. Remember, even though confusion can be frustrating for both the caller and the service rep, Cody’s just confused. He’s not yelling at you, so take a deep breath and put a smile on your face before talking him through the problem.
  • Consult your manual. A lot of times, if the customer is confused about something, it may just be a confusing quirk in the system, service or product. If you don’t know the answer to the question the confused customer is asking, place them on hold for as short of amount of time as possible, while you consult your manual or ask another worker for assistance.

The Threatening Theo

Threatening Theo is fed up and flustered by the time he arrives at the other end of your phone. He’s sometimes scarier than even Angry Al was, because he’s threatening to leave your company for another one. He may also be threatening to report you or other scary remarks. How you handle Threatening Theo in your call center is vital to customer retention. A customer who receives poor customer service is four times more likely to leave you for a competitor than one who encounters a service or product-related issue. Here’s how to deal:

  • Keep your cool. Remember that, just like angry Al, Theo is frustrated and ready to lose it. He’s dealing with it through threatening you. Remember to breath, smile and remain as understanding as you possibly can.
  • Offer compensation if possible. If it’s truly a customer-loss risk and your company offers some form of compensation for disgruntled customers, check with your manager to see if you can throw one Theo’s way. It’s always worth it to keep customers satisfied and loyal.

The five aforementioned customers may sound intimidating to handle in the call center, but sticking to the tips mentioned above will go a long way to ensuring that you are providing top notch service, even to the most difficult customer. Just remember: it doesn’t get easier, you just get better.

How to Handle Nightmare Customer Personalities



Shauna Geraghty

As the first U.S. employee, Shauna helped to scale Talkdesk to over 1,000 employees in 7 offices globally. During her tenure, she has built Talkdesk's Marketing, Talent and HR functions from the ground up. Shauna has a doctorate in clinical psychology and has applied foundational knowledge from the field of psychology to help propel Talkdesk along its hyper-growth trajectory.