Author Topic: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work  (Read 2261 times)

violinp

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 74
    • View Profile
Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« on: February 14, 2020, 05:10:55 pm »
So, part of my job involves answering the phone and helping people over the phone with buying tickets for movies, explaining how our theater works with all the dine - in and what not, explaining movie plots...you name it, I've probably been asked to help with it.

But. It always throws me off when the person who has called me asks me "How are you doing today, violinp?" (I have to give my name when they call) To me, it feels super - intrusive, and is not relevant to anything in this interaction. It's business, and the guest isn't supposed to care about me. Yes, I know we're all people and we're supposed to care about each other (and if I were on the guest side of things, I would go out of my way to be polite and such to an employee of such an establishment). However, it feels weird for them to even ask, because of the aforementioned non-relevancy and because it stops me in my tracks and messes up my flow of where I'm going - I try not to have emotion involved when I'm at work, because that's not the point of work.

It was super jarring today, when this happened:

*phone rings*
Me: (Welcome spiel)
Male Guest: Hi, violinp! How are you today?
Me: Oh...fine. What can I -
MG: Happy Valentine's Day!
Me: *freezes for a second* Okay...thank you...
MG: Oh, did I offend you?

To be honest, I wanted to say "Yes! You did! That was super weird to do to a stranger!" But of course, I didn't want him to be upset or possibly feel bad, so I told him it was fine...and then he went on a tangent about how you never know how to greet someone these days, especially with the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays thing...and I was just standing there feeling really awkward, trying to get back to the actual point of his call.

We eventually did, but it was so awkward and...it's not that I think these people are rude necessarily, but it feels really...off? To be this chummy with an employee you've never met and don't have a pleasant business repartee with (I have regulars who I like and will joke with in person).

Am I wrong? Are these people the normal ones? Or are they being over - friendly to the point of awkwardness?

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter


Jem

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 801
  • Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous!
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2020, 05:21:34 pm »
I totally get what you mean, but I doubt it is productive to push back negatively. Just respond with “I’m fine, thanks. How can I help you?” Or “Happy Valentine’s. Our movie times are 1:00 and 3:00 - which tickets would you like?”

Feeling offended is natural in this circumstance, but acting on it isn’t likely to bring anything good to your life short term or long term.
Agree Agree x 4 View List

Victoria

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 316
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2020, 06:44:20 pm »
I don't think that you're wrong to have preferences, but I do think that it would be unreasonable to expect that no one greet you by asking how you are.

Bear in mind that "How are you?" is not often meant as an actual question that requires a substantive answer, just an acknowledgement that you're a person and not a robot they're going to bark directions at. So "Fine, thank you" would be an appropriate answer regardless of how you're actually doing.

Saying "Happy Valentine's Day" is just another way to briefly connect at a surface level, and requires nothing further than "Thank you" or "You too." (And it's not reserved for romance-my office gives out candy, and there are tons of Valentine cards for family members and friends available).

As Jem said, the most productive thing to do is lightly acknowledge what they've said and then move forward, rather than taking the questions as an invitation or direction to have a deeper conversation.
Like Like x 1 Agree Agree x 3 View List

Isisnin

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 202
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2020, 07:29:30 pm »
When you work providing a service, no it is not weird. Such questions and social pleasantries are commonplace.

Just respond with "well", "good", or "fine". But you should you respond with a "how are you?" also. Otherwise, the customer might think you are rude and possibly complain to management.

When you ask "How are you?", if they respond positively and don't get to what they want but seem to be waiting for you to respond, respond with "Good to hear. How can I help you?"

If they respond negatively (e.g. "tired" "been better"), say "Sorry to hear that. How can I help with our services?". or "Sorry to hear that. Perhaps seeing one of our movies will help. Which are you interested in?"

Some holiday greetings are frustrating to me too. Like for mother's or father's day. Some people will ask if I'm a parent or if my parents are alive. No good way to handle such intrusions. Just answer briefly and move on.

But a lot of others', just respond in kind. "Happy st Patricks Day" "Happy 4th"

In short, in all such social pleasantries, respond briefly and move on.
Agree Agree x 1 View List

caroled

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 337
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2020, 01:54:58 am »
You know how people will respond "Fine!" when asked how they are (even if their world is crumbling around them?)People tend to respond in the positive because they feel that they don't want to share the truth and quite frankly that the other person really doesn't want to hear the truth. Look at the first part of the question, "How are you?" as just another part of the equation.  Just an act of pleasantries.

Rose Red

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1618
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2020, 06:07:01 am »
I get it. I really do. As a former CS rep, I just want to answer questions and get through the line of customers. But just as CS reps want to be treated as human beings and not soulless robots, so do customers. Small talk should be taught in any situation in life. Asking and answering the "how are you" question and talking about holidays are basic. Mentally prepare for these two topics will make the customer feel comfortable and the call more pleasant.

For example, I would be surprised by being wished a Happy Valentine's Day but would recover by cheerily laughing and say "Thank you! Happy Valentine's Day to you too!" and move on. The customer will probably forget the conversation in five minutes, but they might stew if they were made to feel awkward and either complain or take their business elsewhere.

I have also surprised CS reps by asking how they are, which I find sad. Is that so rare? Happily most of the time, their tone changed to a warmer one; you can just feel them relax and they go out of their way to help. But I still remember those who acted like I'm bothering them and it's not a good feeling.

There's a reason why CS jobs have such high turnovers. Customer service is a difficult skill and some people are natural and some have to fake it till they make it.
Like Like x 1 Agree Agree x 1 View List

violinp

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 74
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2020, 09:32:33 am »
I get it. I really do. As a former CS rep, I just want to answer questions and get through the line of customers. But just as CS reps want to be treated as human beings and not soulless robots, so do customers. Small talk should be taught in any situation in life. Asking and answering the "how are you" question and talking about holidays are basic. Mentally prepare for these two topics will make the customer feel comfortable and the call more pleasant.

For example, I would be surprised by being wished a Happy Valentine's Day but would recover by cheerily laughing and say "Thank you! Happy Valentine's Day to you too!" and move on. The customer will probably forget the conversation in five minutes, but they might stew if they were made to feel awkward and either complain or take their business elsewhere.

I have also surprised CS reps by asking how they are, which I find sad. Is that so rare? Happily most of the time, their tone changed to a warmer one; you can just feel them relax and they go out of their way to help. But I still remember those who acted like I'm bothering them and it's not a good feeling.

There's a reason why CS jobs have such high turnovers. Customer service is a difficult skill and some people are natural and some have to fake it till they make it.

I guess the reason I feel uncomfortable is...well, I just don't know them. I'm on the phone with them - I usually never see them in person unless they're a morning regular - and I just...it feels weird for them to care if I'm doing okay. I'm not going to tell a stranger calling my work that I'm dealing with being tired and having morning sickness, because then they'd feel super awkward and also that's making the phone call about me, when the point of the call is that they have an issue or question that they need help with. *I'm* not the focus, *they* are.

If it's a regular who I see in person, I'm more willing to open up because then we have more of a relationship - a removed, business relationship, but still a relationship.

Also, I didn't want to say this and make it the focus and not whether I'm weird...but almost all of the people asking how I am are men, and I'm a woman. It feels really invasive for a man I don't know and have never seen to ask me how I am when the reason they're calling isn't of a personal nature. I know they aren't being creepy; I'm sure they're doing that because they don't want to come off as being a jerk who sees me as nothing more than a cog. But it just feels weird that they're trying to care about a stranger on the phone, imo.

Also probably factoring into this is that I'm on the spectrum, and I'm trying to figure out if I'm a bad person for feeling weirded out and this is a rule that I just have to accept in life that the guest and I are both giving social lubricant to a conversation that's purely a business transaction, or they are just being weird for expecting me to tell them how my day is going and how I'm feeling. Given the overwhelming responses, I'm going to assume it's the former.

Aleko

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1860
  • Location: South-East England
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2020, 11:29:37 am »
Quote
I guess the reason I feel uncomfortable is...well, I just don't know them. I'm on the phone with them - I usually never see them in person unless they're a morning regular - and I just...it feels weird for them to care if I'm doing okay. I'm not going to tell a stranger calling my work that I'm dealing with being tired and having morning sickness . . .

Please don't! They really don't want to know! And the truth is that they haven't actually asked you to tell them these things.

'How are you?' in English-speaking society isn't a request for personal information at all; it's a stereotyped expression of non-hostile intent, calling for one of a range of stereotyped replies such as 'Very well, thank you', 'I'm OK', 'Mustn't grumble', 'Still alive!', 'Fine thanks!' et cetera. These people aren't 'trying to care about a stranger on the phone', and would be thoroughly taken aback if you told them your troubles as though you thought they did; they're just trying to signal 'I'm a human being talking to another human being'. 

Personally I would find it odd to have a total stranger wish me a 'Happy Valentine's Day'. Even now that the cards-and-chocolate manufacturers have succeeded in imposing the notion that it involves every kind of affection in addition to the romantic (which for centuries it only was), it's still about personal, individual affection; it's not a communal holiday in the way that religious, civic and national holidays are. But I would put it down to  lack of social sense, unless there was anything else about him that I found creepy.
Agree Agree x 6 View List

betty

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 69
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2020, 12:20:14 pm »
I don't think it's out of the question for the customer to want to exchange pleasantries before getting to business. I often say that sort of thing. It feels rude to me to jump right in to business without acknowledging that I'm speaking to another person.

Of course I'm not trying to get personal information from the person I'm speaking to, and I won't share personal information either. But "Hello! How are you today! (or) Have a great (weekend, evening, whatever holiday it might be)!" and a reply of "Hi! I'm fine, thanks. (or) You, too." doesn't seem too awkward or intrusive to me.

And yes, if you tell me your name, I might use it back to you. ("Thanks for your help, Carol.") It helps me remember it and again, acknowledges the person on the other side of the phone line is an individual person.


Like Like x 1 Agree Agree x 4 View List

Gellchom

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 573
  • Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2020, 01:21:47 pm »
You have it right: it’s just social lubricant in a business conversation.  “How are you today?” is no more a request for health information than “Dear Sir” and “Yours truly” in the salutation and closing of a letter are declarations of fondness and loyalty.  They are all simply social conventions to make interactions gracious.  I like very much how Victoria put it, especially the bolded:

Bear in mind that "How are you?" is not often meant as an actual question that requires a substantive answer, just an acknowledgement that you're a person and not a robot they're going to bark directions at.

Same for “Happy Valentine’s Day” or “have a good weekend” and the like.  In my midwestern city, that is very common, and even to do more than that.

I always sympathize with hosts of radio call in shows. Very often, callers start by asking the hosts how they are or saying something like, “Hey, how’s it going?“ as if they were making a social phone call. I noticed the hosts simply say, “Fine, thanks, what would you like to ask Guest?“ or something like that, although I am sure they are rolling their eyes!

Of course, individuals, and different cultures, have different preferences and conventions about how much is too little or too much.  It can be tricky not to be seen as being either too curt or too intrusive or beating around the bush.

It helps to remember that it’s just social convention and roll with it.  Maybe it would help if you sort of internally translated it into Victoria’s wording, as if they were saying, “You’re a human being, not a robot.”  That’s something that is easy to say “thank you” to.
Like Like x 5 View List

Mary Sunshine Rain

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 269
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2020, 04:17:04 pm »
Also probably factoring into this is that I'm on the spectrum, and I'm trying to figure out if I'm a bad person for feeling weirded out and this is a rule that I just have to accept in life that the guest and I are both giving social lubricant to a conversation that's purely a business transaction, or they are just being weird for expecting me to tell them how my day is going and how I'm feeling. Given the overwhelming responses, I'm going to assume it's the former.

You're not a bad person.  But, you should probably work on de-emotionalizing on this.  It is a normal part of social interaction in business and in other casual social interactions.

By taking it personally when it's not meant to be, you, unfortunately end up making it about yourself. Perhaps you could find a friend with whom you can roll play some scripts so that it becomes automatic and not something you stop to think about or process emotionally that makes you feel icky.
Like Like x 1 Agree Agree x 5 View List

pierrotlunaire0

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 541
  • I'm the cat's Ma!
  • Location: Michigan, USA
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2020, 09:14:27 pm »
These people do not want to have a real conversation with you. Just as you used in your header, they are offering pleasantries, making a simple interaction seem less robotic. Just think of it as putting some grease on a wheel: it makes the whole process go smoother.

I used to work at the DMV, and I could be extremely pleasant in my interactions (really! I was!). But I was also extremely efficient, fast, and professional. Customers did not hang around in front of my station to chit chat. I acknowledge the "impersonal niceness" of the professional interaction. It really keeps things pleasant, and just as importantly, kept me from burning out.
I have enough lithium in my medicine cabinet to power three cars across a sizeable desert.  Which makes me officially...Three Cars Crazy
Like Like x 1 View List

Copper Horsewoman

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 204
  • Location: Illinois Wisconsin border, USA
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2020, 12:13:07 pm »
I am with the "it's innocuous" camp. I am a retailer, and also deal with lots of people on the phone, both as caller and called. A short "How are you today?" is not something I offer when calling, and answer the question with, "very well thank you, and you?" but I may acknowledge a holiday, especially if I have to call for service on said holiday. I had a minor parking lot fender-bender on Christmas Eve one year. In calling it in to my insurance company, I acknowledged the person on the other line by saying I am sorry she had to work on Christmas Eve, but I was glad I could report this quickly. As she worked through the various menus needed to fill out the report, we chatted on the weather (it was in my area a contributing factor), I found she worked in a part of the country that did not experience such weather, but she had received several calls from my area on issue very similar, so she made me feel better about it. It did not prolong the call, nor did it interfere with the outcome.  Made an aggravation rather more bearable.
Like Like x 5 View List

Amigurumi

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 29
  • Kitchen Ninja
  • Location: rural, The Netherlands
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2020, 04:30:11 pm »
I worked on the phones for a telecom company. (soul sucking work) There is a practical reason for asking how someone is doing: getting used to the voice, checking if the volume of the phone is at the right setting for this person (not too loud, not too soft) and making sure everything is ready to handle the call. We usually asked for their postcode + house number first and while the information was loading in the screen you asked how they were doing.


Informative Informative x 3 View List

SioCat

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 158
    • View Profile
Re: Is This Weird? - Pleasantries in Phone Calls at Work
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2020, 08:16:25 pm »
I find it very weird.

Where I work, it’s almost a guarantee that those types of people are looking for a same day appointment. Usually on the weekend. It all seems so fake to me.
Disagree Disagree x 1 View List