Dumb questions are driving me crazy.
March 31, 2012 11:36 AM Subscribe
Help me learn how to help people come to their own conclusions and learn from their previous experiences in a friendly manner. (Warning: super long explanation inside)
I work in a customer relations department. Part of my job includes being a resource to other employees; answering questions and helping them determine what their next course of action should be. Unfortunately, 99% of these questions are completely unnecessary. They're usually situations where
a) we can't do anything about it and my coworker "knows there's nothing we can do but it doesn't hurt to ask" (yes, yes it does - you're wasting everyone's time.)
b) they have the solution/answer available to them as part of their resources, and are choosing not to look it up.
c) they should know the answer, it's black and white, and they asked me five minutes ago. In our company, there are a few ALWAYS and NEVER situations; and they are non-negotiable. For instance; we can't change the payment on an existing order. It's simply not possible. They know this, but they ask anyway.
These questions take up a huge part of my day and are extremely frustrating. If someone contacts me unnecessarily, I am supposed to submit all sorts of details about it so that they can be "coached" on the situation. This takes up a ton of time, as well, and it is clearly not having any effect.
The problem is, there are probably 15 people who make up 90% of these contacts. There really isn't an incentive for them to improve, except that it will save them a call to me.
I lack people skills. I don't know how to instruct them on how to do things differently in the future without sounding rude, condescending, or sarcastic, so I usually don't say anything. An example of a typical conversation:
Coworker: "I know that we can't do _________ when ________, right?
Me: That is correct.
Coworker: Okay, well this customer is really upset about it, so is there any way we can do ________ anyway?
Me: No. (what I want to say is "You just answered your own question, didn't you?" but I really want to keep my job)
Coworker: Okay cause I was really hoping there was some kind of exception we could make.
Me: There isn't.
I'd really like to discourage the whole second part of the conversation, if possible (and going forward, the first part as well). How can I explain in a kind, polite way that my answer is not based on feelings or my own judgement; it is based on policies I have no control over (they know this). Therefore, no mater what you tell me about the scenario, my answer will not change. Period.
Another problem I face is when someone contacts me for a perfectly legitimate reason, and it spirals into nonsense. For example:
Coworker: "do we have any more information about ________?
Me: Not yet, sorry. Tell the customer we'll get in touch with them as soon as we know more.
Coworker: Oh, what, so I just have to tell them they have to wait longer now? They're already upset!
What I wish I could say: Yes, that is exactly what you have to tell them. That's your damn job. For the love of God, figure out how to do it and STOP ASKING ME STUPID QUESTIONS.
My thinking is that maybe, MAYBE, I can condition these people to use their brains since their managers certainly are not helping them figure out how to do so. I like my job and it pays well, but this part of it drives me insane. The most frustrating part is that it could be avoided.
TL;DR: Is there some kind of jerry-rigged socratic method I can use to help people help themselves when they consistently ask pointless questions with obvious solutions, thus wasting your time and making your job far more difficult?
(I know it sounds like I'm overreacting, but I swear that six hours of my day are spent dealing with this. I can't afford to quit my job, but I'm starting to feel like I might do so in an irrational attempt to resolve this.)