By Maria Arzola, Chief Deputy Director, Orange County DCSS
As child support professionals, we work in the human services field and it is very rewarding but can also present challenges. At times, we see our customers at their not-so-best and they often share their frustrations during low points in their lives, which may result in self-harm threats. It is extremely unnerving when interacting with customers who make these types of threats and more so if we do not have tools to handle these interactions.
Recently, Orange County Department of Child Support Services (OC CSS) identified a significant increase in customers threatening self-harm. We discussed the impact to our staff and asked: How do we equip staff with tools to handle these tense and emotional interactions and how do we ensure they have tools to take care of themselves after these interactions? It is unrealistic to assume these calls do not have any impact to what and how we feel afterwards – what could I have done differently?
Our customer contact staff does an outstanding job of addressing these threats. They follow protocols such as referring to local law enforcement if needed and/or referring customers to assistance programs, while carefully acknowledging the threat and attempting to calm the customer. However, we identified a need to better equip them with resources to take care of themselves after these interactions and strategies to use in the conversation.
OC CSS reached out to an expert in the field. Dr. Manny Tau is a clinical and forensic psychologist and a certified threat manager with a wealth of knowledge to assist us in providing our staff with training on this sensitive topic.
The Customer Contact Resiliency Training was developed with the following goals:
- Differentiate non-credible threats vs. emerging credible threats
- Post-contact issues and taking care of ourselves
We provided this training to staff most likely to encounter the threats: Call Center, Customer Service (lobby), Legal staff, and Ombudsperson. Our call center staff encounters the majority of these threats and the strategies provided will help guide their conversations. An approach discussed during the training included
What are the specific issues being addressed?
What are doable solutions and next steps?
Have customer commit to solutions and next steps
Involve the person in problem solving
– What would you like to see happen now?
– How can I assist you in resolving this?
The training was extremely well received by OC CSS staff as represented by the following comments:
“I especially found the strategy portion helpful regarding using phrases to redirect and focus such as: Regardless, none the less, be that as it may, etc. and to avoid using the word, “but”, as this may make a customer more defensive. I believe I can use those phrases in my day to day conversations with irate customers as well.”
“It was an eye-opening experience for me… I will make sure to address his/her safety concerns first before assisting customers with their child support issues. I always enjoy learning and preparing ourselves to be at our best.”
“I truly enjoyed the training and the way it was presented. Not only do I feel I received a stepping stone to assisting customers better but also tools to use in my personal life. The two things that resonated the most: my responses to others when going through challenging times/issues. I tend to sympathize/empathize too much and then I obsess. And the other, taking care of myself emotionally and physically. We know this but it’s good to be reminded and to be given a few tools to adapt to what would work for ourselves.”
For OC CSS, securing these types of trainings allows us to meet our valued responsibility as leaders of taking care of our staff and customers and providing tools to ‘be the best they can be’ in their daily work.
Manny Tau,Psy.D. | Clinical and Forensic Psychologist PSY14892 | Certified Threat Manager
300 S. El Camino Real, Suite 218 | San Clemente, CA 92672 | 888.949.5150 | email@example.com