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Protecting Our People from Abusive Callers

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By Leanne Burrows, Team Leader, Utility Safety Partners

I was a DPA (damage prevention associate) for my first two years with Utility Safety Partners (Alberta One-Call) and certainly dealt with more than a few inappropriate callers. Since becoming a team leader eight years ago, I now get the escalations of escalations, often folks at the brink of screaming due to their frustration around locate delays or other issues that have cropped up within the damage prevention industry over the years. As a supervisor, I am used to this level of escalation and take my role as a leader very seriously — I am happy to try and mitigate frustration so that our DPAs can spend their time and energy assisting folks with processing locate requests. Today, I would like to talk about USP’s stance on abusive behaviour toward our staff, management included.

Contact Centre workers can be subjected to all kinds of abuse, the most common being verbal abuse, such as profuse swearing and misogynistic, racist and homophobic comments. 

36% of contact centre agents have been threatened with violence.*

*, September 2021

To address this escalating issue, we have a firm no-tolerance stance on abusive/bullying/harassing behaviour toward our staff. Our DPAs are trained to firmly but politely let frustrated callers know that we are absolutely here to help, but will terminate the call if abusive behaviour continues. We fully support our DPAs in making this decision if they feel unsafe and support them in terminating harmful calls.

Unfortunately, these types of calls are on the rise and this is cause for concern for our organization. We value our employees and their safety, and prioritize maintaining a respectful, professional work environment free from danger.

The last few years have been extremely difficult for a lot of people for varying reasons, not the least of which being a global pandemic. Tempers are short, patience is thin, people are on edge all over the world. We are however very much in this together. People get up in the morning to go to work, do a good job, and take pride in the work they do. Contact Centre work can certainly affect employees’ mental health, and we all need to be working together to reach the same shared goal: safety. We are much more equipped to help when we are treated with respect. 

Let's be kind and get through it together.


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