4. Interaction with callers

Remember that your job is to answer as many calls as possible so we can quickly “filter” out the unnecessary calls and allow legitimate family members and friends to get through. 

As such, your interactions should be caring but as brief as possible. 

Most people are very open to any help that is offered at this point, and information is the number one thing family members are looking for. You can expect most callers to be cooperative in answering your questions. 
Always remain patient and speak using soft and gentle voice tones. Remember that callers are very concerned that their love ones may have been injured or killed.

“What we know is…”

Many time callers will ask you questions that you don’t know the answer to. Remember, callers are desperate for information. When a caller asks questions about the accident, always share the Crisis Information in the box to the left of your screen If you have not already done so. We always start by saying, “What we know is…” instead of, “I don’t know…” so the caller does not feel frustrated and like we are unable to help them. Avoid using  any negative word…’We don’t have that info….I cannot help you with that info….’

“I am sorry…”

Have you ever been told, “Don’t say, ‘I am sorry’, because that shows that you are guilty”? In this instance, nothing could be further from the truth. For instance:

  • “I am sorry, Mr. Right, can you please repeat the spelling of your last name?”
  • ”I am so sorry that my information is limited at this time, but we are working as quickly as possible to gather more details.”…or, “I am so sorry that I have so little information at this time.”
  • “I’m sorry that you’re going through this right now.” 

Escalating a Call – “Let me get my supervisor…”

As we’ve mentioned, most callers will be understanding and reasonable. However, once in a while you may get a call from someone who is extremely upset or even irate. Our tips for handling callers will work with most calls, so do your best to handle the call yourself. In these rare instances that you are unable to pacify a caller using our usual script and tips, it is time to seek support from your supervisor. Your supervisor will know how to contact one of your specially trained staff members who will be able to help out with these calls. If you find yourself in this situation, ask the caller to please hold while you get someone who can further assist them on the line.

Other Things to Avoid

As a caring person, sometimes your desire is to make a caller feel better about what could indeed be a very tragic situation. However, It is never appropriate to give anyone a false sense of hope. Some things that may seem like a nice thing to say are actually very inappropriate. Here is a list of examples:

  •  ”I am sure everything will be OK.” There is really no way you can be sure about this. 
  •  “He/She is probably not involved, so don’t worry.” This gives the caller false hope and is not helpful, as the next call may confirm that their family member is involved. 
  •  “Don’t worry until you know that you have something to worry about.” Like the above examples, this is giving the caller false hope and may cause them more distress later if their loved ones are involved.   
  •  “Have a nice day.” This common way of closing a call is definitely not appropriate when someone is worried about the livelihood of a loved one. 
  • Address callers by their formal name, i.e. Dr. Right, Mr. Right, Mrs. Right. Unless they tell you to call them by their first name. 

Things to Say Instead

Instead of saying the things on the previous slide, here are some alternative for you:

  • Research with surviving families of major disasters shows that people would rather know that you care about them by your soft tone and “paracommunications” that you use as they tell you about their situation and answer your questions. A paracommunication is a soft noise like “oh” or “ah” or “umm” that we make when we want someone to know that we care and are listening to them without interrupting them with words. 
  • Research also shows that the best way to relieve their anxiety is to process the call quickly so that, as soon as possible, they will know whether or not their family member is involved. If they are not involved, they are relieved and can go on with their lives. If they are involved, well-trained teams will begin to assist them in getting what they need next, whether that involves travel to the site of the tragedy, talking to other officials who can answer their questions, or whatever their needs may be. Remember you cannot take a survivor’s pain away-you can only support them as they move through the process. 

A few words that let the caller know you care might include:

  •  “I am sorry for what you are going through right now”
  •  “Can you call a neighbor or family member to wait with you while we check on your loved one?”
  •  Always remember to end the call by reminding them of what is next. If their loved one is involved, they will be called back and they will then be given more options for what will happen next. 
  • If the caller wants to know who will call back inform that: ‘A member of our team OR The FSC (Family Support Center) will make the First Contact.