A big part of our job is, well, customer service, to be blunt. Like the clerk in a store or the ticket agent at our favorite airline, we provide customer service. We determine what the “customer” wants and needs are and give them the necessary information (go to court and obtain a restraining order or serve your 30 year old lazy bum of a son with an eviction notice) or obtain for them the services (an officer or guys with the little white jackets) needed.
Not everyone is happy with the level of customer service we provide. We are refusing to send an officer to talk to their out of control 15 year daughter and instead tell them to talk to the school counselor and learn to handle their child without using the boys and girls in uniform as a threat. A vehicle burglary is not handled with them same priority as a robbery which can upset the victim who just lost a chunk of their CD selection and has to wait two or eight hours for a Cadet or Community Service Officer to respond.
But we, as dispatchers, trudge on and try to serve the angry caller with the best diplomacy possible. We can’t point out to them how stupid and childish they are acting when they call in about a child custody issue. We can’t be blunt and tell parents to grow a backbone or a pair of cajones and deal with their children as an adult instead of their friend. We have to be respectful and try to assist.
Many a moon ago I worked for the Disney Corporation. Guest Service is drilled into you from day one and reinforced through monthly staff meetings and games and challenges. Respect for the other person, guest and co-worker, is always in the forefront as is trying to help the guest with questions or directions or problems being paramount. Leaving a positive impression, even when the other person has to be corrected and not getting exactly what they want, is required.
One lesson I like to think I have brought to my dispatching job from my time with “The Happiest Place On Earth” is the ability to acknowledge the other person’s problem without having to fake or express empathy. People call us with their traumas and dramas, sometimes brought on by their own actions. By the simple act of acknowledging their anger or pain or confusion can go a long way in calming the caller. You don’t have to say, “I understand” if you don’t. Just let them know you hear them.