14

I get a lot of it at my job. A few examples:

  • Customer says that they were on hold for an hour but upon looking at the call logs they were only on hold for 14 minutes
  • People saying a task that's scheduled to run every 1 minute via cron is only running once every ten minutes.
  • People saying that an issue affects everyone when in reality only 1-2 people are affected.

For the first two I liken it to the saying "a watched pot never boils". If you're just sitting doing nothing while waiting for a task to complete it's going to feel like it's taking a lot more than it would if you did other stuff while waiting for that task to complete.

I suppose I could respond to every instance of hyperbole with what I just said but if I did that it feels like I'd have to respond with that every time someone used hyperbole.

I suppose I could just ignore it, as well, but it also makes it hard to truly identify and diagnose the issue.

closed as off-topic by gnat, Blrfl, Mister Positive, DarkCygnus, Lumberjack Jun 27 '18 at 20:02

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 147
    “how to deal with hyperbole. I get a lot of it at my job.” - Is it really a lot, or are you exaggerating because it feels like a lot? – Ben Mz Jun 27 '18 at 7:38
  • 1
    This question seems better suited for interpersonal.stackexchange.com – MonkeyZeus Jun 27 '18 at 14:49
  • 1
    @MonkeyZeus Why? It's on topic here, and there it would probably be closed for asking "what should I do". – user812786 Jun 27 '18 at 19:36
28

You are already halfway to the solution: just treat those statements as a expression of feelings not facts. They felt like they were on hold for an hour, is felt like everyone was affected.

Do you know Bollywood action movies? Most hyperbole is exactly like this: the physics are nowhere near accurate (even by movie standards) but they convey the story and the way the director thinks it ought to feel.

So try to let it go instead of focusing on the inaccuracy of the statement. The only point this might be a problem is when it becomes an outright lie: the on-hold was thirty seconds or the issue affected only one user just once. The line between lie and hyperbole is a bit difficult sometimes but you'll have to put yourself in their shoes for that and get a bit of a feel for what is acceptable in your place and culture.

  • 7
    I feel the examples OP gives also fall into different categories. For "customer on hold for an hour" your approach is entirely accurate. "Cron job that supposedly runs every minute actually only runs every 10 minutes" is not even really hyperbole, that's a bug and should be treated like that. – xLeitix Jun 27 '18 at 12:54
  • 7
    @xLeitix Well that depends on how often it actually runs. I read the original question as "job that actually runs every minute" and the 10 min. being a hyperbole. Also, you might want to add this sort of comment to the OP's question to help clarify the intended meaning. – J.E Jun 27 '18 at 13:18
9

Depends on the particular case. For instance:

Customer says that they were on hold for an hour but upon looking at the call logs they were only on hold for 14 minutes

In this case you still have an unacceptable wait time. So you treat the call the same way you do when any valid complaint happens.

People saying a task that's scheduled to run every 1 minute via cron is only running once every ten minutes.

In this case, you need to gather more information. Is the job supposed to be scheduled every minute? Should it run that often? Why doesn't it? Is the a requirements document you can check? You need to determine if there was a problem in perception, a problem in the implementation not matching the requirement or a reason why the mismatch occurred (perhaps the job takes longer than a minute to run) and then determine if any action needs to happen. Usually I will say something, like the original requirement I have for that says for it to run every ten minutes. Has that changed? Do we need to change it?

People saying that an issue effects everyone when in reality only 1-2 people are effected.

In this case, this is generally used to push the priority of the request up. If the two people are senior managers or it is one of your largest clients, then you probably have to for political reasons. If they are not, then put it in the queue in the right place depending on the real priority and be on the lookout for this same person do do similar things in the future. Make sure that you talk to your boss about lowering the priority and why before communicating to the internal or external client. You don't want a complaint about this to reach him when he is unaware of what happened. Explain it based on other higher priorities not on the fact that he lied about the effect.

So you look for these types of lies and handle them differently.

If it is perceived pain and the pain was still valid, just ignore as much as possible and fix the cause of the problem. Apologize for the lengthy delay, explain what caused it and explain how it will be prevented in the future.

If it seems to be a genuine mismatch of requirements or misunderstanding, research and present findings in a neutral way.

If it seems to be deliberate to get more attention than a problem deserves, consider the political implications and talk it over with your boss.

7

I suppose I could just ignore it, as well, but it also makes it hard to truly identify and diagnose the issue.

If the issue is important, you discuss it with the complaining person and find out what is actually going on with them. Something they may just feel ignored. Other times they perceive the problem incorrectly. Either way, some attention may be all that is really required.

For example, a customer saying "I was on hold for an hour" is really indicating that they feel that they need more and/or prompt attention. The number of minutes isn't really the issue. Pointing out that it was 14 rather than 60 minutes isn't likely to satisfy the customer at all.

If the issue is unimportant, then you just ignore it.

4

Ignore it as noise and don't let it affect you. If you question every potential hyperbolic comment, then it might come across as strange that you're questioning everything.

There might be cases where you need to know the numbers at hand; here you should seek to confirm the facts before acting on them.

3

I have a job where a interact with and support customers frequently. I think Borgh makes a great point in this answer that you should consider the hyperbole as an "expression of feelings, not facts."

But you've also made a good point that when troubleshooting technical problems, incorrect information can lead you down the wrong path. If the customer says the issue is affecting everybody but it's really only affecting him, you might pursue the entirely wrong path. In my experience, the best way to do this is to "believe but verify."

You need to know whether what the customer is saying is true. But you also don't want to make them think you believe they're stupid or lying (even if you really do). If there's one thing I've learned from years of customer support, it's that you never want to make the customer think you're blaming them, even if doing so is temporarily satisfying. Your goal is to resolve the situation and not have to talk to them again; if you escalate situation, you're going to experience pushback/defensiveness that will not help you resolve the underlying issue.

If you have reason to believe they might be exaggerating, instead of calling them out, ask them to test something that will expose the truth without making them feel like you disbelieved them. For example, if the customer says the issue is affecting everybody, ask questions like, "Does it work when you connect to the site from a different network?" or "Is everybody experiencing exactly the same error message or are people getting different error messages?" These questions don't imply that the customer was lying, but when he goes to check out the answer to your question, he'll discover that his initial statement was incorrect.

In my experience, customers are rarely intentionally lying. They want the issue fixed as much as (or probably more than) you do. It's just that when people have a problem, they often automatically mentally fill in details of the problem. Usually those auto-generated details portray them as not the problem and the problem as worse than it really is. Give them a bit of an ego boost and they're more likely to do the real research to get you accurate information.

0

It depends, if it is hyperbole that is potentially part of a disputed payment or similar, then you rip them a new orifice with whatever proof you have.

If it's just a client blowing off steam you ignore it, do NOT reply with any sort of acknowledgement of their hyperbole, engaging in a dialogue gives the impression that they actually have a valid argument.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.