14

I have a customer who somehow got my personal number instead of my work phone line. Since this individual has my number they believe that the office hours no longer apply to them. This person has been contacting me late (after 8pm) expecting me to pickup the phone, and will often call repetitively.

How do I tell the customer that it is not acceptable to contact me outside of the office, especially late at night?

  • 1
    Does that person know it’s your private number? Their behavior seem inside what’s reasonable for calling an office number. What happened when you told them it’s your private number? – nvoigt Oct 20 '18 at 11:20
  • @nvoigt it's after 8pm and they ring repeatedly, they already know it's a private number. Why would they expect the OP to be in the office at that time. Without going in to the realm of shift work etc,. which obviously isn't the case here. – Kilisi Oct 20 '18 at 12:10
  • 3
    @Kilisi Why would they know that? I don't know how long people work and ringing their office number to see if they do, there seems to be no harm in it. Worst case the person went home and the calls go unanswered. – nvoigt Oct 20 '18 at 13:15
  • 5
    @Kilisi Maybe when I read a question, I don't try to read between the lines. All I read is that the person calls after 8 PM. Nowhere does it say that said person is aware that it's a private line. – nvoigt Oct 20 '18 at 14:07
  • 3
    @nvoigt my office number and my private line are completely separate. There is no crossover where my work line rings my personal number. I would say that they are aware it is my personal number and I have expressed to them that I do not give out my personal number and I have asked them before how they got it. – Suit Boy Apps Oct 21 '18 at 17:53
37

Just block them if you can.

It is a bit rude, but so is ringing your personal number after hours. There is no need to tell them you're blocking them. I have several clients who can ring me any time. Anyone who rings that isn't on that select list, I don't even answer.

  • 22
    If the client complains about you not answering, advise them to use your office number. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 20 '18 at 3:41
27

Apart from blocking him, I would also try to find out how he got my private number.

If a colleague gave it to him, make sure this never happens again. If it's listed somewhere on the website, it should be deleted.

Maybe the customer doesn't even know it's your private number.

11

Instead of blocking them - let the answering machine take a message.

They soon get the idea that it is not worth calling you after hours.

  • 2
    That is just about the best solution. If you have caller ID, use it. These idiots at my office kept calling my personal cell phone at all hours. I left a greeting on my voice mail telling the callers to "Please call my office number and leave a message there" (without giving the office number). This had the added advantage that when I got in the next day, I could process the messages in an orderly fashion rather than jotting down notes at home and hoping I can figure them out the next day. – user1683793 Oct 20 '18 at 20:33
6

If you are in a position where a customer would contact you directly your employer presumes that you have the professional experience and demeanor to directly interact with them. After all your interactions with that customer are a reflection of the company and have a direct impact on the customer relationship.

Even if the customer insists on calling you on your personal phone outside of business hours you must show the same level of professionalism and demeanor. But, that doesn't mean that you have to automatically accept the intrusion into your personal life.

Blocking the number should be an absolute last resort and you shouldn't do it without having a discussion with the customer and your immediate supervisor. Jumping to the last resort of blocking the number is extremely unprofessional regardless of the of the customers' actions.

Your first step should be to inform the customer that they are calling your personal phone and that it's outside of normal business hours. Unless you are directly responsible for supporting mission critical operations simply instruct them to call your work number and leave a voicemail; obviously let them know that you'll follow up during business hours.

If these calls continue or if they refuse to follow your instructions then you should escalate the issue to your immediate superior and work with them to resolve the issue and manage customer expectations.

  • 1
    I'm not sure why this is voted so low, myself. It seems to me to be a much better starting point. Most people are reasonable; simply telling the customer something along the lines of "I'm sorry, but this is my personal phone and I'm not at work right now. Can you please use my office phone number instead of this one, and call during our regular office hours?" seems a much better first step. Besides, actually engaging the customer also allows OP to ask where they got the phone number in the first place, which would help in (as 385703 suggested in their answer) getting it removed. – a CVn Oct 21 '18 at 11:13
  • It’s voted so low because my private number is my PRIVATE number. If my company wants me to interact directly with a customer I do that during work time with a works phone. Unless the company pays me for every hour I’m on call, and more for every hour on the phone. Even then it should be a work mobile number. – gnasher729 Oct 22 '18 at 14:06
  • 4
    I believe that you have missed the point entirely. I am not suggesting that you allow the customer to continue calling on your personal number at all, simply suggesting that you take one call from the customer to explain that this is your private number and instruct them to call your work number and leave a message so you can follow up during normal business hours. IMHO that is much more professional than simply blocking the number. – Steve Oct 22 '18 at 16:11
  • Why would blocking your personal phone number be "extremely unprofessional"? I'm finding it hard to understand "unprofessional", let alone "extremely unprofessional". – davidbak Dec 8 '18 at 7:02
5

Give them your business number, tell them that it's your new number and your old number will no longer work. Then block them from your personal number.

One could see it as slightly dishonest, but I think it's acceptable in this situation, as you're telling a white lie to protect your relationship with your client.

2

Something to think about is:

Does the customer think your company is solving their problem or you personally?

It seems possible that higher-ups in your organization will think that this is you forming a business relationship with the customer outside of your company with the possibility that you will take this customer with you when you leave. I would suggest discussing this with your management and, if necessary, prompting them to tell you not to have contact with the customer outside of official channels. When the customer calls, you calmly and politely blame it on your boss and keep doing that until they get the message.

-1

I dealt with several variations of this theme in the past.

Speaking from experience: If it is a personal number was somewhat leaked, just change it, and be sure to not give it to anyone besides your superior/your boss. Blocking numbers won´t work, has the person will try to call with a different number to see if it gets through.

It also happened in the past that I had a service/work mobile number known by too many people, and the help desk people gave the number to customers behind my back. Answering only when working/on and ignoring calls not from workmates outside work time works pretty well to curb on unwanted behaviour.

Nevertheless, I would stress that to block out unwanted calls, you have got to have a separate work and mobile number.

PS. It would be interesting doing some detective work how your number leaked. In the past I had a lowly IT person putting it on a global phone list "by accident", and help desk people giving it behind my back to customers.

After those incidents, usually only three trusted people in the organisation knew my personnel mobile number, and they only called me when it was really needed.

  • I don't see that as an acceptable solution. I have had my phone number for over 20 years and would only change it in the worst case. Can you imagine how many people I would have to inform about my new number? Who should pay me for the effort? – Holli Oct 22 '18 at 12:16
  • @Holli If you give them your home number, you may be at fault. They only got my private mobile number. For me it was a pretty good solution. Dont know about the OP. At some point in time, only my team lead knew my personal number. Other colleagues only had my IM handle, which I did not use in my phone at the time. – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 22 '18 at 13:40
  • @RuiFRibeiro OP said that he or she doesn't know how the client got the number, and I think it unlikely that it's OP's fault. It's also fairly common nowadays to use one's mobile number only, and not have a separate home phone. OP does have a separate work number, but the client's calling OP's private number. – David Thornley Oct 22 '18 at 16:04
  • @DavidThornley Not getting you, the person I was answering is not the OP ; I also suffered in the work phone with people calling me at random times, with a notable record call of someone ringing me 11 times in a row in a saturday near midnight. – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 22 '18 at 16:06
-6

Here's your reply: "Oh hello, Mr. Smith from company XYZ, you realise this is my private number, don't you? Just wait a second, there's something that needs my attention in the kitchen..."

A minute later if they are still on the phone: "Sorry for the delay Mr. Smith, you know this is my private number, don't you? Can you just wait one minute longer? ..."

Repeat until he hangs up. Coming back after a minute will have the psychological affect of them trying longer, and wasting their time at minimal effort of your own is of course what you want.

If he doesn't learn, then about the third time he calls you can reply: "Oh hello, Mr. Smith from company XYZ, you realise this is my private number, don't you? Sorry, I'm reading War and Peace right now, so you'll have to wait a minute until I finished. I'm at Chapter 3 already, so it won't take long."

PS. @Ramhound: This isn't "passive/aggressive", this is having a bit of fun with someone who has to learn what borders are. And I don't know if you noticed, but this is not "in business". It's the OP's personal number. He's at home. He is not at business. If you call someone on their private number, you get what you deserved. That customer cannot expect better treatment than these "Microsoft representatives" who tell you there is a virus on my computer. My wife loves playing with them. Gets them right to the point where they think they found a mark before she crushes them.

One reply that I actually heard being said to a customer: "Have you looked at the calendar by any chance? Do you realise it is CHRISTMAS? Don't you have a life? "

(PS. My boss has my private number. He has the judgement to know when to use it. Never used it, but he could).

  • 4
    Passive aggressiveness should not be used in business. Blocking the number while not perfect seems reasonable since, it’s your personal number, and your treating them like any other unwanted calller. – Donald Oct 20 '18 at 19:15
  • 2
    Maybe this is passive aggressive but mentioning "You are aware this is my person number?" occasionally will help as will, "Gee, I left that information on my desk. Could you call me back tomorrow morning at the office?" – user1683793 Oct 20 '18 at 20:28
  • 2
    You do realize that the person calling is a Customer, right? Don't jerk them around, don't be rude to them, and don't be passive aggressive. There are all sorts of ways of dealing with the situation that both solve the problem and don't alienate the customer. – Kevin Oct 22 '18 at 21:28

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