Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Thursday, June 02, 2005
  How to Get Off the Phone Quicker.


Because call centers have become so common, it is inevitable that everyone will have to deal with call center workers more and more often whether you want to or not. What I'd like to do is give you some ways you can get off the phone quicker and make sure you get quick, responsive service.

1. When making your call, have the following things in front of you: your personal information(address, account numbers, ID numbers, etc.), a pen and a paper, and a magazine or Game-boy(you will probably spend some time on hold).

2. Before you start speaking to the agent, remember this very important thing: you've got to let the agent take control of the conversation. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying let them abuse you or sell you something you don't want. What people calling call centers don't realize is that all call centers have a call taking screen on the computer in front of them. This screen is where they enter all of the raw data that will make up your order. The program is set up to make the agent ask the questions in a certain order. If the agent can follow this order, they will finish your transaction very quickly. But if you fight them all the way and insist on telling the story your way, they will either have to do a lot of mouse work, or write things down on paper, or just keep asking you the same questions over and over until you stop talking and start listening. Letting the agent ask the questions makes them feel like you are not a jerk and builds up social capital. That means they will want to help you if you aren't a pushy jerk.

3. Call center workers are sometimes graded on how long they take on calls. Don't tell them all of the background of your life leading up to the pivotal event that led you to call them...

"After watching the dolphins play so carefree, I realized my life was going nowhere. I felt confused and lost. This was when my dog started sending me very clear psychic messages encouraging me to find a "a new space" for my spirit. That's when I decided that I was going to make a pilgrimage to find this "new space". I then realized that an increase in my credit line would facilitate my journey into inner peace and harmony."
You think I'm going way over the top, but I'm not. I have had calls almost that ridiculous. Maybe it would have been better to simply say, "Hi, I'm calling to get an increase in my credit line." and then shut up and let the person on the other end of the phone help you.

4. Invariably, most calls end up with me asking you numbers and addresses and you telling me once and me repeating them. I'm going to let you in on a three tricks that makes this easier. First, realize that people can't remember letters bigger than three digits in a group. If you rattle off a letter like 6978 4634 2513 without grouping it, you may end up repeating it twice. Secondly, when you group numbers, group them as two or three digit number groups:
359 is pronounced "three-fifty-nine", not "three-five-nine".
6732 is pronounced "sixty-seven-thirty-two" and not "six-seven-three-two".
What this does is prevent many common mistakes and makes it easier to understand the other person, even if they may have an accent different than yours. Thirdly, make a conscious effort to imagine your are writing these numbers down or typing them yourself. This will make you slow down and try to allow them to type the numbers in more accurately.

5. One more thing related to numbers and letters. Don't use a phonetic alphabet("Alpha,Bravo,Charlie,Delta") unless you have memorized it, or its part of your job. I have people do this and think they sound cool, they don't know the all the letters, make up silly words, and just make a simple call go on and on and on. Just say the freakin' letters, ok? And for the love of all that is holy and good, do not say "Niner"! You are not trapped behind enemy lines calling for air support! Ok? Unless you are a pro, we are just laughing at you after the call!

5.When you first start the conversation, write down the person's name and the time the call started. If they won't give you a name then ask for an extension or operator number. Then when you are done, ask if there is a transaction number, or a control number. This gives an advantage if there are problems in the future with your transaction, and is sort of a low-key way to communicate that you expect good, accurate service without being obnoxious.

Thanks for reading,

AC
 
Comments:
As a dreaded call center director, I must say you have some valid points. I have left companies for the very reasons you describe. I run a call center with less then 20% turnover, we do it right. Bad call centers give us all a bad name. Keep looking , good ones are out there.
 
I should have clarifed my last post, it was not specifically directed at this blog but I have read a lot your blogs and the comments people made to them since I was referred here by Call Center Magazine. I hope more directors will come and see and read, and more importantly react. Going without reviews is the same thing as saying I don't give a crap about you, and if you do not care, why oh why should you expect loyalty. Thankfully many like you seem to simply take care of the custoemr in spite of management, keep you chin up, I am always looking for people that challenge the way we do business and want to work (not bitch) to fix it. Thanks for sharing your insights.
 
Thanks for your kind and gracious words. You sound like you'd be a great boss.

AC
 
that reminds me of one of my first conversations way back when I was 'green'. Our customer acct#s start with 2 letters followed by several numbers. Of course T's and P's and N's and M's are the worst.
When they said "TP2345567" I asked "TP, like tee-pee?" and then to make it worse I added "you know, like INDIAN tee-pee?". The caller didn't think anything of it and the call continued on just fine but my cubemate was hysterical. Atleast I didn't say "TP, like toilet paper?".
 
So you have the attention of the 'bigwigs'!! Cool! What a great way to get different perspectives. I told everyone at work about your blog when I first found it. Our director does a great job from what I can tell, he's friendly toward us all when he passes us in the hall, even knows most of our names and there are ALOT of us, hundreds, he's fair, he listens. Just trying to do his job like the rest of us. I'd like to think he's in your audience.
 
This post should be printed nationally!

I remember form my days on the phone how many customers just don't understand how to place an order, check on an order or call about a problem with an order. They all seem to think they have to do it their way.

With call center agents going through all this training on how to deal with customers, you would think some more effort would go into "training" customers on how to deal with call agents.
 
Congrats on the article!

hmmmm....I sent that article to a few management people at company x....I wonder if there might actually be a change? no probably nothing more than some balloons
 
As for the phonetic alphabet, what if we are pros calling from behind enemy line? Is it okay? For instance, would this be appropriate:

CALL CENTER, THIS IS DESPARATE, MY STATION INNER PEACE AND HARMONY DEFICIENT, REQUEST IMMEDIATE INCREASE IN CREDIT LINE, BREAK, MY ACCOUNT NUMBER VICTOR KAYBEK TREE FIFE SEVEN ZERO NINER, I SAY AGAIN, VICTOR KAYBEK TREE FIFE SEVEN ZERO NINER, BREAK, HOW COPY, OVER.

Sorry, I was just surfing through in search of inner peace and harmony and couldn't resist :) Nice site, BTW.
 
Oh I found a site that is aware of the modern insanity.... we went call center without calling it that about 4 years ago and have slowly progressed, so the employees and clients weren't aware. Now we know, we are what we are. All the "agents" are struggling to become inpersonal and to deal with only statistics and not the real job.
I added you to my favorites....
I will be reading all your post soon.
 
I am enjoying your Blog. As a Director who rose from the ranks, I really appreciate your point of view. It's unfortunate more people who sit in the director's office haven't ever had to slog away on the phone for a few years.

Keep up the blog! It's great!
 
And for the love of all that is holy and good, do not say "Niner"! You are not trapped behind enemy lines calling for air support! Ok?

That just made me crack up laughing!
 
Thanks Gidge!
AC
 
Good suggestions --now if call centers would just stop outsourcing to India. I am so tired to having to deciper heavy accents.
 
I've often thought about how its got to be difficult working in a call center in India having to deal with Americans. Not because Americans are so horrible, but because the two countries are so different that they must have a real hard time understanding where we are coming from. I know when I call an Indian call center, it's kind of tough for me too.
AC
 
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