Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Thursday, August 25, 2005
  Sex in the Call Center

No, I don't have a sorted tale to tell you, sorry. I'm sure you can find something else nearby, after all this is the internet.

What I have been thinking about lately is how often people in call centers use sex to get what they want. Now when I say that, I'm not talking about actual acts in a dirty smelly closet, or some kind of call center where you pay $1.95 a minute for someone to talk dirty to you. What I am talking about is how both call center workers, and the people we call use a sexual way of speaking to get what we want.

All day long I talk to hard-boiled corporate customers who are as tough as Ebenezer Scrooge, and would not give me a penny extra without a serious struggle. But when one of the women that works here calls them and lays on the charm, lowers their voice, or lays on some kind of cute accent, they turn all warm and fuzzy.

At first I did not believe it was true that people changed so noticeably when speaking to someone of the opposite sex. Then one day I found myself training a woman, who had a voice that could melt a stick of butter if you put it up to the phone(sweet lady that she was, she was what you would call "striking", but not in a good way). I was listening in as she called customers back to get decisions on different transactions, or to let them know a price change, etc. etc.

She called one of the meanest customers we have to ask for a decision. When he heard her voice, it was like he was doing his best Barry White impersonation. He was charming, and easy to deal with, didn't complain that the price had changed, he was putty in her hands.

This isn't just a female thing. It's possible to make it work both ways. If you listen to the call center buzz, you can tell the change when one of the men is talking to a woman they think is attractive, or a woman customer they want to "influence". They start spending more time on the call, they start speaking like some smooth jazz station DJ and spend more time asking personal questions and drawing out the chit-chat.

I used to find this kind of disgusting, but I've made peace with it. Speaking in a way that makes you attractive to other people is not wrong. As long as you aren't creepy or over the top, it actually makes the work easier. Its the same reason I shave and put cologne on and dress well even though I'm not looking for a woman. Its the same reason my wife wears clothes that emphasize her best features. While I hate to admit it, being as attractive and pleasant as possible is very important to getting along in society.

My classmates from the Liberal Arts University I went to would complain that I'm reinforcing outdated stereotypes and assisting in keeping women in roles as sex objects instead of empowering them as equals. They may be right. Then again, most of the women in my workplace prefer to empower themselves through femininity instead of trying to sound "gender neutral". I would respond to them that its unfortunate, but pragmatism continues to make the rules when you have to make a living.

What's sad is that this power of hyper-femininity seems to be the only way to exert influence for many of the women I work with. Many of them are as smart and as capable as the men that are there, but they never get taken seriously. It seems even when they communicate very strongly to the male customers, and some of the female customers even, they still don't take them seriously.

Thanks for reading,


I must admit that I, on NUMEROUS occassions have resorted to what I refer to as my "little girl voice".

It works. WELL. I used to deal with highly pissed off people, and most of the time, the sweet, innocent calming voice works.

Whatever works I figure....
I found when I was working Tech Support, that various types of end users responded to variations in tone, word choice and style of speech and personal chit-chat.

Of course, dealing with IT people required a whole different persona on my part.

In short, tailor the "on-air" personality to get the job done most efficiently.

The down-side, of course, is having a kind of split personality that sometimes bleeds over into your personal life. My family and friends tell me that when, on the phone, we go from normal chit-chat to computer-related subjects, my "on-air" personality changes instantly, leading to a little disorientation on their part. This is something I do without even noticing.
ACTUAL call from this week:

Can I talk to you, or are you just a note taker??

Because, y'know, I couldn't POSSIBLY solve his computer problems without a penis. Even though he called a TECH SUPPORT. I get talked down to a lot. Probably five or six times a day i declare to the office that I hate humanity.

BTW, thordora, nice avitar. I do loves me the martian manhunter.
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Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.

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