Don’t Call Me – The User’s Guide to Call Centres
I’ve mellowed. I really have. I find myself cooing over pictures of puppies and kittens on social media and occasionally, I smile. Sometimes not even at anything in particular; I just smile. Ridiculous. Yes, yes, I know that smiling is generally thought to be a pleasant experience and all that crap about it taking 43 muscles to frown and only 17 to smile, but I’ve never believed it. So I tend not to. Smile, that is. I like to think that I retain a sort of enigmatic, Mona Lisa type of facial expression. Either that or I’ve just broken wind recently. You decide.
Anyway, I’m doing it again. No, not smiling, don’t be stupid! I meant digressing, because I’m not actually talking about smiling. Well, I suppose I am in a way because I’m talking about how relieved I feel and how it makes me smile when I leave work, and it’s not because I hate my job. When I’m pushed to actually do something because I’d either starve or risk bankruptcy if I don’t, my job is what brings in the bacon. Which I know is a strange thing for a vegetarian to say. Forget I said it, I’m digressing and what would you do with all those aubergines anyway?
Back to the relief and the smiling when I leave a job which I do actually like, but which drives me to the point that when I’m at my desk I’m never smiling, and I never, ever want to pick up a phone again.
I work in a call centre. So, all I really do is answer the phone all day. Cushy, eh? Right? WRONG! A big full fat and sugary with chocolate sprinkles on top WRONG. If, like I once was – until I started this job – if you’re ever tempted to blame the person on the end of the phone whenever you’ve a complaint to voice at the service you’re getting from, say your broadband provider (you’re with Virgin Media, aren’t you?); your local authority or utility company, then a word of advice – don’t!
Chances are the person on the end of the phone, who you are yelling at, doesn’t even work for the Company which you most vociferously wish to advise of your viewpoint. In fact, your vociferous voicing of your viewpoint is probably one of the reasons why that Company engages a Call Centre to answer its’ calls. They’re not avoiding you, however, they’ve probably just got better things to do than listen to you swearing and cursing at the Customer Service Department because of a faulty knob on your remote control.
Admittedly, a great deal of my job does involve ‘answering the phone a bit’ as one of my neighbours misguidedly told me – well, if that’s all there is to it, you try picking up the phone 407 times in the same day for over 10,000 clients, develop a split second intimate knowledge of that clients’ business and then still deliver the same high quality call at the end of an eight hour shift as at the beginning and you’ll suddenly understand that working in a call centre isn’t just about ‘answering the phone a bit’ oh, and you’ll develop an antipathy about ever using the phone again – which is why none of my friends ever hear from me.
I know that since I got this job, my perception of call centres, and the people who work in them, has changed dramatically and mainly because I realise now that we’re not all uneducated dolts (that’s the people who call us – not the call centre staff) – my line manager was a data communications analyst, I myself have a Masters Degree, there are two trainee teachers and many students studying for various qualifications aside from those taking a career downshift (like me) who are perfectly well educated but chose to help members of the public who are obviously not.
Anyway, while you’re turning puce on the end of your phone and calling me an uneducated, thick bint (as one Mr Jacobs from Wootton Basset did quite recently, ‘Thank you, Sir, you have a nice day, too’) I sit there counting my various educational qualifications which include 13 O levels, 4 A levels, a B.A (Hons) and a Masters, and smiling my Mona Lisa smile whilst passing wind.
Call centre staff training is rigorous; not only are we given a grounding into our own client management systems, but we are given an in-depth knowledge of each and every clients’ business and a background into how they want their calls responding to. We have to be able to read instructions whilst talking to clients, type details and then make sure the correctly worded message gets sent to the appropriate person in the business. We have to deal with complaints, queries, sales orders, and as with certain accounts – disaster management and crisis calls.
But getting back to the complaints – and I won’t lie – there are various accounts that utilise our services just to field away customers whom have not received the best service standards from their own team, so they look to ours – in particular, mine, to ‘re-invigorate the customer experience’ – or listen to you yelling, basically. So how do you complain?
According to The Complaining Cow (www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk) there’s an art to complaining that few of us actually possess. So, first and above all – be polite! Often, the people you’re bellowing at aren’t the ones who caused the problem. Never swear, or be rude. People respond more positively if you are poite.
Try to be concise. I’ve lost count of the number of people I try to help and they reply ‘Oh, I haven’t got that on me right now’ when I ask for an account number, or a reference. We can’t help you if we don’t know what you are complaining about! Have all the correct information to hand in order to validate your complaint.
Don’t waffle. Quite often, call centre staff who cannot actually help with your dispute resolution process will not want or have time to listen to you recount every single experience you’ve had with their client (the Company you are complaining about) since 1995.
Be formal. Use good English and make certain that if you are spouting about knowing your rights, that you actually do!
Another good tip is to know what you want. Is it a refund you are after? Replacement goods? Tell us the best way to resolve your dispute and we will put this request to our client. Setting a timeframe for a response is also a good thing to do so that our client knows that they are working within a deadline.
The Complaining Cow’s final tip is one that fills my Bloggy Cow heart with glee – Don’t phone! Write to the Company with your grievance, with reasons, validations and requests for resolution. Address it to a manager and keep copies of all correspondence.
There you are. Now, off you go and write that letter and I’ll keep smiling enigmatically while my phone remains quiet. I might even go off and find something containing full fat, sugar and chocolate sprinkles. So please don’t phone me to complain – I’m eating!
© Amy J Steinberg 2018