Call Centre Confessions

10 years ago, I worked for a large mobile phone operator’s customer service. My role involved taking inbound calls from customers who needed help – usually this involved talking them through setting up the Picture Messaging or internet on their phone. Sometimes I talked them through tariffs, how to find contact numbers or how to top up their phones. I worked 10.5 hours a day, 4 days a week and I’ll be honest – it got tedious at times.

Myself and some of my colleagues found ways to pass the time though, and I thought I’d share some of those with you today…. 

Yep – pressing mute to use expletives was one of my favourite pastimes. (Under my breath, of course)! 

We also used to pick a word of the day and get points for how many times we said it in our shift. This word would always be something totally unrelated to mobile phones and guaranteed to make team mates smile when they heard you work it into a call. Words like “Sausage, Hula hoop, and Rocket” were usually chosen, and more often than not, it was me who managed to get them into a call first. I could keep a straight face when saying things like “That’s your internet set up, Mr Jones – please will you type “Sausage” into google so we can make sure it’s working correctly from this side?” – something most of my colleagues struggled with. The perk of my poker face was that I rarely had to do the vending machine tea run! – The loser of the day was on brew duty the next working day! 

Complaints were commonplace in the call centre. So much so, I was “nominated” to deal with the escalations on our team. Apparently I oozed empathy and had a way of calming down irate customers. My approach was to be as sickly sweet as possible – imagine laying syrup on top of sugar on top of honey and you’d be about there. The more the caller swore, the sweeter I’d get. It drove them crazy, I swear! No reaction from me. My favourite line was, “Miss Smith, I’m more than happy to sit here and be sworn at for the next 8 hours, but it’s costing you 20p a minute to do so, so how about if we get to the root of the issue and resolve it quickly for you?” 

It wasn’t all fun and games though – my first week taking calls, I had a woman come through to me right at the end of my shift. She had rang every night for months asking for £1 credit to be added so she could phone the emergency doctor. I realised she had been given well over £100 in credit, which had all been used on texting, not calls at all. I decided to nip her little game in the bud and said our new policy was not to add credit in an emergency, but to transfer the caller to their GP, so could she give me the number and I’d do that. Cue 90 minutes of her raging down the phone at me, and then my manager. I thought I’d be in a ton of trouble, but my manager was really impressed I’d said no and paid me overtime for the 90 minutes extra I had to sit listening to her complain. 

My top 3 tips for phoning call centres are: 

1). Write down the name of the advisor and use it during the call – they’ll be more helpful if you take the time to speak respectfully to them. 

2). Don’t shout and swear. No matter how frustrated you are, being calm and listening will get your issue resolved faster than shouting will. If you are unhappy with the resolution, ask to speak to a supervisor. Advisors can only do so much – if they say no, it’s pointless arguing with them. Say something like ” Thank you for your help so far, but I’d like to speak to your supervisor to discuss what happens next”. 

3). Make sure your phone is well charged – the biggest issue I had in the call centre was mobile batteries going flat half way through a call, so we couldn’t get back through to the customer. 

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