just wait, it's coming! dddragon presents: Is Anything Truly Random?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Call Center Life

When I worked at the BOMC call center, our calls were supposed to be under three minutes. At the call center that I'm at now, if all your calls are under three minutes, they want to know what you're doing to hurry the customers off the phone.

We're supposed to let our customers feel comfortable with us on the phone, that they should feel free to ask questions about our products, to ask our opinions on how to furnish and decorate their rooms. "Be Consultative" ~ how's that for a phrase? ~ but not "just" an order-taker. We're supposed to shop-along with the caller. Some of the women at the Center are really into that.

While I basically agree with all of that, I have to say that asking us to inquire about children's ages, names, baby due dates, etc., is intrusive. If any of that comes up naturally in the course of the conversation during the call, then fine. Saying "isn't that special?", "oh, how adorable", "how wonderful for you!" may come naturally for some, but not for me. When I can hear doorbells, crying kids, cell phones ringing, and more coming from the background, usually the customer just wants to get those particular items ordered and get off the phone.

It's always great to get compliments from our customers. Most of the time my compliments come in the form of "You're so quick and efficient ~ I really appreciate that!" Sometimes customers will tell me way too much about their lives (monster-in-laws, health problems, spouse problems, moving problems, decorating problems, you name it, I think I've heard it). After a 30 or 45 minute call like that, they'll say that it was a pleasure to talk to me. Once, after a discussion that got way more political than I usually allow (she and I saw eye-to-eye on things) a woman told me that I must be a Virgo. I am and said how did she know. "I can spot a Virgo a mile away," she told me, "we're all bitches that speak our minds!" LOL ~ I must admit she was a hoot to talk with.

In almost five years I've gotten only two obscene callers. One of those was a guy who used to call regularly and some of the other associates got him many times - they called him the "blanket guy" because he called to ask deep, probing questions about the textures of our premium blankets.

BTW ~ all call centers have various ways of rewarding or recognizing the associates that take the calls. We now have email surveys that go to customers who placed an order and gave us an email address. Some customers ask to be transferred to our supervisor to tell them how good we were. But what really counts big with the management is when our customers take the time to write and mail a letter. If you feel like a call center employee really did something good, ask for the address and mail in a letter telling management. Of course, the reverse is true, too. It hurts the rest of us when one of our co-workers is rude or generally not helpful. They need to be educated or spoken to, and it won't happen if the supervisors don't know about it.

Phone Specials: we've always got 'em and we're supposed to offer them to every caller. I'll usually say "and we have our beach towels on special for those calling in today" and when the customer says "no, thank you", I just finish up the order. Other call center associates will go on to say something like "we've got other specials, wouldn't you like to hear them?" Heck, 99% of our callers know that we have them. If they want to hear them, they frequently ask to right up front.

I'll close today with a little funny incident that happened while a customer was giving me an order. I could hear her daughter, saying "mommy, mommy" over and over again. She must've been right at her mother's side. In the middle of giving me an item number, the mother exclaimed loudly "OW!" I asked "What happened? Is everything okay?" The woman started to laugh and "She bit me!"

That little girl REALLY wanted her mother's attention!


At 9:38 AM, Blogger AP3 said...

I could never do your job. I really hate talking on the phone, for some reason. I almost always try to get off ASAP.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

One my sister-in-law and wife were playfully giving me a hard time, and I said: "Bitches!" Our 4-year-old granddaughter said: "He called you peaches!"

So I bet that's what the caller really said: "We're all PEACHES that speak our minds." Surely a nice lady like that wouldn't say "bitch."

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Doug said...

That's a nice post, and I'll remember that the next time I talk to a call center. Usually I count on the fact that we're being recorded and pay the compliment over the phone.

By the way, Consultative is a word I would never try to define.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

I like hearing about the calls. People are all sooooo different.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

Some call centres in England have been moved to India as the wages are cheaper.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger dddragon said...

Jean-Luc: yes, and I've talked a couple of times to those people. They try to fool me with names like "Peter" and "Michael", but they have hard-to-understand accents and don't understand half of what I'm saying.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

I could never do your job. Never. I would last about 30 minutes before I shoved a phone up a supervisors balloon knot.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Fred said...

LOL - good stories. It's a tough job working in a call center. I check out the site you linked in one of your prior posts, the stories are a riot!

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Well, the little girl got her mom's attention didn't she?
I'm sure you are courteous and don't verbally assault your customers to get them to buy the special offers.
Old Hoss really paid all the Pezes some big compliments. Well deserved, I must say!

At 7:53 PM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

*LOL* I couldn't do your job. But one of my best friends does telemarketing and she's amazingly good at it. She also is my assistant, and makes follow-up calls for me too, in her spare time. She has an incredible ability to really connect with people over the phone. Over the years, I've had men quiz me about her; what she looks like, what her personal life is like... I don't know how she does it! She's very professional, but amazingly warm.

At 8:57 AM, Blogger GodlessMom said...

Balloon knot?

It never occurred to me that obscene callers would actually go after call centers. People are so damned weird! The texture of the blankets? That is so twisted!

At 5:45 PM, Blogger actonbell said...

Ha! the blanket guy! No, I couldn't do that, either. I'm not comfortable over the phone.

At 8:33 AM, Blogger A Little Bar of Soap said...

You should talk to people about our Savior, Jesus Christ. What a wonderful opportunity for evangelism!

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Doug said...

LBOS, that would probably be consultative.

At 5:59 AM, Blogger allison said...

Amazing blog! I really enjoyed reading and hope you keep updating it frequently! I really liked the information on call centers! I have my own call centers blog if you would like to come and see what I have on mine! Also, may I put a link to this blog of yours on mine?


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