An Open Letter from a Call Centre Worker

To All Who Have Ever Shouted Down a Sales Call,

We all know the misery of receiving a Tele-Sales call; rushing to the ringing phone, picking it up only to be met with silence broken by chatter and finally a delayed “Hello, Mr./Mrs. Such-and-such?” Then the sales pitch for something you don’t need, don’t want, didn’t ask for and, quite possibly, haven’t heard of. It’s nothing short of frustrating, especially when you’re waiting on that important call from the doctor or just on your way out the door.

However, spare a though for the poor bugger on the other end of the line, who receives a maelstrom of abuse, rejections, sarcasm and deaf pensioners who simply repeat the word “what” at increasing volumes down their handsets. As it happens, I am currently one of the unfortunate souls on the other end of that line and, in a five hour shift this week, I took 353 calls, one of which ended successfully.

From my short, but rather full on, experience in outbound tele-sales -selling those new gas boilers you’ve probably heard so much about by now – I have realised that a large amount of the abuse and negativity experienced by those with the headsets is down to a fundamental lack of understanding of what exactly is going on. So allow me to attempt to explain things as best as I can.

The biggest complaint from people is that they are on the Telephone Preference Service (or another similar scheme) and hence should not be receiving sales calls. Well yes and no. The TPS essentially prevents companies obtaining your number without permission. However, when you fill out any kind of form for something like your Tesco Club Card, a customer survey, etc., there are generally little small print boxes that you require to tick to prevent the company being able to sell your data on. If these boxes aren’t ticked you essentially give your permission for your data to be sold on to other companies.

It’s sneaky and underhand, but unfortunately it means you have, in a legal sense, given your permission for your details to be distributed. The Telephone Preference Service, and indeed all other similar services, is not some kind of magic wand that can be waved about to stop you receiving calls altogether. So, contrary to what you might believe, when you tell that unfortunate soul on the other end that they’re breaking the law by calling you, they’re most likely not.

Secondly, one must also note that we don’t control the data, we don’t choose who we call, hell, we on the floor don’t even have access to the data. Most companies will have a slightly different way of doing things but the basic principle is the same: A large computer file exists on a server with all the names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. of the people we will call at some point, the dialler software phones multiple numbers at once and, as they pick up, punts the calls onto individual ‘agents’ who are then able to see the customers details for the duration of the call.

Nobody on the floor actually makes a call, we don’t simply sit with a list of numbers and pick one at random. So when you ask me why I have called you, I haven’t, the dialler did. At no point, unless a callback to the same or different number is requested by a customer, will any agent actually make a concious decision to call a certain number.

This brings me onto another point which is, admittedly, one of the most annoying – the silence. I have received sales calls before and the silence is truly frustrating, repeatedly shouting “hello” into your handset in desperate search of a response. However, as I mentioned before, the dialler dials several numbers at once and punts you onto one of the agents after you’ve picked up, hence the delay. Again, the fault of the dialler, not the individual agent.

It should also be noted that sometimes there is a bit of a delay between us saying something and you saying it due to the volume of calls going through one phone line at once. This may make it sound like we’re trying to talk over you, we’re really not, it’s just that the equipment is a little crap.

Incorrect details also irk people, and rightly so, however it doesn’t help to start screaming over it. It’s often the case that people, especially in social housing, move homes and the names of the occupiers change. Sometimes this isn’t picked up in the data because it was obtained before the move happened. If this is the case, the most helpful thing from both our points of view is to simply correct me, in that case I simply change the record, mark your number as already having been called and move on. Screaming at the top of your voice into my ear that “THIS IS NOT MRS. BLOODY MOHAMMED!” is not going to help either of us in the slightest.

Finally, my personal favourite; “You people have already called me.” No, we haven’t. It’s more than likely you receive a number of sales calls in the space of a week and, especially with the current government incentives to make your homes more green, more and more companies are springing up with similar sounding names – there are only so many ways to put ‘Green’ and ‘Energy’ together into a company name.

This means that you may get a lot of calls with people citing very similar company names, some of which may even be very nearly the same. However, by and large you will not be called by the same company twice, especially if you inform them that you are not interested or you already have the product. In this case you will most likely be marked as a “Not Interested” or “Doesn’t Qualify” or similar, removed from the hopper of numbers and left alone by that particular company.

In general, your number will likely only be called again either if you have asked to be called back or if the company has moved to a new campaign – which typically go on for months at a time. It is there for quite unlikely that you will be phoned by the same people twice, least of all in the space of a few weeks.

I just want to say this: I know it’s annoying and downright frustrating for you, but frankly working in a call centre is no picnic either, in fact, it’s quite soul destroying at times. My message therefore is this: Remember that we are having a worse time than you are – maybe even take some pleasure in that -, we’ll try to be as civil and courteous down the phone as possible, please do try and reciprocate (I know it’s hard sometimes).

Finally, if you really don’t want this call all you need to do is to tell us so in a calm and polite fashion; let us know that you’re not interested, calmly ask us to remove your number from our data and we will. Simple as that. A shouting match will only finish with both parties being thoroughly miserable at the end of it, and neither of us want that. Just remember you’re still speaking to a person at the other end and we’ll get through this.

Sincerely,

A Student Trying to Pay the Rent Through Summer.

 

P.S.

But those calls with the recorded messages? Yeah, fuck ’em!

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8 comments

  1. In Germany such calls are forbidden by law, thank God, unless the caller has acquired respective permission by the person to be called in writing PRIOR to any such call. In writing means in writing and not something ticked or not ticked on an unknown sheet of paper.

  2. It’s nice to get the other side. I will certainly remember this post next time we receive a call. I usually just say thank you but I’m not interested, next time I may ask if they could please take our number off their system.

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