I’ve got a screamer

The Christmas rush is finally beginning to subside, but there is still no rest in the Call Centre as placing is replaced by chasing which turns increasingly desperate as Christmas approaches.

I’m bracing myself for the ‘screamers’ as they are known in industry terms. Leave aside any notions of goodwill over the festive season, until New Year has cleared this is screamer season.

I can always tell straight away when I’ve got a screamer; like an angler can tell by the first tug on their line how much of a fight the fish will put up.

It’s all in the tone of voice travelling down the line. Years of being screamed at has taught my subconscious to spot that tell-tell agitated tone before the caller has reached the end of their first word. This is the first tug of the line which tells me how the next 5, or if I’m unlucky 10 minutes will play out.

My strategy, an adaptation of the one you’d find in the text-books, is to subtly shift my headset back from my ear half-listening to the callers opening salvo about how rubbish my company is. This method stops my stress level rising and allows me to pick up when the customer pauses: I know then their momentum has gone, they have thrown everything into the attack and now there is a window where I can take control of the call.

I then make my grand entrance, ask what the customer would like us to do then either propose that as the solution or offer an alternative if the first is not possible.

This is effective with most calls. Some customers however, choose to enter what I call ‘the call centre game’. This usually goes along the lines of:

Opening gambit:

Customer: I want to speak to your manager”

Call Guy: “I’m afraid that’s not possible”


Customer “Why not”

Call Guy “I’m afraid no ones available right now, but I’ll get them to call you back”

Customer attempts to break the deadlock:

Customer: “What is no one available? Why not, don’t you have anyone who can speak to me now, how many supervisors do you have?”

Response – (at this point do not answer any questions, otherwise the customer will then try to pick holes in your responses)

Call Guy: “No I’m afraid that’s not possible,we’re very busy, but I’ll make sure your details are passed on”

Customer resorts to indirect threats:

Customer: “Whats your name”

Call Guy: “Call Guy”

Customer makes final attempt:

Customer: “I’ll just hang on the line until someone is available”

Call Guy: “I’m afraid it will be quite some time until someone will be available and I really need to help other people now. I will take your details down and will get someone to call you back.”

I once saw a reality TV show about SAS training. One task saw the participants trained to withstand interrogation. They were taught to give only rank, blood type and serial number.

They then had to put this in practice during a real interrogation. The interrogators tried to break down resistance by engaging the captives in conversation. This gave them control over the situation which they could then exploit.

Strange how the same principles apply to the SAS and the call centre


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