Happy Christmas from the Call Centre

Happy Christmas everyone. Hopefully you’ve got all your presents and are not waiting anxiously on an order today; or even worse is hanging on the telephone in queue position 16 in an attempt to find out what’s going on. Hopefully too you’re not one of the people taking those calls. If you are then I hope you’ve got a bottle of wine and an understanding friend or partner waiting at the end of your shift.

Thankfully this year I’ve also got all of my presents courtesy of Royal Mail who I think are unfairly vilified. As someone who has dealt with Yodel (formerly DHL) many times. I can say that Royal Mail are hugely preferable and it would be a shame were they to be broken up, or sold off.

Also I’m not in the call-centre this Christmas. It’s a long story and I will bring it all up-to-date.

Some would say based on this story, an event which took place at the start of our Christmas build sometime in early November It’s a good thing too and I’d not be too inclined to disagree;

I didn’t have a great day today. It started badly when I turned off my alarm causing me to oversleep. I then cycled hard to get in with just enough time to make a cup of coffee and land in my seat right on my start time.

As our instructions are to begin taking calls at our start time at all costs my first action was to put myself  ‘in group’ and start taking calls. Still flustered from the rush I got my log-in details mixed up. One more  wrong move and I’d be locked out one of my main systems. I’d then have to trudge up to my managers desk and admit to my stupidity which is never a great way to start the day. Whatsmore the last time I got locked out of the system (through no fault of my own that time – someone else had been using my log-on for ‘training’) it took a period of weeks for someone in head-office on the continent to be bothered to reset my log-in.

I tried to avert this crisis by trying to scribble my password on a bit of paper, like spelling a word sometimes it just flows that way, and third time lucky. I was in, but my equilibrium was now irreparably out-of-kilter.

This is never a good position to be in. Like a ship navigating choppy waters in this job you need to meet the waves at the right angle else you’ll find yourself buffeted, tossed, turned, and dangerously out of control.

I could sense my slightly testy mood causing some friction as the first waves of calls came in, but I was still in control. Just.

Unfortunately I then got hit by an unexpected wave.

It began as a routine order. Just one of the hundreds I get through without incident each shift.

Sure enough I’d got to the end without my mood causing any problems. I clicked on the card payment button to take me onto the payment screen…

‘Can you read the card number back to me after I’ve given it to you?’ asked the customer.

It’s a question we get asked every so often by some of our more anxious customers, but it’s generally totally unnecessary as even the most basic of systems will tell you if a number doesn’t add up.

But in this case it was even more unnecessary as it was a live system which means that straight after typing in the number I hit the ‘pay now’ button and via the miracle of modern card payment technology the persons cardholder would be contacted for authorisation and payment would go through in 1.5 seconds or so.

I explained this to the customer saying that as it was such a live system it really wouldn’t be necessary. It would far be easier and more secure for me to just type the number and click the button. if the number was wrong the transaction wouldn’t go through…..

“But I just want to be sure” says the customer

I’m sure the text-book says something along the lines of ‘just humour the customer’ i.e Just read the number back and they’ll be happy and no more problem.

The problem is the text-book doesn’t deal with moods and I wasn’t in a great one. I decided to dig in.

“Well If I click pay and two seconds later it says ok, then I can assure you it will be ok.

It all seemed too logical to me. I also find that if you do read the number back the customer will mis-hear a number like and loudly shout “NO, NO” at some point, then you go through it again and so on…. easier to press the button and trust in the tech. Plus in my more testy moments I resent the thought that I’m incapable of being trusted to take down a number it’s what I do all day everyday after all.

The customer however, was too busy digging her trenches for any appeal to logic to succeed…

“So you won’t read the number back”

It had approached an irreparable point.

“No I don’t need to, as I’ve explained….”

“So you won’t do this for me”


“I can’t believe this. Just forget it. You’ve lost a customer.”


The line goes dead.