Competition time.

CallCentreTurnover cartoon

Having finally managed the settings, until this coming Thursday the Kindle version of Secret Diary of a Call Centre will be available for FREE. I really hope you enjoy the book and if you do then, please feel free to leave a review!

In conjunction with this I am launching my first competition. I have an original version of the above artwork (or rather doodle) – inked by me. To win this just answer the following

What reason do I give for having to be careful when discussing the last call centre I worked in?

To give you a clue it’s a piece of legislation.

the winner will be chosen at random. Answers to my email at diaryofacallcentre@gmail.com

CG

Diary of a Call Centre: Book of the Blog

Those of you following the blog may remember that a while ago I announced my intention to put together a book of the blog, and that I had indicated this would be available in October.

Well, October came and went, and so did November, but I’m pleased to announce that now, in December, the book of the blog is available via Amazon.

I’ve brought together the very best of the blog and some new material – including an account of my very first call centre job – all in one handy volume.

I really hope you all enjoy the book and check back here for future giveaways and competitions I will be running, as well as continuing to post my thoughts and and experiences of the call centre.

Thanks

Call Guy

How to complain to a call centre

At first glance call-centres and restaurants couldn’t appear more different, but the way I see it they’re really quite similar. Both feature itinerant workforces doing long hours with low pay running the gauntlet of dealing with the general public day in day out. Just take this article in the Guardian on how to complain in a restaurant. It could easily be wtitten about the call centre. In fact so much so that I’ve adapted many of the points as one thing I’m asked quite often is what tips I have for dealing with call centres.

Anyway, here is my adapted list for how to get customer service satisfaction:

Don’t call whilst drunk

Halfway through a bottle of wine is probably not the best time to call a call centre with that problem of yours and is more likely to end in confrontation than resolution.

Don’t ask to speak the the manager

The restaurant article makes the point that in the restaurant  bad service is usually down to poor management, training and recruitment, with staff being innocent victims caught in the crossfire. This definately does apply to the call centre where what agents can and can’t do is often rigidly defined…… by management. Added to the fact that in the call centre the manager doesn’t actually want to speak to you anyway so all you’re doing is messing up my hard-won call stats. Definitely don’t begin a call this way as it will just turn me against you

Make your point plainly and politely

This goes without saying. Quite often the agent knows what the problem is, even sympathises with you. Keep them onside and more they will do what they can to help.

Put yourself in their shoes

The trick here, according to the restaurant article, is differentiating between genuine rudeness and laziness and staff having a genuinely hard time dealing with a crisis, or a surge in demand. In the call centre this means don’t shout at someone because you’ve been hanging on the line for 40 minutes. They’ve probably been having the day from hell and as the article states “picking on people who are clearly having a hard time of it is tantamount to bullying.”

Don’t talk to people as if they’re idiots

In my call centre the chances were you were speaking to someone working their way to wards a MSc in biochemistry. Just because someone works in a call centre doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

The menu is not optional

Again, this applies equally to the call centre – in fact even more so. I once had a row with a customer because I couldn’t fit their greeting on an item within the space which the system allowed. They just didn’t understand that there was a character limit which was set in stone and thought that somehow I should be able to change this and that I wasn’t. Dealing with a call centre you really need to know

Know when to walk away

Sometimes, you will never get satisfaction. I’ve worked for companies which just did not care and would let customers throw themselves onto the rocks of frustration over and over. The customers clearly thought that in the rules of customer service land that something must give, if only their complaint would make it to the right person. This blind belief would lead to them spending hours on the phone, letter writing and emailing.

Anatomy of a Call Centre

picture1background

I’ve had this diagram in my head for a while so I’m pleased to finally get it down in some form. It shows my view of how the call centre works, and my role in the whole process. My position is very much to counter the negative energy of the customers by diffusing and absorbing their anger (something Arlie Hochschild referred to as ‘emotion labor’) I’m  a conduit for the system, the agglomeration of software and procedures which governs each firms day to day operations and determines the form and limitations of our interactions – If the system won’t allow it it can’t be done. The system though can’t emote, and its apologies – if it could apologise – would be as unconvincing as those tinny automated announcements you get when your train is delayed and which make me wonder if the railway companies are engaged in a secret project to build a computer which is actually sorry for your delay. Until someone succeeds that project we have the call centre.

 

First taste of the call centre

It must have been sometime in the early nineties. My Dad had a business selling fresh cream cakes and these were particularly popular with offices where people would place bulk orders for birthdays and other special events. As the delivery boy it meant I’d seen the inside of many offices. This one was from the outside fairly unspectacular. It had a façade of yellow-ish stone and sat on the outlying part of the office district where a busy roundabout separated downtown from the down-trodden part of town. Next door was a derelict Victorian Gothic church which always struck me as a little creepy.

The inside was gloomier than the airy new buildings I’d been used to. This feeling of difference though did little to prepare me for what I was about to see. I was directed with my tray of cakes into the middle of a high-ceilinged room. All around me sat people in headsets, the nearest a smart-looking man pressed a button “Hello, Eagle Star Direct, how can I help you?” Then a pause, followed by “I’ll just put you through.” Then again “Hello, Eagle Star Direct, how can I help you?” a pause, followed by “I’ll just put you through.” And again. and again, and again. The repetition seemed endless. I watched and listened, transfixed. What was this place? I wanted to get out and couldn’t get rid of the cakes soon enough. As I opened the passenger door to the van and swung myself into the seat ready for my next office I made a mental note. I never ever want to work in a place like this.

Call Centre Documentary: Help Needed

Towards the end of last year I was approached by Dragonfly Television, makers of’One Born Every Minute, who are in the process of making a new documentary series about complaints and customer service in  Britain.

Among other things they’re going to be featuring call centres and are keen to speak to people who have experienced a negative effect from working in the call centre:

We’re interested in showing just what the toll of being on the end of a barrage of abuse can result in, our episode is going to be surrounding utility companies and at the moment they seem to really be at the very forefront of people’s vitriol. So we’d like to understand just how the decisions that are made at an executive level can have a negative effect not only on the customer but also the call centre worker themselves.

If anyone is interested in sharing their story, please contact Jonathan.Skuse@dragonfly.tv