If I ask nicely…

If I ask you all very nicely will you try and be nice to people in call centres?

I know it is hard when you are understandably irate and seemingly getting nowhere. I’ve been guilty of being snappish myself, but I do have a good reason to ask you all to try and be nice – the person who answers the phone might be.

Well, it could be. You have no idea who is on the other end of the line.

When I am sitting at my regular desk I have to answer the phone as well. This used to be fine because we got all the calls, and the nice ones more or less balanced out the nasty, but now our calls get funnelled through a switchboard, which is staffed by people who are capable of dealing with most of the calls themselves. Whilst this means I have to answer the phone less, so get more work done, it also means that only the calls Switchboard can’t deal with get passed through… And invariably these are the awkward ones.

Most of these are ok, because it involves a certain degree of detective work to find out what has got frelled along the way – anything that stretches the brain is good!

But then there are the really evil, nasty buggers who get through.

I had one in particular today that, by the time the gentleman had hung up on me, I was shaking like a wibbly jelly. Seriously, for five minutes I was incapable of holding a pen. True, this was an exceptionally nasty call (I can normally give as good as I get, water off a duck’s back and all that), but I invariably get one or two a week who take nasty to a whole new level of offensiveness.

I am not a bad person, I will bend over backwards to help you if I can, and I am more than sympathetic to your problems. I totally understand that it is a stressful situation, and you’ve probably spoken to two or three people before me already, but that does not give you license to insult, yell, and verbally abuse me over the phone.

I’ve had one gentleman who did ring back a few days later, very shame faced, and apologised to me for being such a grumpy arse – but that is just one person in five months. I don’t mind that we don’t get more thanks from people. I do mind when people are unnecessarily nasty to me.

So yes, on behalf of every poor hapless person who has to answer a phone in the line of duty, please try to be nice when you ring up to complain. Honey gets you more bees and all that. If you’re nice to me, I’m more likely to search through the twenty two thousand forms that line our office to find your application and fast-track it. If you’re nasty, I have to fight the compulsion to find your form and then hide it so you have to wait another six to eight weeks.


6 thoughts on “If I ask nicely…

  1. The last time I had to ring a call centre, it was with regards to my Demon ADSL account. They were from either India or Slough. And all their names were John Smith or Bob Smith or Dave Smith (even the women). I was as nice as I could be… until what was probably the 20th time I had to call them (I made 41 calls to that call centre – it wasn’t until I asked them to check something that we got to the centre of the problem).

  2. I remember the last time I had to get really snurgy on the phone – it was to the Apple call centre a few years back when I was trying to get my PowerBook delivered. I had to wait nearly two months in the end because the first one they had sent out got lost, and the second one had a few weeks vacation in a depot in Holland for some reason. Man, that was a fun series of phone calls.

    On the whole though, be nice. If nothing else, chances are they are as confused and irritated by the whole situation as you are!

  3. Yeah, on the whole I’m nice to people unless I have a reason not to be, having worked where I have direct contact with customers for 16 years.

  4. I just wish that the people in call centres are allowed acted liked real people sometimes and not robots. I know there are rules to follow, but sometimes it would be nice if one of them said “Look, I know this situation is shit.” I think it would help if they were trained better in the first place in how to deal with people. Mostly they have no idea how to handle someone who is upset, and let’s face it, that’s about 90% of people who ring call centres (Not including you obviously Cas, as you have very good people skills).

  5. Why thank you Moose. I like to think I have some good skills as well. Not nunchuck skills, but skills none the less (think Napoleon Dynamite for that last reference – I’m in a remarkably silly mood right now).

    And snurgy is a good word.

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