Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Life In The Call Center--Some Basics

Today I want to post some tips for getting through by phone to the person or department you are trying to reach when you end up reaching a switchboard operator or call center customer service representative.
  • If you have the accurate extension number, please use it. Giving the name of the person may be helpful, but it also may not, depending on how large the organization is. The operator may not have a listing of the names of everyone in the business. I know I don't. The only names I know are those of the few people I deal with on a daily basis. Using the extension number is the quickest and easiest way to get through.

  • If you don't know the extension number, but you know the department, or job title, or area the person you are trying to reach works in, try giving that information to the operator. Again, this is going to get you through easier than the name might.

  • If you know the name but don't know anything else about the person's position in the company, repeating the name over and over, spelling the name over and over, and continuing to tell the operator that the person works there is not going to help if the operator has told you he/she needs an extension number. This kind of caller always amazes me. The more questions I ask to try to help figure out how to transfer this person to the person he/she wants to speak to, the more he/she repeats the name and even spells the name. If the name isn't getting you where you need to be, try giving more information, or listening to the questions you are being asked so maybe we can help you get through. If you have been told by the operator that you need to give more information for you to be transferred, repeating the same information over and over again is not going to help.

  • You may not know if you have reached a call center representative, but if the organization you are calling is large, you very possibly may be speaking to someone who is not located at the location you have called. If you have reached an operator or customer service rep, do not assume that this person knows everyone else in the business. If the business is large enough to be using this kind of service or has its own call center, the person you are speaking to is most likely not going to know each individual in each division of the company. It is especially important not to assume that the person in charge of the location you have called is the boss over the person you are speaking to on the phone. If you have reached a call center, you have reached an entirely different entity even though it is part of the same organization. Call centers generally have information about all the various business locations and departments, plus other information. Having knowledge of people's names, physical attributes such as "the lady with the long blonde hair and glasses" is not going to help you get to speak to that lady.

  • If you have reached a call center representative, he/she is not going to know where things are located at the location you are calling. For instance, specific offices, what businesses are located around this location unless they have been given this information specifically. I have direct addresses, one or two neighboring businesses, driving directions, and maybe a bit more to help people locate the business. I don't know the colors of the buildings, or what the buildings look like, etc. I am not there. I could be living clear across the country from the location you are calling. Other representatives of other businesses may have more information or less.

  • Some of these new automated systems can sound almost like you are talking to an actual person. The automated systems want very specific words used for them to work properly. If they do not "understand" what you are saying, you will most likely be transferred automatically to an operator. Once you are speaking with an operator, you can resume speaking normally instead of trying to use single, specific wording. You will be understood by the operator as long as the words you use are clear.

  • Hang-ups: As good as technology is today, telephone systems do disconnect ccassionally. If you are using a cell phone, calls get dropped. Please do not assume that someone you are speaking with has hung up on you out of rudeness. Most likely it is just a simple disconnect and was through no fault of either party. The more technology involved in setting up systems like this, the more likely there may be glitches such as this along the way.
It has been amusing to hear someone on the other end of the line cussing out an automated system, calling that voice names, etc. Don't worry, call center reps understand. Over the past 6 months I have been working in a call center, I have heard the "lady" of the automated system called all kinds of names. There are several people I believe think the lady is a real person. Others finally reach me and they will ask, "are you a real person" or "are you a real human being and not some machine?" Others just laugh when they say "that automated system didn't understand what I was telling it." Another amusing thing is that some people continue to press buttons on their phone after talking to the automated system and I will receive calls that I have to wait for the other person to stop pushing buttons before they can hear me greeting them.

I hope this information helps someone along the way. I know this blog is not read by that many people yet, but who knows? Maybe the word will spread and people will be able to help themselves to knowing how to connect to what they need.

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