Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What not to do from a call center

This morning, I got a call from Verizon Wireless telling me about their newer plans. Incidentally, I don't mind getting these kinds of sales calls from companies with whom I actually have a business relationship, especially if they don't call often. I also recently renewed my wireless contract (and got a new phone out of it), so, it wasn't a bad time to be reviewing my wireless plan.

Along with informing me that I could get 100 extra minutes per month for the same price as I'm paying now, the woman at the call center starting going through the obligatory script trying to sell me more services. The conversation is paraphrased, but, roughly accurate.

Verizon Wireless rep: This call may be monitored for quality assurance, is that OK with you?
Me: Yes.

[Skipping blather about plan]

VZW: You will be able to send text messages for 10 cents each. Or, we have a plan for unlimited text messaging to any mobile customer for $9.99 a month, if you use that...
Me: I'm not interested. I don't use text messaging.
VZW: Oh, that's for the younger people.

At this point, I sensed an opportunity...

Me: How old do you think I am?

And the VZW rep fell right into it...

VZW: Maybe in your thirties...


Me: Not yet.
VZW: Oh, I'm sorry. I meant about people in their teens. You're not in your teens, are you?
Me: No.

The representative then went on to tell me how sorry she was, and I finally told her that I wasn't actually offended. She probably was hoping that call wasn't monitored or recorded.

Before I was on the National Do Not Call Registry, I used to get sales calls from companies that I had never bought anything from, and had no intention of starting. At that point, I learned that call center employees were reluctant to hang up, no matter what what going on in the conversation with their victim potential customer. At one point, I got a call from the Boston Herald trying to get me to subscribe. When asked why I didn't want to subscribe after having heard the script of all of the paper's wonderful features, I told the call center rep that the Herald was part of a government conspiracy with the aliens to infect our brains, or control us, or something like that. The poor call center rep then spent a few minutes arguing with me telling me that the Herald was not involved in any conspiracies with the government or with aliens. Meanwhile, I just tacked on additional charges at each argument, trying and failing not to laugh. Eventually, I got bored and hung up.

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My favorite is when Sprint or Verizon or another telecomm company calls to get me to switch providers. I simply tell them (with sincere sympathy) "Oh, I'm sorry, but we don't have a telephone."
What I want to know is, was the alien conspiracy a headline in the Herald the next day? Maybe complete with an irate editorial about how the government isn't dealing properly with the menace.
My fiance generally rushes to a toilet and flushes it. Usually we are watching TV or having a nice conversation when telemarketers call.

At first I told him it was cruel, but then I started doing it myself. It really works! (Most of the time)

But when I am trying to be genuinely polite I say I am in a very important meeting and stress that this is not a good time to call. It usually gets them off the phone (usually). I got an abnormally obnoxious call yesterday from someone trying to sell me lower rates for my mortgage, I don't even really rent (I live in the dorms right now)...
My mom often tells them that she has to go to the bathroom and will be back soon, if they'll hold on. Usually the callers then hang up.

On the other hand, all this obnoxiousness from telemarketers really makes things rough for people doing legitimate telephone survey research. I try quite hard to be nice to survey folks, if they're legit. It's the ones calling from morally objectionable organizations who get the 9 degrees.
When it comes to survey folks, it depends who is doing the survey. I'm a lot more open to taking an academic telephone survey than a marketing survey. I figure that, in the latter case, the marketing company can take up to 20 minutes of my time and make money off the data they're collecting. I get nothing out of it. Next time I get one of those calls, I plan on asking them what my time is worth to them and asking for a cut of the fees. Let's see how they take that. :-)

It's the ones calling from morally objectionable organizations who get the 9 degrees.

Not all commercial organizations are "morally objectionable." Some of them are just "annoying."

Tangentially speaking of "morally objectionable,"this might be a good time to plug the Massachusetts Attorney General's Report on Charities. Charities are exempt from the Do-Not-Call list, and a large number of unsolicited telemarketing calls that I get are now from charities. Most charities that "organize, operate or raise funds in Massachusetts" are required to register with the AG's Dept of Public Charities. Some are not required. These reports are usually two years behind, but they tell you some very important information, such as who was soliciting for the charity, and what cut the private telemarketing company takes of all donations. For some organizations, the telemarketer's cut can be 100% (if the telemarketer was given a minimum price for their services, and does not raise more than that minimum amount). Police and fire organizations are exempt from the registration requirement (although many do register), so they are frequently involved with scammers.

Other states have similar reports available online.
Hello and thanks for the opportunity to post on your blog.

I believe call center and answering service outsourcing is the way to go for many US-based companies who want to cut down running costs and thus increase their overall profits. However, one of the main issues that needs to be dealt with is that of staff training. There are a lot of professional call center training courses that are destined to be attended by the call center agents in order for these people to be more efficient and to be more specialized in their jobs. Most of the call center operation staff is composed by call center industry managers with experience in telecommunications, information technology and business development. Call centers are normally providing a whole range of external services, such as: call center services, contact center and help desk towards the biggest companies in the whole world.

In case you wish to read more about this I invite you to read my study on outsourcing call center services

Warm regards,

M. Rad
^ Spammer
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