Call Centers

How to Deal With Call Centers

I spent over a year working in the call center for a bank. Just the other week, I used my knowledge of these strange beasts of the modern economy to save over $200 on a phone bill. And this wasn’t the first time my knowledge of how call centers operate has come in handy – there have been multiple occasions when I have saved myself not only money, but also a lot of time and frustration by sticking to 5 simple rules.

1. Always Ask for a Receipt or Staff Number

Whenever you have a need to contact a call center – even if it is for the simplest of queries – you should make a note of the call which includes either a receipt or staff number. Call centers for large corporations are huge, and simply writing down that you spoke to “James” or “Jenny” is not enough. This tip is particularly important if there is anything that needs to be followed up.

2. Even if You Are Angry, Stay Calm

If you have a problem with a company, it is very unlikely that the person you are speaking to actually caused it. So don’t waste your time screaming at the person who is on the other end of the line. How you treat that person will have a big impact on whether they try to genuinely help you, or whether they try to get rid of you as quick as possible. Be polite, but firm, with the person you are speaking to. And if you are not happy with what they are telling you, use the following tips.

3. If You Are Unhappy, Ask to Speak to a Supervisor

If you are unhappy with what you are being told, ask to have your call escalated to a supervisor. Typically a supervisor will have better knowledge, more time to answer your query, and greater discretion when it comes to things such as refunding fees.

4. If You Don’t Like What You Are Told, Hang Up and Call Again

You would be amazed at how effectively this one works. The reason it does work is because in large call centers there is a huge difference in the experience and knowledge of different representatives. Call centers typically have a high rate of turnover for staff, which means there is a good chance you will end up talking to someone new to the company. Also, remember you are speaking to someone in a high pressured job, so if they are unhelpful you may just have caught them on a bad day.

5. Ask to Close Your Account

This was how I saved over $200 on my phone bill. I was trying to get our home phone connected and the incompetency of the telecommunications company was finally too much. I asked to cancel my order and was transferred to a department called “Account Closures”. After outlining to the representative why I was canceling my order, I was offered 6 months of free phone service if I didn’t cancel. A similar situation occurred when I once tried to cancel my credit card. Not only did I get the annual fee permanently waived on my card, I also had the annual fee I had paid the previous year refunded.

Why does this tactic work so well? Basically, companies will do anything to retain you business. When I worked in the call center for the bank we had a specialized team called the “Client Retention Team”. Apart from being specially trained to retain the business of angry customers, they were given a lot of flexibility when it came to waiving fees.

Peter writes about how to enjoy life at The Change Blog. If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to download his free e-book, A Year of Change.

62 Responses to How to Deal With Call Centers

  1. Pingback: How to deal with call-centre « Mr Yap @ Dublin,Ireland

  2. I too have experienced the tyranny of call centre work :)

    Tip #5 seems to have great success with mobile phone companies, satellite/cable TV, internet providers and the like. Especially useful if you have pricing information from a rival company, more often than not they can price match rather than lose your business.

  3. Al at 7P says:

    Very good post. I’ve always asked for a name, I agree with #1 that just a name might not be reliable. Never heard of asking for a receipt or a staff number, so I’ll do that for now on.

  4. I absolutely hate calling call centers. There is nothing like talking to an idiot in a cubicle (many times who can’t understand English) for an hour to really make you need a deep breath and a shoulder massage.

    These tips should help make it a little more bearable next time I need to call up and get some customer no-service.

  5. This would not work in Italy, we must use other ways to accomplish our needs, that’s why we invented the Mafia…
    :) :)
    Elsewhere good advices.

  6. Kenneth says:

    It reminds me once when I call the service center because I’m having some technical problem with my website. I’ve request 3 times for help and they seems to answer something non sense to me, I lost my temper by the time and asked to speak with the manager.

    Make the story short, after everything then I found out that the problem was on my side, not their’s. Lol, felt sorry and embarrased so I wrote an apologize email to them.

    So take this advice because it is so real and useful when it comes to dealing with service center.

  7. Joy says:

    Nice article!…here in the Philippines there are lots of call center that cater to American of my friend who works there said it really is a very stressful job..I think these advice for clients well really helped in understanding how call center and their agents really work just to cater to your needs..^^..Thanks Peter for posting this one!..^^

  8. Jad says:

    Nice article and I guess your tips should work most of the time.

    lol@This would not work in Italy, we must use other ways to accomplish our needs, that’s why we invented the Mafia…

  9. yomoms says:

    i’ve worked in a place like that, and that is exactly how you have to deal with them. Stay calm, speak clearly and assertively without losing your shit. Ask for a manager would be a good one to put on there.

  10. Red Rocket says:

    Call Centers mega suck when u have to talk to someone in India… My ass your name is David

  11. Kenneth says:

    Looks like most of us ar having nightmare with call center from different places.

  12. Excellent advice. But what if you’re already talking to the GM of the company?

    Well, it happened to me. I called on a Sunday afternoon to one of the Singapore’s biggest personal development organizer (events co) to seek clarification over an issue of alleged scamming. It ended up quite badly and I asked for refund of the material costs that I’ve paid. I was practically fumed at the way the “operator” handled the whole situation and asked for her name so that I can officially raise a complaint to her superiors?

    You know what she said? “I’ve already told you at the start of the conversation and I don’t want to repeat myself.”

    She later returned my call to talk about the refund and said “By the way, I am the person in charge of this office”. It turned out she is the GM of the company?

    Till now, I’ve yet to receive my refund, despite a few email followups on my part and calls. Geez.

  13. Nice post! One more suggestion I would offer is to make sure they understand what it is you’re asking. I once spent over a month trying to get my cell phone sorted out only to discover it could have been done in less than 60 seconds had they understood the question clearly. Always ask them to repeat/paraphrase what you want done to make sure you’re on the same page.

  14. luke says:

    I really liked your advice and I wish I had read this article years ago because it would have saved me a lot of money and frustration with the various movesI have made and accounts opened and closed. Anyway, I realised that you saved a lot of money on your phone bill, but you should check out if you want to try and save more. They instantly analyze your bill and for free. I saved about $40 a month so I though I would pass on the good news.

  15. Jeramie says:

    I worked a call center for a several months. Here’s some other things to bear in mind:
    1) The person you’re talking with probably is not even an employee of the company. The call center is probably a third-party contractor. The person who answers may also answer for a dozen different companies, and will act a predefined role depending on which company’s phone number you were transferred from. He may be a computer “tech support” on one call, and the next call he’s taking complaints about a restaurant, and the next call he may be a “sales manager” for an online retailer.
    2) There may be no real means to actually identify who you spoke with, especially if there are multiple call center companies on the support contract. If you call 3 times, you may be dealing with 3 separate, competing support companies that are only vaguely aware that the other companies even exist. At any rate, the operators are told never to divulge the fact they’re contractors.
    3) Asking to speak to a manager may result in simply being transferred to another operator in the next cubicle, who will act the role of the first operator’s supervisor. It’s a great way to get angry customers to feel like they’re being treated special. Some places don’t even have an actual second level of support at all. And the operator’s ACTUAL manager? They’re immune to talking with customers; his job is to constantly apply pressure to the operators to crank through as many customers per shift as possible. He doesn’t care about service quality, only call quantity.
    4) If you’re upset about the service you received, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief by not bothering to follow up on it. Not only is it usually impossible to determine which support contract company answered your call, nor which of the operators you actually spoke with, but that company alone may handle several hundred thousand customers per day. Support companies expect a percentage of people will complain about anything and everything – legit or not – and are well prepared to act like they’re taking the complaint when all they’re doing is trying to make you feel better (so you’ll hang up and they can move on to the next caller). And don’t think the parent company cares either, you’re just part of the perpetually unhappy percentage that’s always present. Drop it, save a heart attack and move on with life.

  16. David says:

    Thank You for using **********, my name is David (really it is) how may I help you.
    I worked at a call center also, what a different world. Everyone ought to work at a call center just for the experience and to know how these things actually work. The company says they care for the customer but believe me it all come down to call time and profits. The more calls a person takes in one day the more the company makes. Some calls are monitored and the employee is rated on the call. The turnover rate was something else. One of the tricks when dealing with a call center is to determine if the employee is experienced or not. If they aren’t and you know what you are doing you can get free trades or minutes or whatever they offer for the business they are covering. It is also important to realize the customer rep is limited by the programmed software! Some things they just can not do. Watch your bills, terms of agreement or contract or what ever they are called by the company change and it will show up later in a higher bill. If you get a foreign rep with an accent and you can’t understand them, hang up and call again or ask for someone that can speak your language.
    We had a hot screen that ID’d trouble makers and hot heads, and moochers, try not to get on that list.
    Some customers were worth saving some were not. Do not let your bill go to collections. It will be farmed out a collection agency and it will come back to haunt you!
    It was a most interesting experience working for the call center, a real sausage factory. Everything we did was timed to the second. I put in my time and finally quit after 9 months. I spent as much time fixing other reps mistakes as I did actually doing productive work. By the way we had 30 seconds to document the call after the hang up, then another call came in automatically, it helps to stay on the line and let the rep finish documenting the call so they get it right. Some other helpful things,get a head set for you home phone and learn to use it, don’t ever call with cell phone with a bad connection, don’t expect a rep to call back, many call centers are inbound only, have your bill in front of you and any special offers etc. so the customer rep can follow what you are saying and you can follow what they talking about.
    It was an experience, not like any other job I’ve ever had.
    Thank you for using ********* have a nice day.

  17. Hanging up and calling again is brilliant. With my local roadside emergency car service, I actually got it free the second time around. I needed to get my car fixed, first time I called, they wanted $70 for some admin fee. I said OK, let me call you back. When I called back it was someone different, and they sent out a mechanic for free as part of my standard membership. Very strange.

    Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
    Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

  18. Paul Morgan says:

    Thanks for the tips — I never thought of getting the receipt or staff number.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jeramie that you should be nice to your heart and don’t overdo it. My mom taught me to be a Ninja Consumer and I’ve given up months of my life fighting over Stuff.

    I’ve given up the Ninja role, but I still Hang Up & Call Again. It’s easy, and it works so often. In college, the electric company sent us a $700 bill (our average was $30). Agent #1 said “pay up or we’ll turn it off.” Agent #2 said “ok, I’ve credited your account.”

    I went to Charlotte last month and decided to come back a day early. Agent #1 said “that will be $275 for the change.” Agent #2 said “that change will cost $125.”

    Give it a try yourself!

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  20. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the great information. Call centers are hard to deal with! thumbs up!

  21. Thanks for this information. I am always running into problems with call centers.

  22. Jared says:

    As a former telemonkey I agree with most of your suggestions.

    Also I would add that you educate yourself on the escalation policy of the company you are calling. Knowing when you can escalate and issue is power. At the telco I worked for there was a 24 hour for out of service and 48 hour for in service issues after which the problem could be escalated.

    Furthermore our centre had different type of managers to which certain issues got escalated, if you felt you were being treated poorly by the agent, it went to performance management and their power to help you with your actual problem was slim to none. If you had a problem with policy it goes to Operations, and they would probably just “handle” you without doing anything about your problem. If your problem was actually escalatable and the agent was either getting push back from other departments or other requirements were met they’d put you in touch with someone that could do something for you, the escalation managers.

    Furthermore a little warning on not being a human being to the agent you’re taking to. I used to sit right next to the escalation managers and they’d hear me taking your abuse, and after I exhausted all my options and your problem was still eligble for escalation they’d take the call, and you’d be sweet as honey and complain about what a bad person I was. They’d put you at the bottom of their list for the day.

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  24. Pingback: User Experience / How to deal with call-centre

  25. Thanks for the information. However, it would also help to understand that the one on the other end of the phone is an actual person who is just trying to do his job. I think that the best way to deal with this situation is if both parties empathize with each other.

  26. Very interesting and insightful. I can relate to this both from a jogging and writing perspective.

  27. Gabriel says:

    Insider Call-Center Secrets. Thanks for the information, know I got a perspective of what the reps are usually dealing with even if we think we’re under pressure to get our problems resolved, they are just as much under pressured to help solve our problems.

  28. The first time you call you wait 15 minutes before you talk to anyone so you already aggravated for having to wait so long, so who wants to hang up and have to wait another 15 minutes to get the same answers.

  29. wonderful piece of information, I appreciate it that you share something
    useful for the readers here

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  31. Nic says:

    Oh, and FYI: when you are following this advise make sure you are actually calling a call center. In my office there are three of us, we rotate who answers the phones, but you’re still talking to one of the three of us (and chances are you’re going to speak to the same person multiple times). We know who’s calling about what and when. Don’t act like a s**t to one person, hang up, call back, and expect the next person to not know who you are.

  32. RED says:

    Dear Jeramie, Your comment is very helpful, excellent! Thanks a lot!! :)

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  37. Pingback: Saying “Thank You” to a Call Center Agent | Call Center Critique

  38. Have lots of patience when you are calling to a center located in India :)

  39. Bvanminde says:

    I personally have worked at call centers for years, and it still blows me away that people are so mean and rude.. Honestly people, we didnt make the mistake, we are there to help but if your going to be a jerk, you wont get anywhere.. Talk to the rep as if he was your friend helping you out and I promise you will get so much further.

  40. Lea B. says:

    I too have worked in a call center, it’s so true, how you speak to the rep can have an impact on the service you receive. There are certain rules that can be bent and when someone is screaming at you, you are less likely to do so for them.

  41. Peter says:

    Lucky me, never really had problems with call centers. But I’m alsy one hell of a patient man.

  42. Vic says:

    people like

  43. Loo says:

    I work at a call center, we love making people as happy as we are able. It is really frustrating when customers employ a lot of these tactics, and really does waste a lot of time and money for both the customer and you! #5 honestly feels like emotional blackmail.

  44. Balderesi says:

    Very good post. I’ve always asked for a name, I agree with #1 that just
    a name might not be reliable. Never heard of asking for a receipt or a
    staff number, so I’ll do that for now on. 

  45. TIm says:

    I work in a call center for a major bank and i can you just how little some of those “tips” help. Every customer who has ever disagreed with the answer I give them (and i am highly trained in my position) asks to speak to a manger. As if The Manager is this holy wizard with a crystal ball who has all the answers that I won’t give them. I refuse, politely, to escalate the call by stating “my manager is going to tell you only what i have just told you.” The second point is people threatening to close their account. Believe it or not: we don’t care. You’re $200, $5000, $500,000 balances are tiny.  Clients try and haggle me for a better rate on their term deposit with $20,000. I point out that the minimum we will start to be flexible on the rates is with a $5 million balance and anything below that is small potatoes.

  46. Atrac059 says:

    Wow good article if you remember this rule… #1 thing to remember about a call center. DO NOT JUST PRESS 0 if you actually need help. 0 gets you to sales where, if you aren’t buying, there is no motivation to help because you are wasting the agents time. 

  47. Sonia Roody says:

    These are great tips on dealing with call centers. Having
    recently worked at one, I particularly enjoy and support the second tip, the
    one about staying calm even when angry and frustrated. We have to keep in mind
    that these call center agents are given scripts and spiels that they have to
    learn, and are not always under the employ of the client company that has
    employed the call center for customer relations. These agents will not always
    know the more intricate workings of the company, but they will do their best to
    satisfy the customer, which is not made easier by an irate customer. A solution
    is best found when both agent and customer stay calm and help each other out.

  48. Working in a call center  is a challenging one for all agents. Somehow, it’s a good job opportunity helping folks to earn a living.

  49. Anatum says:

    Ah, the dreaded call centers.  I just recently started at a call center, and I have to agree with you on most of your tips.  Companies will definitely do anything they can to keep your business, so saying that you are going to close your account will usually work (if the person cares enough to try to keep you, which is where the staying calm comes into play!)

    However, 3 and 4 do not really apply to all call centers.  Where I am working, being transferred to a supervisor is taboo.  In our training they teach us to avoid it at all cost, and most of our supervisors are more stringent on credits than the agents simply because the customer didn’t accept the bargained amount that the agent offered.  

    Also, number 4… we notate EVERYTHING in the customers account, so we can see when someone hung up and called another person, which automatically lets us know that they were already declined once and takes away the customers credibility and makes it even harder to bargain for credits and such.  

    After starting here… I will never call into customer service again.  Ever.  

  50. Nani Eng says:

    Great points to be noted and followed..Thanks for posting useful info.Call Center Services

  51. ak123 says:

    Just to reinforce the only correct perception you have dipsh!t, by choosing to work at a call center, u have chosen to represent whatever company u work for. If the company has been crappy, expect poor treatment. You are the voice of that company. And it is tiring to hear clueless people telling me how they are trying to do me a “favor” when I have been the one wronged. If call center people had two firing neurons and had any sense of responsibility, there would be a lot less anger.

  52. Ti74Raven says:

    Or maybe you need to get your head out of your ass. Most of the time applying for a call center you don’t even know who you’ll be taking calls for until AFTER you are hired.
    Call centers aren’t named “Comcast Call Center” They’re named whatever the call center is named. Like “Universal Call Center Solutions” or crap like that. Then “Universal Call Center Solutions” gets hired out to take calls for Comcast, or US Bank, or whoever. The contract can change while you are working there. So one day you may be taking calls for Comcast, the next day you’re in training to start taking calls for Sony.
    Another thing, people don’t work at them because they have a choice, people work at them to get income when they need it. Call center work sucks, the policies are usually terrible on the workers. No one does it out of anything other than necessity. The last one I worked at we had to get permission to get up and go to the bathroom for christs sake, because those two minutes of downtime were money lost for the company and that was bad we got told to hold it a lot. Even if it was hours until our next break.
    So you can stuff it, and realize that you need to have some damn respect for the person on the other end of that line and the crap they deal with on a daily basis that they in fact have no control over.

  53. ak123 says:

    You take the job, you deal with it douchebag. Company screws someone, you are the voice of the company. Guess what, you get to hear about it! Tough luck, you don’t like the job, get another. If your job is to clean toilets, expect to deal with crap rather than expecting people not to crap.

  54. Ti74Raven says:

    I’ll make sure to come to your place of work and fuck with you then. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll find every possible thing to nitpick and make sure that by the end of it you feel like you have all the rights of the shit I took in the toilet this morning. If you speak out of line once, or do anything questionable I will make sure you lose your job because I will make sure your boss wants to kick you to the curb just because it’s easier than doing anything else.

  55. ak123 says:

    Nope. Sorry. Not enough of an idiot to take a shit job like that.

  56. Ti74Raven says:

    I don’t care what fucking job you do, I can still walk in and make your day go to crap. Maybe you should learn how to not be a spoiled little shit. Not everyone gets a choice where they work. Job market sucks.

    Sometimes you gotta take what’s available, at least when you aren’t handed everything on a silver platter like you apparently are. Must be nice, go back to daddies trust fund if you need to pack it in for a bit because work is too hard eh?

  57. ak123 says:

    Nah. Probably worked a lot harder than you and was probably a lot more ambitious than u. No wonder u have issues if u don’t understand u are responsible for all the issues that come with the job. Maybe it’s the very flip attitude u have that gets u yelled at. Again, if u are the janitor, expect to deal with crap.

  58. Ti74Raven says:

    Attitude has nothing to do with people getting yelled at at call centers. People are already yelling by the time you say “Hello” no matter how polite you are sometimes. Also, you don’t seem to realize ambition can only carry you so far when you don’t have the funding to back it up and the jobs aren’t there.
    Also I highly doubt you work harder than me, I bust my ass at every job I work no matter how shitty it is. I usually get promoted several times within the first few months.

    I don’t work call center anymore, but when I did I was happy I got promoted out of outbound. Promoted up to inbound, then rapidly into IT in under a month.
    I was happy to be out of outbound and inbound so quickly because of crap like this and morons like you that think it’s okay just because you think you are superior to everyone.

    Even if you have a 4 year degree in something and a hundred certifications the jobs aren’t always there for you, sometimes you have to take something to pay the bills in the meantime.

    As I said before, ambition means jack shit if you can’t put food on the table and pay for the gas or transport to get to interviews.

    Just because a janitor has to deal with crap, doesn’t mean you should smear it on the walls for fun. I’m done with your stuck up spoiled ass.

  59. ak123 says:

    I am sure you will get better than a call center at some point (once this jacked up economy improves). I have done this job too. It is a crap job all around, but no matter what, it is often the only place that the customers can tell a misbehaving company to F-off, so don’t be shocked.

  60. Ti74Raven says:

    I’m just saying it doesn’t hurt to make sure that you are frustrated with the company, not the person on the line. That is a distinction many people don’t seem to make. Communicating your problem politely and effectively is much better for everybody involved. You get your problem solved faster and better usually, the employee gets less stress.

    Also like I said, I don’t work at a call center anymore, I lucked out and got a better, non call center IT position with a buddy of mine when one of his co-workers basically just took off and vanished, still, working at one led to me being a lot more considerate of the people who are stuck at those stupid phones all damn day,

  61. ak123 says:

    We are never gonna connect on this. Have a good day.

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