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.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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