Relatable Call Centre Advice and Stories

Hey there! As you can probably tell, this is about the sort of thing you’ll come across when working at a call centre. I worked in one in Portugal for four months (my experiences with Teleperformance are documented here), and these are just some of the things you’ll relate to if you’ve ever worked in a call centre. As well as that, there’s some tips to get stuck in to the industry.

As a bit of history, I worked in an inbound call environment where it was my job to book hotel reservations for customers, as well as amending or cancelling them, and we were the first port of call for complaints, group reservations or even getting directions to the hotel.

Perfecting Your Inbound Call Opener

This can have a huge impact on the rest of your call, and in my experience, you gotta keep it short. I admit mine was a bit long – along the lines of “Hello, you’re through to [REDACTED] reservations, you’re speaking to [FIRST NAME] today. How can I help you?“. You see, that was a bit long. It’s worth shortening it if you can do – maybe something like “Hello, [REDACTED] reservations. This is [FIRST NAME] speaking. How can I help?“. That way, it’s a bit shorter, but it’s worth improving on in order to set the tone for the call.

You tend to practice your opening during your training period, and even when you’re on the phones. But then your perfectly-crafted call opener can be rudely interrupted by the person on the other end.

That heart-in-your-ass moment when your supervisor listens to your calls

Ouch. I remember that dreaded moment when my supervisor, Patricia, would come up to me, headset in hand and say “I’m just going to plug in and listen so we can do some side by side coaching.”, and I was just wanted to nope out of there.

The worst, though, is the idea of listening to your previous calls. First of all, I hate my own voice (hence why I write rather than make YouTube videos), plus I don’t learn anything from the call that I may have learned after the fact. It’s why, in the end, I opted for only taking side-by-side coaching, as it logically made more sense to me.

When you end up on the opposite shift to your banter buddies

This hurt the most. I got on really well with a woman called Jeanette, and suddenly we were on opposite shifts all the time, making it near impossible to meet up outside work for cake days or just a chat. I then was on early shifts with a couple of others (Andrew and Rosie), and we had great conversations because the lines were quiet. Suddenly, I’m shoved on opposite shifts again.

Joke’s on them, I made great banter buddies with a couple of other guys who made those late night shifts so much more bearable. I ended up back on the same shift as Rosie in the end, but my banter days with Andrew were over.

The longer you’re there, the less you care about customers offending you and you just become sasslords instead.

Honestly, it’s so true! There have been times where I’ve had to mute the mic just to curse them to high heavens, but sometimes you need to be sassy. And sometimes it pays off!

For example, I got a call from a customer wanting to speak to ‘that guy’ about a price. It was quiet on the floor, there were eight of us, seven of which were guys (not including our supervisor). So I stood up and asked the rest of the guys if they were ‘that guy’ and they all got a good laugh from that, and denied that they had anything to do with that call. So I took the customer off hold and told him without missing a beat “I’m sorry but that guy isn’t available to take your call. Is it something that I would be able to help with?”. Lo and behold, I got the sale and a new club member!

Because the customer hung up, you have to fill out dropped call forms

Oh my God, this was a thing, right. So we had to fill out a form every time a call had dropped. This could be anything from the caller hanging up suddenly to a glitch in the system. So a few times I had to fill one of these out because a customer didn’t like the hotel prices I was able to give them.

But it’s documentation that we had to fill in between calls. And it was horrible.

When you’re on the phone for a different national market

If you remember in 2018, Hurricane Florence hit the US. As we were in the European market, we were on call if we wanted to do overtime. This overtime would be dedicated to taking US calls. Most of us were British (with a few other nationalities). I took up the overtime, because the extra money never hurt. It was mainly to deal with the influx of issues with the hurricane. And honestly, two things really stood out to me:

  • The American market was generally spend-happy during the two-hour period I was taking their calls.
  • They love the British accent.

I had a friend that bragged that he could very easily get laid in the US because of his accent (even though it’s usually mistaken to be a US-variant accent), but I didn’t realise until now how right he was. As for the spend-happy, that’s just the way it is with the prices I was looking at, and the kinds of reservations that I was making at the time.

It wasn’t just Americans I took care of, though. Every day, I would get at least one call from Israel, which became predictable. With the Israeli calls, I recognised a pattern where the call would be very particular in comparison to others.

How to handle disturbing calls

I had a few instances of these. There was one that was a prank call pretending to be a huge Jamaican stereotype, and they kept saying they loved me, which was inappropriate but not the worst I’ve ever had.

Another call was during my first week on the phones. We were on the phone for a while, and when I sorted him out, I rounded off with a happy goodbye, and I swear to God he said in this weird raspy voice ‘What do you mean goodbye?’ before hanging up.

And then there was one that, after me asking how I could help him, he replied that I could help by wanking him off. I swear to God I’ve never been so creeped out. And this is hotel reservations still, no sex work invovled!

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