Friday 14 January 2011

Cold calling and Customer Advisors

I was just reading Dianne’s post on ‘Forks Off the Moment’. It reminded me, if I needed reminding, just how annoyed Barry and I can become with the telephone. We receive a seemingly incessant flow of unsolicited phone calls. Some are simply taped messages – ‘Congratulations! You have won . . . ‘I never listen long enough to discover what I have won, for it is certain that the supposed prize will entail time and money from me. ‘There’s no such thing as a free meal’ and ‘If it’s too good to be true, it is too good to be true’ are the guidelines I use to ward off my natural gullibility. Other callers that irritate are those who try to offer a service or device in which we’re not interested or charities suggesting that we might like to increase our monthly donations.

We have had a spate of uninvited calls recently and have developed a technique for dealing with them. If the caller identity indicates that the number calling is withheld or unavailable or the number shown is not one with which we are familiar we don’t pick up the phone.

Unfortunately, although Barry and I can easily ignore a ringing phone, Frodo cannot. Woken from a deep sleep by the jangling tones he begins to howl and is soon joined by Jenna and Gus. At four years old Jenna has only just learned to howl – well, perhaps she already knew how but just hadn’t made us privy to the secret. Notwithstanding, Frodo begins the chorus with his fine tenor. Then Gus joins in, uttering short, staccato barks as he warms up his voice for his baritone cry. Finally, Jenna, with a higher alto wail befitting her smaller stature and female nature, makes her contribution to the trio. Some days we have many calls and after two or three it seems that Frodo is attuned and waiting for the signal, starting his song after a mere ring or two from the telephone.  The process rapidly loses its power to entertain on a busy ‘calling day’ and more particularly when one of us actually answers the phone to a recognised caller but cannot hear or make ourselves heard over the cacophony.

There are occasions when we need to make calls.  These times can prove extraordinarily frustrating. Some enterprises do not have automatic answering rituals, resulting in the tone ringing for several minutes and then abruptly timing out. You are aware that there must be a queue – or that ‘everyone’ is having a tea break – and having to start the procedure again is very aggravating, particularly when you sense that the pattern will be repeated.

Is that more exasperating than the automated response, though? Sometimes, the preamble takes minutes to inform the caller that the call may be/is being recorded ‘for training purposes’. Then comes the list of instructions for which number to press for which service. Having clicked the correct key the inevitable ringing tone is heard – for minutes on end – interrupted intermittently by a gentle recorded voice apologising for the delay and frequently taking the opportunity to advertise other benefits. Usually the ringing tone is replaced by music – or musak - which can be very annoying. When a human finally answers it is only too common for their help to be of the wrong sort, requiring them to put you through to the supposedly correct department which denies all knowledge of any solution and passes you back to the original respondent or on to another section.

I understand that the operators/advisors are doing the job they have been trained to do but that is of no help when problems have arisen which are not covered in their script. Of which, more anon. 


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  2. Oh, that must be dreadful for you. The phone can be annoying enough without adding a dog chorus. Your velcro dog has really started something, hasn't he?
    We're lucky. We have two separate phone lines in the house because Dick has a home office, but our dog never pays any attention to the phone.
    Unfortunately, she never pays any attention to people coming to the door, either. Unless visitors or delivery people open the storm door and ring the doorbell several times, Dick won't know they're there.
    If I'm home, I almost always hear them knock on the outer door. Then the fun begins. I'm not dressed. I run to Dick's office (okay, I don't run, but I hurry) and say "Dick-Dick-Dick, there's someone at the door!"
    If he also hurries, he might get there in time to sign for the delivery he was expecting. Or the package might go back to the UPS or FedEx office, and he'll get a phone call instead.
    Lindy won't pay any more attention to the phone call than she did to the above performance. She only hears the sound of someone going to the kitchen.
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. The story of your dogs had me howling also!

    Our government has a list you can sign up on so you don't get calls from telemarkerers. We used to get calls every night until we joined the list. Now, there is silence. Maybe you could get an unlisted number, although that may not work.

  4. Ah, yes, I have all the same gripes. Funny that your dogs have learned to howl to the telephone ring. My Daisy only howls when I play the piano. She ignores the phone.
    Unless I recognize the caller ID, I let most calls go to voice mail. And if possible, I use email to contact businesses instead of calling. Those numbered services drive me nuts. The services offered by each are usually too specific, and I don't know which number to press!

  5. We now screen our calls, using caller ID, but it was very hard for me to learn to do that. A ringing telephone is as bad as a baby screaming. It demands attention. Your dogs remind me of the ones next door, only they howl for fire sirens. Since there is a fire station just down the road. They get quite a bit of practice -- and the dogs all around us join in. That doesn't bother me nearly as much as the telephone does.

  6. Been there, had that happen. Lately, we've been getting credit card calls. Something about the laws changing and how we might want to change our plan or whatever. I keep hanging up, but they automatically call you the next day. Sigh.

  7. Our home telephone has two roles. One it brings the internet into the house. the other is for spam calls. Drives me crazy.

  8. We got rid of our land line several years ago, which put an end to unsolicited calls. I do receive the marketing calls (the recorded type) at work. I just hang up. It is annoying though!

  9. Oh yes, I can relate to the 'if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is' thing. Have another story waiting to be written about that. Some time next week probably.
    Fortunately our dogs ignore the phone. As do I most of the time ;-)
    Love the way you describe things.

  10. Oh no-poor dogs-and you! I agree that unsolicited calls are very annoying. What annoys me most when it is the other way around is that they connect you and then make you wait in a queue, thus charging you. Also you used to be able to press the sequence of numbers quickly-if you knew them from previous experience but that seems to have changed. Though I did hear someone on the radio putting the other point of view-the fact that it is less onerous to stand around in your house for ten minutes and be able to deal with something over the phone, than it is to go out and stand in a queue to do the same thing-as in the past. And possibly cheaper. Still annoying though!

  11. We have a service in my state that allows us to opt out of unsolicited calls with some exceptions: Political calls, non profits, and places that you have an established business relationship with. It cuts down on a lot of calls, but I do like you and don't answer them. Unlike you, I don't have a doggy chorus backing me up!

  12. When I am Jon's workshop there are frequent calls - cold all asking how they can help the business "Stop ringing me and let me get on with the woek" is one of Jon's responses. He too has caller ID and ignores out of area calls - we know these are international. Another pain is the sending of junk faxes - sometimes many pages long. Jon disconnects the fax now, all a pain though.flogli

  13. I know how you feel, and why do they always wait until you are sitting down to eat, or watching something good on tv.

  14. I'm so sorry to hear that you have telephone problems too. It must be a worldwide epidemic!


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