Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mind your manners

What not to do when calling your billing representatives

After five years at a call centre, I’ve started to notice trends and develop pet peeves. Some of the things my callers do when calling in don’t just drive me crazy, they drive every representative I know crazy as well. I figured I’d go over some simple phone rules and proper etiquette to follow when making that call to your billing or technical support departments. (Or anyone, for that matter, it really will help).

Don’t call us while you’re eating. For a society that claims they hate it when telemarketers call them when they’re eating dinner, it’s astonishing the number of people who call in to us while eating something. Sometimes it’s so bad that I can’t even understand what you’re saying because you’re chomping away on your food. Be polite. It’s not appropriate to talk with your mouth full anyway, why think that just because you don’t know the person on the other end of the phone it’s any more appropriate?

Know your phone number. It’s shocking to me how many people don’t know their home phone number. Really people? It’s the first thing they teach you in kindergarten.

If you’re calling in to make a payment, have your payment information available! I can’t even count the number of times people have specifically called me wanting me to post a payment for them and they need to put me on hold for five minutes while they go find their banking information or credit cards. Have it ready, people!

It’s “zero” not “oh”. This one drives me mad for some reason. When you’re trying to post a payment or pull up an account using an account number and they say “five-oh-oh-two” it drives me batty. I know I’m not alone in this one because I used to have a coworker who would enter the information exactly as it was given to him, putting actual letter “o’s” in the number. It would make his customers really angry when they finally realized what he was doing. One is a number and one is a letter. Again, something taught in kindergarten.

Wait until the call is over before you use the washroom. My calls last an average of 3 minutes. Can you really not wait 5 minutes before going to the bathroom? There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden you hear a toilet flush. One man even asked if I could wait a minute while he finished what he was doing. Not only does it gross me out, it’s just not polite. (I also make major judgements of you if I don’t hear you washing your hands afterwards). We’re open until 9. Use the bathroom, then give us a call.

Be polite. I completely understand the frustration of each and every one of my customers. I don’t like the fact that you’re having problems on your account, it only makes my job harder. It is common knowledge though that people are more willing to go over and above for you if you treat them like an actual human being. Always remember, this is someone’s job and they’re doing it to put food on their table. We follow policy in order to keep our jobs. We’re really only willing to put our necks on the line for people who take the time to express their frustrations in a mature way. As the age old saying goes “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”

As with any job, certain frustrations come up and you just have to deal with them. I just wanted to share with you some of the more common ones, and hope that if you find yourself guilty of doing any one of these, you’ll understand a little better what the individual on the other side of the phone is feeling.


  1. Those are some of the little rants of being a call center agent, right, Aisling? Call center agents, like you, were taught business telephone etiquette. As an agent, you have a little hope that the voice on the other line also knows the proper telephone etiquette. Anyhow, it’s just a matter of how you handle it. Being positive and light-hearted can help you get through this job.

    Sonia Roody

  2. “Be polite” – show some manners and give respect to whoever you are speaking to. No matter how bad your day was or how disappointed you are over a product or service, still keep in mind that the person you are talking to is not the culprit of your problem. Be considerate.

    -Shania Simpsons