Don't charm me with your telephone manner

21 October 2006

My record for getting a call-centre rep to hang up is now at what I think could be an all-time low. The rules for this game are simple: time the call and, without resorting to insults or shouting, get them to either swear at you or petulantly hang up. Congratulations to some guy from what purports to be "The Phone Shop" to be off the line in less than 20 seconds.

It went something like this:

Him: "Hello, I'm calling from the Phone Shop. I want to ask if you've received your 10 per cent discount from Orange."

Me: "I think it's unlikely, as I told you yesterday."

Him: "This is the first time I've called you."

Me: "I don't think it is, otherwise, why would I mention yesterday's conversation?"

Him: "This is the first time I've called. Good. Bye." Click, brr.

I didn't even get as far as trying to get their address (generally impossible) or office phone number (probably false or permanently engaged). Other than hanging up on potential customers for no reason, I can't quite fathom what The Phone Shop's little wheeze is. They did actually call the day before (different operator of course) and we went through the dance of "Who are you? Where are you calling from?". So it took a little longer for that call to suddenly end. Before we got to that point, I was told, for some reason, they needed a house number and a postcode in order to "give me my discount".

At the time, I asked them why, if they were calling on behalf of my (soon to be ex) mobile-phone company - companies like this cold call with the permission of Orange - they didn't already have the information on record? The usual excuses about "needing the information to process the claim" ensued. If I hadn't before, I definitely lost interest there.


I can get you there in two thirds the time.

Him: "Hello, I'm calling from the Phone Shop. I want to ask if you've received your 10 per cent discount from Orange."

Me: "Who are you calling."

Him: "Mr Covey."

Me: "He's dead."

Him: Click, brr.

I get a number of 'cold calls' from mobile phone companies and have developed some interesting and entertaining strategies to keep them on the line - after all it's their money and their time! First is the "sickest man in the world" - This begins when they ask how I am today - the reply goes along the lines of "well my back is playing up, really painful today, have got a chiropractor appointment later, but I'm still waiting to see the Orthopaedic Consultant aftermy MRI scan, can get appointment on NHS for 52 weeks......."(add in as many spurious ailments & complaints as possible etc) I am now able to continue this for several minutes without pause or even taking a breath. At this point they now are very apologetic for troubling me when I am so unwell and hang up!!!!

My other favourite is "The big secret" - When it is suggested that I should change from my present mobile provider (with whom I am very happy) "I say if you really knew who I am you would realise why that would be impossible" - they say they know who I am they have the information etc. I say but do you really know the BIG SECRET of my identity etc - this can then become quite convoluted!!!

Also the answer to the question "How many free minutes do you get" - "Oh thousands and thousands" often winds them up!

I once tried to 'sell' a Kirby vacuum cleaner to a guy who had rung me up to sell me double glazing. He was intrigued. I told him it had excellent suction. He asked me out for a drink. I told him Foxtrot Oscar. Fun Fun Fun!

I hate these guys as much as the next grumpy old man, but have a slightly different way of dealing with them. I've found the way to really get these folks wound up is to keep them on the phone for a long time with no sale. That doesn't mean you actually have to talk to them, my patter goes like this:
Rep - Hello I'm calling to sell you XYZ
Me - oh great, I'm so glad you called, I really need one of those. Hang on a moment there is somebody at the door can you please just hang on for me for one minute while I get it, I'll be back in just a moment I really want to talk to you....
Now stick the phone on mute & leave it off the hook until either they hang up or you need to make a call.
If they call back, say sorry we must have been cut off & go through the same routine.