Who am I?

Call Centres; an invention of the devil

I try not to have anything to do with call centres — I do not ring them if I can possibly avoid it, and usually hang up as soon as I realise that a call is from one (you can easily recognise them by the pause, clanking noises, and then — if you are slow to hang up — “is that Mr Ree-or-dan? in a foreign voice.

But the other day I was a bit slow, and the voice asked agressively “Are you the director of X company?” “Who are you?” I replied. The woman muttered something incomprehensible, and then “Are you or are you not the director of X company?” Again I replied “who are you, and why are you asking?” The woman got even more aggressive, and asked “I’m asking you — are you or are you not the director of X company?” I try not to be rude to these people; I know the job must be extremely frustrating — but by this stage I was fed up, so I said “Go to hell” and hung up. However I was intrigued by the exchange, and when someone else asked basically the same question less aggressively I managed to establish that she was ringing on behalf of some international company which had decided that it was going to run seminars in Sydney and Melbourne to educate local charities in the finer points of observing their financial obligations, and these phone calls were purely to establish that they were sending the invitations to the right people.

In due course an invitation arrived in from an overseas company I had never heard of inviting me to attend a $5,000 two-day seminar they were arranging to put me to rights about my obligations.

What made them think they knew more about the intricacies of our laws governing our charities than our own accountants, or that anyone who had their head screwed on right would pay $5,000 to waste two days listening to them I can’t imagine. I also wondered why the obsession with making sure that they were ringing the right person — and upsetting the hell out of everyone they did ring, — when they ought to welcome anyone who was fool enough to pay their $5,000, regardless of whether or not they had anything to do with a charity.

I also thought that they would have done far better to have got someone pleasant, who could have done a pitch for their seminars, and conceivably even get a few people onside, to have made the original phone calls.

Call centres seem to serve two main purposes. The first is to discourage frustrated customers who try to complain by giving them the runaround so that sooner or later they give up in frustration, and the second is to make you think that they are ringing from your current utility, when in fact they are ringing from Y utility, and the advantageous offer they are making to you to upgrade your service is in fact designed to trick you into switching to Y, which will give you a slight saving for a year, and then give you exactly the same overpriced and shoddy performance you were getting from X.

If all they did was to annoy customers it would be bad enough, but paying people a pittance to work (probably in a hostile environment) in a job which is deliberately designed to annoy the people they are speaking to must be one of the worst forms of torture you could ever inflect on anyone.