The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Is a Call Center Calling You?

Oh, how wonderful it would be!

No need to drum up trivial chitchat with the chump in the next cubical. No need to dream up naughty fantasies to fill your working day. Instead, you have an endless supply of real people really reaching out to you for help. And best of all, you can make these desperate people even more miserable and frustrated and totally mashugana than when they first picked up the phone.

Yes, those are the rewards of working in a call center. Or, should I say, a call “centre.” It’s the way they spell “center “in the British Isles, and, frankly, I think they do it just to lord it over us commoners here in America. [English is our language, right? It’s not like they invented it. And you can put that in your meerschaum and smoke it, Lord Granville.]


Anyway, the basic wonderfulness of working in a call center struck me when I came across a recent LinkedIn post from Sara Morys-Edge, a recruiter in Merry Olde England.

“Do you have what it takes to work in a call centre?” is the title and if your first reaction is to go to Costco, buy several pallets of Earl Grey tea, and throw them into the nearest harbor, better take another look at what is actually a real opportunity.

Of course, a job this fantastic requires a certain skills, but thanks to Morys-Edge, I know the secrets, and I am willing to share. All I ask is that when I call you to trace my order for the Electric Love Pacha Series Dreamcatcher I am about to order from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Gift Catalog, you won’t put me on hold for longer than two hours.

Skill No. 1 is, “Know your phonetic alphabet from A-Z.” Frankly, this is a skill I didn’t even know existed, but I can now see how it is essential, especially since we make so many calls with the iGarble feature of our iPhones. As a call center employee, you need a phonetic alphabet to clarify names and addresses, but don’t use the boring traditional spelling aids, like B for Box and N for Naughty and P for Party. Create your own useful words, like A as in Aisle, K as in Knock, W as in Wrist and M as in Mnemonic.

I can hear your callers grinding their teeth already.

Skill No. 2 is, “Learn your scripts.”

“There’s nothing more off-putting than listening to a call centre agent who is reading word for word from a script,” says Morys-Edge. I disagree. If you really want to drive your callers bonkers, and you do, read the following very slowly and with as little emotion as possible:

Your-call-is-very-important-to-us. In-20-or-30-minutes-someone-will-answer-this-line-and just-when-you-think-you-are-making-progress-you-will-be-discontected. Please-stay-on-the-line-for-an-additional-30-minutes-so-you-can-answer-survey-questions-describing-the-high-level-of-customer-service-you-have-received.

“Communication is key” is skill No. 3. Just picking up the phone and saying, “What’d’ya want?” is not sufficient, apparently. In fact, “you’ll need buckets of patience to deal with difficult customers in a friendly, kind and helpful way.”

Really? When have you ever been treated in a friendly, kind and helpful way? The goal of the call center employee is not just to get the caller off the line as quickly as possible, but also to incite maximum rage in as little time as possible.

In other words, acceptable communication is limited to “Let me transfer you to someone who cares about your stupid problem,” “I’m sorry, we no longer offer customer service,” or “It’s raining here in Delhi. How’s the weather in your part of the world?”

“Be tech savvy” is skill No. 4. Or is it? Our author believes “customers don’t want to wait on the line while you’re frantically searching for your tutorial on how the database works.” Perhaps not in England, where everyone is rushing to have tea with the Queen, but here in America, we are always delighted when the person who answers the help-line for our computers, our smartphones and our digital TVs is as ignorant about the technology as we are.

It’s called democracy, Morys-Edge. Get used to it!

The final skill is “the ability to multitask,” and this is one skill you’ve definitely mastered. On any workday afternoon, you can play Minecraft with Gail in HR, power-snack on a bag of Oreos on your lap, drink milk while holding the carton with your teeth, scratch behind your dog’s – or your manager’s – ears with your feet, and look like you’re actually working.

Call it a call center, or call centre, they’re calling for you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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