Thursday, September 30, 2010
"Do you know what time it is?"
Working in outbound call centres, I've been asked that question quite a bit, by people who are outraged at being called at 6pm, or 9pm, or whatever time they find objectionable. And I'm puzzled as to what kind of answer the people who ask this question expect.
"No! I let myself get so wrapped up in my enthralling work that I forgot the time and stayed past the end of my shift!"
"No. They keep us in windowless cells. They clang on the bars to tell us when to wake up, and feed us once a day. All the days bleed together. I don't know what year it is, much less the time of day. It has been so long since I've seen the sky..."
Seriously. There's a clock on the computer. And on the phone. And on the wall. We know what time it is. More to the point, though, we don't decide what time to call. The supervisor and the computer do that. And legislation, which says we're allowed to call until 10pm.
"Do you know you're calling at dinner time?"
"Really!? Goodness me, I'll inform my manager. I'm sure that once she finds out what a horrible mistake she's made, she'll reschedule all the shifts for the call centre."
When I was doing telesales for an arts organization, one of my co-workers, when confronted with the information that he was calling people during dinner, would answer, "Oh I'm sorry, I don't have my videophone today, I couldn't tell." He was so courteous and matter-of-fact when he said it that the supervisor let him get away with it.
I am awfully tempted to give such answers sometimes.
"Well, I'm not eating dinner; so obviously, it isn't dinner time."
It's not the result of some gross oversight that outbound call centres call people when they do. It's deliberate. We try to reach people when they're at home, which happens to be around "dinner time".
Once in a very rare while, I'll get someone who asks,
"Why are you calling on a Sunday?!"
They're really rather insuffrable. They imagine that most other people are just like them, and would be offended by a phone call from a market research company on Sunday. When really, such people are in the minority.
A couple of years ago there was a television ad for the Telezapper. It depicted a brash, chatty telemarketer, cheerfully dialing up some meek, balding man and steamrolling him over the phone. But then he got the Telezapper! It blocked the telemarketer's calls, leaving her looking all distressed and confused.
That ad botherd me. There seems to be this misconception that people work at outbound call centres for fun. That there's nothing we enjoy better than asking grumpy people what brands of tuna they can name off the top of their head, or trying to convince folks that, yes, they really do want a subscription to the opera this season! Telemarketers might sound like they're having fun, but that's because they're trying to sell you something. Telemarketers have grins plastered on their faces, but only because it comes through in their voice. And we definitely do not get upset and confused when we cant't get through to someone. We move on to the next call.
Working in an outbound call centre is a job. If someone doesn't want to talk to us, then we want to talk to them even less. But we're paid to do it anyways. We're counting down the hours to the end of the shift. So yes, we know what time it is.