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What if Call Center Agents Could be Free-spoken on Calls?


We all have read that story of an honest woodcutter, who drops his axe in water by mistake. And when given an opportunity to pick an axe made of gold and silver over his traditional, not so expensive axe, he still goes ahead and tells the truth. So, he is rewarded with all three axes, for being so honest.

Moral of the story – Honesty is the best policy.

Now, look at things within a corporate setup.

If you are working in a call center, and you are dealing day-in and day-out with angry, frustrated, abusive customers, it can often become difficult to hold on and not speak what you honestly feel. It can become tiring, irritating and frustrating.

The life of call center agents, is like the front page of a best seller magazine. Customers only get to read polished, published articles. Nobody really knows what exactly they wanted to say, and if they could, call centers would not seem so ‘friendly’ and ‘best place to take out our frustrations on’. This is the truth.

When call center agents join the work environment, they undergo a series of agent trainings. They are taught how to talk, be polite, always smile, treat customers with respect and humility, maintain corporate decorum, how they are a company’s mascots, and how they can wreck a brand value if they don’t sound ‘happy to help’. However, rarely do we as customers empathise with them. They are as human as us. They are not bots. They haven’t turned off their humanity switch. Just like anyone of us would not like to be mistreated or yelled at, they too get offensive or mad, but are just civilised enough to not show or care about it.

It is a simple equation – You play nice, they will help you. You don’t, they won’t.

But wait, if what I have written above makes you think that it is not true, then my friend let me tell you, besides always being ‘happy to help’ and ‘it was my pleasure to serve you’ chores, they are pretty good at masking their true emotions.Of course no likes unnecessary complaints, escalations or behaviour improvement plans under their names.

So, let me just walk you through three most common incidents and what call center agents usually say and what they actually mean.

(p.s all offence taken)

1. ‘I have been on hold for far too long’

Customer: Hello! I have been on hold for 10 god-damn minutes now! What is wrong with you?

Agent: I apologise for the delay sir. We are experiencing heavy call flow today. How may I help you?

Translation: I don’t care if you been on hold for 10 god-damn minutes or all your life. This is not my fault. My company needs to have more call center agents in place, instead of asking me to do overtime every second day. And, if I am answering 20 calls back-to-back, I think, I can put on on hold for sometime while I have a glass of water. Now, tell me what do you need? Or should I transfer you to the ‘right department’?

2. ‘I am in huge trouble, someone took money out of account/ my computer isn’t working/ my house is on fire!’

Customer: I am really stressed! Can you stop reading the script and help me here?

Agent: Oh! I am so sorry for your trouble. I will do everything I can to fix this for you.

Translation: Oh really? You are stressed? If you would have acted a little bit sensibly, you won’t have landed yourself in such a mess in first place. Now, if you really want me to help you out, be a little nice. Yelling won’t make me do ‘anything’; I would just put you on hold for eternity, and secretly hope that you will give up on yourself and hang up!

3. ‘ I need to speak to your manager’

Customer: You are useless! I need to speak with your manager,

Agent: I am really helpless here sir. I am doing everything I can to help you out. If you want I can make you speak with my manager, but I am afraid that won’t be of any help.

Translation: I am useless? Really? Then why are you wasting your money and my time by begging me to help you over and again? If you can just stop being stupid, you won’t have to call me or other call center agents and let us know about your chronicles of doltishness. And, my manager? Absolutely. I will make you speak with every manager on floor, so that they can give you the same reply that I have explained you in 10 different (polite) languages.

These are the top three most common one-liners customers tell call center agents, when we call them up. And what they actually say us.

While calling them up, we need to remember a simple fact that yelling or not trying to understand will not lead us anywhere. They are just doing their job. Instead, try and be a little nice. It will work better in your favour.

If you have more points to share or any feedback, let us know in the comments section.


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