Like a mild rash in the nether regions, we have all got it at one point or another. At all odd hours, odd situations – “Hello, Good evening sir/ma’am, would you like a credit card/loan/phone connection…they are like spam in your mailbox except that unlike spam they arrive at the most inauspicious of occasions.
I remember reading somewhere that the telephone was invented about three decades or so after the bath tub (don’t ask me where I find such stuff). I sure as hell doubt its authenticity but the point made was very relevant. It said that for about thirty years you could step into a warm comfortable bath without the telephone going off!
Telephones have always been an easy way of discreetly disturbing someone’s life. You don’t even have to apologise too sincerely; why? –because you aren’t there. It’s like butting into a conversation without ever having to excuse yourself or bother with what or who you just interrupted.
Mobile phones take this form of disturbance to a whole new level. Initially one could only interrupt meals, TV hour or family gatherings. Now they have intruded into the most private sectors of my life – vacations, work meetings and, at a more personal, my morning time on ‘the throne’!
I remember a time before annoying polyphonic ringtones, a time I used to love it when someone called me on my cell – my heart chimed louder than the phone’s ring itself. That was when calls were expensive and callers cheap. To receive calls then was a sure sign of prosperity and importance. Nobody stopped you from talking loudly in a movie hall then, they were too mesmerised by the lights that flickered and flashed on your phone screen.
Then the worse happened. This luxury became a basic necessity. Prices dropped, screens got brighter, voices got louder and that wonderful era of enjoying cell phone ownership came to an unfortunate end. From a pricey solitaire dazzling around ones neck the mobile became a dog collar – an electronic leash that could put a peg on you wherever you were. Wife, work…there was just no getting away from any of it!
All this was still manageable, but imagine when a stranger got a hold of your number and no not the hot chic you crossed at the bar last night. You distinctly remember her not begging for your number. Instead it is a person whom you have never met (perhaps been overtaken by in an ugly Tata/Toyota call-centre taxi) and yet they call and ask the most personal of questions with all the charm and etiquette of a truck driver’s assistant: “How much do you earn”, “How much loan is outstanding on your current car”, “How many credit cards to you use?” They might sooner ask me whether I cheat on my taxes or my other half and expect me to answer willingly!
Two things about Call Centre behaviour bug me most: the serious lack of research at their end before making a call, and no idea of basic telephone etiquette.
Information is everything. Amidst their incoherent pitch, these headset-wearing people inadvertently inform me about the plethora of services that are becoming available to us. We all need a credit card or compare insurance offerings and I do feel that ordering one on the phone would sure beat making a trip to a crowded bank to get one. Once informed and our choices made we normally expect to be left alone in peace but that is where the whole equation doesn’t exactly balance itself out. I wish they would maintain some sort of record of what I have and have not chosen already and choose to bug me accordingly in the future.
So far this month, I have been asked twice by the same company to get a card I already have, my mobile operator company has called and asked me to switch from ‘them’ to ‘them’ and, if I could actually buy all the insurance I have been offered I would become more precious than the Koh-i-noor! A little database management and not only would they be more effective in selling me new services, I would be every call centre dwellers’ dream-come-true on the other-end-of-a-dial-tone!
That all if the callers are able to get the information across to me in an audible, understandable and not-long-winded manner. Standard operating procedures about telling me the call is being recorded, wishing me the time of the day or asking me how I am are all fun if I am on an unending picnic. It is absolutely undesirable from unknown unsolicited callers. It is worse still when the person does it without any sense of sincerity and doesn’t even bother to listen to me about my growing pain in the lower left gonad. Some genuine sensitivity while asking delicate questions would go a long way in gaining caller brownie points. As it stands, you could actually have a better and more intense relationship with paid escorts!
The worst yet is that no matter how much you side-step them, the calls only get denser and each caller is more annoying than the previous. Pity I can’t slam a mobile phone down on them; pressing the red button just doesn’t have that same sense of release. Then they say that we are rude to poor phone people of the graveyard shift! Did someone mention phone rage?!
In this ever-increasing competitive world I think it is time companies realised that by employing such moronic annoying devices as callous as call centres and as personalised as public baths, they are only helping one business – not theirs.