Call Centre Agent Familiarity A Major Turn-Off

Call Centre Agent Familiarity A Major Turn-Off

CallCentre.jpg What’s worse than a call centre agent ringing right at dinner time? A call centre agent ringing right at dinner time and then repeatedly calling you “Angus”. The aim of that approach seems to be enforced familiarity, but it turns out that neither customers nor call centre workers enjoy the experience. Because most call centre staff are trained to use an ultra-social, North American approach, the whole thing quickly goes astray, according to a new Oxford University study. As researcher Dr Katrina Hultgren explained to the Daily Telegraph:

The problem is that agents are under pressure to process customers as quickly as possible, so they are inclined to opt for ways of creating rapport which can be done speedily. This tends to be by using the customer’s name as it’s quicker than engaging them in small talk. As a customer, we then have the impression of our name being overused and feel uncomfortable.

Aside from the intrusion, what gets your goat about call centre interactions? Share your experiences — and tactics for getting rid of them — in the comments. (I’ve sunk to hanging up without a word these days.) To improve your day-to-day interactions, check out our top 10 conversation hacks.


  • I find it easy to tell a telemarketer these days as there is a pause just as you pick up while the autodialler registers an answer and serves it off to someone. It’s only two or three seconds but plenty of time to just hang up once you can recognise it.

  • We’ve taken to not answering the phone during dinner. We are one of those rare families that eats dinner together at the table instead of in front of the TV, so whether it’s a call centre or friend we still don’t want to be interrupted in our family time. Likewise, if I’m home during the day 9 calls out of 10 on the home phone are just call centres.

    Another trick is only saying hello once then wait a few seconds – many call centres run a robot dialler, which only transfers the call to a human when it’s sure it has a human at the other end. Say hello twice and it knows you aren’t an answering machine, but say it once, wait a few seconds, and if the person at the other end doesn’t try to speak chances are you have a robodialler.

    The worst ones are the recordings – who is making those worthwhile? I can understand people who don’t feel comfortable blowing off the call centre human, but to stay on the phone and listen to a recording trying to sell you something???

  • I think I speak on behalf of most Australians when I say “Outsourced Callcentres”

    Call me racist, but if a telemarketer/call centre can’t speak English clearly, and is quite obviously from a call centre in Bangalore, I am not going to believe a word they say.

    A really quick test to see how ‘ethical’ they are, try the following:

    Ask for the operators name
    Ask for an ID code
    Ask which call centre they are calling from
    Ask for their manager’s name

    If they pass the above 4 questions with information, then odds are that they are up-front and reasonable to deal with.
    It also puts them back and breaks their script so you are getting the real information, not the information written on their call sheet.

    All of the above are completely legitimate questions to ask of someone you are entering business with or potentially providing personal information to.
    Its also great to know exactly who is getting your information.

    Would you trust someone who you have no hope of re-contacting who gets paid a couple of dollars a day with YOUR credit card number?

  • Another option is to place the receiver on your desk and carry on with what you were doing. Let the “machine” or person talk their spiel which in turn runs up their phone charges. After several minutes hang up.

    If you do get “caught” talking to one of these people and they ask “How are you today?”. Tell them! Recite a whole list of imaginary illnesses, ailments, etc., you, your family, your pets may be suffering. Thank them for their concern and hang up!

  • I’ve not had to experience a single telemarker call in over 4 years since ditching landline and going to an unlisted VOIP number and my mobile.

    Problem solved.

  • My favourites are the ones which say “Congratulations! You have won a mobile phone” or some other carrot. Depending on my mood I will either sound all excited and do this for a few minutes not allowing them to get a word in and then hang up abruptly, or say something like “Oh good, you already know my phone number, so you know where to send me my prize right?”

    The second approach is more satisfying when they try to get you back to their script.

  • I hate to say it but I have sunk to the point these days where I tell them we are not interested and if they persist I ask them to please hold the line and then just leave the phone off the hook.

    Lol seems to work well for me

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