Everything everyone needs to know about call centres

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Common complaints about call centres
A few months ago I asked on my Facebook page what people hated about call centres and without doubt the top hates were:

  • speaking to people in different countries where communication was difficult
  • call centre staff go from a script
  • call centre staff hanging up on calls
  • music playing
  • refusal to give names
  • passing from one department to another
  • not knowing the answer to questions
  • refusal to pass you to someone senior
  • all the options before you get to speak to someone….

it would appear most of us don’t have a good word to say about call centres.

The inside information from call centre staff
Interestingly people who had worked in call centres gave some insight into why we get some of the problems. Here are some reasons for the problems above:

This isn’t all call centres but some of this information came from a member of staff from a very big well known company!

  • The call queues waiting times are specifically designed to be long enough to encourage you to ‘give up’. You will wait a designated ‘minimum time’ even if agents are available
  • Queue messages are designed to discourage you “you are 457th in the queue” or plainly tell you to go away “many common issues can be resolved by visiting our web site at xxx.com” – and they will become increasingly discouraging as time passes
  • Response scripts are specifically designed to restrict what call handlers can do and, ideally, convert a call into a new sale. ‘Escalation’ paths for calls are specifically designed to delay or avoid resolution
  • Staff are given average call times
  • Passing the call on to another employee counts as a conclusion to the call (even when the caller is placed in another long queue elsewhere in the organisation)
  • The computer systems used are terrible since not all data is available since the call centre is not really the company you are calling.
  • The call centre staff are not trained to give you satisfaction but to simply get close to the required precentage success rates

What can you do?
I tend not to use call centres because they are generally so diabolical. I write. asons why writing is so much better than ‘phoning here. Where the matter is not urgent and this is a possibility I always advise writing. Be clear, concise and polite. Make sure you have all the details and list the issues. Ensure you include all your account details. If you do not get a satisfactory response write to the CEO. You can find email contact details at www.ceoemail.com. For most companies you can consider taking the matter to the relevant ombudsman, e.g. Energy Ombudsman, CISAS, Financial Ombudsman etc. You need to wait until 8 weeks after you start the complaint or request a “deadlock letter”. This is a letter from the company stating that they will not communicate further on the matter.

If you have to ring, be polite, get the name of the person you are speaking to as soon into the conversation as you can. Make a note of the start and finish times of calls, including the length of time you were on the phone. If the person keeps repeating what they are saying and it is of no help ask to speak to a supervisor, you may or may not get this but note everything down. Ask for them to send you confirmation on anything they have agreed, if possible whilst you are still on the ‘phone. Be clear and assertive (not aggressive) in what you want and provide deadlines for this. Under The Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. Leaving you on the ‘phone and not answering queries or providing you with the service you are paying for is a breach and tell them so. Asserting your legal rights often gets you taken more seriously and you are more likely to get the call escalated. Follow up all bad experiences with a call centre with a letter/email of complaint detailing the problems and the issues with the call (as well as your original complaint!) and assert your legal rights and you should find you get some redress!

Helplines
A key point to note is that there is now a prohibition on not providing basic rate numbers for post-contract customer helplines. Where traders offer telephone helplines for consumers to contact them about something they have bought, there should be a number available on which the consumer can call for this purpose at no more than the basic rate. Financial services companies are not affected by this change. But, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is considering whether it could introduce similar measures for customers calling banks, insurance companies and investment brokers.

More tips here with more advice, laws, information and template letters in the book. I was quoted in an article in Glamour magazine (the irony!) with more advice here.

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6 Responses to Everything everyone needs to know about call centres

  1. David Hardy says:

    I’ve had 2 fruitless attempts to ‘phone HMRC. Once I was holding on for 23 minutes, 2nd time for 33 minutes. I have got other things to do with my life!! I need to inform them of my son’s change of address for his disability tax credits. I’m scratching my head now to think of an alternative method!!

    • The Complaining Cow says:

      Write. You then have a record.

      • Kyle says:

        And you will get a reply sometime in June or July, unfortunately. I have had letters sent in October, about S.A. replied to this month.

        Target closure time for letters is 40 days, but resources are being moved to the phones, to ‘lower call wait times’, it seems.

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  3. Ian says:

    “Financial services companies are not affected by this change. But, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is considering whether it could introduce similar measures for customers calling banks, insurance companies and investment brokers.”

    The FCA did finally act and their regulation came into effect on 26 October 2015. Banks, card companies, brokers and insurers must use numbers starting 01, 02, 03 or 080 for contact by existing customers. The regulations effectively ban the use of numbers starting 084, 087 and 09.

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