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The Contact Centre Agents I Hate

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It happens once every couple of months. I know it’s them immediately because it comes up as an international call and they ask for my wife by her maiden name – our number has been registered in the phone book under her name for as long as we have been together. What amazes me is that despite them not knowing that, they are able to tell us that there is a problem with the security on her computer, they know what it is, and that we can fix it by buying some sort of application from them.

I hate these callers. Their focus is deception – pure and simple. They use the tried and tested old trick of creating unnecessary anxiety, and then follow it up with a proposed solution – possibly one that will introduce more infection into your computer than it had in the first place.

On a slow day recently, I decided to play along when “Sarah” called. I was shocked to be told my wife’s PC was infected. I adopted the persona of a somewhat chauvinistic husband who believed his wife was quite incompetent, so much so that when I told Sarah that women shouldn’t be let near computers, she agreed with me – people will do anything for a sale. I followed Sarah’s instructions to check my wife’s PC, and invented numerous strange happenings as we talked. Sarah was unflappable – she just kept her pitch going. When I agreed that we needed help with our PC, Sarah passed me to “Ian”, in ‘technical support’. Ian was no more a technical support person than I am a brain surgeon - he was just there to secure the sale. When I told him that maybe I should buy two of the fix packages, because my daughter also used my wife’s computer, he was happy to double the order. It was only when I was giving him my (imaginary) name, a comic one dressed up as initials and a surname, that Ian twigged he was being had. “Sir”, he said “you are a complete son-of-a-bitch”. I could easily have said the same of him.

I don’t feel remotely guilty for doing what I did to what some might regard as members of my industry. If they are fellow members, then they are the lowest of the low. They prey on those who may not be very computer literate - the insecure and the elderly amongst them. I recognise that Sarah and Ian are just trying to make a living, and that their employer is the truly evil one, but as the commission-earning front face of the organisation they should not be tolerated either. Furthermore, these people give our industry a bad name, and they do nothing for offshore locations.

My (real) wife and daughter were sitting opposite me during the conversation, and found it to be hilarious. For me, though, there was also a more serious purpose. If, over the 40 minutes I kept Sarah and Ian talking, I prevented them calling one or two vulnerable people that day, I will have done a service. I only wish I had 40 minutes to spare every time I get calls like these.

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