When people ask what I do for a living, I reply that “I publish magazines and websites for the call center industry.” Their responses are varied, as well as interesting. For some people, their eyes immediately glaze over, and they change the subject. Others key in on the word “publish,” offering to submit their writing, regardless of suitability. Incredibly, I have been asked to publish short stories, poems, and even song lyrics in my trade magazines! Another group focuses on the word “website” and enthusiastically shares their latest triumph, as in, “Yea, I’m uniquely tapping Java to develop scalable websites guaranteed to revolutionize the vertical widget industry.” That’s when I change the subject.
For those who zero in on the phrase “call center,” their queries predictably fall into one of four areas. The first is an unthinking reaction from those who wish to blame me for the dinnertime interruptions they receive via the telephone. This provides a chance to engage in some one-on-one industry PR work. First, I agree with them that unsolicited calls are annoying. Then I assure them that I don’t encourage the calling of people who wish not to be contacted. These pronouncements surprise them. From that vantage, I can then attempt to educate them about the laws and their rights. Soon they’re nodding in agreement — though perhaps just to get me to stop talking.
The second category of responses is from those who associate a particular call center technology with the industry. They may interject, saying, “Well, I just keep pressing zero until I get a real person,” or “Why do I have to enter my account number and then give it again when the person answers?” Again, I have an opportunity to educate.
The next group wants to grill me about the “Do-Not-Call” (DNC) legislation. This response is especially prevalent after a deluge of automated political calls being made as a prelude to elections. My inquisitors snicker with resigned acquiescence as I share that the politicians exempted themselves from the calling restrictions that they foisted upon everyone else. I am able to explain about “existing business relationships” and inform them that they can request to be added to the company’s internal “do not call” list. At this point, I’m not sure that they’re listening, perhaps they just want to vent — and I am the handy target.
The fourth response is the most common and perplexing. They make a statement along the lines of “I never can understand those people in other countries.”
“How do you know that the agent was in another country?” I probe. “Did you ask them?”
“Well, no, but I can tell ’cause they have an accent,” is their emphatic retort.
Their false assumption has snared them. They think that if an agent has an accent, they must be offshore; conversely an agent with no discernable accent must be in the United States. Ergo only offshore agents have hard to understand accents.
I have conversed with heavily accented agents who are US-based — some I understood and others were a struggle. Conversely, I have talked to accented offshore agents — some I acceptably communicated with, while others were a futile effort.
However, I have never talked with an offshore agent without an accent — apparently if someone has no accent, I subconsciously assume that they’re US-based!
Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.