Rocket Science

Well here we go again. Christmas barely over and the new year not yet started, but it’s already a matter of rocket science to call us.

A very nice man rang to set up a new policy. Told me he’d already spoken to a colleague and he’d had details of the cover to read through before setting it up. No problem until I got to the payment details.

‘Can you hold while I find my card?’ He asked.

Surely if you want to take something out over the phone and you have all the details, including the price, you would know that you would need your payment details. Or at least the majority of people would. For some people it seems that this simple matter is rocket science.

Two customers asked me how to send in a cheque. Both of them had been with us for several years.

‘Same as last year,’ I said. ‘You fill out the check, attach the reply slip – making sure that your details are correct – and post it to us.’

Rocket science.


No Privacy

It’s quite a big call centre where I work. When it’s full there’s about 400 people on our floor alone, and we only take the inbound coming calls. So there’s no privacy whatsoever. It’s quite a big place, although I would not go so far as to say it’s the biggest call centre. Definitely not. Of course it’s all open plan.

There’s no privacy whatsoever. I’m based in roughly the centre of the room Very roughly. I have a good view of most of the floor and get to see and hear quite a lot.

I’ve heard enough gossip to sink the Titanic. Again. I’ve heard farts, sneezes, coughs, belching, and all sorts of bodily noises, voice tones, and whispers.

I’ve seen the guys walking around scratching their balls and their backsides, or pulling their flies up. I’ve seen the women pulling their bra straps up, pulling the knickers out their arse, pulling their skirts out their knickers, and loo paper off their shoes. I’ve seen people picking their nose on many occasions, some even wiping their bogeys on the underside of the desk! Gross.

I’ve seen people sitting at their desk and doing their makeup – they obviously don’t believe in getting ready for work until they actually get to work. I’ve seen the people who leave getting up until the very last second and end up with their clothes inside out. And I’ve seen people wearing clothes with holes that have been very rapidly sown using the wrong colour thread.

I’ve seen the women wearing the see-through clothes, and the extremely short skirts. They often have a male retinue following them up the stairs, but there always seems to be four or five steps between them. Wonder why?

I’ve smelt the farts, the body odour, the perfume – not all nice. I’ve smelt the food items that are brought into work, and the food from the canteen. I’ve also known the times when the air conditioning has gone alter-cock and smelt decidedly like rotten fish. Not pleasant.

With so many people you get to see and hear a lot of what you don’t or shouldn’t see and hear. Thing is many people seem to think it’s funny making fun about someone who’s just walked out the loos with sheets of toilet paper on the foot, when they sit there reeking of body odour or extremely cheap perfume themselves.

When you get so many people of varying ages, genders, cultures, and nationalities together, you also get the stereotypical personality types – timid, independent, intellectual, adventurous, to name a few, and of course the bullying type. Those idiots who take the mick out of other people and are actually far worse than those they laugh about.

Those of us who are bit more mature just sit back and watch the goings on with varying degrees of cynicism, disgust, revulsion, disbelief, or amusement. The lack of privacy has definitely been an eye opener.


One of the most routine things we do in the call centre is renew a policy. We do many renewals each day. Customers even ring in if their policy is on automatic renewal, even though we send out documents a few weeks before renewal telling them it will be automatically renewed. Here’s a few of the more memorable calls:

CUSTOMER: I’ve had a letter. Am I through to the right place?
ME: I don’t know. Maybe if you tell me what the letter is and why you are calling I might be able to answer that question.

CUSTOMER: I want to speak to HR about my renewal.
ME: You want to speak to Human Resources about your renewal? They employ people. They don’t know anything about your policy.
CUSTOMER: Well I need to speak to them about my renewal. Or somebody at least.

ME: The policy will automatically renew next year unless you tell me differently.
CUSTOMER: Does that mean I get a year free?
ME: No.

CUSTOMER: Here’s my card number. Just renew my policy.
ME: How about giving me your address first so that I know what I’m renewing and who I’m renewing it for.

CUSTOMER: I’ve had my renewal and I just wanted to let you know that I’m posting my cheque tomorrow.
ME: Thank you for letting me know. Sorry you had to wait in a call queue for 10 minutes to tell me. Unfortunately we have a lot of people phoning today for no reason.

CUSTOMER: I’ve had my renewal. It’s gone up by 33.4%. What do you say about that?
ME: It hasn’t gone up. It’s the same price as last year. Check your bank statement.

No business can continue without customers. But us agents would certainly have more peace of mind without them.

Computer Problems

The call centre computers went down today. Only for a short time so it wasn’t too bad. It happens from time to time. We’re stuck answering the phone but can’t do anything on the system. The managers always come round with the inevitable ‘call-back’ sheets. I very rarely write anything on them. I try to do my best to answer queries without the computer. It’s not always possible. But I do manage to handle quite a few of the calls without the need to call people back.

The best time of course is when the phone lines go down. That is a rare occurrence and greeted with great enthusiasm and a round of cheers when it happens.

Most of the time the customers are actually understanding when we have computer problems. There are those who see it as an opportunity to have a go at us. And, of course, there are those who just aren’t bothered.

CUSTOMER: Could you look at my payments and dates please?
ME: I sorry but our computer systems have just gone down. I’m not able to do anything at the moment. Can’t call anything up at the moment.
CUSTOMER: You’ll need my policy number won’t you?
ME: No.

CUSTOMER: I’m looking at some of the policies on the website and would like further details.
COLLEAGUE: I’m afraid our computer systems have just gone down so I’m not able to get on the internet at the moment.
CUSTOMER: Oh! What a lame excuse. Just because you can’t be bothered to answer my questions.
COLLEAGUE: The computer system is down. I can’t access the internet.
CUSTOMER: Don’t bother yourself. I’ll go elsewhere.

At other times the computer is so slow that I’ve come close to putting my fist through the screen. We’ve just had our computers updated and they’ve got slower than normal, as well as kicking us out of a system while being in the middle of updating a record. I often wonder if computers have made our lives harder rather than easier.

Are You Listening?

When customers phone us they often have an idea of what we are going to say, or more often an idea of what they want us say. Sometimes it can take several minutes before we can get through to the customer with the actual facts. Here are a few examples:

ME: Your policy was renewed at the end of November, but payment will be requested at the end of December because you pay a month in arrears.
CUSTOMER: Has payment been taken yet?
ME: No. Payment will be requested at the end of December.
CUSTOMER: Why hasn’t the payment cleared? It’s not on my bank statement.

CUSTOMER: I went to the bank to pay the renewal but they said they couldn’t do it. They told me to call you.
ME: We don’t have the facility to pay at the bank. You can renew over the phone by debit/credit card or direct debit. Or send a cheque/postal order in the post. Would you like me to renew it for you now?
CUSTOMER: Yes. I don’t have a credit card.
ME: I can do it on direct debit for you.
CUSTOMER: I want to pay cash at the bank.

ME: Next year your policy will be renewed automatically unless you tell me you don’t want that to happen.
CUSTOMER: Does that mean I get a free years cover?

ME: I need the policy holders permission before I can discuss the policy details with you.
CUSTOMER: Oh. But when is it due to be renewed?
ME: I need the policy holders permission before I can discuss the policy details with you.
CUSTOMER: Well it’s due for renewal on 5th of December, so can you renew it now and I’ll pay for it?

Listening is an art it seems.


I had a very nice gentleman phone me today. A professional person from a respected profession. He was ringing about a particular policy we offer.

I’ve been very careful not to mention the company I work for during my blogs, or say anything that could relate to the company. People who work there obviously spot the things I’m talking about, but anyone outside would not know. It could get me into trouble if I make mention of them or give anything away. So for ambiguous purposes I will use a colour!

‘I’m calling about the Yellow policy’, said Mr A. ‘It only covers yellow, but you probably won’t know about that.’

‘That’s why it’s called the Yellow policy’, I answered with the politest sarcasm.

I work for the company so of course I’m going to know. His patronising back fired. He might think he’s speaking to a dumb-ass call centre agent, but he proved to be the biggest dumb-ass.

Another customer, also very polite and friendly, rang to ask about a mailing she had received.

‘I’m reading here about your Purple cover. This letter says it covers…Is that right?’

Firstly we can’t put anything false in the adverts. Boy would we be in trouble. Secondly what purpose would it serve. We want customers who stay with us. If they think we’ve lied they’ll be leaving in their droves. Thirdly, miss-selling is a big issue at the moment for many companies. Any company with half a brain would be training their staff to stay well away from miss-selling.

Of course the information in our adverts is correct. The problem is that many customers don’t bother reading it properly, or they need some kind of affirmation to give them the confidence of buying. There are too many people in this country who need other people to confirm to them that they are making the right choice. People need to stop being sheep. They need to start using their own minds and thinking for themselves.


A friend of mine shared this anecdote about an interview, so I thought I’d share it on my blog.

PROSPECTIVE MANAGER: So, Fred, have you done much work in chemicals previously?

FRED: Oh, yes. Most of my working life has been in the chemicals field.

PROSPECTIVE MANAGER: We deal primarily with nitrate. I take it you know what nitrate is?

FRED: Oh, yes. It’s normally time and half.

Artificial Lights

They spent a few million designing and building the call centre where I work. We’ve been in this particular building for several years now, but I can still remember all the hype about it before it was ready. It was the company’s baby. Extremely important. The company had to mention it as much as possible. They wanted and needed all of us to believe that this building was the answer to all our prayers. It was the most modern, the most state of the art call centre ever. And we had to be very thankful that we were the people who were going to use it.

It still looks very nice. Windows all the way around, none of which can be opened. And it’s full of artificial lighting.

I hate artificial lights.

I’ve had problems with my eyes every since stepping foot in this building. I had cataracts. Had to have both eyes operated on. Each doctor and optician I saw said that I was far too young to have cataracts. So how did I get them? A nurse told me that the sun can cause them. Well I don’t walk around looking up at the sun, and I wear sun glasses in summer. So how did the sun caused me to have cataracts? I know people who don’t wear sunglasses. They don’t have cataracts. I believe it’s the artificial lights but I can’t prove it.

I think I have the brightest artificial light right above where I sit at the moment. It’s been affecting me quite badly recently, but Thursday afternoon was the worst ever.

It’s causing me to have headaches, my eyes have been sore, my nose has been running. I thought I had a cold. Except that I don’t have a cold when I’m not at work. Figure that one out.

My eyes were very sore Wednesday afternoon so I decided to take in sun glasses – a colleagues suggestion – and I grabbed a cap. There’s a few people who have felt the need to wear sun glasses in this building. So Thursday afternoon I sat there wearing my cap and sun glasses. I looked like a right prat and it still didn’t help. I felt like I was being microwaved. I could feel the heat from the light on my head. As soon as I took cap and glasses off I looked like I’d been peeling onions and was crying my eyes out. I wasn’t actually crying. But my nose and eyes were streaming. My face was red, my eyes were red, and my head was banging.

My manager has asked facilities to take a look at the light. I’m not holding my breath. People have asked them before to turn the lights off or down and they’ve refused. Lovely people. They say it’s health and safety so the lights have to stay on. I’ve made a plan to sit elsewhere until they’ve sorted it. It’s either that or get microwaved. Or smash the light.

Christmas Drinking Warning

A friend of mine has sent me this dire warning. I pass it on to all who read or may read this post.

Vodka and ice will ruin your kidneys.
Rum and ice will ruin your liver.
Whiskey and ice will ruin your heart.
Gin and ice will ruin your brain.
Pepsi and ice will ruin your teeth.

So there you have it. Ice is lethal. Avoid it at all costs. Take your drinks straight. Pass this warning on. Avoid ice.

Look at what it did to the Titanic.

Panic! Panic! Panic!

The panic is still on this week. Customers ringing in their hundreds to get their boilers and pipe work covered. Nothing like leaving it till the last minute. When the really cold weather gets here it’ll be people who still haven’t got cover ringing for emergency jobs. So the panic will continue well into February next year.

I’m still knackered. That will probably continue well into February next year as well.

I’ve managed to refrain from smashing a colleagues head into the brick wall. Whether that continues into February…we’ll just have to wait and see.

Xmas is almost here. That won’t continue into next February. That’s a definite.

Margaret Road Wednesbury WS10 7QT 07505067286 By appointment only, so please contact me to discuss available times.