Note to tech geeks…call center employees aren’t necessarily tech geeks.

So Tom Keating wrote a post in his blog the other day about how shocked he was that the billing department drone at
Vonage didn’t know as much about VoIP or TMC magazine as he does.  He was also shocked that they attempted to keep his business.  This created a buzz in the blogosphere for some reason.  Has no one in blogspace ever cancelled something before?  Have they never called a call center?

I’m always a bit taken aback when someone calls a call center for customer service and then gets all indignant that the person they speak to knows less about x product than they do.   Remember…these people are making probably slightly more than minimum wage and reading a script.  For the most part, they don’t know anything about the technology they’re selling beyond the basics, and frankly, they shouldn’t.  First lets talk about billing, and cancellation.  These are billing people.  It’s their job to get payments and sort out those issues, not to know who TMC magazine is.  Heck, I don’t even WANT these people reading an online magazine that has absolutely zero to do with their job description while they’re working.  As far as off hours reading,  frankly (and I hate to tell you all this) for most of the world, telecom is kinda boring.  And of course they are going to try and change your mind about cancelling.  That is their job.  I read Tom’s transcript, and I don’t think the call center employee did anything out of line or took any attack patterns that were unfair; they were toeing the company line and trying to make you a happy customer instead of a former one.  Sure, it would have been nice if she understood some of the technical aspects of your job and how much you know etc.  But at the end of the day, her job is to collect money and retain customers, not know the ins and outs of VoIP and how good or bad the Crisco whoziwhatsit is or give a rats pootie about TMC magazine.  Sorry Tom…I read and enjoy your blog (as well as about 6 other TMC writers)  every day, but then, it’s part of my job to have some understanding of the industry.

Now tech support.  Again, these are people reading from a script…for the most part they come to work, answer some basic questions, then go home to their lives that have absolutely nothing to do with telecom other than using the phone to call their buddies.  And good on em for that.  Not everybody eats sleeps and craps techbabble like some of us out here.  How would you feel if you knew that the very best and brightest support techs at X company were answering the call center lines where the vast majority of questions involve the answer “is the power cord plugged into the wall ma’am?”  You’d probably think it’s a major misuse of company resources.

If you’ve ever worked for a company that actually has a call center and gone down to visit them you’d know that everything is scripted.  They spend alot of money have scripts as complete as possible.  Occasionally someone strays from the script; at that point there are measures that usually involve escalating the call.  However if you stray from the script but in familiar territory (ie: call center person catches key words that are scripted but out of context) you can expect some odd and confusing answers to your question.  This is the nature of call centers.  If you can’t deal with that, do yourself (and the call center employees) a favour and NEVER call a call center again.  Make some friends at different levels of every company you deal with and deal with them directly.

I’ve noticed over the years that us tech geeks tend to forget that there is a whole nation of people who don’t know everything we know out there.  Techies tend to forget that the grandma factor is prevalent in society; it’s the norm and WE are the exception (People who work in the pipe fitting industry possibly feel the same way about U-Joints or PipeFittersWeekly magazine or some such; they’re shocked that someone wouldn’t know what that is).   Geeks, writers, techies of the world repeat after me:  “When I call a call center I am most likely calling someone who can barely turn on their monitor.  They probably know less than me about this, and that’s ok.”

ON another note…

Special shout out to Jeff Pulver for showcasing my blog the other day thereby sending a boatload of traffic my way.  Of course now I have to watch my language…


5 comments so far

  1. Tom Keating on

    A good post with excellent points which for the most part I agree with. However, you need to read the comments section where I clarified that I didn’t expect her to know TMC’s magazines.

    I wrote:
    let me just say that the sentences where I scoff at “how could she not know I write for the #1 VoIP magazine” and pretending to have a big ego were purely for entertainment and humor purposes. Hope it came off that way.

    The Internet is a big ocean, and I am but a tiny plankton. See, I can be humble! : )

    So again, the ego thing was purely for entertainment purposes.

    >>I read Tom’s transcript, and I don’t think the call center employee did anything out of line or took any attack patterns that were unfair;

    Agreed. If you read the transcript, it does appear nothing was out of line – however you don’t hear the tone in her voice. That’s what annoyed me. As I wrote in the comments section:
    Let me be clear by saying she did do a good job. She DESERVES to be in the customer retention center for being tough and not giving up. The one thing the transcript doesn’t denote is “tone”. She comes off as more polite in the transcript, when she actually had some “attitude”.

    If you listen to the beginning, her line where she says “Oh well, they offered you that for now, but how long is that package going to last???” It’s pretty accusatory and with a lot of attitude. Her tone didn’t sit well with me. She could have dropped the attitude and stuck with the facts. Was a total turn off.

    I think if you listen to the call you’ll see what I mean.

  2. twitchy67 on

    Thanks for your response Tom. I gotta say I totally missed the sarcasm bit about the magazine *blush*. Usually I catch that…hehe. Ahhh the joy of text based communication.

    I definitely agree with you… a snarky attitude has no place in retention centers. I did not listen to the MP3 of the call when I wrote the post.

    At the end of the day, tho, I still think that the assumption that a call center employee should know as much about the product as an engineer or a sales guy is incorrect. My blog was catalyzed (is that a word?) by your post but wasn’t specifically about you and your experience…just referenced to it.

  3. marian on



  4. Time Keeper on

    I can’t believe I spent about half an hour of my time reading this nonsense. Who cares who Tom is and some VoIP magazine? There are other more important things to be concerned about in this world than knowing some guy that have no input on my life (other than coming up with ways to make other people waste their time.) Of course, I wasn’t forced to read his blog, but being a Vonage customer I stopped to read thinking he was going to reveal something important about the company and/or its service. Big deal you’re saving $10 bucks! It doesn’t do me any good when in my area AT&T charges customers different rates. Not all of us leave in a tiny town were even the water sometimes come free!

  5. twitchy67 on

    Um…ok…that made no sense at all…and if it took you half an hour reading it, maybe you should go back and finish grade 2…

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