I get a lot of angry comments on this blog from people who defend the customers in the posts despite the fact that they know the blog is fictional. To those people, I say that if I am Liza then I am also the customer, since I wrote their part of the conversation too. So thanks for sticking up for me so passionately.

 

Liza: Hello?

Agent: Good morning, am I speaking with Miss Liza Radley?

Liza: Yeah, that’s me.

Agent: Hello Miss Radley. I’m calling from your last employer regarding the outstanding debt you owe us which amounts to £305.

Liza: Wait, what?

Agent: You took paid leave before you resigned and that money is to be paid back as the time off hadn’t been accrued.

Liza: Right. Well I don’t have it.

Agent: I see. Well we’d be happy to complete an income and expenditure form with you to assess how much you can pay us back each month.

*I laugh*

Liza: Wow. I don’t miss this. I used to hate having to say that.

*The agent gives a polite laugh*

Liza: And I used to hate having to do that. Being polite to people who really didn’t want to speak to me.

Agent: Yeah. Well no, I mean. I do want to speak to you. I want to speak to you about the outstanding arrears of £305.

Liza: Yeah I know. Look, I’m sorry. I don’t have it.

Agent: I see. Well, if we complete an income and expenditure…

Liza: I’m never going to fill one of those out. I’m not going to be paying back that money. If I ever have to go to court or whatever, I’ll pay it the day before the court date.

*There is an awkward pause*

Liza: I’m not horrible. I know that I sound horrible saying these things but I’m not. And I know your manager is going to listen to this call and you’ll get in trouble for not getting a payment from me.

Agent: Well…

Liza: And I know it’ll be one of many instances where they’re breathing down your neck because you didn’t do the impossible.

*Pause*

Liza: But I’m not paying it because I hated that job and needed the holiday time to get my head together and build up the courage to go back. OK?

Agent: OK.

*I am about to hang up the phone*

Agent: So we’ll set a court date four weeks from now…

 

 

 

Call centre workers make lots of mistakes. There’s a sweeping statement for you. But to be fair, they don’t get paid very much and most of the time you’re not very nice to them so maybe you deserve whatever problems come your way. There’s another. There seem to be so many generalities which dictate the customer/call centre relationship it’s a wonder how we ever manage to get anything sorted out (but sometimes we do).

Liza: Good morning you’re through to Liza in collections, how can I help?

Ms Wainthropp: Well? Have you got this problem sorted out yet? You probably haven’t, have you?

*Pause*

Liza: What problem would that be?

Ms Wainthropp: Oh don’t tell me I have to go through all of this again! I’m sick of this now, do you hear me? It’s been three weeks you’ve been investigating and it’s about time you gave me an answer.

Liza: You see, I’ve literally just answered the phone to you and don’t know what you’re talking about. So…

Ms Wainthropp: I know that, which is exactly…

Liza: Can I….

Ms Wainthropp: … the sort of…

Liza: Can I just…

Ms Wainthropp: … thing I expected…

Liza: Right.

Ms Wainthropp: What?

Liza: No it’s fine. What were you saying?

Ms Wainthropp: No, go on then.

Liza: Can I take your mortgage account number so I can have a look and then tell you what’s been happening?

*Ms Wainthropp sighs*

Ms Wainthropp: 200405…

Liza: Yes?

Ms Wainthropp: …7710.

*I look at the account*

Liza: I see. I do apologise. I can see how this must have been very frustrating for you.

Ms Wainthropp: Mmm?

Liza: You called three weeks ago to say that you felt the arrears figure on your account was incorrect due to an error we made in 2010.

Ms Wainthropp: Yes. And you didn’t do anything about it for three weeks!

*I press mute*

Liza: As opposed to two years….

*Unmute*

Liza: Well we have an answer back from the admin department now for you. Again, I do apologise because you were right, it was our mistake. The arrears figure on your account was in fact incorrect. I’m so sorry.

Ms Wainthropp: Do you see what I mean? This company, and I’m not having a go at you, but this company is a shambles. A complete shambles. No wonder the housing market is in the state it is at the moment with you people running the show.

Liza: I know. Again, I’m sorry. And I completely understand why you’re upset.

Ms Wainthropp: So my credit file, will that be adjusted accordingly?

Liza: It can be, if you’d like?

Ms Wainthropp: Well of course I want my credit file to be adjusted! Otherwise it would be unfair.

Liza: OK. No problem. I can arrange that.

Ms Wainthropp: And will the arrears be wiped from my account?

Liza: We can’t do that I’m afraid.

Ms Wainthropp: What do you mean you can’t do that?

Liza: You owe an extra £600.00.

 

 

 

Two-Face

 

After working in five different call centres my self-confidence has gone on one hell of a journey. I started out feeling optimistic until I set foot on my very first “calling floor” at the start of my first day on the phones. I soon switched to terrified, flustered, then wary and finally jaded. Jaded was good. At least I knew where I was with jaded. There was a general sense of calm for a while. But after changing jobs and working as a debt collector I soon realised that in this profession people don’t like what you have to say or what you stand for, they don’t like your boss, your mother and they certainly don’t like you. I’m back feeling wary again because as soon as I hear that beep in my ear I’m trying to decide how much the person on the other end of the line hates me. And my Mum.

Mr Dent: Hello?

Liza: Hello there, this is Liza calling from your bank.

Mr Dent: Hello, Liza! How are you?

Liza: I’m good thank you and yourself?

Mr Dent: Oh you know. Not up to much. You’re catching me at a good time actually.

Liza: Great, well if you’ve just got a couple of minutes I won’t take up much of your time.

Mr Dent: Take all the time you want.

Liza: OK. Before I go ahead could I just confirm your name and date of birth please?

Mr Dent: Sure. Harvey Dent, 2nd August 1970.

Liza: Thanks, OK. Well I’m just calling because we haven’t received a mortgage payment for three months now.

Mr Dent: Yeah I know. Tell me Liza, do you look like Cheryl Cole?

*Pause*

Liza: No, I don’t.

Mr Dent: Oh. You certainly sound like her.

*I give a fake laugh*

Liza: Yes, well I can’t sing like her unfortunately. So, was there any particular reason for the missed payments?

Mr Dent: What’s your favourite song of hers?

*Pause*

Liza: I… um… well I don’t know.

Mr Dent: No come on, I’m interested. I like talking to you people.

Liza: Well, that’s nice. But I don’t know. Anyway…

Mr Dent: Have you been watching that X Factor?

Liza: No.

Mr Dent: Are you kidding? You haven’t been watching X Factor? You’re missing out Liza. I thought everyone watched X Factor.

*My laugh is more awkward now*

Liza: So the arrears on the account stand at £2500.

Mr Dent: Are you busy today? You’re probably trying to catch people just getting home from work are you?

Liza: Yeah, obviously people tend to be busy during the day. It’s OK though because…

Mr Dent: Uhuh. I don’t care. You know I’m taking the piss, right? I couldn’t give a shit about your poxy accent or what you watch on TV. You know that don’t you? And I’m not always happy to talk to you and no, this isn’t a good time. Comprendé?

*Who says comprendé? Nobody says comprendé anymore. It’s dead along with capiche*

Liza: OK, well we’ll just leave it then.

Mr Dent: What, just like that?

Liza: Yeah.

Mr Dent: Well, why have you bloody kept me on the phone for the last five minutes then? Talking about… God knows what?

Liza: X Factor?

*Mr Dent hangs up*

Unfortunately, this is why I can’t give the genuinely nice ones the warmth they deserve. You never know when they’re going to flip.

 

 

It drives me crazy when people have the nerve to be so angry at their banks for refusing to lower their payment amounts, whether for credit cards or mortgages, when they haven’t even bothered to sort out their expenditure first. How can you become so aggressive with another person when you haven’t checked to make sure you’re definitely not the one to blame?

Liza: Good morning, you’re through to Liza in collections.

Miss Costa: Hi, yeah listen I can’t afford this bloody mortgage. It’s a nightmare. I just don’t… my friend says I should ask if I can just pay the interest on it for a bit?

Liza: Possibly. Is there a reason why you’re struggling at the moment? Have you had a change in circumstances?

Miss Costa: Not really.

*Pause*

Liza: No, it’s just that you haven’t been in arrears at all until last month so I thought something might have happened.

Miss Costa: Yeah well… I got no money.

Liza: Yes… so do you think this will be a long term thing? Because an interest only mortgage is a long term solution really. If this is only a short term sort of….

Miss Costa: Yeah, yeah long term like… you know… long term.

Liza: OK well we need to go through your expenditure to see the shortfall each month…

Miss Costa: Yeah well can we do it quickly ’cause I got to go out.

*I press mute*

Liza: No. No we can’t.

*Unmute*

Liza: Yep, no problem. So… are you in employment?

*I then write down her expenditure for the necessary items, bills, groceries etc and she still has enough money to pay the mortgage*

Liza: So… you’re still left with enough money to pay the mortgage each month, Miss Costa.

Miss Costa: No, no I’m not.

Liza: Well I mean you gave me the figures and I’ve added them all up but you still have about £150.00 left each month.

Miss Costa: Well you’re obviously not adding them up properly.

Liza: Mmm… so are there any other items you’re paying for?

Miss Costa: No.

Liza: Nothing?

Miss Costa: Look, I have to go and meet my boyfriend for coffee. I’m on my way to work.

Liza: I see. How often do you go for coffee?

Miss Costa: Oh, so I’m not allowed a cup of coffee now is that it? You bloody people…

Liza: No, no. I’m simply trying to understand your spending habits.

Miss Costa: Why? It’s none of your business.

Liza: We won’t change the terms of your mortgage without checking to see h0w much you can afford… so…

Miss Costa: Every morning.

Liza: Sorry?

Miss Costa: Every morning before work I buy us both coffee. I never see him. Is that such a crime?

Liza: No. So, how much do you spend a day on coffee and things?

Miss Costa: God, I dunno… must be…

*Pause*

Liza: Miss Costa?

Miss Costa: Just a tenner or something. I have to buy his because he’s skint. Well, they don’t exactly pay him much.

Liza: £10.00 each weekday?

Miss Costa: That’s what I said!

Liza: Do you realise you spend £200.00 a month on coffee?

*Silence*

Miss Costa: Oh my God.

*I press mute*

Liza: You obviously didn’t add it up properly.

 

 

For a long time now I’ve known that I don’t sing from the same song sheet as the public. Nothing shocks me anymore.

Liza: Good morning you’re through to Liza in collections, how can I help?

Mr Thrift: I’m just ringing to say I’ve lost my job so I’m not going to be paying the mortgage this month.

Liza: OK. I’m sorry to hear that. Well, we’ll really need to go through your income and your outgoings to see what’s going to be affordable in the next couple of months. Or do you have a new job lined up already?

Mr Thrift: Are you kidding?

Liza: OK. So it’s going to be a problem for the next few months then?

Mr Thrift: Mmm.

Liza: Right. So we’ll do your income first. Have you applied for job seekers allowance?

*Mr Thrift laughs*

Mr Thrift: No point. They’re useless.

Liza: I see. So what do you have coming in at the moment to help pay the mortgage?

Mr Thrift: Jack squat.

*Pause*

Mr Thrift: So I’m not paying you.

Liza: Well, we wouldn’t agree to a reduced payment if you weren’t at least willing to try to help your situation by speaking to the job centre.

Mr Thrift: Are you listening to me or what? They won’t help me! I know this already! What would be the point?

Liza: Why wouldn’t they help you?

Mr Thrift: What, apart from the fact that I’m a white, straight man?

Liza: I don’t think they give you benefits just for being non-white or gay.

Mr Thrift: Well, you would say that because you want your money but we all know it’s true.

*I press mute*

Liza: You must be using the royal “we”.

*Unmute*

Liza: Well, you’re out of work and can’t pay your mortgage so they’ll at least give you something.

Mr Thrift: They won’t! They’re not bothered if I lose my house or not. I don’t fit their criteria.

*I roll my eyes*

Liza: What criteria is that?

Mr Thrift: Apparently if you have over £16,000 in savings you don’t qualify….

*Silence*

 

 

It’s astounding how highly some customers regard themselves. I think it comes down to intimidation. People think that we’re just the lowly call centre agents who will panic and submit if the customer tells us they’re intelligent or rich. It doesn’t work.

Ms Dow-Jones: What do you want?

Liza: Hello?

Ms Dow-Jones: Yes? I said what do you want?

*I clench my fist*

Liza: Hello there. My name is Liza, I’m calling from the bank.

Ms Dow-Jones: Yes, hurry up. My patience is wearing thin with you people.

Liza: Is this Ms Dow-Jones?

Ms Dow-Jones: Well who do you think it is?

*I press mute*

Liza: I bet you’re divorced.

*Unmute*

Liza: I’m calling about the arrears on the account. They currently amount to £3500.

Ms Dow-Jones: Yes, I’m aware of that and I tell you almost every day that I’ll sort it when I’m not too busy. But I’m busy with my business and don’t have time for such trivial matters.

Liza: I see. Well, if you tell us the date that you’ll pay then we can stop calling you.

Ms Dow-Jones: No. Look, I’ve told you this many, many times. I have other things I need to deal with and will get to it when I get to it. Do you understand?

Liza: Hmm. You see…

Ms Dow-Jones: No. Let me tell you something. You know what I’m going to do? Because I am sick of this now. Sick of this. So I’ll tell you what I’ll do if you call me again, I’m going to bill you for my time. Yes? I earn £280 an hour. Now that’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

*Silence*

Ms Dow-Jones: Hello?

Liza: Mmm?

Ms Dow-Jones: So every time your company calls me, I will bill you for my time and it’ll be £280 a call. Now, do you honestly think that your company are going to want that? Do you?

Liza: We won’t pay you to answer the phone.

Ms Dow-Jones: Oh but you will! New legislation has come into place that means I can now bill you for my time. It’s the law.

Liza: Well, you don’t ever ring us. We always ring you. So there’s no cost of the phone call…

Ms Dow-Jones: No, I didn’t say I was making the calls you stupid girl…

Liza: … and the phone calls we have don’t last an hour, so I don’t know why you would want to bill us £280 a call….

Ms Dow-Jones: Because that’s how much I earn! It might be hard for you to grasp that someone could earn so much money…

Liza: … Ms Dow-Jones….

Ms Dow-Jones: … and I’ll tell you what, my lawyer will have something to say…

Liza: Ms Dow-Jones, we won’t pay you £280 every time we call you to tell you that you owe us money.

Ms Dow-Jones: You give me one good reason why not!

Liza: Because you’d be making a profit from owing us money.

Ms Dow-Jones: Yes. That’s how business works.

Liza: The arrears on your account are £3500. Can you afford to pay that now then?

Ms Dow-Jones: No. I can’t.

*I press mute*

Liza: Because you’re a shit businesswoman, that’s why.

 

 

 

One of my pet hates is when a customer tries to use their job to change the outcome of a situation. Often these types of people are police officers and lawyers who don’t hesitate to tell you that everything about you, including the way you answer the phone, is illegal. It can be a bit worrying though when you end up speaking to the people who are supposed to have the ultimate authority on such a decision, and find they are wrong.

Liza: Good afternoon you’re through to Liza in collections. How can I help?

Mr Justice: Yes. I am sick of you accusing me of negligence.

*Pause*

Liza: OK. On what date did we accuse you of that?

Mr Justice: Every week! I get letters from you every week telling me that I have not been in contact with you regarding the arrears and that I have seven days to pay.

Liza: Right.

Mr Justice: And then low and behold, a week later you send me another letter!

Liza: Yes, we will do. OK, well…

Mr Justice: And before you go ahead with your apologies and excuses, I’m a judge. Most of the cases I deal with are regarding situations such as this and I already know a considerable amount more than you do.

*I glance at the arrears owing on his account*

Liza: I don’t doubt that. So, where in the letter does it say that you have been negligent?

Mr Justice: I’ve just bloody told you! The part where it says I haven’t been in contact. Can’t you read? You sent the damn thing, you should at least have the decency to know what it said.

Liza: I’ll have a look.

Mr Justice: And if you’ll check your notes on your system, like you’re supposed to do on every call then you’ll see that I speak to you every day about this issue.

Liza: Yes, I’ve noticed that.

Mr Justice: Well then?

Liza: You rang us on the 21st, the 20th, the 19th, the 18th and the 17th to say that you are unhappy about being accused of negligence on your part.

*Mr Justice laughs*

Mr Justice: But the irony of that has probably been missed by you, I expect. Was it?

Liza: And the agents involved told you that there is a legal disclaimer on the letter to advise that if you have been in contact with us, to disregard the letter. You might have missed that, though.

*Pause*

Liza: Oh and sorry, to answer your question.  I have noticed the irony.

 

Just looking at the title of this post makes me annoyed. Those four words seem to give the user social immunity, allowing them to say whatever they like to you whilst somehow retaining their position as the “victim” in the conversation. There are perfectly normal people out there who turn crazy as soon as they speak to a call centre agent, and it isn’t socially acceptable for them to do so, despite the use of the phrase above.

 

Liza: Good morning you’re through to Liza in debt management, how can I help?

Mr Hyde: Yeah hello. I’d like to know how much my bill is so I can pay it please.

Liza: No problem, before I go ahead can I take some security details please?

Mr Hyde: Oh here we go again. This is bloody… what sort of details?

Liza: I need your full name and your date of birth please.

Mr Hyde: Why?

Liza: Why?

Mr Hyde: Yes. Who are you to be asking me such personal questions?

Liza: Right. Well an account has come up because it’s linked with the number you’re calling from…

Mr Hyde: So you just want to waste some time, is that it?

Liza: I need to ask the security questions otherwise I could be discussing this account with anyone.

Mr Hyde: But you aren’t, I’ve told you.

Liza: Yeah. Well it’s the law. I’d lose my job if I didn’t.

Mr Hyde: So come on then, what’s your full name and date of birth?

*Pause*

Liza: My name is Liza Radley…

Mr Hyde: Yeah?

Liza: You don’t need my date of birth.

*Mr Hyde laughs*

Mr Hyde: You see? You bloody hypocrite. It’s nothing personal against you, but you’re all a bunch of hypocrites.

Liza: But, I don’t have an account with you. You’re asking just because you want to know.

Mr Hyde: I want to know? Don’t flatter yourself love, I don’t fancy you or anything.

*I sigh*

Liza: I’m not flattering myself. I’m just trying to follow the law and do my job.

Mr Hyde: Anyway, I’ve spoken to you before.

Liza: You may have. I haven’t looked at your account yet to check.

Mr Hyde: Well then. Why are you asking me these details again then, you dozy cow?

*I try to decide whether to lose my temper or not*

Liza: Because I speak to 12 people an hour, 35 hours a week. I can’t match your voice to your name, date of birth, address and account number.

Mr Hyde: Who do you think you’re speaking to? How dare you fucking talk to me like that.

Liza: I’m going to hang up on you now and you can go through this with someone else.

Mr Hyde: Oh, what? You’re going to hang up? I’ve told you it’s nothing personal against you love, I’m just saying why should I have to give out all of these details?

Liza: I’ve already explained to you.

Mr Hyde: Yeah but do you know what I mean though?

*I don’t say anything*

Mr Hyde: You know what, you’re absolutely useless. All I wanted to know is how much money I owe.

Liza: I haven’t verified who you are or which account is yours. So I can’t answer that.

Mr Hyde: So you’re refusing to tell me unless I go through these questions?

Liza: I mean it’s nothing personal against you or anything.

*Silence*

Mr Hyde: Right well… yeah I know that.

Liza: Do you know what I mean?

Mr Hyde: Yeah I suppose. OK. It’s Mr Hyde, 2nd September….

 

It’s a horrible, meaningless little phrase but if you repeat it right back to them then it tends to take the wind out of their sails. I don’t understand its magic, if I’m honest.

Over and Out

 

How do you answer the phone? Do you say “Hello?” like a normal person? Or are you one of these rude people who just answers with “Who’s this?” Or are you Mr Smith, who could never be bothered to do any army training but knows that he’d make a great soldier if the country ever needed him.

Mr Smith: 4125549?

Liza: Hello there. This is Liza calling from the bank. Am I speaking to Mr Smith?

Mr Smith: Mr John Smith, that is correct.

Liza: Hello there. I’m just calling with regards to your credit card. Do you have a couple of minutes to talk?

Mr Smith: I’ve got four minutes, yes.

Liza: You’ve got four… OK great. Yes. Right, well the arrears on the account at the moment stand at five hundred pounds…

Mr Smith: … and fifty nine pence. Yes. That is correct.

Liza: OK. So was there any particular reason for the arrears, Mr Smith? Have you been off work or anything like that?

Mr Smith: I was shot in the arm.

Liza: Oh were you? That’s awful.

Mr Smith: Well, I say shot. It was one of those bb guns, you know.

Liza: Yeah. That’s still quite bad. So you’d have had to take time off work, did you?

Mr Smith: No, no. It was just a bruise, like. Well, it wasn’t a bb gun but it was one of those other… guns. You know.

Liza: Right. OK. Well..

Mr Smith: Spud guns.

Liza: Sorry?

Mr Smith: Spud guns. Lethal in the wrong hands. Can still take out an eye.

Liza: Yes. So are you able to pay anything towards the account today?

Mr Smith: Just told you. I was shot. Nasty business really, all of this.

Liza: Um… well you see the thing is…

Mr Smith: I shall contact you when the time is convenient and we can reconvene to sort out some sort of settlement that is fair to both parties. Agreed?

Liza: O…K.

Mr Smith: Goodbye!

*Mr Smith hangs up*

Liza: Over and out.

He seemed like the type of guy who would have a torch that had the light of a million candles, or perhaps a gas stove that was also a penknife.

 

Sometimes you can talk to the most insane people, but it’s odd to realise that you don’t react in the way you’d think you would. Most call centre agents are just on autopilot anyway.

Mr Myers: Hello?

Liza: Hello there this is Liza calling from your bank. Is this Mr Myers?

Mr Myers: Erm… yeah.

Liza: Hello Mr Myers. I’m just calling about the arrears on your credit card. Currently they stand at £2750. Are you able to pay anything today?

Mr Myers: Not really. I’m at work at the minute and my boss doesn’t look very happy with me.

Liza: Oh I am sorry. I mean we can discuss it quickly or we can…

Mr Myers: Yeah he’s not very happy. He’s got an axe.

Liza: Oh OK. So shall I ring you this evening?

Mr Myers: Well no I think he wants to sort out some sort of payback. You’re in the same city as us aren’t you?

Liza: We are, yes. I’ll tell you what I’ll do, did you say he wants to pay something towards your card for you?

Mr Myers: No, I said he has an axe and he wants to kill you.

Liza: I see, well I mean I can’t discuss anything with him anyway because his name isn’t on the account.

Mr Myers: Are you listening to me sweetheart, my boss wants to kill you!

Liza: I mean I understand his frustration, what I can do is I can just make a note to say you will be paying something by the end of this month. Does that sound OK to you?

Mr Myers: I don’t have time to talk about this. I’m very busy!

Liza: How does that sound then? I’ll put that in and then I’ll let you go, Mr Myers.

Mr Myers: Right OK.

Liza: Great, thanks then. Bye!

*I hang up*

Colleague: Not very happy, was he not?

Liza: He reckons he’s got an axe.

Colleague: That’s a new one. Beats my guy who blew a whistle every time I spoke to him.

Because if you won’t take us seriously, we won’t take you seriously.

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