I don’t want to talk to you.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I call nearly 100 people in a shift, and the majority don’t answer. I am so used to hearing four rings and an answering machine that the click of you picking up the phone disorients me.
I might be chewing something (unprofessional but still entirely possible). I might be laughing with the caller who sits next to me (highly likely). Then, after 36 answering machines, you answer the phone. My entire body tenses as I gulp that last bite and seamlessly transition from hysterical laughter into a calm “Hi, is John available?”
I’m not opposed to talking to you, believe me. But apparently you might not feel the same way.
Believe me, if you don’t want to talk to me, it’s okay to just let your phone ring. Your sneaky technique of picking up your handset and setting it back down is disappointing. I know you have Caller ID. I know you don’t want to talk to me. It’s nothing personal. And please, please don’t just pick up the phone and walk away. I will sit there, saying, “Hello? …hello? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. Hello?” Because if you are actually there and I hang up, that is bad. Muy malo. If you don’t want to talk, either be a man and tell me so or just don’t answer.
As long as I’m advocating voicemail, let’s talk about that.
Your cute voicemail, recorded by your adorable child, does not do warm fuzzy things to my heart. In fact, quite the opposite. The shrill stuttering of your spawn hurts my ears, is incomprehensible, and makes me want to kick puppies. Record your own voicemail. Your kid can do it when they can form grammatically correct sentences on their own. Not until then.
If you’re recording your own voicemail, here’s a word of wisdom. Never, ever, ever ever begin your voicemail by saying, “Hello?” I will have a conversation with your answering machine and endure several seconds of miserable, terrifying confusion as I try to discern if you actually answered or if I’m introducing myself to a plastic box. In this same category are the opening lines of “This is the Smith’s!” or “Hey… this is John.” In lieu of these confusing lines, an efficient and effective alternative would be to say “Sorry, John and Pocahontas are not available, but if you leave a message, we’ll get back to you!”
For the rare times when you and I do actually talk, I have a few requests.
Don’t hang up on me. I know it’s tempting to just press “end” or set the receiver down, but I am not a robot. If it’s the beginning of the call and you realize you either don’t want to talk or don’t have time or whatever the reason might be, just say, “Hey, excuse me, I really don’t have time to talk right now. But have a good rest of your day!” Or something like that. Then you can hang up. I like feeling like a human being, and that doesn’t always happen.
If you are upset that I called you, hanging up on me doesn’t solve your problem. If you can restrain your ire for long enough to say, “Hey, could you remove me from your calling list? Thanks so much. Have a great day!” I will not call you again. Notice a theme here? You don’t need to dramatically hang up or raise your voice to communicate your frustration. Do so with a kind word, or at least an acknowledgment of my humanity, and I will think nice thoughts about you as I remove you from our calling list.
I have an agenda for our call. I have a script in front of me, even though I probably only use it as an outline. If you’re in a hurry, tell me that at the beginning of our call and believe me, I will speed through the things we need to cover. Saying “I know why you’re calling. I’ll give you $25. Send me the form in the mail. Everything else is the same” is awkward, throws me off, I might forget to tell you important information, we might not have the right address on file for you. If you’re going to take command of the call, at least let me do the things I need to do before you hang up.
In my job, I take prayer requests. If this makes you uncomfortable, please tell me that when I ask. I will not pressure you. Because I work at a Christian institution, that is part of my job. It is, in fact, the part of my job that I consider to be the most rewarding. If you have a very serious prayer request, feel free to share it with me. Rest assured that it will remain confidential. If you have happy things to share, please tell me. Calling can be a difficult job, and I love to have my evening brightened with stories of amazing ways that God is working in people’s lives. Very rarely, I talk with alumni who after sharing their own prayer requests, ask me if they can pray for me. Those are the calls I remember. After I ask you for your prayer requests, it takes me completely off guard and restores my affection for humanity if you ask, “And is there anything I can pray about for you?”
Working at a call center is a difficult job. It requires energy, a clear speaking voice, concentration, extensive training, persistence, and patience. Since I began working in this position, I have found myself treating all call center workers and telemarketers with ridiculous amounts of respect and patience. I am not asking you to listen to the spiels of people who are trying to sell you vacuum cleaners. But if you do not want to talk, please tell them that before you hang up. Honestly wish them a good rest of their day. Give them a moment to respond. Then hang up. (If they keep talking at you, so be it. At least you tried.) Be a reason that they smile when they hang up the phone.
Have a fantastic rest of your day!