I'm just gonna drop this off. *walks off whistling*
ANSWERING SERVICE OPERATOR’S MANIFESTO
WHEN YOU CALL A PLACE OF BUSINESS AND GET AN ANSWERING SERVICE:
Just a few Helpful Pointers from the other end of the phone. Also, Swear Words Here. Be Ye warned.
- TRIM THE FAT
Know that I paraphrase. I am often given less space than a tweet to get your message across. An entire 10 minute story about how you stubbed your toe two weeks ago and the toenail lifted up and there was a bruise and they gave you medicine and now you think it might be giving you a rash and making you throw up is going to be condensed into 4 words. i.e.: MEDS ISSUES- RASH&VOMITING. 15 minutes on how there’s poo on the floor tiles, patterned shower curtain and matching towels in your master bath will become SEWAGE SPILL-MASTER BATH when I am done with you. I care little for the progression of events; tell me what is at issue NOW.
- HANDLE YOUR SHIT.
Please, for the love of Deity, have your information and pen and paper with you. I may have to refer you to call someone else at times. Be ready to write down a telephone number. I have shit to do. I do not want to “hang on” while you get a pen, run out to the car to get your paperwork, find your account number or FOR THE LOVE OF DEITY call your fucking spouse to find out what your child’s fucking date of fucking birth is. If you find yourself needing to do any of those things, hang up and call back. I can almost guarantee I will still be here.
“I know so-and-so who knows so-and-so who knows the owner of the business…” Wow. Yeah, um, this may surprise you, but I don’t care. In the slightest. Really, I have no fucks to give about who your mother’s sister’s cousin’s former roommate is or how much stock they own in the business you just called. Your message will get handled promptly and correctly, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’S. If the fucking POTUS* called this business his call would get handled the same way. Just sayin’. Which brings me to…
I am, astoundingly, a professional. I answer your telephone call at all hours (there are 24 in a day and I or one of my coworkers can be reached all 24 of them) and dispatch it to the proper person. Promptly. That is my job. It is What I Do. It is NOT my fault if a.) they can’t be bothered to return phone calls. or b.) you are such a pain in the balls that they don’t or won’t call you back. You yelling at me, calling me names, and/or telling me what pieces of shit the people you just called are is not going to get your call delivered any faster.
5.) YOU’RE STRESSED. I GET IT.
I still need to do my job and handle your issue correctly. With as much information as they ask me to get from you. Do Not tell me I don’t need a particular piece of information if I ask you for it. Cuz I do. Your (insert business here) has given me a form to fill out when you call looking for them and get me. This form has spaces for all the information they want to know when I text/email/call/light the bat signal. FYI: Should you refuse to give me something I ask for I MUST document that. Think, before you get hateful and spite-y, about how your message is going to come across.
Name: ANY O. CUSTOMER
Regular Widget Handler: REFUSED
Message: Thinks you are a crappy widget company and wishes you would die in a fire, but needs 2 gross of widget # 9876598.
Don’t sigh and suck your teeth at me when I ask you to spell your name either.My name is not Merriam OR Webster. I can’t spell Siebold Adelbertkreiger off the top of my head without help. (OK, I can, that one, but YMMV**) Rattling off your phone number at lightning speed is simply going to cause me to ask you to repeat yourself. Subsequently, I cannot have the on-call person call you back if you don’t provide your phone number.
6.) BE REASONABLE.
Should you be calling after normal business hours, be certain you are calling about an EMERGENCY or URGENT situation. Your apartment complex maintenance folk are not going to come out at 11pm to help you hang curtains. (true story bro) Don’t be surprised when I can’t make you a dentist appointment at 3 am. Don’t cuss me out because there’s no one on call for your trash service at midnight. Be aware that I may be getting someone out of their bed to attend to you. Give them a reasonable, sane amount of time to return your call. 30 minutes (with some notable exceptions***) is not unreasonable. If it is, then mayhap you should be calling 911, not me. Asking me when someone is going to call you back will always get you the same answer, to whit: “As soon as I can get the message to them.” This means you have to fucking hang up and stop asking me when they will call you back so I can GET the message to them. Additionally, give service technicians making house calls time to get to you. If you, or the tech on call, live in East Bunglefuck Backofbeyond and there’s a blizzard on, it may take a while to get to you.
7.) ANSWER THE PHONE.
You just called. I told you someone would be calling you back. In some instances, I even gave you a time frame in which to expect the call. Yes, I know life happens. So when you call me back saying you missed the call once, ok. But the third or fourth time in the space of an hour I have to page your issue out because you didn’t answer the first 3 calls? Don’t be surprised if the on call person has given me instructions that they are not going to call again. To them, and to me, your issue gets less urgent every time you don’t pick the phone up. Harsh, but true.
- SOMETIMES, I CAN’T HELP YOU.
I do what the business who is MY customer asks me to. If they don’t want me taking appointment cancellations or “can you have Person A call me at first light” messages, I won’t. I can’t. Not even for you, O Special Snowflake. Shocking, I know. You did all that name-dropping in the beginning of the call and I still won’t take your message because I keep saying I’m not allowed to. Whatever will you do now? You’ll have to gasp Handle Your Shit! You’ll have to remember to call them during business hours! Which, if you ask, I am happy to provide.
9.) EVEN I HAVE LIMITS
I will only put up with so much. It’s a lot, but there is a cap. Start calling me a fucking idiot and discussing my ancestry and hygiene habits, and I will ask you once, politely, to stop. Continue, and I will document that you did it and HANG UP ON YOUR ASS. And no, I’m not lying. And no, you can’t deny it, because your call was recorded. And yes, I will be telling the business you were calling about it. Oh, and news flash: prank calls are so passé. I have caller ID, the call has been recorded, and the number to the local PD in your area is not but a Google away.
In summation, act like a grown up when calling a business. There are real, live people on the other end of the phone.
* President Of The United States
** Your Mileage May Vary
*** Hospice nurses. 10 minutes tops.
APPENDICES TO THE ORIGINAL MANIFESTO:
YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.
No matter what your *insert loving caretaker here* told you. I cannot “call the back line” to your doctor’s office for you because you think you are a special snowflake. That line is reserved for other doctors and medical professionals, not for some dumb schmuck who has decided they are more important than the rest of the universe. I cannot contact someone other than who is on call just because you’re too important to talk to who is. See #3. And for those of you using the rewards programs? No, I can’t fix your expired points. They are expired. No amount of whining, moaning and complicated stories about how you moved from West Gazongstahaven to North Overshoe and forgot to change your address so you didn’t know your points were expiring will change that. Especially if you get your points statements by email. I can see that, y’know. The points are gone. That’s kinda what “expired” means, innit?
TAKE THE DICK OUT OF YOUR MOUTH
Stop eating whatever that is that you are chewing in my ear. You sound like an industrial threshing machine for fuck’s sake. Speak clearly. Enunciate. I, of all people, am fully aware that American English is not everyone’s first language. Take your time and try for clarity. There is nothing so frustrating as trying to decipher 10 digits rattled off at speeds that would make a machine gun blush with a thick as peanut butter (you eat what you like…) Wheresowhatsian accent. Take me off speakerphone, because I can hear everything going on around you. EVERYTHING. Turn the goddam-noisy-box down off of the 999 decibels of Monty Jessica Springer I can hear behind you, push the pause button on the Bitches N’Hoes or Fast Train to Hicksville track you have playing so loud the bass is vibrating me from 4 states away, or the twang is snapping my bra strap, and put the fucking dog out. Y’know, so you can Handle Your Shit. (See #2)
And put the damn bong down. I can hear that, too.
IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T?
It’s a simple question. “Is this an emergency?” If I ask you that, I am required to. Do you need me to wake someone, or can this wait until office hours? Make A Fucking Decision. More often than not, the response I get to that simple question is “Well, I’m not sure…” ARGFLARBLEGRAH!! You fucking called me at 2:47 am and you’re not sure whether it’s an emergency? And don’t ask me if I think it’s an emergency. I’m not the one with a case of the galloping nevergetovers, the maggots in my carpet (this time) or the motor oil seeping from my ceiling. I don’t HAVE to make this shit up, folks. Just you remember that.
ONE AT A TIME, PLEASE.
If you are on the phone, be on the phone. If your spouse, partner, auntie, grandpa or spirit guide wants to talk to me, kindly ask them to Wait Their Turn. It’s very distracting to have 2 (3, 7) people talking to me at once, especially if one of them is screeching from across the room.
YOUR CALL WILL BE ANSWERED
I promise. Even if I have to put you on hold for a minute. Or 5. If you hang up and call right back, I will put your ass on hold again. Not out of spite, out of necessity. Usually, if I am answering the phone when you call, I am here alone. All by me onesie, answering for the hundred-odd businesses that are our clients. If I put you on hold the fist time, I was fucking busy. I am still fucking busy 3 seconds later. Deal.
Understand that I may a.) have 37 calls that came in before yours, or b.) have more urgent calls than yours. Sorry, hospice patient with a fever trumps calling at 1 am to get your trash picked up the next day.
SPEAKER O’ THE HOUSE
While I appreciate that not everyone in the world slings the same lingo, (see App.#2) please choose your translator carefully. It may behoove you to wait to make your call, if possible, until there is an English-speaker around that is over 10 years old. Speaking for the 4 year olds of the world that have had to translate for the grown-ups (because I was one), messages WILL get garbled. Badly. Even if you plied us with candy.
Appendix #7 (might be time for an appendectomy here...)
(SOME OF) MICHAEL BUBLE’S FANS ARE ASSHOLES.
There is a certain parking garage in a certain city, which we take care of after hours. You push the big red “HELP” button, you get me. There was recently a concert by the above mentioned crooner, after which folks had trouble getting out of the parking garage. The abuse endured was astronomical. Seriously? Really though? The folks who attended the Slipknot concert were by FAR more polite. They didn't swear at me for asking for their phone number. They didn't threaten to ram the gate for asking for their name. They didn't cuss me out for the fact that the parking garage doesn’t accept cash after 10 pm. THEY didn't call the cops on me because I asked them to use a different gate than the one clearly marked “OUT OF ORDER”.
Please to understand that this is all MY OPINION. This Be A Rant. With rantiness. It isn't likely to make anyone but call center/answering service employees laugh, but there it is.