Thursday, January 25, 2007


If, like me, you've done a lot of work as a telephonist, you'll be told that you have to smile on the phone. The inference being that you have to empty your mind of any negative thoughts (you're unlikely to have any occupied space in your head anyway: you are a receptionist; you are a bimbo) and allow your natural blonde bubbliness to simmer up to the surface.

You will not say anything negative.

You will be kindhelpfulpolite.

You will not tell the psychotic fuckwit on the other end of the phone that they are completely misinformed.

You will not tell an arrogant fuckwit solicitor that he is an arrogant fuckwit solicitor.

You will not tell some hundred year old jobsworth that he is dithering and rambling on for hours tediously and that there are a hundred other calls flashing impatiently in a queue on the switchboard.

Your duty is to be the first line of abuse for any company while you are smiling simperingly.

Your duty is to have a crystal ball and skills of telepathy, because people will expect you to know exactly what someone in an office in Stockport is thinking, or about to do, even though you have not been informed by anyone of their intentions.

Your duty is to be looked down on by more *important* employees as the sillyairheadbubblebrainedreceptionist who has nothing else to do.

Anyway, I can sympathise with the woman who "got back" to us about the details of amenities at the holiday cottage we'll be staying at for a couple of weeks later in the year.

Up to a point. She has obviously been told to "smile on the phone" and not be negative. In this case, she has been told to cancel out the negative by accentuating the positive.

"Just to confirm that your cottage does not have a washing machine, but IT DOES HAVE A FRIDGE. Just to repeat, IT DOES HAVE A FRIDGE".

Thank god for small mercies.

Perhaps we will be able to store the bags of mucky clothes in the fridge if they start to get too whiffy.

I often answer phones at my job. We get fuckwit financial advisers as well as fuckwit solicitors.

Your post is spot on! I had someone rambling on yesterday and meanwhile the calls are stacking up and the other guy has fucked off to get some coffee.

oh god yes!

although we had someone yesterday who was complaining that they had been 'laughed at' while they were reporting the grave peril, resulting in no one actually being harmed in any way, they had been in - my deadpan colleague put on his deeply concerned voice & suggested they request the tape of the call, to confirm the level of inappropriateness, at which point they decided that actually, it wasn't laughing, so much as just 'sounded as though they were smiling while I was talking' WTF???
oh, and - I'm accentuating the positive today as well... simple coincidence or sinister (and as yet unfathomed) plot in which we are mere pawns?
Betty, I've been through all this when I worked in estate agency.

The ones I hated in the past were those who asked if I was "Mr llewtrah's secretary" because in their tiny little minds women aren't engineers, they're just there to answer phones for the men (mengineers? womengineers? Ooh, there's a thought!). Aaagh!
Ah so maybe you can help me, what with your inside knowledge and so on.
So when someone like me comes on the phone with my tactics of 'be as nice and as considerate to the prat on the desk as possible, cos then she might actually make some effort to put me through to the correct department,' does that help my quest, or does it just make you thing, 'fucking creep, I'll send him round the houses'.
Billy - some people just refuse to be "hurried" on the phone, don't they? The worst thing is dealing with elderly people. You spend twenty minutes listening to some old bat's life story with loads of irate callers hanging up, then complain about it to a colleague and they'll say "aaaw, she's lonely, she just wants to talk to someone". Well, y'know, bollocks, she can talk to herself. I do. Er ...

Beth - someone who *thought* they were in grave peril, but they weren't, who also *thought* someone was laughing at them, except really they *thought* it was someone smiling at them, possibly? Sounds like they can't leave the house for fear of all the people they *think* might be pointing and laughing at them.

I must've subconsciously copied your "accentuate the positive" post after reading it. Help! It wasn't deliberate - honest!

Llewtrah - of course, we live in an equal society nowadays, don't we? Well, until you're in a workplace and have to deal with the general public, bless 'em.
Tom - it always pays to be nice to people on the frontline. The person on the frontline has to cover up the gaffs committed by people higher up the chain. They go on the information the caller gives them, try to put them through to the right department (given the information they've received) and often the person at the other end will "redirect" the call because they can't be arsed to deal with it themselves. I've seen people I've put a call through to hang up on the caller and the call was re-directed back to me, whereupon I got a tirade of abuse. That's just one example, I could bore you with loads more.
Tom, I second Betty's comment that you should always benice to people on the frontline, especially as the person on the frontline might
actually be the person you need to speak to (as mostly happens in our case).
I hate the people who say "oh I thought you were just the receptionist" as though it would've been perfectly acceptable to speak to 'just' the receptionist in the off hand/patronising/downright rude tone they've taken with me!
Beth - a point well made. I think people do have more "respect" for someone they see as an authority figure, and to them that doesn't mean the first person who answers the phone.

Betty's Utility Room - preaching love, tolerance and understanding of your fellow man and woman. Something can't be right ...
it's the barclays bank ones that are the worst, the very worst, the ones who should be shot. Why can't we phone our branch anymore? why do we have to speak to someone who has no idea how to help you? has no knowledge of the products?and isn't even in this country. Is it their fault? Probably not but it bloody well isn't mine either. grrrrrrr
Actually a fridge would help stop mucky clothes getting to whiffy by slowing the rate at which the bacteria develop. You may need to use the freezing compartment for Geoff's boxer shorts though.
Without revealing what I do or who I work for, I can confidently say that I beat you all hands down on the ridiculous phone call front. (Surly will back me up on this.) I even compiled a list last year of the most stupid queries and complaints I received during 2006. It ran to three pages.

The problem I have is that our customers seem to have the idea that I sit on the board of directors, and therefore any shortcomings within our company must be brought to my attention. The flaw in this plan is that I am actually pondweed in the company hierachy and couldn't give a shit. My specialist subject on Mastermind would be "Nuances of Non-Commital Sympathetic Noises".
Ziggi - it's all to do with the world economy and competition (or, more likely, saving costs). I guess that customer services aren't really a priority any more, when it comes to banks.

Murph - I think we could solve the problem by doing the washing in a nearby river. There's a hairdryer in the house, which will have to make do as a tumble dryer. This means we will have to spend most of the time dealing with the laundry.

Kellycat - "exactly", "I know", "yes", "yes", "yes" (ten minutes later) "if I could just stop you there, the thing is ..." It's all coming back to me now. Shudder.
Not sure that approach would work in my job...
You have cancer but YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT WITHOUT TRYING just to repeat YOU WILL LOSE (a rather catastrophic amount) OF WEIGHT
Why not try it? People who have a positive outlook are more likely to survive an illness ... apparently. So, no hope for me if I'm in that situation then.
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