The phone summons. Some “operator” asks me to hold for an important message from—maybe a store I deal with, maybe a company that sounds like that one, maybe some outfit that sounds governmental.


Or a phone call gives me a recorded message concerning “your credit card account” and directs me to push this number to speak with an agent who will save me from a terrible problem with my account. (I don’t have any such account, but must be they think I don’t know that.)


Why isn’t it ever Ernestine? One little ringy-dingy once in a while wouldn’t be so bad, especially with Lily Tomlin’s voice.


Boiler rooms, we used to call them. Hives of sales persons, often in basement quarters not unlike mechanical rooms, noisy places where agents were practically shackled to desks, calling from well vetted lists or maybe at random.


The settings have been upgraded, and the terminology changed. The hives became call centers. That sounded much more respectable.


Once the sellers weren’t in the cellar anymore, their hives had windows and contained rows of agents, all with headphones. The lists and their scripts were on computers. Call centers became so much more efficient and effective, in the age of communications. We consumers could be harassed that much more easily and frequently.


But call centers are becoming obsolete. No, not because the do-not-call registry is honored and enforced so well. Because the technology has changed, and the terminology has, as well. The current euphemism and technology have given us the CONTACT CENTER.


It must be contact centers that spam forth those e-mail offers. They come from constantly changing domains. They are like moles popping up in Moose Miller’s friend Chester Crabtree’s yard. Smack one with SpamBlocker, and it pops up from a different hole almost immediately.


The companies that offer businesses contact center software or services tell their prospects that their customers are anxious to reach those vendors in numerous ways. “Your customers aren’t just calling you. They want to reach you by e-mail, IM, text and more. And simply taking calls isn’t enough to keep customers loyal. You need to proactively reach out to build relationships, upsell, and solve problems before they become real deal-breakers.” Those would be INBOUND callers, must be.


So next time you get one of those calls, you can thank the contact center agent for his or her proactive outreach and efforts to build relationships and upsell, and solve problems before they become deal-breakers.


With outbound calls we should realize that the agent is trying to make something maybe 50 calls, or at least contacts, an hour. Two of them might produce sales or re-ups or upsales. So perhaps it is best to just let the agent know right away that you are not either of those two. I sometimes press the number that will cause me to be connected to the actual cardholder services signer-upper, and when that person answers, calling me by name, I just tell him/her, “You need to get an honest job. Meanwhile, don’t call me again.”


Contact centers “need to balance the inbound and outbound communications so that no one is left waiting. And you have to do all this while cutting costs, improving agent efficiency and maximizing the value of every customer.”


What of those faceless people who call, er, contact us? What problems do they face? How do they stand doing that kind of work?


Someone who recruits those minions and provides training and motivational assistance to them acknowledge that a sales representative (we still have those?) in a contact center can experience feelings of fear, rejection and uncertainty.


The FUD factor affects pests who are involved in misleading marketing? Well, they just have to learn to describe the product or service in a compelling way.


“Set your goals high and hold yourself accountable.” An agent must have a clear view of the earnings she desires and the lifestyle the money will allow. “This will keep you motivated to make the next call.”


Also, “The outbound world is all a numbers game.” (Yeah, or even a numbers racket.) “So many calls to make one sale, one sale equals maybe $50, so to make $100 an hour, make 50 calls.”


Outbound agents are said to experience “call reluctance.” I feel the same way about inbound calls from them.  But those contact folks need to learn how to head off that rejection. Are they Contact people now because they stick like self-adhesive “paper”?


“Know your product and your script. To sound genuine you must practice and anticipate what your prospect’s objections will be…Grab their attention in the first few seconds…Ask for the prospect by name…practice your rebuttal to each objection so that they will roll naturally off your tongue when needed…Practice the basics the same way a professional athlete prepares for the next season…”


“Ask for the sale…Ask again…The majority of sales are made on the third attempt…


“Use an assumptive close…Ask which shipping speed they want...Which payment method they prefer and ask if they are still at that address…Create urgency: We only have a few left at that price…”


It’s all about mental attitude and preparation. Or, sometimes, for us victims of contact center outbound callers, it’s about a shrill whistle kept near the phone.


Don’t call 642-7552 or e-mail if you are working out of a contact center, Otherwise, go right ahead and get in touch.