Telemarketers and the Golden Rule

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Telemarketers and the golden rule

When I was in college I worked for a telephone survey company.  It was my job to call people’s homes and allow the phone ring up to four times.   If someone answered, I was to keep that person from hanging up by reassuring them I was not selling anything, rather I simply wanted ten minutes of their time.  If they agreed, I would ask them confusingly worded questions and give them a series of equally confusing answer choices. I was paid minimum wage with a bonus based on the number of completed surveys (which was never an impressive amount).

The job gave me anxiety.  I hated the feeling that I was bothering people.  Most people I talked to were annoyed but polite nonetheless.  A few were truly unpleasant.  I wanted to tell every person I talked to that I was a person.  A real person.  A really nice person in fact.  I wanted to tell them that I hated calling them even more than they hated being called.  I wanted to tell them that I was trying to get through college and that this was the only job I could find, and that I would be leaving the job just as soon as I could find another one.  I did not tell them these things, but I did make a conscious decision that I would always be genuinely kind to people on the telephone, no matter what.

I have to say that my determination in this regard has been tested the most, interestingly enough, each time I have had to talk with someone who works at the phone company call center.

Just recently, there was  an unexplained $10 charge on my phone bill.  I would much rather do something fun with that money than have it siphoned off by an untouchable service corporation, so I put on my “genuine kindness” and made a phone call.

That single phone call turned into many phone calls.  Each time I got to wait on the line with lovely elevator music interspersed periodically with the warm reassurance that I was a valued customer. And each time I got to talk to a pleasant, yet mostly unhelpful, person.

The first operator told me that we had incurred third-party charges and gave me the telephone number to the company that had allegedly charged us.  I called the number he provided and it turned out to be a floral shop that had no idea what I was talking about.

So I called the phone company back and  I talked to a woman who before too long accidentally hung up on me.   But I did not give up and this time I had a humorous exchange with a gentleman working out of his apartment.  He said that his computer was slow and he was having trouble accessing my account information.  I suppressed the urge to say “Oh, you must have the Internet your company provides!”

He was eventually able to explain the charges and they were valid.  But I was distraught that this information had not been clearly provided on my phone bill.  I politely told him that I would be looking for a different phone and Internet company.  He responded by putting me through to a customer retention agent who immediately upgraded my phone and Internet and decreased my monthly charges.

What did I learn from this?  I learned that phone bills are impossible to read and that the phone company is difficult to deal with.  I also learned that persistence and vigilance result in the best rates.  But above all, I learned that am responsible for how I behave.  If I fly off the handle because of frustrating situations, then I am essentially yielding my agency away.  I feel good inside when I am kind, even to telephone people, because I know it is how I want to be treated.  More often than not, it pays to live the golden rule!

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