21 Jul 2004

It Could Be You

“Three of our customers have already been lucky!” Insisted one of Martin’s team to a customer.

The latest promotion that we need to tag on the end of the call is a ‘Lottery Number Generator’. It is a miracle, timesaving device that takes the effort out of choosing six numbers for the National Lottery. It comes with a ‘lucky’ scratch card scraper too.

“He can’t say that!” I said to Martin.

“Seal the deal.” He said, tapping the side of his nose with his finger.

“It’s misleading.”

“It’s not always about what’s best for the customer.” Martin replied.

Spoken like a true mercenary. He’ll go far.

20 Jul 2004

Flooding Back

Ian was in a foul mood.

He had sent some of his most precious ties to the dry cleaners and they have come back ruined. “My favourite Star Wars tie looks like it has been through a bleeding mangle. Bastards. I’m going to write to them. I’m going to give them a piece of my mind.”

He spent the afternoon composing a letter. “I’m going to drag them over the coals for this. They’ve met their match this time. I’ve worked in customer service for ten years, and you can’t kid a kidder.” The desk seemed to rattle through the office as he got more and more passionate, “I’ve turned a blind eye for too long. I want compensation.”

At lunch time, I finally plucked up some courage to ask Janice about the Away Day and my role in the debauchery. “It was quite boring actually. Ian did his usual air guitar and you fell asleep in a corner dribbling and groaning.”

That’s a relief.

“Bernard did a fireman’s lift into your room. He dropped you twice – on your head – you should put a claim in.” She said.

Call off the search. There’s no scandal. I went to my desk ready to compose my first ever entry in the Accident Book.

19 Jul 2004

What the Butler Saw

Over the past week have been trying to retrace my steps. I need to sort the false memories from the real thing. A whole week has passed and there’s still a nasty taste in my mouth; I mean ‘the taste of unease’ rather than Brenda’s tuna and onion sandwiches.

I know that I am prone to exaggeration and, in the words of Hans Blicks, like to use an exclamation mark instead of question mark, but something wicked this way comes.

‘Aftershock’ always has an unpleasant effect. It tastes like a benevolent Benelin but it’s a liquid of mass destruction and in my head all my nightmares are coming true: Bernard discovering my blog on Fiend's Reunited dot com; me, SMAGELL and Brenda appearing on Spit Roast dot com, or wrestling naked with Ian and Martin, in jam on Willy Wanker's Jelly Factory dot com.

I feel like the Men In Black have erased my memory and I need your help.

Keep your eyes open – I’m the fat, speccy bloke in the middle with a spotty arse.

15 Jul 2004

The Longest Post

I’m back – I’ve not been away – I’ve been in a state of flux and inactivity following last Friday’s Away Day. Sit back, get yourself a coffee, find your slippers and adjust your seat according to your latest workstation assessment, as this is going to be a long one.

The Jolly Boy’s Outing

As a Customer Service Adviser on the phones, way back in the Dark Ages, I used to envy the Team Managers when they went on their Away Day meetings. We never saw anything happen as a result of their day away from the cut and thrust of the office, but we heard the stories of debauchery: bed-hopping, drunkenness, broken bones and shattered egos.

I would not go so far as saying that it was a motivating factor, you have been here long enough to realise that self-motivation is not a natural skill I possess, but I naturally was excited at the prospect of taking part in one of the events when I was promoted.

Like most things in life, they did not live up to expectations as they are usually a mixture of Sun Tzu bullshit and power point presented nonsense that’s the fuel of modern British industry. At least there’s always been alcohol to fall back on.

In previous years we have worked together to build bridges from drainpipes and caught each other as we fell backwards, in order to create trust in the team, only to have it ripped apart later in the bar when the Aftershock and Bailey’s kicked in.

This year promised to be no different. Bernard had prepared us for a Treasure Hunt – Brenda was looking forward to playing Wincey Willis to his Kenneth Kendel – we were due to hot-foot around city centre Manchester looking for cryptic clues and shopping for unusual items (Kola Kubes, 3B pencils and out of season vegetables).

Instead, Bernard had other plans. When we met in the Trust House Forte car park he revealed our mission. We were to spend the day clearing a derelict area of a park and plant flowers. Brenda got excited; “I’ve gone from Wincey Willis to Charlie Dimmock in one swift move.” HONK! Honk! HONK!

“Do us a favour Bren,” Ian said, “leave your brassier on.”

We all honked at that.

Drive it like you stole it

We were bundled in the back of a van, fitted out in Billy-Bob-Hill-Billy overalls and handed a spade.

The morning passed quickly as we thrashed through dandelions, “They make great herbal remedies, it is a shame to waste them.” SMAGELL said.

Ian rolled his eyes and wiped his hands on his “I’ll Have a Guinness” Tucan, T-shirt. “I can’t believe we are doing this. What’s the bleedin’ crime? We’d get less for robbin’ a beamer.”

It was at that point we both noticed that Martin – the Shaolin of Sales, the Son Of Bernard, The Best Boss in The World (according to his mug) – was not served with the same Community Service Order.

Public Enemy

Martin was back at the hotel preparing for the next stage of the Away Day- the afore mentioned power point presented bullshit – he was the ‘facilitator’ for the afternoon session and was ‘tasked’ with reprogramming us for the next six months.

After a packed lunch we were bundled back into the van and sent back to the hotel to listen to Martin waxing lyrical about predictive dialling and process re-engineering. Our resolve was broken following the morning’s exertions so we were glad to sit and listen to his Sun Tzu nonsense.

But I started to contemplate my job. I’ve started to realise that I work in one of the most despised professions in the modern world. Tax Men, Traffic Wardens, and lawyers are famously hated because they are seemingly employed to administer arbitrary fees on unsuspecting people.

Outbound tele-sales people, on the other hand, are despised for mithering people who are watching Eastenders.

Tax Men and Traffic Wardens have inspired songs by The Beatles; Steven Spielberg named the shark in Jaws after his lawyer and killed the lawyer in Jurassic Park to cheers from the audience.

Now it’s time that these artists were inspired by Outbound tele-sales (I understand Spielberg’s latest film features a killer robot known as ‘mithering-predictive-dialling-bastard’, although I may be wrong, don’t post it on IMDB yet).

I need another life.

After Shock

I was feeling down when we met in the bar for the evening session. Brenda came up close, she’d glammed up for the evening, complete with her feather boa (she’d picked out the bits of sick from the last do), she came up close …

I slipped into a coma.

8 Jul 2004

Holy, Holy, Holy

Another day; another entry in the Accident Book.

Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, has had more holes put into his face. He’s got hoops, rings and studs poking out from every loose bit of skin.

He was in the middle of a sale today when he looked suddenly alarmed.

His head-set became hooked to a lip-ring so that his head looked like one of those metal puzzles you get in Christmas Crackers. Thrush and John Doe came to his rescue while Simon tried to maintain a conversation about the surface area of beach towels.

He’ll have four days off because of this incident.

Could have been worse. It could have been a tangle with his Prince Albert.

5 Jul 2004

Bernard’s Love Child

Martin has been keeping a secret from us all over the past few weeks. I’m not referring to his lunchtime drinking, although even that it is getting more and more obvious, I’m referring to his origins. He didn’t work as a training officer in the Birmingham office at all.

He’s a Shaolin Monk.

A Shaolin of Sales. Trained to break balls with his bare hands.

He addressed Tony’s team for the first time today:

“You are who you want to be. If you want to be a winner then you’re on the right team. You were put on this Earth to be in this Call Centre, at this time, for a purpose. Your aim in life for the next week is to sell towels and I don’t want to hear any flannel…”


The team love him. This is what Bernard has been getting at - he's created in Bernard's image - he's a SOB - Son Of Bernard.

He wrote, “Seal the Deal” on the white board. “Get them chatting. Build RAPPORT. Use open questions to ENGAGE their interest. Use OPEN questions rather than CLOSED questions. Okay team – give me some examples of open questions you can use with customers for the board?”

“When are you going on holiday?” Rachel, the swotty one, said.

“Love it!” Martin wrote it quickly on the board.

“What are you wearing?” Brian, the sleazy one, said.

Enjoy the tribunal Martin.

2 Jul 2004

The Hat

Like most initiatives in the Call Centre, the Big Brother ‘Wacky Races’ game has fallen on its arse. The sales board has not been updated for days and some joker has drawn a tash on Nadia.

Tizzy was laughing and talking at the same time, which is always alarming, but she was telling Joan, who doesn’t watch Big Brother, how Stuart wanted a cowboy hat so they gave a massive one followed by really small one, “it was really tiny.”

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, chipped in, “Well, let’s face it, it’s not the first time he’s had a little head in there.”