Magazine article The Spectator

Rudeness Wins

Magazine article The Spectator

Rudeness Wins

Article excerpt

The best helpline operatives have the social skills of a breeze-block, but they know their stuff.

The call centre problem - I've solved it. I now know how to get good service. The secret is to keep ringing back until you get a rude operative. Because, in this world at least, rude is the new polite.

Admittedly it only works for technical help lines, rather than call centres in general.

But boy does it work. 'Boy' being the operative word - we're talking here about the generation of young males who spent their teenage lives locked in bedrooms playing Call of Duty. Finally they were torn bodily from their consoles and booted out of the door by despairing parents. Confronted with that terrifying thing known as the 'real world', they latched on to the only source of employment which allows them to maintain 24-hour contact with their beloved technology: manning (again, operative word) the phones at technical helplines. They have the social skills of a breeze-block - but by Christ can they tell you how to defrag a hard-drive.

I experienced the perfect example recently. 'My Wi-Fi router keeps losing its signal, ' I said. This, of course, after giving my mother's maiden name so many times I began to doubt the accuracy of the answer.

'Please do not worry about this problem, Mr Mason, ' came the reply. Uh-oh. You know you're in the warm stuff when they say this. It always reminds me of the woman vox-popped after Northern Rock went trembly: 'I wasn't worried until I heard Gordon Brown telling me not to worry.'

'The WLAN light stays green, ' I said, 'but the DSL one keeps going red.' Let's move this along here.

'Thank you, Mr Manson, ' said the man at the other end. I didn't mind being transformed into a multiple killer. He could call me Fifi Trixibelle if he got that DSL light sorted. 'You are saying that you are having trouble with your Wi-Fi router?'

And now you really know. You want to reply: 'You are saying that you are operating from a script that has just told you to repeat the problem back to me, even though any normal, competent person would by now be dealing with the details of that problem?'

I gave him five minutes, three of which were me on hold waiting for him to attract the attention of a colleague who might know what a Wi-Fi router is. …

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