Credit Card Conversations

Working as a call center representative is difficult on the best of days. I spent several years "on the phones," and, like most others, I've heard anything and everything. Believe me, no matter how unique you think your circumstances are, we've probably heard them before. Let me fill you in on five common conversation gaffes people make calling in to credit card companies.

  1. Coming in to the call making demands. I answered one particular call with my normal formula, and a voice said, "Well, first of all, I want to talk to a person, not a robot!" Beginning with an attitude did not help the conversation – or his cause. Someone who is truly doing their job correctly isn't going to respond to attitude. Frustration and embarrassment cause anger and attitude, but all of the above can be controlled…on both sides.
  2. Making threats. When I refused to waive a fee that (sorry, naysayers) was completely the client's fault, he yelled in my ear, "You must be a Republican! I want to speak to a Democrat!" And he went on and on with that theme until he finally yelled himself out and hung up in my ear. And I carefully documented his annoyance. Tip number two – yes, the call may be recorded for quality control purposes – but the representative may also be faithfully writing down every mean thing that is said in the records so the next rep isn't caught unawares. And the company I worked for allowed the rep to hang up on clients who were too abusive, as long as we warned them first. And, yes, even after developing a thick skin, I told several clients that I was ready to disconnect them.
  3. Telling the rep too much. Well, this one could go either way. It's amazing the information people will offer a faceless stranger. I've heard about augmentation surgery, infidelity, sex changes, family fraud, honeymoons, and divorces. And depending on the situation, I could recommend anything from waiving fees and raising a credit line to closing a card and taking away their credit line – and I didn't usually have to ask very many questions at all.
  4. Not realizing how much a rep can find out on his own. One of my coworkers fielded a client who was very indignant that the credit company had charged his card for something that wasn't his – he kept getting more and more upset at the card until my coworker said, "Well, the code says that it is a charge from an escort service." He was silent, then just said, "oh," and hung up. I had a similar situation just listed as "GGW". The merchant code finally told me it was a video…and it was an interesting moment to inform a wife and mother that someone in her family had ordered "Girls Gone Wild" on her credit card. Reps can learn an amazing amount about your life in under thirty seconds.
  5. Not admitting what the rep already knows. Unless you work in the industry, or with the industry, the rep most likely knows more about credit cards than you do. He or she works with them all day, every day. I had people argue with me that "that's not the way credit works!" Oh, yes, it is. The fifteen minutes a month most people use to think about their credit card isn't more worthy than the 160 hours a month a representative works with them. Billing disputes, credit worthiness, payment processing – they're all regimented systems with exact processes that a representative knows quite a bit about.

Everyone on the phones has stories. But if you sit at a table of reps, you'll hear these five basics over and over. There are others, and details more specific. Have you said anything like any of these? Before I worked with credit, I did. I still keep in touch with people who are in the credit card world, and they tell me nothing is different. The only thing these stories are good for are, really, stories. None of them actually helped the particular situation. Keep the conversation business-like, and the rep will, too!


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