Benjamin Franklin would have hated telephone call centres. I can just see him drumming his fingers as he waited in the queue to talk to a utility, bank, discount broker or cellphone company muttering, “Time is money.”

Ben’s comment won’t change the call centre culture, but here are a couple of suggestions about how to get value from your wait.

  • Make a list of the questions you want answered. The longer you wait the more likely you’ll forget what you’re waiting for.

  • Wear earphones or use the speakerphone leaving your hands free to do something useful. This also eliminates telephone ear.

  • File! Bills, statements, invoices. All that boring essential stuff.

  • Answer emails. But take care as you can be distracted by music or a radio loop on the line. Re-read e-mails carefully before you hit send.

  • When you’re connected to a real person, get their name or ID number and, if possible, a call back number in case you’re disconnected.

  • Don’t waste time if you’re getting nowhere, ask for a supervisor. They have a more authority to solve problems.

  • Take notes. This is essential and has saved my bacon several times. Recently I had a disagreement with a U.S. home security company. Based on my notes I was able to convince a supervisor to review their call tapes. I prevailed and saved a couple of hundred dollars.

  • If the issue relates to a contested bill or incorrect service plan, ask that the operator read back his or her notes. I did this with my Internet provider and the notes bore little resemblance to our conversation.

  • Make sure your battery is charged up. There is absolutely nothing worse than having a phone die after you’ve sat in a phone queue for ages.

  • Don’t lose your temper no matter what the provocation. Many companies allow operators to end a conversation if the client becomes angry.

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