Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty Years of Service to the Student

Voices

How to Be Polite to Telemarketers

Phoneathon worker Ray Carpenter ‘16 makes calls for the College during the annual fundraiser. (Claudia Greening / Index)

Phonathon is my favorite job. Every day I am once again reminded of how great it is to call random people on the phone and have them yell at you.

If your childhood was anything like mine, you took an “etiquette” class with your Girl Scout troop. One of the portions of the class was “how to properly talk to people on the phone.” Because of this, I now have impeccable conversational skills which I use daily when calling and asking for monetary gifts. It would be nice if some of the people I talked to had the same kind of etiquette training.

Those of us who are graduating will most likely be called around this time in 2015 by Phonathon students. I decided to bring the training to you. Here are my top tips for being nice to the Phonathon students.

First of all, pick up the phone. I know that if you’re in the middle of something important you probably shouldn’t answer your ringing phone. But if you aren’t doing anything important, please pick up the phone. We want to talk to you—especially if you studied the same things we did.

Don’t pick up and then immediately hang up the phone hoping to deter telemarketers. That doesn’t work. We just mark that as an answering machine and call again. If you don’t want to be called, tell us you don’t want to be called.

At the same time, don’t pick up the phone in the middle of something important, and then complain to us about calling during whatever you’re doing. This is a daily reality in the Phonathon world.

There’s always one person in a batch of people who picks up the phone, and then complains to us about calling during dinner, his or her child’s recital, or weekly yoga class. We don’t know your schedule. If it bothers you so much, don’t pick up your phone during those times. Or, better yet, turn it off.

Next, please make conversation with us. Calling people and reciting the same script over and over gets monotonous. It’s even worse when the people you call obviously don’t care about talking to you. We try to converse with our prospective givers. We usually ask questions about their time at K or their child’s time at K, but it’s really hard to connect when no one wants to talk. Besides, it’s nice to have a pleasant conversation with people after hours of hang-ups and refusals.

Finally, be sympathetic. Any time I hear someone yell at a telemarketer, I die a little inside. We aren’t robots; we have feelings, too.

It affects us when we’re abused, and Phonathon only lasts for about a month. I can hardly imagine what life is like for people who do telemarketing every day for most of their life. Just remember that telemarketers are people, too.

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How to Be Polite to Telemarketers