On a scale of 'dull' to 'unbearable tedium', working in a call centre must surely be neck-and-neck with having to phone one up.
After all, spending your day dealing with the problems and complaints of frustrated customers who have spent the best part of ten minutes repeatedly choosing option one while listening to a pan pipe version of Eye of the Tiger can't be a barrel of laughs.
This, I believe, is why so many call centre operators are less than accommodating. Trapped in an eight hour shift of endless earache, it must be so easy to slip into a 'computer says no' mentality - and that's bad news for those of us who really need to get our broadband fixed, our bank charges refunded or our mobiles upgraded.
My gran always used to say that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and never has this been more true than when dealing with call centres.
It sounds obvious, but being friendly, charming and, yes, I'll admit, just a little bit flirty, really can make the hellish call centre experience a bit more bearable - and a lot more fruitful.
If nothing else, it makes everyone feel better than having another one of those pointless, circular conversations that ends with you slamming the phone down and screaming.
Anyway, first let me define what I mean by flirting. This has nothing to do with sex; you don't want to be asking 'George' if he works out, speculating about how hot he looks in a headset and the size of his microphone or asking him what he's doing after work.
There are adult phone lines that charge upwards of a pound a minute for dirty talk - and they don't begin with 0845 - so keep it clean.
Secondly, I'm all for equal opportunities flirting.
The call centre flirt works with men and women, although I'll admit that men tend to be slightly more receptive. Funny that.
Gentle flirting works so well in this context because it reintroduces a bit of human interaction into an experience that has become excessively automised.
It's easy-peasy to get the ball rolling: say hello, be nice, remember that you're talking to a human being, not a computer.
Years ago, when I used to interview celebrities, I went on a course where I was taught that one of the best ways to get someone you've never met before to subconsciously warm to you is to mimic the volume, pitch and pace of their speech. It turns out that this works as well on call centre employees as it did on noughties boybands.
A word of warning: under no circumstances should you ever attempt to copy their accent as that can come across as plain offensive (if rather hilarious). But modulating your speech so that if fits with theirs is weirdly effective. So if you're connected to a softly spoken person, speak more quietly - or speed things up if the person on the other end of the line talks ten to the dozen.
Remember that many call centre employees work from a series of scripts. I've found that if you can get them to stray off piste and start a proper conversation then you've got more chance of getting what you want.
If they're giving you technical help, explain that you're clueless and praise their expertise. If you want a good deal on your digital TV package, start a conversation about your favourite show. Being funny really helps - and there's no harm in poking fun at yourself or admitting to being an idiot. Especially if the reason that your phone no longer works is because it slipped off the sofa and fell into your glass of wine. Yes, that happened to me.
Effective flirting hinges upon making the other person feel special, so tell them you appreciate their efforts - and let them know that they're much more helpful and friendly than the person you spoke to last time. There's no harm in a bit of flattery, is there?
Provided that your conversation doesn't involve cheap sexual innuendo or heavy breathing, I don't think there's anything remotely inappropriate about a spot of national rate flirting.
Give it a try, you've got nothing to lose.
And, as the proud recipient of a 25% lifetime discount with my mobile phone company, I can testify that there's plenty to gain.
By Ceri Roberts
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