3 spooky contact center stories for Halloween

October 26, 2023

Get ready for some horror: in this blog post, we gathered some of the scariest stories related to the call center industry. You’ll read about impossible IVR queues, questionable security policies (or the complete lack of them), and some outright weird call center practices.

These horror stories come in no particular order – and of course, without any company names mentioned. Use them with caution – especially in the presence of people working in the contact center area.

1. The billion-tab multichannel solution

We heard from a friend about this company where people believed in manual workflows while providing multichannel support for customers. Agents had separate windows for each channel as well as a designated tab for each interaction. Once an issue was resolved, they could close the corresponding tab and focus on the rest of the pages in front of them.

What seemed to be a straightforward solution quickly turned into a nightmare as the business started to scale up. Soon, the customer service department was flooded with calls and messages from various channels, and agents started to lose track of interactions. Sometimes, callbacks and important follow-ups were forgotten, other times answers including confidential information were almost sent to the wrong addressee.

Everyone knew this practice was unsustainable, but no one wanted to be bearer of bad news. Then, on one fateful day, an agent asked for some help from his supervisor. As she sat down at the agent’s desk to help tweak a few settings, the familiar sound of an incoming call pierced the air. She instinctively put on the headset and grabbed the mouse, ready to assist the customer. She clicked through an array of tabs, trying to locate the source of the call. One by one, the tabs revealed themselves to be irrelevant, like puzzle pieces from different games.

A precious minute had already passed as the supervisor looked for the right tab. In a bold move, she decided to shut down the entire window, taking a gamble that it could be restored later. She launched into the second window, and then the third, determined to find the caller who still needed her help.

The ringing persisted, but finding the source seemed more and more impossible with each second passing. After glancing through windows 2 and 3, she staked everything on the very last one. She clicked twice, trying to get rid of unnecessary information, but fate had other plans. The computer turned unresponsive for a second, tempting the supervisor to click on the red X a few more times.

A couple of extra clicks quickly became an avalanche of accidental closures as the computer restored itself. In a blink of an eye, everything vanished from the screen, including – you guessed it – the incoming call.

2. The over-the-phone payment method from Hell

Who needs PCI DSS when you have trust?

This next horror story takes place in a subscription-based service provider’s contact center another friend told us about. This company’s customers can take care of their monthly payments from the comfort of their homes without having to remember deadlines or even turning on their computers. What a convenient way to handle your recurring subscription fees, you may think. But at what cost? Brace yourself for the worst.

At the beginning of each month, agents ring customers to remind them of their bills, and offer an over-the-phone payment option. This “method” is no other than having the callers read out their card details.

On the phone.

In a recorded phone call.

Stored for years and years to come.

Miraculously, customer data hasn’t been compromised in the process yet, but when disregarding call center security like this, it’s only a matter of time before something nightmarish happens.

3. The IVR menu you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemies

Our third horror story features a private healthcare provider and one of our friends (not the one working in the billion-tab business – he took a year off to travel, hoping the company would get a proper omnichannel solution in the meantime).

This friend received a bill, listing various costly appointments he didn’t book in the first place. As it must have been a mistake, he quickly dialed the number provided on the document to clear up the misunderstanding. Little did he know what he’s gotten himself into.

On the first call, he spoke to an employee and learned that the phone number (provided by the company itself) was, in fact, not the right one. Then, he tried the customer service department’s number, and found himself in the middle of an IVR labyrinth. After what felt like an eternity, he finally heard a suitable option for his inquiry, and pressed 9.

He sighed with relief as he listened to the subcategories and pressed 3. At this point, talking to an agent specializing in his question seemed like a guarantee. He held his breath for a few seconds, and finally got connected to a live call. He heard a faint noise coming from the other end, and was ready to explain the situation once more, but got disconnected all of a sudden.

No problem. He memorized the escape route already. Dial – 9 – 3 – disconnect. Dial – 9 – 3 – disconnect. Someone’s got to pick up the phone once, right? Dial – 9 – 3 – disconnect.

Could there be another way? Was he stuck in the labyrinth?

Who knows.

We haven’t heard from him in months.

Trick or treat

To recover from these horror stories, take a look at a few other blog posts as well. Happy Halloween!

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