The games people play to dodge the switchboard operator | Macro

The games people play to dodge the switchboard operator

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By Kate Archard, Front of House Co-ordinator

The role of the switchboard operator has changed over recent years.  With direct lines, mobile phones and email addresses, operators are no longer the first stop for callers.  

“In fact,” says Front of House Co-ordinator Kate Archard, “at my site, the switchboard team never receive calls for our senior staff.  If a person is genuinely doing business with someone in the organisation they know how to reach them directly.  So now we’d be better described as the firewall, deflecting cold and scam callers. 

Our client has a no name, no call policy; which means if the caller doesn’t know the name of the person they’re calling for, we won’t put them through and we won’t give out the name or email address.  So people get creative. 

We operate a very busy switchboard for all of our client’s sites across the UK, so we receive a lot of calls.  Here are the top six tricks people play to try and get past us, and some simple approaches that we use, that you too may find useful, to send them on their way. 

1. The 'put me through to my mate, the CEO'

This is where a caller will ask to speak to the CEO, by name, more usually just his first name, as though they’re great friends.  They’ll say they were just chatting and got cut off, or their call is expected.  We know that if that was the case, they’d be able to make contact directly; so we ask lots of questions.  "Who are you, where are you from, what’s it regarding?"  As we drill down to get more detail, the caller will generally hang up.

2. The 'I'm a policeman'

We often get calls from people pretending that they’re a police officer, and ask to speak to a MD or the CEO, usually not knowing their name.  Again, we ask questions and drill down.  Of course we’re told that it’s highly confidential, but that isn’t going to wash.  We ask for their rank and shoulder number.  That’s usually enough to get them to hang up.  Occasionally, and more out of interest, I’ll call 101 and try to track the caller, but they just don’t exist.

3. The 'I need to speak to the main decision maker'

And it turns out they’re selling stationery.  For us, it’s always about staying calm, knowing that we have the blessing of our organisation to interrogate such callers, and not giving in, until we’re sure they’re genuine, which usually they aren’t.

4. The 'I'm the Ambassador, don't you know?'

Lately we’ve received a lot of calls from people claiming to be from Embassies.  A ‘diplomat’ will call asking for the email address of a senior member of staff.  When we ask why, they’ll say it’s because they’re being invited to a VIP lunch.  We’ll offer our postal address so that they can send the invitation by post; but this is never good enough. 

5. The 'I'm your boss, now put me through'

This is where they’ll claim to be the person running the organisation, but strangely don’t know the name of the person they want to speak to, only the department they want to reach.

6. The 'can you send me the email addresses for xyz department?'

The caller will pretend they’re an employee of the organisation, and they’re at an airport without access to their contacts, and just need us to send a list of email addresses for a certain group of people. 

The thing is, we’ve heard all of these lines so many times before, we know it’s a scam.  We don’t give anything away. 

We are the first line of defence for the people in our organisation, to help protect their time from nuisance callers, a role we take very seriously; and although people can get very irritated and rude, we refuse to feel the pressure, and try our best to take a light-hearted approach to each call.”