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Question: I work in a call centre team of virtual receptionists for a number of companies. Our standard operating procedures are that we do not put through calls from vendors, companies looking for sponsorships or companies wanting to extend invitations for seminars, etc. After screening each call, we will put the caller on hold, and take back the call to inform the caller that the person he/she is looking for is either unavailable or not in. There are many such calls per day and every day we cook up excuses. Sometimes, when callers are pushy , we will tell them to send their company’s profile to a generic email which I am certain no one in the company will retrieve. Am I breaking the fourth precept (of abstaining from false speech) at work?

Answer: Actually, yes, that is lying, with some element of giving false hope and wasting the callers’ time too. What you can do is to just ask them to email directly. Indeed, who knows? Maybe if they write well, there might be replies?

Question: Yes, whenever possible, we will ask them to write in. They will then follow up by calls after sending emails, but we are not supposed to put the calls through because most of the time, the person called do not want to take such calls. So we end up giving all kinds of excuses to the caller again. There are times when we even tell the caller that if the person is keen after reading your email, he/she will contact you, but sometimes, the caller can be persistent and make 20 to 30 calls a day.

Answer: You can just say this in the first place – ‘You can email your invitations or requests. If there is any follow-up, it will be by email.’ Even if the person calls again you can say the same thing with a little change – ‘You can email your invitations or requests AGAIN. If there is any follow-up, it will be by email.’ There is no need to say more. You just need to repeat that second line as many times as needed to drive the message home. This is called the broken record technique: http://moonpointer.com/new/2011/08/mindful-broken-record

Question: Thanks. Yes, that’s definitely better.

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