DCA: Dealing With Phone Calls

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Dealing with DCA's phone calls

Courtesy of ScarletPimpernel


In general, it’s best to communicate in writing, but if they keep calling (whilst you’re waiting for the CAG phone harassment letter to arrive! See here Harassment by telephone ), these techniques should help you to take control of the calls and stop dreading the phone ringing.

The first thing to remember is that the people on the other end of the phone are nothing special; in particular, they have no legal powers. In general, they are not very well paid call-centre staff who rely upon commission to bump up their pay. They will not usually be the sharpest knives in the drawer - if they were, they wouldn’t be working at a DCA. Most of the time they will be working to some sort of script. They will have a list of objections and how to overcome them. Their aim is to control the conversation to try to get you to do what they want.


First, some basics:

- stand up when you’re on the phone. It helps you to be assertive.

- keep your hands relaxed - avoid clenching your fists

- try to maintain a confident, pleasant tone of voice

- be polite. Losing your temper plays into their hands, as does getting upset

I don't recommend playing music down the phone, blowing whistles or just telling them to feck off; it may give a momentary sense of satisfaction, but it's unlikely to stop them calling.


The Broken Record

This is an effective technique for dealing with DCAs when you have asked them not to call but they persist.

On a piece of paper, print or write a script in large letters. Keep it simple - ‘I’ll only communicate about this matter in writing’, for example. Keep your script by the phone. When the DCA rings, just read the script as a response to everything they say. Keep your voice moderate and calm - smiling as you say it will help. Don’t be distracted by anything they say; don’t interrupt - just repeat the script as your response to everything. Sounds simple, but it really does work.


The Brick Wall

This technique involves sticking to your position no matter what. The DCA will ultimately realise that no matter what they say, they aren’t going to get the answer they want.

So, as an example, the DCA asks when you will pay the debt, and the answer is ‘when you have complied with my request for all communication to be in writing’. The DCA says that they are a phone-based company, and the answer is ‘that may be your policy, but as I’ve already told you, I’ll only deal with you in writing’. The DCA says they’ll keep phoning, and the response is ‘that would be harassment, and as I won’t deal with you except in writing, it’ll be pointless, too’


The Silent Treatment

Silence is probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome. Most people feel an urge to fill a silence (we’ve all experienced the occasional awkward pause, and seen how quickly someone will rush to end it), and his can be used to advantage. So, you’ve told the monkey once that you’ll only deal with them in writing, but he continues to ask when you’ll pay. Say nothing; the monkey will wonder what the silence means - are you thinking how much to pay, or are you ignoring him? - but he won’t be able to resist for long, and within a few seconds will respond, either by repeating the question or asking if you are still on the line. Your response is ‘sorry, I’ve already explained my position’, followed by silence - and then more silence, no matter what he says. The call probably won’t last long - silence will make the monkey feel increasingly uncomfortable. Note that it can be quite difficult to maintain the silence - especially if the DCA tries to provoke an answer or wind you up, but they’ll find it harder if you are resolute. The occasional ‘hmmm’ or verbal equivalent of a nod will show you are still on the line, and will increase their irritation.


Just say no

Fairly obvious, this one, and a variation of the Broken Record. Basically, you reply to every point the monkey makes by saying no - no, you won’t deal with them on the phone; no, you won’t be making a payment now, and so on. Bear in mind, though, that most people find it difficult to say no - who hasn’t spent more than they intended at least once because a salesman talked them into it?


Confusion reigns

This technique is designed to throw the DCA off track and waste their time, and is based upon you being vague and as if you don’t understand anything. So, whatever the DCA says, your answers will be along the lines of ‘sorry, I didn’t understand that, will you just go over it again?’; ‘sorry, you’ve lost me’, and so on. If you know your stuff and especially if they are recording you (or you them), confusion can be used to make a point and turn the tables completely. Suppose the DCA says ‘Right, we’ll be sending the bailiffs in next week’, the response would be ‘I don’t understand; you’ll have to explain that to me, because I always understood that to do that you’d need to get a CCJ first, and then I’d have to fail to comply with a court order before you could take any sort of bailiff action. So can you tell me how, given that you haven’t proved that I’m liable for this debt yet, you’re going to send the bailiff’s in next week? Why haven’t you responded to my s.78 request yet? And another thing, deliberately misleading and being deceitful is against the OFT guidance. So how do you explain it then?’ A compound statement like this, especially if it’s said assertively, gives the monkey too many points to take in or answer satisfactorily all at once, and he’ll then either have to ask for an explanation (which puts you in control), or (more likely), he’ll realise he’s been bested and get very defensive, making himself look foolish (which also pts you in control). If he tries bravado and starts his script again, just pick one point and pursue it relentlessly.


Collectorus interruptus

Phone calls, when they interrupt what you were doing, can be annoying. When you are a DCA phone monkey, interruptions disrupt what you are trying to do, which is to persuade someone to do something they either shouldn’t have to do, or don’t want to do. Whilst they’re talking, interrupt their flow - it makes it impossible for them to be effective. Try coughing, or politely interrupting and saying ‘sorry, I didn’t catch that last bit’, for example. Interruptions are a great way of getting off the phone, if you feel your confidence waning, or if you’re just sick of talking to cretins. The doorbell, or mobile phone are your friends here. Then there's ‘must go to the lavatory…’ and hang up. The monkey is left talking to a dead line, and it denies him the smug pleasure he gets from winding people up so much they hang up in anger or tears.


Nothing up my sleeve....

Conjurors often use distraction as a means of diverting the audience's attention from what they're actually doing. We know that most DCA phone-monkeys use scripts that provide them with ways to overcome objections; this technique draws them so far off-script they'll need satnav to find their way back. We also now know that phone-monkeys only have a limited time to complete their calls - so let's see how much of it we can waste!

I said earler that it's important to be polite when dealing with DCAs on the phone. This technique relies on you being gratuitously, gushingly nice to the phone monkey. It may help to practice with someone you know first.

You need to start with an idea about what your red herring will be - where the DCA is located, or the cost of children's clothes, or the price of petrol or public transport. Something simple, everyday and possibly that's in the news. We are going to be the phone-monkey's new best mate - he just doesn't know it - yet!

Start off by finding out the monkey's first name - some give it at the start of the call, but always ask. Use the name in almost every sentence, and at least once every time you speak. This is a trick used by salespeople to make you feel as if they are friends - for proof, go to a car dealership and pretend to be interested in a car - within two minutes the salesman will ahve used your name several times.

But I digress...

So, the monkey (let's call him Dick) will start the usual 'when are you going to pay...' routine, and you reply with an apparently random question - 'Where are you calling from, Dick?'. He'll probably answer with the place name (if he gives the firm name, just ask again), and then you go on from there. If you've been there, bonus! If not, just ask a series of questions: 'What's it like to live in?' and so on. The questions could easily be about him and his family, especially if he starts the 'I'm just trying to do my job' routine. Does he have children, are the schools any good, aren't children's clothes expensive... Anything at all, just so long as it's entirely unconnected with anything he's trying to talk about. Try to ask 'open' questions, that don't allow for a yes or no answer. He'll find it very difficult to be aggressive and/or rude if you are being really, really nice to him. If he objects, 'Hey, I'm only trying to be polite and asking an innocent question - what's wrong with that?'.

Bonus points for getting the monkey a bollocking when his supervisor listens in and hears him telling you about his schooldays or whatever...

A friend of mine (who is a vicar) has a showstopper that he likes to use on double-glazing salesmen: He justs asks if they've let Jesus into their lives...


Nanny knows best...

This one is not for the squeamish. It relies upon undermining the confidence of the phone-monkey.

Essentially, all you do is shoot the phone-monkey down in flames by being patronising and haughtily critical of everything he says. You have to take control of the conversation at the outset, and maintain it. It takes practice, but is worthwhile.

Think about the culture of a call centre, and the sort of people that work there, and exploit it to make them feel inferior.

- it's highly organised, like a beehive, and they are the drones

- time is critical. Some call centre staff have to ask permission to go to the lavatory, just like at school

- they work to scripts. Are they not intelligent enough to speak for themselves

- it's boring. If they like their job, they must be rather dull. If they hate their job, they are too dull to move on.

- they are watched, all the time. Supervisors randomly listen to their calls. Wouldn't it be so much better to have a job where you could think for yourself?

Imagine you are a parent talking to an errant child, and you will get the picture. It can be remarkably effective.

Those interested in the theory behind this could Google Transactional Analysis, upon which it is based.


Once again, where possible don't speak to DCAs - but if you must, these techniques may help.