How Do Your Prospects Perceive You?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When my office phone rings, I don’t want to answer it. This may seem odd coming from someone who has spent three decades in the call center industry, experiencing it from almost every angle. Though there are multiple root causes, the primary reason is that these calls are seldom welcome.

With over half the calls I answer, my greeting encounters silence. But this column isn’t about dialers set too tight or high abandon rates; it’s about the other calls.

Of the remaining calls – either made by a person or a machine that connects me to a person – most have a goal counter to mine; some are a complete mismatch. Judging by these calls, some databases must indicate that I run a call center or a print shop.

For example:

“May I ask you a few questions?”

I sigh. Do I have a choice? “Go ahead.”

“How many seats do you have?”

“Just one.” I smile as the agent processes this.

“Well then, do you outsource your calls?”

“No. I’m not a call center.”

Usually the call wraps up at this point, but one agent pushed forward. “Do you currently use workforce management software?”


Or consider this exchange:

“How many offset printers do you have in your plant?”

“None.” This is going to be interesting.

“Ah…well…how many digital printers do you have?”

“Zero.” My anticipation mounts.

“How can you be a printer if you don’t have any printers?”

“I’m not a printer.”

“You’re not? It says here you’re a printer. May I speak with the person who handles your printers?”

But I digress. Many of my unwanted intrusions are automated calls from a big name company wanting to verify information for my free local online listing. I receive these calls a couple times a week, every week. All I need to do is press “one” to confirm or “nine” to be removed. Of course, they don’t mention the part about opting out until I listen to the entire recording. On every call, no matter how busy I am or what project they interrupted, I take time to press “nine,” hoping it will be the last time. It never is.

Yesterday when they rang I had no deadlines looming so I put extra effort into the call. This time I pressed “one” to verify my information, hoping to reach a person and stop the unwanted phone calls.

The agent answered in an upbeat manner, bordering on perky but in an annoying way. I think he might have been having a good day.

I began sharing my frustration over the repeated calls and not removing my information as requested. But then, months of pent up frustration boiled over and spewed out of my mouth. Within moments, raw emotion took me from civil to incensed, with colorful language that my tongue seldom tells, spilling forth to my unsuspecting target.

“I can tell you’re upset.” He took charge of the call. “Let me get you over to the ‘permanent opt-out department’ right away.”

“That would be great.” Now I’m getting somewhere. I wanted to apologize for my tirade, but before I could, he transferred me.

The man at the “permanent opt-out department” asked for my number so he could enter it into their “permanent do-not-call database.” Since I didn’t know which number they were calling, I said I’d give him both. I shared my local number but while relaying my toll-free number, the line went dead.


This company has repeatedly irritated me for months with their unwanted calls. Now in their one moment to shine, they disappointed me again. They could have ended the call in a positive manner, but instead they confirmed they don’t care.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at

[From Connection Magazine May 2013]