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7 Lessons Learned about Podcasting from Working in a Call Center

Feb 15, 2024

If I’m honest, not every single moment was bad. Aside from the constantly unhappy customers, incessant calls buzzing into my headset, inane corporate politics, and an underlying sense of existential dread, everything was fine.

A huge part of my story is the thirteen years I spent working at a bank, ten of which were in a call center.

The experience was exactly what you’re imagining it to be. Endless queues of unhappy and demanding customers combined with limited opportunities to remedy the situation. 

On more than one occasion I seriously contemplated walking out the door and never returning. Then my eyes would wander over the pictures of my young family on my desk and my heart would resign itself to doing the best it could.

What I could never have known then—and only see now in hindsight—is that I was learning skills that would shape my career path into podcasting, coaching, and beyond. Some of the skills I learned working in a call center I still use every day.

Here are a few samples in no particular order with some lessons for you as a podcaster.

Strategic Use of Silence

The first thing that comes to mind that I definitely learned in a call center is how to use silence. 

Clients would call in and tell me a story about why they needed help. Often, they would leave out a crucial detail or not know to include something. My job was to ask the questions that elicited the information I needed to help them. Occasionally those questions were uncomfortable, especially when a customer thought we were at fault but it was really their issue or misuse of a product.

In those moments, I would ask a well-phrased question and stop talking. The mute button became my best friend. Most people cannot handle silence and if you let it linger, will start talking to end it.

This applies most directly to an interview podcast. If you can land a great question, don’t be in a hurry to explain why you asked it or to clarify it if your guest hesitates. Simply wait. Hit your mute button and let the silence linger. It will feel like an eternity but may only be 8-10 seconds. Remember, you can edit anything. Taking that long beat will make what comes next that much more powerful.

How To Handle Emotional Situations

Working with people and their money is emotional in ways most people never think about. People who need access to their money can feel desperate. That’s when things can quickly go sideways and there aren’t a lot of good ways to respond.

There is, however, one perfect way to respond: empathy. 

Desperate people do desperate things and I can tell you that I’ve heard it all. Reminds me of the guy who canceled his card to hide his wild Friday night. There’s no place for judgment at that moment, only empathy and problem solving.

On your show, you might accidentally stumble into an emotional issue. It happened to me just the other day. Instead of responding with surprise, we were able to follow curiosity and find out how the experience affected the guest’s relationship with the Lord (which is the focus of my show). 

Develop your empathy if you want to be a great interviewer.

Type and Listen at the Same Time

When I first thought of the idea for this article, typing and listening was the inspiration. I start every podcast interview by letting my guests know that I spent 10 years in a call center and can type and listen at the same time. You will definitely see me clicking around and building show notes on my website during the interview.

What’s the lesson for you? 

You don’t have to do this if you just can’t focus on what the person is saying but it makes my life easier come editing time. Don’t try to capture everything but even grabbing a quote or putting up a link to their book and website while you’re still on the call can save so much time later.

Got Comfortable Listening to My Own Voice on Recordings

This one didn’t come easy. Back in the day, the quality control association would set up meetings and lug an old school tape recorder into a meeting room. They would play my calls and offer feedback. 

At first, I despised those meetings, as you might imagine. Some of the feedback was in how they wanted me to structure the conversation at the beginning and end (always be selling in corporate, you know!) and that was hard enough. Sometimes, I would make a choice comment on mute but guess who could still hear it even if the customer couldn’t? Yeah, the QA person.

I learned to appreciate both the sound of my own voice so that by the time I started editing my conversations for the podcast, it was no big deal. Plus, I had a decent mic and knew how good I sounded.

If you’re still worried about the sound of your voice, know that you’ll get used to it eventually and push on. Also, keep the side comments for after the recorder goes off. 🙂

Listen for the Question Behind the Question

Our customers did not have the level of familiarity with our products that I did. They would call in and start describing their problem with hilarious phrases that we did not use. “My thingy doesn’t work,” and “I need a check” when they wanted a cashier’s check, not a box of their own checks.

 I had to get good at picking up whether there was another agenda behind the question. Sometimes that meant a follow up question to clarify. In time, I could play Name That Tune with customers and guess their needs with tremendous accuracy within a few words.

If you structure your message correctly and do it long enough, you’ll revisit themes with some frequency. You will develop an innate sense of when to ask a question that gets behind the events described.

On Halfway There, this tends to look like these kinds of questions:

  • Why did you think God had abandoned you?
  • What did that experience lead you to believe about God?
  • What does it mean that you…?

Feelings, unexplained beliefs, and unexplored assumptions lead to exceptional conversations that go to deeper levels. 

Discipline to Show Up 

I never knew that tenacity could be a superpower until I worked at a call center. Going to work was often an act of sheer will because the experience was so draining. In retrospect, it turned into a problem because my willpower muscle was getting overworked at work.

When I started my podcast, though, I transferred some of that energy to the show and committed to showing up no matter what every Monday. The muscle I’d exercised for so many years was suddenly my best asset.

In the course of simply living, you have probably developed similar “muscle groups” and talents. What if you made the connection in your mind and applied your superpower to your podcast? 

Teach What You Know

Wherever I go in my career, I turn into the trainer. I was the guy they sat new employees with because I could explain my process without overwhelming people. I was consistent, fast, and experienced. Reps that I trained would go on to be the best in the center.

That turned out to be true with podcasting, too, I guess.

But here’s the challenge for you: do your work so well, so thoughtfully, that you can teach it to someone else. If you do, you will excel.

Bonus: Repeating myself over and over.

This one is perhaps the most underrated of all. As you might imagine in a call center you say the same thing over and over and over again. Every call starts the same. Explanations to the same questions are the same each and every time. You’re required to end the call the same way.

When I tell you it took me years to stop ending my personal phone calls with “Is there anything else I can help you with today,” I’m not joking around. That stuff gets ingrained in you.

But there’s a secret advantage to being willing to repeat things again and again. Communication is often about over communicating. If you want to monetize, this is especially relevant. It’s said among marketers that people require seven (SEVEN!) interactions and repetitions before they begin to even consider making a purchase. 

Why are you concerned about emailing too often? Why do you worry about annoying people in their social feeds? No…post away. They see your stuff because they’ve interacted with you. That repeated interaction is what leads casual observers to become repeat customers. 

Don’t be afraid to repeat your call to action in every single episode. Post about your podcast several times per week. Talk about the themes over and over. Solidify ideas into catchy phrases you can say when it’s relevant. 

I didn’t know that this would become a marketing superpower but it has and I’m so grateful.

Be Grateful for Everything

You may be in the middle of your call center era right now. It’s probably different than mine but I want you to be encouraged. The Lord uses everything to shape us into the people he wants us to be. 

Even the most difficult moments in your life become an opportunity. You can’t rush it. You can only believe it for the future. 


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