Tuesday, July 22, 2008

7 Things: Call Centers

1. The average person's career in a call center is two years. Average. It is a high stress environment and most people move up or out pretty quickly. Certainly there is variation within different fields and there are of course lifers who tilt the stats, but there you go.
2. The call center I worked in did not allow me to send an obnoxious caller to the person next to me who was bored and have them pretend to be my supervisor, but some do. This is not to play with you or to deny you you fabulous rights as a caller, it is simply because in this day and age everybody asks for a supervisor, even when we have explained that the request they are making violates the law. Sometimes talking to someone different makes them happier.
3. If I had a nickel for every caller who threatened to have me fired, have their lawyer call, and/or sick the IRS on me, I would be able to buy a nice dinner. So you people throwing that around, we are not impressed.
4. I always did my job (I won't promise I was always sweetness and light, but I always did my job.) In the call center I worked in, our role was mostly informational, although certainly that information helped guide people through situations, so there was very little I could do. I could not give them free benefits or refunds or gift certificates. But, for people who were nice or understanding and or kind, I could certainly give them the benefit of my time end experience. Mean people didn't get that (or seem to care).
5. The call center I worked on required me to request permission before I put people on hold. I honestly only ever did that when I needed to make another call or get information from someone else. Nonetheless some people (one caller in particular comes to mind) seemed convinced I was planning to drop them into some sort of call center abyss. While I certainly can't speak for all call center reps, I would say that I was not doing that, and refusing permission just made the call take longer.
6. Call center employees certainly don't get paid a lot, but that doesn't mean we aren't good at are jobs. Sure I can tell you about people who weren't so great, but more of the people I worked with were great at their jobs. (Of course, being good at your job often offers you that chance to move into a different role, but still.) My point is, don't assume the rep you are talking to is stupid. Don't treat the rep as if they are stupid, chances are they know more about their subject matter than you do.
7. So in the end, my recommendation is that if the rep you are talking to doesn't seem to be giving you the results you wish for, instead of going ballistic or threatening to blow the place up (actual things that happened to us), take a deep breath and ask them to explain what's holding them up. You won't always like it, but at least they won't write a nasty note* in your file. And you might learn how to prevent the situation in the future.
*The nasty note usually won't hurt you. But good call center reps, will read the notes next time you call.

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