All Hands on Deck!

It’s been a day… a long, exhausting, mind-numbing, sleep-inducing day. I don’t even know where to begin, other than to say it’s been a day.

I’d like to take the time to break apart and analyze an email our department received from a manager today. I’m not quite sure how kosher that would be on a blog, but given it isn’t exactly going to be the full email or give away any exact details, I suppose it’s not too terrible.

If you’re not familiar with call centers, I will only say they are all about metrics. Did you meet your call volume for the day? Did you hit the hourly call rate? Did you manage to avoid any supe calls? Did you keep the call times to below 2 minutes? Did you take less than 30 seconds to notate accounts between calls?

These are the things we deal with when we’re taking inbound calls for hours on end. And these are the things that irritate me to no end. Our company (Call Center Xtroardinaire) has recently gone through a great deal of expansion, and we’ve increased our account portfolio by a high percentage. That translates to having increased the number of individual accounts by more than 1 million over a very short time frame.

This, in turn, has created an expanded need for call center reps to tackle the inbound calls. Makes sense, right? Wrong. What we’ve done is turned this into an opportunity to instead fire reps, decrease our call center size, and draft other agents from different departments to handle calls with us. Other departments are now on mandatory overtime, but we are still given the option (when that will change is anyone’s guess), and other departments are spending a portion of their day taking calls due to the increased volume.

We have about, oh, a handful of new people coming into the call center mid-February (poor, unfortunate souls) to tackle the open positions we have. They won’t nearly cover the open desks we have, but it’s a start.

So, onto the patronizing pep talk we received from management today…

“Be efficient on each and every call! Typically we like to focus on one-call resolution and avoid having the customer call back and check on other issues. I’m not saying ignore this by any means, but we really need to focus on answering the customer’s question(s) and move on to the next one! Many of us (myself included) tend to get easily sidetracked talking about the weather, sports, etc., but please try to keep that to a minimum!”

Well, that was enlightening. It was just one of the points in the email, but I have to argue it could be put a little simpler by saying: Quantity over quality, people. Get it right! It’s clear management has adopted an attitude of getting through the issue of call volume rather than addressing the issue of staffing, call quality, and customer service.

I don’t get sidetracked into discussing such inane things as the weather, and typically if a customer tries to discuss it with me, I’ll steer the conversation right back to his account. “Oh, yes, it’s lovely we’re having weather. Now, did you say you wanted to make a payment with me today?” I do get sidetracked into noticing that a customer wants to hold their payments for a month and is set up on an autodraft and needs that taken care of. Or I’ll notice that when directing a customer to the website to sign up for the autodraft, I should also check to see if he’s been there before – oh! – nope, he hasn’t, so sir, please make sure to sign up for an account instead of just trying to put in a user name. I’m pretty sure the user name won’t work unless you register first.

These seem like mindless little details, but these are the kinds of things we’re supposed to cut from our calls. So that explains why I got a call from a man who, after calling in earlier in the day, asked me why his blankety-blank user name wouldn’t work and why it wouldn’t register his information when he tried to log in. Well, you see, sir, you don’t have an account on the website. Maybe you could start by signing up for one? Fifteen minutes of holding his hand to walk him through all his website woes later, I’m off the phone and onto the next call, something that could have been avoided had the last rep not simply told him to sign into his account to fix it.

Next on the list…

“Be confident! You guys know this stuff – there’s no need to check with us on the things ‘you think you know, but you want to double-check’. If you think you know the answer, you probably do! And we totally trust you guys on this! Obviously there are tons of scenarios that come up daily that you (and us) need to research further, but overall be confident in your answers and advise the customer accordingly!”

Wow. Can I just say wow? I think we could easily have summed this up to be read as: Don’t ask us questions; we’re tired of it. Just answer them yourselves! Now, going right along with the above nixing of the details, this is one of those ways we shave off an extra few seconds of call time, save an extra minute or two of “off phone” time and essentially free up the supes to handle other things (what things I don’t know).

This just says to me, as a rep on the phone: We, the management, don’t give a damn about you. You are a peon, and you will take the calls and deal with it. No, we will not take your angry customers and supe calls. No, we will not take your questions. No, we do not care if our system screwed something up on an account or if one of our departments didn’t do something correctly. We are management. We will not be bothered. Go, go, advise the customer.

In short, the pep talk did more to raise my blood pressure (literally, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 132/70ish at the doctor’s office) and infuriate me than motivate me to put in 2 hours of overtime per week for the next 5 weeks as another point in the email stressed. Now I’m on more medication to try to solve the issue of an infection I’ve now had for a week and a half, and I’m betting stress at work will certainly help that. Not.

After a wild day of crazy calls, I’m exhausted… so I suppose this shall end my post for tonight. But I hope if you plan to call a call center (especially if it’s mine) tomorrow, you’ll refrain. Spare me the misery, please. At least for one day? 🙂

– RaeNez

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