Coming Soon! The e-Book Edition…

…or not.

I thought about it the other day, and I have the desire to write a book about some of the crazy people I speak to on the phones. I wouldn’t have to even explain what exactly I called them about. I would simply have to say it was in regards to loans and that I worked in a call center.

I’ve got a great title to my book. Are you ready?

On the Phones: Why I Probably Wouldn’t Want to be Friends with You

Personally I think it’ll be a best seller.

Can you imagine all the ways I can make this work? I can. And if you’re reading this feeling affronted because the title just insulted you, don’t be.

You’re either the person I’m writing about, and I wouldn’t want to be friends with you, or you aren’t a rude person who makes ridiculous comments when a poor call center rep calls you. (Alternately you aren’t rude to the call center rep when you call in for assistance.)

Because that’s where my book would go.

I’d glaze over all the absurd responses I get to the eternal question: “May I speak to so-and-so?”

We’d go through the jerk-offs who reply, “What do you want?” instead of replying in any normal fashion to every question I ask. That was a fun call that I had yesterday, actually. A man continually replied “What do you want?” when I asked to speak to him and would not tell me if I had the correct person or anything else.

Now I understand being annoyed by 1-800 numbers because I get that, too, but when you know for a fact who the company is, what they’re calling about, and that you have a plan of action, you don’t have to be a moronic broken record to me.

To people like him, I’d like to say, “If I ever saw you in person, I’d happily knee you in the balls and watch you cry.”

Then there are the ridiculously high number of people who I speak to that tell me, “You people screwed up my account!” Or any number of variants on that theme. It always begins with “you people” and ends with an accusation, typically false, that leads me to want to ask if the person is really that ignorant in real life.

First of all, if you addressed me as “you people” in person, I’d laugh in your face. I am not a people. I am a person. Second of all, I am not a business. I am an employee, who really has nothing to do with your account aside from the unfortunate fact I had the luck of the draw to speak to you today. Third, “you people” really does not compel me to be on your side, see things your way, or feel it necessary to empathize with your situation.

It generally just makes me think you are an idiot.

Also, it sets my teeth on edge. Call us Call Center Xtroardinaire, call me rep or Rae or miss or ma’am. Not “you people.” See the above for all the reasons this is wrong. Not to mention it’s just plain rude, and you wouldn’t speak that way to someone in person, so please do me the courtesy of pretending I am, in fact, a person.

For those of you who ritually speak to reps in this manner, please be advised most of us would like to rip your tongues out for calling us “you people” on the phones. Also, if you set a pack of wild reps on people like your fine selves, I’m fairly certain the wild reps would succeed in ripping out your tongues.

And then we wouldn’t be “you people.”

(As I digress, I realize I may have a minor bit of pent up aggression held back today.)

Finally, I really must say I quite enjoy when I call a wrong number and people feel the need to harp on me about how angry they are that we keep calling for someone who isn’t at that number. “You people keep calling for her, and I keep telling you she don’t have this number no more! Don’t you understand that? Take my number off your list! You keep calling and calling and calling, you called three times yesterday, you never take my number off, and she ain’t got this number…”

Aside from the general lack of proper grammar and a grasp of the English language, the people who yell at me about insipid things like having a wrong number simply don’t seem to recognize one basic fact about call centers: If I have a wrong number for someone who is behind on an account, you can be damn sure someone else has the same number and is calling you.

Now, most of the time I try to head off the mundane commenting of people in these situations because it’s useless and gets me nowhere, but can I tell you honestly that people who do this annoy me to no end?

I want to slap them upside of the head and tell them I wouldn’t have called someone so hateful if I could have avoided it, but unfortunately it’s my job. Now be a polite human and bugger off while I remove your number so some other poor rep never has to hear your hideous voice.

As you can see, I could easily write quite a book about the people I speak to on the phones, and please remember: this includes you, too, if you’ve ever spoken to a customer service representative in any hateful or rude manner.

I hope you can see my point. It isn’t so much that I wouldn’t be friends with people based on how they treat call center reps. It’s more humorous than anything, but I would hope it would make people sit up and take notice that even a lowly rep on the phone is more human than just an annoying voice that cuts into part of your day.

And that, my friends, is your public service announcement for the day!

– RaeNez

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Case Study: Rodrigo & Denial

I’m usually a pretty patient person when I call people on the phones. My job isn’t hardcore collections work, heavens no. I can’t deal with the idea of dropping threats of garnishing wages on people; the most I’ll threaten is accounts going into collections if you reach a certain number of days past due.

That said, there is a limit to what any sane rep should have to listen to on the phone, and I might have strained that a time or two. Most notably with a person we’ll call Rodrigo.

Rodrigo is your average American guy. He is not, as his name might suggest, someone with a heavy Hispanic accent who understands little to none of the technical jargon around paying bills. (Those are the people who say, “Oh, ah, Spanish?” and get sent off to my dear friend who handles the Spanish queue and get a mouthful from her when they try to pull a lack of understanding in their own language.)

Rodrigo is of pretty average intelligence; though he seems a bit puffed up about his education and background. That’s fine with me. I don’t mind. I have a degree of my own, and I did my work to get it. That said, he doesn’t know what it means to have an account with a regular bill. Nor does he realize that by not responding to our efforts to collect or resolve his account, he can’t a) stop our collection calls, b) claim we’re doing something illegal, or c) stop his credit from being ruined. And if he keeps it up, his account will undoubtedly go straight to the collections agency who won’t listen to him tell them why he shouldn’t have to pay but will instead gently and firmly inform him of the amount they intend to garnish from his wages.

You’d think maybe then he’d actually want to do something on his account.

Here’s the story:

Typical for my job, Rodrigo’s name pops up on my computer screen, I greet the man and explain why I’m calling. Before you know it, I’m in a conversation with someone convinced that this debt does not exist.

Yes, well, apparently it does. And it does in your name. With your contact information attached to it.

In fact, this debt isn’t even legal. (It’s funny how every time someone tells me their debt doesn’t exist, they follow up by threatening that it’s illegal for us to contact them regarding the supposed nonexistent debt.) Yep, this debt isn’t legal, he didn’t owe any of this money to anyone or anything, and furthermore, this was supposed to be taken care of for him.

Clearly that happened, and that’s why we were calling.

Normally people are manageable. I’ve developed a knack for calming people down and convincing them to listen to me and take in their options to resolve their accounts and maybe even start their own process of resolution (however futile it may be). I give them a resolution that I think works, and then I give them the means to complain or request research or otherwise do something that makes them feel they’ve accomplished something.

Not Rodrigo.

He is of the class of people who are single-minded in believing any account in their name is not something they are responsible for. Nor is he responsible to try to resolve any issues on any type of debt in his name that he doesn’t feel is valid. (Because clearly leaving it alone will make it go away – like any child, this strategy is always a good one.)

His situation is one of the unique ones that my company comes across where he may have a legitimate complaint that could determine his debt is, in fact, not something he is liable for given the circumstances. He may actually have the potential to reduce his debt (which numbers in the thousands of dollars) to nothing.

Does he hear me saying that the good news is there’s a simple process he can start to get this debt issue resolved? No. He hears me saying he has to initiate something, has to take on responsibility for something, has to be active. And that grinds his ax, so to speak.

So we go in circles about his nonexistent, yet reappearing debt that he insists should be taken care of.

The great thing about Rodrigo and his infernal denial? He’s been in the system for calls so long he’s gone through several other representatives. He’s one of the people on my list that I tend to go back to for amusement purposes. He’s also spoken to two different supervisors, and I’ve had the misfortune of calling him a second time. During that call, he was so pleased that I listened to how much the system, the government, the schools, the businesses, and society has wronged him, he told me he wouldn’t speak to any other reps besides me… or perhaps the CEO, ya know, if he decides to call and apologize for this whole debt debacle.

All I can say is, regardless of our rules against hanging up on people, if I see his name come across my screen a third time, forget it being a charm, I’ll be clicking the little hang up button and calling it a “call disconnect.”

I’m sure Rodrigo will come up again in the future… he’s become a rather amusing topic of conversation amongst my coworkers. Not to mention, we’re unfortunately still calling him. It’s just too bad there’s not a button to stop calling people who refuse to help themselves. It would certainly save the reps a lot of time and energy.

– RaeNez

Call Centers: So Not What You Think They Are

Maybe you’re that person who picks up the phone without checking to see what number hit the caller ID, and suddenly you hear it: “May I please speak to so-and-so?”

Oh no. Really? Now you see it. The 800-number strikes again, and you’re suddenly reminded of too many other things you need to be doing. In fact, maybe you should just hang up the phone instead of answering.

You know, the representative on the other end might be hoping you’d do that.

In fact, the rep may be wishing you’d just tell her, “Wrong number,” or “He’s not here right now,” instead of answering any of the myriad other ways that you might decide to answer.

And then you decide to answer: “This is.” Maybe a sigh escapes you. Maybe you huff and grumble that you’re busy or tired or sick or anything other than just fine and dandy. Maybe your friendly voice turns incredibly chilly and hostile and you go on the offensive without thought.

Whatever the case, the rep on the other end of the phone is trying not to sigh back at you. And maybe biting back the retort that if she could make money doing something else she wouldn’t be there trying to get you to pay your bill.

Because does anyone really want to work in a call center? I mean, come on, really?

They look so happy to be there, don’t they?

So you got the call from the local 800-number, which, let’s face it, often enough isn’t local to your area. Instead of hearing the rep out when she tries to explain she’s calling about your past due bill, maybe you’re one of those who immediately barges in and spouts: “I’m not interested, thanks!” That’s normally followed by a hang up.

The truth is… that saves those of us making those calls a lot of time and effort. Okay, so the company wouldn’t want you to believe that, but people who make the calls? We get the crap. Have you ever considered that you’re talking to a live person with parents and a dog or a cat or siblings, maybe kids and a spouse? No? Oh, I see. You’re one of those people who thinks it’s cool to take out your anger at whatever insignificant thing in life has upset you on this particular day by screaming at and cussing out the poor rep at the 800-number because she picked this fateful day to call you and harass you when you can’t pay your bills.

I can’t say I have any sympathy for people who do this.

I can’t say I honestly care whether you can pay your bills or not, but I’m not allowed to say that on the phones.

What I can’t say there, I can say here. The truth is that when I talk to a person who thinks it’s a good idea to yell at me about how awful their lives are, I can only think of one thing I’d like to say in response: “Wow, your life sucks. I work in a call center.”

Add in a couple comments about how I hear this kind of thing all the time, I talk to people like this all the time, and before you know it… people might actually feel sorry for me!

So now you know, and  you’ll hear more… about just how different call centers are from your imagination. If you haven’t worked one, you have no idea what they’re like, and if you’re used to screaming and raging at the interruption to your precious time, I hope you’ll consider this: there are, in fact, actual humans who are unfortunate enough to work these jobs, and they’re the ones who end up dealing with your rage fest. (Not to mention some of us tend to jot down your accounts to go back and laugh at your multiple rage fests over time with other representatives because we take a sarcastic bit of pleasure in knowing we aren’t the only ones to incur your wrath and you haven’t figured out that the calls won’t stop the more you scream.)

– RaeNez