This post is a long Time Coming. I figured I should work in my call center job at least a year before I talk about it. I knew my anxiety and experiences would cloud my judgement. I needed to get used to my job. In the course of nearly a year, I have experienced the best and the worst of humanity. And I’ve got a lot to say about this. I will try not to focus on the negative, but it is so damn hard not to.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know about a year ago I quit my job working at the daycare. I had no clue what I would do. One thing I knew: I was done with daycare. I’ve worked in the childcare since I was 15 years old. At 40, I was done. I spent more time taking care of other people’s children than I did my own. And I was kind of tired of being tired. So I put my resume on all the job sites. The one job I never thought going to enjoy or be successful at was lowest on my list. I never imagined myself working at a call center.
I worked at a call center before. I hated every single moment. Maybe, I wasn’t in the right line of call centering. Maybe, I wasn’t in the right mental frame for call center work. I don’t know what it was. But what I know is that I hated selling to people who were mad at me. I hated getting yelled at by my managers because I wasn’t attempting to sell the people who were mad at me for not being able to remove their late fees. I was not about that life at all. I went home crying, frustrated, and taking it out on my family. The money was amazing; I’m not even going to pretend it wasn’t. I was pulling $2,000 a paycheck on top of bonuses and sales amounts. When I sold, I was fantastic at it. If I saw you had more than one account with us, I’m not putting this stupid fraud protector or this stupid payment protector plan on just one account. I would have you putting it on all the accounts. One call, one attempt, and I was getting five or six sales. Boom!
I hated it. I hated being disgusting. It was slimy. It was underhanded. They gave us scripts that were written just to get people to say, “Okay,” and, “Yeah,” to make it sound like they agreed to these useless products. The fact of the matter: fraud protection is something you should already have on credit cards. I hated so much of that job. But the biggest thing I hated about that job attitude of the people calling in. It was nothing for any of us to hear someone say, “I make more in a day than you’ll see in your life.” “I want to speak to your manager because don’t you know who I am.”
One highlight of working there was watching a young kid snap on the phone. That sounds bad but trust me on this. I watched the kid sit and tell somebody, “Sir, it’s not a good idea to raise your voice and curse someone out and threaten someone who has access to your social security number, mother’s maiden name, and address.” It wasn’t long before security and managers walked him out. He smiled the whole time and said it was worth it. He was tired of being treated like trash. I vowed on that day I would never work at a call center again.
Fast forward 10 or more years and I now work at a call center. I’m in a lot better of a mind frame. I’m emotionally a little better off than I was. But, we still get those calls from people who think they are better than us. So let me say this: you have a job; whether your job is Doctor, CEO, HR representative, director of a school, or call center consultant, you do not have the right to speak to anyone as if they are less than human. Yes, I am in a customer service industry. That does not say customer servant. I am not here as your slave, as your personal attendant, or as your bitch. There are things you need to understand when you call into a call center if you’re going to act like an asshole on the phone.
We will make fun of you. There is nothing more to it. We will rant and rave about you off the phone, but we will keep our calm and chill while speaking to you. You would too if you knew you were being listened to. We can’t tell you to shut the fuck up no matter how much we would love to when you’re cursing and screaming at us. And throwing your title around, belittling us, and being a douche nugget is doing you no good. We get if you’re upset. We do. And if you’re chill about it, we will go out of our way to help you. But if you’re acting like one of those brats on Dr. Phil, we won‘t step one toe out of our way to help you. We will do the barest of the minimum just to get you off our phone. If you’re mad about something that was not your fault, if we dropped the ball, if we didn’t do what we promised to, we will do whatever we can to fix that.
The people you’re talking to on the phone are not the people who screwed up your account, your billing, your documents, your submission deadlines, or your application. We didn’t do it. We are just the people answering the phones.
If the first words after we answer the phone are, “I want to speak to a manager,” we know we already have a problem. In that situation, we need reach out to people qualified to help with those situations. If we don’t have the answers available, we reach out to managers. That’s what we’re doing when we put you on hold; we reach out to to our knowledge bases. We ask each other questions so we can help you. But if you’re going to sit there and scream and rant and curse and treat us like we are there to suck the cheese from your feet, then we will not go above beyond or out of our way for you. It’s called common decency. We will ask you what’s going on. We will ask you if we can help. We have our own protocol to follow. Believe it or not, we don’t just answer the phone and take orders from you. We have to ask questions like your first and last name, and in my case, employee ID number. Good gracious Goddess, I cannot tell you how many times I asked for an employee ID number and someone wants to give me their social security number. It’s 2019. Stop that! Do not give your social security number out over the phone, Bad choices are being made there. You should never do that ever. We have to verify you as a legitimate active employee of the company you’re calling in from. That way, we can pull up the right information to tell you and your account. However, if you sit there and say, “I want a supervisor,” I will not transfer you. I have no information to give the supervisor. The reason we ask these questions when you ask for a supervisor is to give them information about why you’re calling.
Speaking of names, no, we cannot give you our last name, our location, our employee ID numbers. Do you know why we can’t do that? Because people are crazy. Could you imagine? “Oh, hey my name is this. This is my employee ID number. This is where we work. Come and find me.” No. Never going to happen. And don’t get testy and hostile with me because you gave me yours and now I got to pony up mine. It doesn’t work that way, sweetheart. Not okay. I will tell you I’m in Missouri. I will tell you the case number of the case from our call, but that is all you will get out of me other than my first name. Yeah, we do we make cases on every call. And I will tell you we notate when you’re cursing up a storm and screaming mad. I go a bit above that. I will tell people when you’ve been super nice even if you are super frustrated. I will leave a note saying you were nice and asking what can we do to help you.
I want to help people. I want to make a difference. I know this is a frustrating thing for you and I want to make it better for you. However, treat me like trash and I won’t do a damn thing for you. I will give you the bare minimum of what I’m required to do but I sure as hell will not step one toe out of my way to help you. You do not get to abuse us.
I have had to put my mama voice on to get control of a call. If you don’t know what a mama voice is, it’s the voice your mama used when you were in trouble. I have had to tell people to stop using profanity with me and calm down so I could help them with their situation. Let me tell you something right now: nobody in the history of calm down has ever calmed down when being told to calm down. These are the rules I have to play by to keep my butt in my seat, at my cubicle, at my computer. I can’t just hang up on you even though I would love to just hang up on you. We get it; you’re upset. We get it; you’re mad.
The thing is, a lot of times it’s not even the company’s fault. Sad but true. Most of the time, it is your fault. That’s a bitter pill to swallow. Go get a drink of water and come back. Is that better? I cannot tell you how many times I hear, “I can’t get that document. That document doesn’t exist. You people are making me jump through hoops.”
Oh, Lord, Do not even get me started on “you people” Lord, save me from “you people” Let me tell you about “you people.” When we hear “you people” our eyes roll so far back into our heads we can see the screens of the person sitting behind us. I feel it is a little demoralizing and a little dehumanizing. I want to tell you, “you people” does not exist. “You people” is an imaginary thing. I’m a real person. I don’t answer the phone, “Thank you for calling. My name is You People.” Nope. I answer it, “Thank you for calling. My name is Jennifer.”
The thing I do, my job, is an employee benefit. This is a benefit we offer to companies to help their employees. Nobody is making them take part in this benefit. No one is forcing their hand at this. Nobody said, “I will shoot you if you do not take part in this benefit.” The employees choose on their own to take part in the benefit. We hear so often about how, “You people have ruined my life. This is terrible customer service. You people have the worst website ever.
We want you to understand when you call in screaming about “you people” you are yelling at the wrong person. 98% of my calls are decent human beings. They ask about what their submission deadlines are, I tell them, thank you and have a good day. Now and then you get that one person who just doesn’t get it; who doesn’t want to take responsibility I’ve had someone say we were prejudiced against him. I found that kind of interesting because we never see these people face-to-face. Everything is online or over the phone. We have no access to what these people look like or sound like until they call in. I’ve had people that were part of this program for five years that had never had to make a phone call. This guy had no record of calling in but he had applications and documentation in with us. Everything had been going okay until that point. We had a glitch in the system at one point; that’s why he had to call in. So we don’t even know, sometimes, what these people sound like until they call in, but according to this one caller who kept calling in, we were prejudiced against him. He went to far to say we were keeping him from getting farther along in his job. Do you see how ridiculous that sounds? I can’t even go into how ridiculous that sounds.
I understand the benefit I deal with involves money. Money is a big deal. I’ve had single moms call me up: she’s working full time, got three kids, and doing what needs to be done to provide for those kids. She’s taking part in this to help her, her family, and her future. Because she’s being nice, she’s being polite, and she’s trying, I will do everything I can to help her. But if you sit there and get snippy with me because I told you it will take one to two pay periods for you to see this benefit reflected on a paycheck and you yell at me I’m stealing Christmas from your two children and you’re getting $3,000 put onto a paycheck because of this benefit I will make judgments about you. Especially since I’ve got four kids and I’ve done Christmas on $300.
We just want a little courtesy. We are the voice on the other end of that phone. We are people. We are human beings with feelings and families and yes, this is our job, but that doesn’t make it okay to treat us like shit. At no point should you act like an overgrown child on the phone because you didn’t get your $25 fee returned to you.
Please continue to threaten to go to your HR department, your manager, your CEO. Please continue to threaten to call the owner of our call center. I beg you to do those things because you will absolutely get nowhere. I have heard for a year from one specific company 20, 30, 40 people are going to HR to complain about our service. And that’s cool. You can do that. It will change nothing. And if it’s that bad, don’t sign up for the benefit.
And speaking of signing up for the benefit. Nobody faked your signature. No one is falsifying documents, changing documents, or changing information on applications. Oh my God, no. We do not do that. Nobody does that. Not credit cards, not customer service, no one. No one changes your information. Nobody submits documents on your behalf. Nobody changes your documents. We don’t have access to your records or your documents. We don’t have access to your computer. We cannot access the information you are trying to send to us. There’s no way I could put a picture of your three adorable children in our system just to make you late for submitting your documents. No one is that nefarious. Our systems don’t work right half the time. The technology you’re talking about we do not have at my call center. I swear to God, hamsters run the internet by running on wheels in this place. And you want to accuse us of going into your home computer, getting documents, and submitting them for you just to make them wrong. I’ll take things that didn’t happen for a thousand, Alex.
Are you still there? Have you stayed on long enough to read to the end? I hope so. All this rant boils down to is this: treat people like people. We‘re all this crazy rock flying around a star. None of us is getting out of this journey alive. That all being said, use a little kindness, a little consideration when dealing with people in the service industry. Whether you live chat over the computer, face to face in a line, or call into a call center, be nice. Otherwise, you won‘t get what you want and you’ll wind up being a joke.
Now, go out there and be decent people.