Thursday, June 23, 2016

Goodbye call center

I've spent the last 10 years or so of my life working at a call center.  It got me through school, provided medical benefits for me and my family, got me started on my 401k, paid for several surgeries, and everything else money does for you when you don't really have much of it.  I started out as a minimum wage employee earning around $7/hr and ended at $13.85/hr, more than most of the managers who were forced to work 50-60 hours a week without overtime pay.  I started as a tenor voiced infomercial order taker whom prank callers thought was a woman when they wanted to talk dirty, next was a ATT wireless tech support guru who advanced to being one of the "ICU" agents who got to do floor support in a white doctors coat, and ended off as a Comcast customer service guy who sometimes got to hide from taking phone calls by working on migrating accounts from one billing or phone platform to another.  I was employee of the month once, and won an award by racking up a large number of compliments and thank you's from other agents once.  I've spent most of the last 10 years working swing shift so that I could do classes during the day time.  Only recently did I get a day shift back again.  The first time I heard a chorus of birds singing in the morning I actually started to cry.

I wish I could say I had more to be proud of for the last 10 years other than that I provided for my family.  I tolerated taking infomercial calls and I've despised working for Comcast.  I am more or less proud of the work I did for AT&T.  Its easier to care about your work when the company acts as if doing a good job for people actually matters.

I've started a new job working in accounting and collections for a manufacturing company.  Basically staring at an excel sheet all day and emailing people to remind them to pay for their orders.  Not exactly rewarding in terms of people interactions, but on the other hand, I've never really been a people person.  But I have noticed some huge corporate culture differences.

For one, the new company publicly rewards people on a regular basis.  Drawings for gift cards are done for people who were complimented publicly or for turning in safety tokens.  A big step up from being offered $1 things of shampoo or pasta as an incentive.

For another, if a fire alarm goes off, the building is to be evacuated immediately.  Instead of waiting for permission while the managers scramble to find out if the alarm is real or not.  According to a long term employee, the call center once ordered people to remain at their desks and continue taking calls during a natural gas leak.  Its not as if they care whether we live or die, nor our customers either.  I was once directly ordered not to reach out to the police on behalf of a woman who was assaulted while on the phone with me, on the grounds that we didn't know the full story so we shouldn't get involved in a domestic dispute.

Another cultural difference is that if something is broken, I have multiple and immediate avenues I can pursue to get it fixed without someone else having to give permission first.  I saw a program break down on someone and they were able to get it fixed within a few minutes and got immediate responses from their IT support when they asked for it.  In contrast with a call center that didn't even have an on site repair guy for quite some time and even when he was around managers didn't always care to file repair tickets in a timely manner or at all.  I once had a login sit disabled for 6 months because my request to repair it was looked upon with suspicion.  A computer next to me remained disabled for more than a month because repair tickets weren't filed in a timely manner after IT broke the computer during testing and never bothered taking their own initiative to fix it until multiple repair tickets were filed.

For another thing, the building is clean.  At the call center trash thrown on the floor could easily stay there for more than a week and the place generally looked pretty dumpy.  For a long period nightly cleanings were being skipped because the night janitor was faking their cleaning records.  It was normal to be able to write in the dust on any smooth horizontal surface and all the computer air vents were clogged with dust.  The new job, well, I have yet to see any trash on the floor and the only places collecting dust are the places hard to reach for cleaning.  There might be dust due to construction in the building, but not due to lazy or dishonest cleaning staff.

I'll be glad to leave the call center behind me.  There were calls I was proud of, like the time I helped a father pick out a good phone for his son with asperger syndrome so his son could text him any time about his pokemon obsession even if he couldn't talk to anyone else about it.  Or the time I helped prove that a business man was telling the truth that a sales rep had over promised the coverage from his plan and cost him $13,000 in data roaming charges.  But in general, the call center has left me in a constant cloud of anxiety regarding whether I'll be fired for having my calls too long or not selling enough or wondering when my next screaming angry person would come on the line.  The absurd levels of dust and the employees who continuously ignored the rules forbidding applying perfumes in the building left my allergies turned up so high for so long I had to have surgery on my sinuses to make it harder for my nose to go crazy on me.  I'm just glad to be finished with call center work.


Bobbi said...

Very well said.

Bobbi said...

Very well pit from one call center ex-employee to another.