I have a new customer to dislike. She is one of our corporate customers, and took over from another person that we all got on with very well. I don't really mind mean customers so much, or even picky customers so much, as long as they know what they are doing.
Not this customer. Nope, she labors under the apprehension that she knows more about this business, more about everything in general, than the rest of us and goes out of her way to explain to us why our policies are uninformed, stupid and unreasonable. I haven't figured out what she wants from us yet either, just giving her respect, and not talking back to her stupid suggestions and condescending attitude isnt enough for her. I'm really afraid I'm going to lose it and say something I shouldnt.
Today she asked me to do something against our guidelines. She explained why the guidelines were so stupid and how our way of doing things always costs her more money in the end. I explained that I will gladly do anything she wants, anyway she wants it done, as long as she is aware that she will still be liable for any mistakes that occur. She changed her tune, and told me to do it my way. I guess she is more arrogant than foolhardy.
I know it's not just a personal thing, because everybody else developed a hatred for her right off the bat. Even the people at her corporation on the west coast can't stand her either, they complain about what an idiot she is to us.
There are some days I just shake my head and ponder how stupid arrogant people get positions of authority and responsibility when they are not even good at being human......
Wow, was it ever a bad day today. I felt like I was swimming in concrete about to harden. The slowdown in inbound sales has seemed to have come to an end. That being said, I was actually scolded today.
My boss barked at me that I need to focus on sales and performance and numbers and not spend so much time talking with the customers about non-work related issues. What could I say? He had a good point about chatting with the customers about non-work related issues. It was actually refreshing to hear some sort of honest criticism directed at me personally. Not a veiled memo, or a gruff shout at the sales floor in general, but real, live criticism. I almost felt nurtured (almost....just barely...oohh..you missed it!...Nuture...denied!)
Sarcasm aside, I have had this complaint about my work leveled in the past, from grade school, to fast food, to factories, to other clerical jobs, I am the proverbial "Chatty Cathy"-(only in the most possible virile and manly sort of way).
I used to beat myself up when I heard this in the past, now, not so much. I mean, I'm not a spring chicken anymore, and if I havent figured it out by now, I either dont have the personal fortitude to change my personality flaws, or I dont really think I care. It's probabaly a combination of the two, or maybe it's my short attention span.
Don't get me wrong, I'm going to make more of an effort to cut down on the chit chat and do a better job like he said. I'm bitterly cynical, but I still need the money. Besides that, I actually like my boss, and dont want to leave this Purgatory not having done the best I am capable of.
Check out this blog from another lost soul in Call Center Purgatory....
I have never been very intimidating. I might be able to muster a little physical intimidation, but it's kind of a stretch, and generally comes off not very believable. I was raised to be terminally polite and pleasant. I always hated it when people bullied me, or made me do things I did not want to do.
Now, I'm not going to go on and cry like some freakin' after school special, where I learn a special lesson that ends with hugs all around. Nope, I want to tell you how I learned a little about intimidating people myself. It was in a little book I picked up at a thriftshop one day called Winning Through Intimidation. The subject of the book appears to be how the author learned to make money selling real estate, but It's a book about much much more than that.
This book teaches you about such things as:
-keeping records of conversations.
-mailing copies of agreements and conversations.
-repeating people's statements and conversations to them in order to make them do what they agreed to.
-using things like registered mail, and other records to be ready for the future.
Essentially, it teaches you to verbally maneuver people into conversations and agreements that they can't weasel out of . It teaches you how to keep people from lying to you.
What this book taught me is how to make conversations like a chess game. Good chess is about always removing any space for your opponent to retreat. It is about keeping your opponent on the defensive until he cannot make a move you did not want him to make.
The ways it helps me is when I am dealing with customers or billing requests. Whenever I deal with the customer, I make sure I repeat back to them what they wanted and how they wanted it done, I make sure to get them to repeat their first and last name, and I make sure that if there is a chance what I am doing will not work or may be affected negatively by the market, or other forces, they acknowledge risk and agree to let me try it anyway. Then I make sure that data is recorded accurately. So when billing problems come up later, I've already got the upper hand.
I've shared some of these ideas in a previous post entitled "You are Under my Control". But this book really goes a step further.
This doesn't mean I am trying to bend all of my callers to my will. Nah, I'm not that ambitious, nor am I that weaselly-I told you I hate selling things. But I am interested in keeping my ass covered and not getting in trouble because I let someone intimidate me into losing my company's resources.
That was the high point of my day. I was walking into the supermarket to get a couple of things, when I looked up on the raised letters on the facade of my favorite supermarket and could see little nests behind the letters. They were of course made of the usual twigs and weeds and straw, but there were also red and purple strings, like from an Easter basket. I could hear the birds singing a sort of high pitched improvisational jazz. They were all little grey and brown drab sparrows and finches, but I really like to watch them and listen to them.
What do little drab birds have to do with working in a call center? I'll tell you. No matter how harsh your work environment is, you can always find a way to let life come into a dark situation. Even though the trees and field are gone where they used to live, the birds have still found a way to live there anyway. More than that they have used the parts of that oppressive environment to be part of their home.
Even though I'm monitored, memoed, and mired in monotony, I believe I can find ways to feel alive while I'm in call center purgatory.
Visit Being Lost. Good writing about struggling to understand working with the public and life in general.
I hate selling things. We are asked to try to get people to purchase different financial services, or upgrade their accounts. We are told not to give out information or advice for free. I'll do customer service, and I will help people, but I'm not a salesman, especially not without commission. Don't people buy things they dont need without my help? I often wonder what the world would be like without salespeople, lawyers, bureacrats, middle level management, and CEO's. Would productive work occur without these people? Would humanity be more human?
I know I have probabally offended someone, and that not all of these groups are bad people, some of them are quite useful and make the world a better place. I'm just wondering how many jobs and positions in this world are really necessary, and how many are just there to get in the way of the rest of us getting along without regulations, memos, lawsuits and labor initiatives that just don't apply to any of our real lives.
There are people in my company that make decisions about all sorts of details about the call center, who either have no experience working the phones, or have been so far removed for some time that they have no idea what it's all about.
I recently read that a CEO of a multinational company in the US makes 3200 times what one of his employees in a factory overseas does. All that for being an "Idea Man" and providing "Quality Leadership". The value of one old-golf playing cracker with the right connections should not be that high.
Hey, get this straight, companies either prosper or fail at the result of so many different economic and social forces that one person can not take credit for it , just like the President cant really take credit for creating jobs or changing the economy.
Man, I feel better...Love to get a good rant on......
It's really weird working in such close quarters with the same people day after day. The work brings us together. Sometimes, the din on the floor and the yelling back forth to pick up this line or that makes it sounds like a trading floor. We can't read the paper, or sleep, or watch tv or listen to the radio very loud. All we have to keep us sane is conversation. I guess in that way it is a lot like prison. We are united against our common enemies, stupid customers and management we can't comprehend. We help each other with customers and cover for other peoples mistakes, or if we dont like you, go out of our way to tattle on you.
That being said, I still don't like everyone. There is still tension, and cliques, and the usual trash talk between the shifts. Everyone assasinates everyone's character from time to time. There are people I feel fairly close to, I have only seen a couple of them outside of work, I'm not very good at making very close friends.
There is an incredible amount of making jokes at each other's expenses, of picking on each other. Which is really standard among men. You rarely hear men talk about feelings, and relationships. If they do, they put it out there in a different way, sort of like "Damn, my wife is really giving me a hard time lately!" . The women I work with like to talk about relationships, and children, and feelings. I'm not trying to reinforce stereotypes about men and women, but this is how the people in my call center actually behave.
When I first started here, I felt like an incredible outsider. They had their own language, and jokes, and ways of doing things. Now I feel fairly comfortable, and seem to fit in. It is a lot like a family, realistically so, because though you care about them, they have the ability to make you crazy and annoy you, and you them...
Check out Coffee House at the End of Days for some intelligent Christian commentary.
I recently started a new volunteer position after work once a week. It's great. I'm doing something that I like and helping people. That's the dream. Getting paid for what you love to do and leaving the world a better place.
(Great, big, stinking, wadges of cash would be cool too...)
Once again C.J. Hayden over at the blog entitled "How to Become a Hero" has put out some quality bloggage. Read the post entitled:
Waking Up From Groundhog Day
Hey, go visit Nutrogist. He is an extremely wacked individual, and has some very funny stuff going on. Though he does seem to be obsessed with various bodily functions to an almost unhealthy amount, but hey, it's a cheap hobby....
Scroll down to Sunday, April 18th, 18:38 For a very funny post-but not for the squeamish....
Here's a blog post about dealing with a pathetic call center employee:
I Don't Believe it-News from Norfolk
(Scroll Down to Tuesday April 20 entry)
I've always had a short attention span. I think if I went to grade school now, my progress report would look something like this:
"AnonymousCog is unable to stay focused on his work, and is always talking to his neighbor. He's like a fruit fly on speed. Please, for the sake of his teachers, the staff, and other students, seek an appropriate pharmacological therapy..."
But when I have a slow day at work, like today, I enter into sort of a stream of consciousness. Let me see if I can recreate it for you in between the persistent ring of my phone.
Hate this place...ring....have a headache....ring....ring....need more coffee.....ring.....add creamer this time......ring...."at the Copa, Copa Cabana.."....ring....
Ring....I sure miss the A-team.....ring....hey, headaches gone.....ring...ring....%$@#* Customer!!.....ring...."the hottest spot north of Havana..."...ring....ring....maybe another cup.....ring...sex*.....ring....
I need a snack-ooh swiss rolls!.....ring....ring..."her name was Lola, she was a showgirl..."....ring....Damn you Barry Manilow!......ring..How did I get here?..ring.....sex.....ring...."It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone"......ring....
ring.......ring......wow! my belly button is deep!... ring... eeewww! my finger smells! .......ring ...... ring ......"Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit"....... ring...."Roxanne! you dont have to put on the red light!" ......ring..... I want some lunch ...........ring ......"Spongebob, you look like a girl"......"Like a pretty girl?".........."..ring..
Ring........good lunch........ring...... what if superman had kryptonite underwear?....... ring.....ring....... Helen Hunt in "As good as it gets" ..ring.....ring....I like breasts .......ring...
....silence......silence..... I miss the muppet show......... ring.........I really like Briers Ice Cream ......ring...I want a raise ...ring......."at the Copa, Copa Cabana..."....damn.....ring.....sex.....
Silence......Samurai Jack is cool .......ring........ I wish I had a samurai sword......ring.....ring.......silence..... I want a puppy........ring.......ring....How similar is class consciousness in different cultures? ........ring.....ring......"I'm proud to be an okie from Muskogee..".... ring...Where did that come from?.......
Ring.......When will this %$#@* day end? .......I wonder who owns this place.......ring......ring...... "A spokesmodel dippied in some refried beans".... Why is Selma Hayek so hot? ......ring...... ring...."I like big butts and I cannot lie! you other brothers cant deny..".....ring ......ring...."With my spear and magic helmet, spear and magic helmet, Speaaarrr and Maaagic Hellmeet...."..ring..
Ring.......%@#$% customer........ring...... ring........"Goin to the country, gonna eat alot of peaches.".......ring......... "Music and fashion are always in fashion at the Copaaahhhh.....don't fall in love....Copa Cabana...."......damn.....
*For you women readers, I'm not obsessed with sex, this sort of thing is normal, for pretty much every guy, even nice guys. I've heard statistics that say, that Italians think about sex more than any other group of men on the planet.I have no way to prove this though, comment below if you know something I dont.
"You don't know what you are talking about ! Let me talk to someone who has been there longer!"
These were not the words of a rude customer, but one of my less than courteous coworkers. One of our corporate customers had called with a billing problem, and wanted to contest the charges of something we had done previously.
This wasn't just a regular customer, this was a customer who gives us a lot of business. This is also the customer who had recently complained that we weren't providing responsive service. Maybe this was not the kind of responsiveness they were looking for.
The really stupid thing was after my supervisor talked to the customer, he figured out that it was all a communication problem, he took care of the problem very quickly.
My coworker still wanted to argue that they had been wronged, and they should not have had to be talked to in such a way. Some people really have no business working in customer service.....
I recently had a long day with fewer call center workers and higher call volume. On my very last call of the day, I finally lost it with a customer from New Jersey. I had been working with the customer for approximately 4 hours. I had finally arranged his financial services the way that he had requested. He complained that it should have been done quicker. I said, “Sorry, it can’t be helped, nothing else can be done, bye” and hung up abruptly, without giving him an opportunity to say anything else. I put my coat on turned my computer off and walked out.
What’s amazing is that I never thought I could get to this point. I actually could not care any less about this person. I accomplished what he wanted and he still is not happy. Sometimes getting to the point where I am so tired I don’t care feels kind of good.
Recently I have read part of a book called Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. The author's name is Barbara Ehrenreich. I also heard her interviewed in depth on NPR*. She sets out to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is impossible to get by on minimum wage, and that the ideas of people moving from welfare to unskilled jobs and making it out of poverty is a lie. She does this by leaving her prosperous job as a writer and take a series of low paying jobs and living in different efficiency apartments and trailers. Even if you don't agree with her politics, it's a good read.
I came to a lot of my more economic and social liberal leanings late in life. I am still struggling to reconcile republican morals and democratic compassion. I was raised to believe everyone can make it if they just work hard enough. But my own parents struggled and declared bankruptcy, a lot of people around me struggled. When I finally joined the work force I learned about this same struggle, and the long hours, the indignities, never getting ahead, the raises never materializing, and utter frustration. I knew that something was not right, but never knew how to describe it. In the last couple years I was introduced to the term: False Consciousness.
This is a sociological term coined by Karl Marx. Here's some definitions from Google**
An awareness mystified by ideology and unaware of its own basis in relations of oppression; failure to recognise one’s own oppression as a result of internalizing dominant political discourse.
A couple of days ago I woke up in the middle of the day at my desk, I realized I had just handled two different transactions in my sleep. I could not remember a thing about the two calls. Sometimes my job is just that boring.....
There are times when the passage of time is what makes this seem so much like purgatory. Time drags on, we have work to do all the time. If we aren't checking on customer satisfaction of previous transactions, we are doing other busy work. If the supervisor on duty does not hear you making calls, or sees that you are just staring at the screen for more than 5-10 minutes he may yell at you. If you are in a slow spot and you start having a pleasant conversation with your coworker, he may yell. If he notices that your phone is set to not accept incoming calls for a long time, he may yell at you. If you want something as incredibly foreign as a lunch break, you have to set it up ahead of time and make a change to your schedule and get it approved. You eat at your desk, but you can't turn off your phone to enjoy your food. You get a mouthful and the phone rings. One of the ladies here has warmed up her food 3 times in a row because she keeps letting it get cold to answer the phone, then one time she finally threw it out. You can't read at your desk, newspapers are forbidden. You can get up to go to the bathroom whenever you want, but if there are calls in the queue, or too many people off the call floor, you need to ask.
Sure, all the people here have developed tricks to get around this stuff. When we have conversations we just keep it low and don't turn to face each other. If we leave the floor, we make sure the supervisor isn't looking when we go past him. Alot of people read newspapers on line or play flash games, but that has become risky with the new monitoring software in place. There are ways to deal with phone monitoring systems, but I can't reveal those without telling you too much about my job.
I know someday I will leave this place. I've got things in the works, and am not just sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I'm not going to wake up five years later and realize I have given another portion of my energy and limited time to a corporation that does'nt care. Just got to bide my time......blogging helps.
I'm fairly disgusted with the election this year. I thought that Edwards would have been really the best candidate to beat Bush, I might have even voted for him. I have a lot things I don't like about John Kerry, and some of them even rational. I'm afraid I will have to vote for George Bush-yeah, I know, he is no fan of the wage slave, and there are a lot of good reasons not to vote for him.
Today, I witnessed the best advertisement for John Kerry I have seen to date. A girl around 19 years old was wearing a tight tank-top("wife-beater" style) with the phrase, "The only bush I trust is my own". I was more than just politically intrigued, but I know better than to base political decisions on breasts....even perky ones.
I voted for John McCain in the last primary. My support of Bush is more of a reluctant, "Better the Devil that I know, than the one that I don't". Kerry's voting record is very spotty on alot of things, and he recants his positions too often, at least George Bush is consistent, you know what to expect, even if it's not always what you agree with. After Clinton, I'm really more interested in character. Here's a good reason to vote for George Bush, check out this link from our good friends over at DoublePlusGood Infotainment:
Saddam Hussein, Yassir Arafat and Jaque Cherac support John Kerry
One of my friends at work got a call from a very . . .interesting. . . customer. After the lady caller only gave them only half of the information they needed to help her, The caller informed my friend that her request for technical service "needs to be expedited". The sad thing is this is not an uncommon occurrence, and it gets under my skin like nothing else does.
People like this just astound me. What side of the moon have they been living on where if you snap your fingers and tell someone to "expedite" your service does it actually happen? But especially at call centers, we're already feeling pretty pissed off at the world being chained to this desk with the headphone cord, then we have some self-important twit explain that although we may give mediocre service to everyone else, we need to step it up a couple of notches because the freakin' queen of the world is calling in.
This lady's attitude is really very telling considering the class system in America. We are supposed to be a casteless society, you know, "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal." But through money, education, race and gender, class stratification always seems to pop up no matter how an attempt at an egalitarian society is made. I know I have never moved in the circle of the rich and powerful, and if this is the sort of people they become I'm not interested.
If in my little dream of a just and equitable world, through some incredibly random twist of fate, this prima dona will go to Google tomorrow and type something like this into the search field:call center expedite service . I sincerely hope Google finds my humble little outpost of sarcasm and truth, so she can read the following words that are especially meant for all of the high-minded-better-than-everyone-else-condescending-snobs who seem to find their way to my call center:
Your request for expedited service will be valued in the same way as a large hot pile of steaming excrement if you continue to speak to us as sub-humans. Now please enjoy my hold music for a couple of hours. Thank you for calling.....Bite me...
In my previous post, I discussed how that the problems of capitalism in America may be more a result of the Calvinist and Puritan ideals of obtaining prosperity as a proof that you were indeed saved and blessed by God causing an obsession with making as much money as possible. We also discussed that the problem of the inherant meanness in capitalism is a result of the greed and selfishness of the capitalists themselves with the example of Charles Dickens' Scrooge.
In this obsessive rush to profit, it's amazing how multinational corporations take on a life of their own. CEO's and officers put all the energy into the good of the company, it becomes like a multi-celled animal that only seeks to survive by devouring whatever it needs. When company officers retire or die, people remark how they were so loyal to the company, how they were a "company man". You should be loyal to the interests of employer to a point, but what about more eternal things? To die only having enabled the speedy distribution of small plastic widgets, but never blessing your fellow man, is truly a waste.
I have to acknowledge that one of the best promoter of fair and equitable treatment of workers in the church world is the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul IV defined "Authentic Development" this way:
"In this process development is measured not just by material enrichment or rising per-capita incomes but by how much technological, medical, and educational improvements actually pass on to the common people. In this authentic development, economies are put to the service of people, not the other way around, in a process of relationship building and mutual cultural respect. "
If any of you have access to a high-speed internet connection, or just have the patience for it on dial-up, check out All Songs Considered.
This is an internet only "radio" show that lets you here the full versions of all the great music that you hear between the stories on daily NPR show, All Things Considered.
(that enough links for one message?)
I have updated the blogroll to reflect some of what I think are the more interesting archive entries. Everything above the "Call Centre Confidential" link are archived posts from this blog.
"Part I Christian Capitalism?"
First let's define some terms:
Capitalism : noun-an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, characterized by the freedom of capitalists to operate or manage their property for profit in competitive conditions
Socialism: an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels.
Communism:advocacy of a classless society in which private ownership has been abolished and the means of production and subsistence belong to the community.
Here's a very interesting blog I really recommend.
The Homeless Guy
In one of my previous posts I described how I had experienced a day that made me "numb". Well, today was pretty much the opposite. Everything went well, someone even brought treats in! Someone even brought me a refill of coffee, unsolicited! My boss did not yell at anyone, and when I asked him about the possibility of changing something in my schedule in the future, he replied "No problem!" Everything I set up went according to plans, and customers were happy. When one complained, I explained why things had happened the way they had and he was happy and withdrew his complaint.
Ok....I'm either gonna wake up and figure out I have been dreaming, or the next day, all hell will break loose......
Yeah, I know, there are many blogs about cats and blog entries by cat lovers. I guess I am one of those also.
Some of my favorite cat related websites are:
My Cat Hates You
We've had cats for years, we're down to one, he is named after a character in "All Creatures Great and Small" by James Herriot. One of my favorite authors. He's a white shorthair, who wandered into our lives as a stray during a snowstorm at Christmas time one year. He likes to actually just sit next to you on the couch. I used to think it was purely kindness, but now I think it might have more to do with body heat.
I was raised to be a republican. On many of the social issues, I still hold those views. I still believe that it is important that everyone that is able to work, work for their food and housing.
But the more I think about all that is wrong with my job, and other jobs I have had in the past, the more I know that maybe everything is not right with our economic system in the US.
Many people have connected the ideas of Capitalism and Chrisitianity the same way they connect Christianity and patriotism to the United States of America. In many churches, it is one and the same, if you are a Christian, then you are a registered republican who wholeheartedly believes in our economic system of the free-market economy in the great 'ol US of A. And anyone who believes in such things as socialized healthcare or subsidized housing must be a commie or at the least a pinko liberal democrat.
The sad thing is that the two parties have polarized themselves so much, and set their platforms in stone we have no way of separating the extremist beliefs of each party from the good that each party has in it.
If there were a Christian Socialist party I may vote for them, but that's about as likely as pigs flying.
"Part 2-How it's possible to link Capitalism and Christianity"
Part I - No Need to Justify Myself
On of my favorite Pearls before Swine comics made a great comment related to self justification.
(since I can't buy the rights-just imagine the pictures)
Rat:"Do you think bad things happen to you for a reason?"
Pig:"Yes, I do."
Pig:"It's because I'm stupid..."
When we consider all of the bad things that happen in the world, and all of the injustice in the world we always try to blame someone else. More amazing than blaming other people, we blame God for bad things that happen in our lives. The one I never could really fathom is when people die or contract serious diseases and we explain how God is teaching them a lesson, or he wanted them to go home early. Now, I'm not going to go indepth about all of the reasons I think we shouldn't blame God for bad things that happen in our lives, this is not a blog about theology, or at least it did not start out that way.
But when Jesus came to world, he healed people and did good and said he came to "destroy the works of the devil". Besides that, there were several times that he pointed out that a person's actions or attitudes may have led to the bad situation that they were in. These are the main two reasons I see for evil in the world:
1. Satan-The Devil-is described as the "God of this World"-he has some power in this world to cause evil and suffering.
2. People's sinful actions cause death and suffering("The Wages of sin is death")
The good news is that when we acknowledge and repent of the evil in us, and have faith in the power of the God's word, it is possible to overcome the power of evil.
I don't remember who it was who said it, but I remember a famous evangelist said. "I am convinced that God is able to do no good unless someone on earth prays and asks him to."
So you are saying, "Ok...what does this have to do with self-justification or working in a call center?" This is the connection, no matter what you do in life, you can't base your identity solely on what you percieve as your goodness, your sterling character, and your marvelous skills. When you do, you are setting yourself up for a psychological fall. It is said that reality is purely a mental construct of societal expectations and norms. Basing all that you are on this mental construct on your percieved goodness and skills is like living in an untethered mobile home in Kansas. Somewhere along the way, life is going to send a tornado of adversity that will scatter your prideful aluminum reality 10 miles in every direction and you will be left cowering in your underwear under your 1974 lime green Pinto hoping you survive.
I said all of that to make this point. Who you perceive yourself to be needs to have a foundation based on something other that your deeds and actions. Instead, it needs be based on something that won't change. In my life the unconditional love of God is the anchor that fixes my reality. Without this kind of foundation, you will never be confident in who you are and always be trying to justify everything you do.
I know some of you may think that the only reason I have this blog is to whine about my job and justify my actions to myself and others. Well, smart guy, you're wrong. It's true that all humans spend a considerable amount of time justifying their actions. It's right up there with thinking about sex as far as something we think too much about. And we all go to great lengths, in order to be able to feel good about ourselves whether it is true or not.
But I really don't care anymore whether my actions are justifiable or not as much as I used to. Sure, on a purely social self-preservation instinct I practice image damage control as much as anybody else. But if I am caught dead to rights, I will admit that at times I am a lousy, selfish, uncaring, human piece of hot steaming excrement.
I'm perfectly ok with this. I know that in my own self, and my own power and will is not enough goodness to dance on the the top of a pin. You want to know why I can live with looking at the hunk of garbage that is Anonymous Cog? Because I have accepted several truths from the bible and lean my whole concept of personal identity on them.
1. Everyone is a sinner. Everyone has the capability and the inborn addiction and inclination to sin.(Romans 3:10,23)
2. You cannot please God by doing good works-you will fail miserably everytime. This is why Jesus died on the cross.(Ephesians 2:10)
3. Jesus sacrificial death on the cross made me righteous in the eyes of God forever as long as I accept it by faith. (Romans 8:1, II Corinthians 5:21)
When I accepted these truths and threw my whole identity into the grace of God, everything else stopped mattering to me. Accepting God's grace is like the scene in the classic Bill Murray movie, "Meatballs"; when he gives the pep talk to the campers before they go to the big game with the other camp. He tells them "It just doesn't matter." He goes on and on, explaining how the competion is not important, how these people will always win and always be better because of their money, but it just doesn't matter. At the end of the speech everyone is screaming "IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!, IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!, IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!" .
When I truly accepted grace to cover my sins, I realized I don't have to beat myself up anymore, it doesnt matter if I'm not perfect, it just doesnt matter-because whatever else happens in this world, I have already won, no matter if I fail miserably, or achieve success. God loves me, and Jesus died for all of my sins and screw-ups yesterday, today, and next year. So any good that I do is out of gratitude and freedom, not as some sort of spiritual wage slave hoping I can make sinner of the month and make it into heaven.
Part II No Need to Justify Myself
Here's some new blogs I have been checking out lately....
A blog about an American living in Spain, great pictures and great stories.
Happiness is a warm gun in Mexico
No, it's not about the NRA membership in Mexico. No gun related posts I can see. But really good travel stories and cultural insights.
I had almost made it through the day when the call I was dreading came in. It was from the most difficult customer we have with a thorny problem. It came in 5 mins before I was to walk out the door.
Some of our customers are other companies who contract us to provide financial and sometimes logistical support to their customers. What this means is that I can end up having up to three different people telling me what to do at one time.
Customer A is the one that actually pays my company and has the ultimate say. Customer B is the recipient of the services that Customer A pays me for(follow me on this,its tricky). "A" wants his customer to think that the service I provide is a wonderful reason to use their service and buy their products, but "A" also has a lot of hidden limits and costs that they will not reimburse me for. "A" must approve all of my actions if it does not fall within certain pre-approved instructions. When "B" partnered with "A" and bought his product and services, a salesman went out of his way to explain what a great value the service that I provide is. In fact the salesmen do not understand, or do not care, the limitations of the service I am allowed to provide to "B". In fact, according to industry wide expectations I should provide 2 times the level of service I am allowed to provide to "B" .
It's also important to note that when we took "A" on as a customer, I was one of the ignorant bastards* that agreed to be one of the few specially trained "technicians" that was the only one allowed to handle any calls from "A" customers. I said all of that to explain what happened today. The call came in and I handled the call and took care of "B" in a way that he was happy with. I had to take a credit card payment over the phone from him for the services because it was outside of regular parameters. He understood that, but was happy because everything had worked out agreeably.
I had to stay to make sure all of the I's were dotted and all of the T's crossed before I closed out this job. Twenty minutes later, "B" calls back telling me that the work I had previously done fell through, and he wants me to make it right because I already took his money. He wanted me to fix a situation and provide fair customer service after I had taken his money, he was right to ask this. He was hopping mad.
After putting the customer on hold to figure out what to do I threw a fit. I threw things, cussed, just lost my cool for about 30 seconds. I knew that "A" was not going to let me make things right, but was going to continue to be unfair and unyielding.
I called the after hours numbers for the person who is the president of the division of "A" and explained the problem we are in and asked him what to do. He explained that due to the circumstances involved, any further work I would do for his customer, I would have to get more money from "B" even though I had already taken their money and it followed instructions and it still did not work. He was not willing to let me make things right, and every option I was allowed would just piss "B" off more.
I gave "B" the options that the president of "A" gave me. I think he realized that I had been put in my place by "A" and had no room to maneuver. He had settled down after 15 mins on hold while I was on the phone with "A", but he was not happy, and realized that "A" was not providing the services they promised him and hung up, advising he would deal with "A" on Monday.
I finished up the file, documented everything, and called "A" back and explained that "B" would be calling on Monday, so he knew what to expect.
I was numb on the way home and the rest of the night. I had done the best I could and been accurate and still made everybody mad. I just cant deal with the stress of having to be unfair to people as part of my job. God, I need a change.....
*[I say ignorant bastard, because it added responsibility and stress, but included no extra money. Think you dumbass, think! More money good...Extra stress and responsibility for same money-bad...]
When customers call me and are mad about delays, or inaccuracies, or assorted screw ups I have found out the one thing that most people want.
They want someone to say they are sorry. Not parroting the words with a monotone that betrays your contempt for all of the public you serve, but meaning it. Just the idea that someone acknowledges that you were not treated like you should have been, and the respect that is due to all human beings.
People really don't like excuses, they don't like you to go on and on about why you haven't been able to help them. Just a humble "I'm sorry" can really make people feel better most of the time.
The exception is when in the back of my mind I am thinking, "Yeah, I'm sorry, I'm sorry you are such a schmuck..", but that actually doesnt happen that often....
I remember one day in a different job than this one, I learned a trick that will truly drive any pompous customer into a incredible rage. You don't have to cuss, or even do anything particulary rude.
My former boss called a trucking company to complain about a missing shipment. He was well known by this trucking company and knew alot of people there by their first names. So a dispatcher picks up the phone, my boss proceeds to scream and rant about why this important shipment has not got there yet. After five minutes of this, the dispatcher calmly asks, "Now, who is this? What company do you work for? What is your position there?" .
My boss was speechless, then slammed the phone down in rage. Later on, he realized how funny it was and we all laughed-He was a pretty good sport.
As near as I can figure out, people in authority start taking themselves so seriously that they see the very mention of their name as some sort of powerful token that should make the lowly employees all cower and kneel. But those three questions essentially say, "You are just another person to me, and your name strikes no fear in my heart, and you need to justify why I should show you any deference or do what you say."
I think this cartoon illustrates how my company views encouraging performance from top employees.
I got a monkey on my back. It's name is Schwan's Silver Mint Ice Cream Bars. Delicate chocolate with a smooth and creamy mint ice cream in the middle. Somebody help me! I can feel my ass expanding as I speak......
One of the things that customers do that just really yanks my chain is what I call "The Blurt". It goes something like this:
AnonmyousCog-"Thank you for calling anonymous services international, How can I help you today?"
Customer(speaking like a Boston native after a double espresso) :"This is Mary Smith from the OppressiveCapital organization I called on 3/26/03 and requested our credit be raised in the amount of $300000 and it has not happened, on 4/01/03 I spoke to AnonymousJanice who assured me that our account #62309-B would be augmented posthaste, and issued me confirmation of credit number UN65343765, when will this be handled in a satisfactory manner so that we can begin to construct our forced labor sweatshops, I mean outsourcing activities in the Latin American nation of NoHayTrabajoBuenoAquí?"
AnonymousCog:"......ok......you said your name is Mary? right?.....and what company do you work for?..."
I'm not really exagerating about this one. People call up and just start talking a mile a minute and drop 8 digit long numbers and names and locations and then get annoyed when I make them repeat themselves. I finally started just cutting them off and say, "lets start from the beginning so I can get this all in the computer; What's your name?"
If you didn't know this, most call centers have to follow what is on the screen, if you just dump data on them like a dumptruck, it will take twice as long. When you call in, give a brief description of what you need and then wait for them to ask the questions-you'll get off the phone in half the time....
I've discovered another trick for controlling people on the phone. It involves the use of names. Let me explain.
When I am dealing with a customer or one of the other contracting companies that assists us in providing technical service and I sense that they don't necessarily trust me, or think that I am on the up and up , I do a very simple thing that works at least 75% of the time. I give them my first and last name. You see, in a lot of call centers there is this fear of giving out your name, in some places you are not allowed to give your name out, you have to say,"I'm operator 343" or some B.S. like that. Refusing to give your name is just shady in my opinion(unless you are writing a blog about where you work, like this guy I know). But if you give your first and last name out, you have automatically given people a reason to trust you. You aren't just an anonymous call center employee, you are a person. It's amazing how this works. I have gotten companies to extend my company credit just by the way I present myself over the phone. It also makes people want to trust you and want to do what you ask. Of course, it goes without saying that you can't be trying to pull something shady when you do this, unless you want to make up a name, which is just really tacky.
This works the opposite way too, when I am dealing with either a corporate customer, or one of my service providers, and I think that they are trying to pull the wool over my eyes, or are just blowing me off, or that they won’t really authorize what they just said they would. I ask them for their name, after they give me some generic sounding first name, I ask them what their last name is, and their position there. People stutter and get real nervous and sometimes change their original story. It’s one of my favorite mind tricks.
Being raised during the 80’s I cut my musical teeth on such musical sources as the Police, The Talking Heads, Devo, The Fixx. Then I was mainly a new wave fan, I have actually moved on to music that isn't almost 20 years old-but I still have a great collection of disks. At one of my previous jobs my boss introduced me to the mellow sounds of James Taylor. I really resisted at first, anything that didn’t have synthesizers or people with spiky hair really did not interest me. I mean really, James Taylor is essentially just a folk singer, right? So he forced me to listen to James Taylor in the morning, and I forced him to listen to listen to All Things Considered on NPR in the afternoon. I finally saw the light, he’s not just some folk singer, he’s just simply a good musician. There are certain artists that are so good it does not matter if they don’t sing your style of music, you just have to like them-James Taylor and Tony Bennett are the two I always think of as being that good.
He’s got a voice like butter that anyone can sing with. His songs are filled with the sort of things that bring us all together, family, love and of course, the occasional song about sex(that’s where the families come from).
My boss and I would listen to his incredible 2 cd live collection all day long, and when it got slow in the office we would sing and harmonize to songs like Mexico,Shower the People, She Thinks I Still Care (an awesome, twangy George Jones cover), Country Road, and Sweet Baby James. Imagine, singing in the office together with your coworkers…pretty cool.
So I bought my own James Taylor's Greatest Hits cd that I put on anytime I’m stressed, and my former boss now listens to NPR in the afternoon, guess we both changed our tastes.
By the way, JT's new release October Road is as good if not better than some of his old stuff-really worth checking out.
I remember when I was younger and struggled with depression and different emotional problems I stumbled onto a little book called Telling Yourself the Truth. It taught me a lot of things about concepts of determining the difference between truth and emotions, and self-talk and self-esteem. The thing that stuck with me the most was seeing emotions as not reliable indicators of truth. Even though I may feel bad today, that doesn’t mean I will feel bad tomorrow. But much more than that, I learned that my emotions are a result of how I think, and what I believe about what is going on in the world around me. I know that’s kind of simplistic and doesn’t apply to organic problems, some people need things like zoloft before they can get to the point of being able to start to think clearly. I'm fortunate that counseling and the ideas in this book worked well enough for personally.
I know people in my family and people at work that get in a mental rut and they cant seem to get out. It's really unfortunate because you try to talk to people and try to show them what everybody else around them sees is wrong but they wont budge and continue on towards destruction and unhappiness.
Take a trip over to Kitoy's weblog. He's also a beleagured call center employee.
I like to watch people. I like to catch people acting like they don’t think anyone is looking, or they don’t care. Like when they are acting like little kids, or are laughing or playing. I also like to see people acting kind or loving towards special people in their lives. Last week when I was in church I saw a grandfather holding his granddaughter during the sermon, they were both smiling at each other. I watched a father and his son walking through a field, he was rubbing his son’s head as they walked. I really like seeing people being human, and kind. I think I’m gonna be a moist old guy.
Maybe that explains how I feel about where I work. I so rarely see anyone being human, being kind or loving. I know it’s in them though. One of the girls at work brought in her 2 kids one day, and the mood on the call floor changed immediately. The supervisors and the old guys changed on the spot, they brightened up. They picked up the little kids and gave them money and teased them. All of a sudden the cussing hardasses were moist old grandpas. It was good to see that they had it in them. Maybe it’s not the people here after all, but the business system or corporate values of our owners that have created this inhuman atmosphere.
The accounting department has always seemed to have an attitude. I think it is common for most people in accounting to think themselves better than people in production, or sales, or in my case those on the call floor. They are famous for bringing us little slips of paper with clerical problems to fix on previous orders we entered, most of the time they could have fixed it, but seem to have a need to make us do it(that's just my perception). One of them is a redhead in her 30's that always brings problems to my direct supervisor when she wants to tell on one of the people on the floor. Lately, we have been getting some of the calls from the companies that drop ship product for us to get their purchase orders. Come to find out she enters their invoices in the system, but never advises these people their purchase order numbers. I don't really mind telling helping these people, but after they layed people off we are short staffed. Some of the business we have lost is coming back and we are getting slammed with call volume. We told our boss that we really dont have time to be dealing with these shipping companies besides taking care of our customers.
Well today the redhead came out on the floor to talk to my boss and pointed out someone's piddling syntax error. He looked at the file, then told her that if she would have read all of the notes regarding the order she would realize she was wrong, and would not be wasting his time. She stamped off in a huff. How dare he question me...
10 minutes later her boss came out, he is a 60ish grandfather type who always speaks very soft and kindly, but has a core of steel that reminds you he is not the one with whom to trifle. He explained to my boss that he had offended the redhead and that he should not speak to her that way. My boss proceeded to explain to "Grandpa" that she needs to do her job and stop bothering us and making us give purchase orders to the drop shipping companies. "Grandpa" explained that since they have lost a person due to cuts they are very busy and cant give out purchase orders. My boss countered that we are getting killed with call volume and that we lost more than they did. "Grandpa" then advised I'm not going to stand here and argue with you and stomped off too. We were all thrilled to see he was standing up for us and not backing down.
There's a sociological term called outgroup homogeneity that explains that in the group that you fail to see the distinctions of people outside your own group. Of course the most common example is when one racial group says that people from another group "all look the same to me". But it goes farther than that, this indistinctiveness causes you to not only not recognize people from other groups as distinct physically, but you also believe that this other group all have the exact same attitudes, faults and bad characteristics.
The accounting department all thinks we are ignorant cretans who dont care about clerical accuracy, we think they are primadonnas who think they are better than us, the sales department thinks that we need to do a better job following their reccomendations and instructions. Everybody thinks everybody else is wrong, and that they are underappreciated.
Something I've learned working here is how much that the way you say things affects people. A couple of days ago someone called in and spoke to one of my coworkers and they got in a fight over the phone. I heard my coworkers side, and even though she does not try to do this, she has a tone that can make people mad. The customer argued that she kept cutting him off and would'nt let him talk, she countered that she had to look up his info and before she could help him find what he needed.
I had a customer that used to call in frequently and he had a really bad tone. I have never encountered such a condescending tone with any of my customers. I'm not sure if he meant it or not, but after I would get off the phone I wanted to hunt him down and smack him around at the very least. MOst of this time this guy would not say anything rude, it just seemed that even when he said "Thank you", it sounded like he meant something mean.
One of the other coworkers I work with normally doesnt have a tone, but when she cant hear people she talks louder and she sounds very irritable, many times she ends up having to turn the calls over to a supervisor because she and the supervisor just cant communicate without yelling.
I never realized how much communication occurs through the tone and timbre of your voice.
While we are on the subject of bosses, let me tell what I like about my direct supervisor. I understand him, and he seems to like the job I do, at least 80% of the time. Yeah, he has other good traits, and some bad ones too.
But the understanding thing is the most important thing to me. The bosses I did not get along with are the ones that I could not predict what they would do. So when I thought I could slack they would nail me, and when I thought I could break this or that rule they would nail me. And the things that I thought I would get yelled at for, they let that slide. I know what pisses this guy off and how to respond when I make him mad. Other people that haven't figured that out don't do as well.
As I said in a previous post about bosses, it's almost more important that you learn to get along than it is to produce an acceptable amount of work. If you out work everybody, but in the process you proceed to "piss in everybody's wheaties", then you do more harm than good, it actually makes everybody mad at you. They will say, "The new kid thinks he's better than us! We've been doing this job for 20 years this way, and he's been here 3 weeks and thinks he knows everything!". Here, let me put it in a more educated way: The value of your production is negated because your non-normative behavior has caused stress and disorder to exist in an existing social system that had been in place for some time. Deviance in established social systems stigmatizes you no matter how much you produce.(I still liked the wheaties comment better...)
Getting along at work, learning the language and symbols that are unique to every workplace is really more important than production. Think of knowledge of corporate culture like WD-40, you have to keep the machine running smoothly if you want to stay there. Increasing your production is the next step only after you have learned the accepted method for doing things. You might know a better way to do everything, but you will just piss everybody off by proceeding to destroy the ways that the culture in place had defined everything. It's like when you proceed to tell people that God does not exist-they get really angry because you have attacked not only their entire world view, but everything that defines what is right and wrong in the world, everything that they were able to explain by their faith. You're attacking their very identity.
This is why so many people that are extremely brilliant and creative aren't able to stay in Joe Jobs, because they can't learn to fit in. If you know that you are a square peg-don't try to fit in a round hole-either find a way to profit from your creativity, or find the least objectionable way to make money while you either find that dream job, or ways to amuse yourself while you are waiting. I recommend blogging......
Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
By Rage Against The Machine