I just finished reading this classic book by Harper Lee. It was outstanding. I had it read in just under three days. If a book gets under my skin, I devour it like a bag of candy, and am disappointed when the bag is empty.
Here's some quotes from the book that I liked. The first one is when one of the children in the book becomes physically sick after hearing the African-American accused of rape being belittled and berated by the prosecuting attorney.
"Things haven't caught up with that one's instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won't get sick and cry. Maybe things'll strike him as being-not quite right, say, but he won't cry, not when he gets a few years on him.The second quote is a description of a courage,
"Cry about what, Mr. Raymond?" Dill's maleness was beginning to assert itself.
"Cry about the simple hell people give other people - without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people,too.
"I wanted you to see something about her-I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.
"...This case, Tom Robinson's case, is something that goes to the essence of a man's conscience-Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man."
"Atticus, you must be wrong..."
"Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong..."
"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions," said Atticus, "but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
I've gone on and on about how bad my customers are, how stupid and mean and arrogant they are, etc., etc., etc...
I guess it's not really very fair to go on and on about the people that call here without giving the other side: how we mistreat our customers. I'm not going to get up on a high horse and tell you I've never been rude or snotty, that would be lying. I've never hung up on a customer, but I think I have dropped the "F" bomb a couple of times(maybe twice in as long as I have been here,it's not something I'm proud of). Enough about me and my faults, that's not only boring, its just not as interesting as other people's faults.
Seriously though, I would not like to call my center. Sure, there are many times that we do a good job. But other times we are unkind and weaselly. At least a couple of times a week there's shouting over the phone when a customer doesn't answer questions the right way or they just don't know enough to set up their order intelligently. There are several agents who will argue with customers if they don't answer their questions right, "Do you want my help or don't you!?! Then you need to listen to me and answer my questions!!". I know I've even caught myself doing this when a customer was just not listening.
Some customers ask to be updated when the trade is done. If it doesn't happen and customers call to complain, there are some agents who have straight up told customers that, "We don't have time to tell you how we spent your money." It's actually true that we don't have time to make every call that should be made, but we should at least make some attempt, or at least pretend we are trying.
If I was to tell you how it's different for me, "because I really care", and that all of those other agents, they're just uncaring assholes, that wouldn't be true. Its so easy to judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their actions. I used to believe that some agents were "just jerks that don't care", but I don't see it so black and white anymore*.
I know most agents believe that the way they do things is the only way to take care of customers. Some think every call must be answered by the second ring, but its ok to let the trade take forever. Some people think that you should only take as many calls as you can handle well, and let the others just back up until they can be handled right. I wish I knew exactly where in the middle the answer was.
As much as I hate to admit it, we need more hands-on management when things get like this. Someone to give us a standard. I do like the fact that we don't get hounded with mandatory call time goals and micro-management here. But we're too far the other way. Every one is doing their own thing, and thinks they are the only one who knows how to give good customer service.
Thanks for reading,
*Yes, jerks and slackers do exist. Its just that there are very few 100% jerks, most are around 70-80%. Percentages may vary...
Hey, I'm just not feeling like writing about call center life today. I did finally update my other(often-neglected) blog, Poverty, Politics and Faith. So click on over there if you want something to read.
While you are in a clicking mood, check out Caffeinated Adventures.
Thanks for reading,
Dear Call Center Customer,
I'm sorry that you did not have a good experience calling my center today. You seemed especially angry and frustrated. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I tried repeatedly to help you, and everything did not work out the way it should have. I'm sorry that even though I tried my best to help you, I was not successful.
I wish there were enough words to express how truly sorry I am. I'm sorry I finally snapped after you berated me for five minutes and asked why there was nothing more I could do. I'm sorry that I had to make things so crystal clear that you were forced to realize that I had other calls to handle and I could not listen to you go on and on about how you have been wronged. I'm sorry that after that you came to the conclusion that after an extended tongue lashing I don't continue to care in the same way. I'm sorry you have never been disappointed before, this first time must have been incredibly traumatic for you. I'm so deeply sorry...
I'm sorry when things went wrong you were on hold for five minutes. I'm sorry for the repeated times I tried to call you for further instructions you turned your cell phone off or were unavailable, I'm sure that was my fault too. I'm sorry that when you finally called back I was talking to another customer. How dare I have other customers! If I could make them share the blame I would, but since customers never take blame, that must be my fault also.
I'm sorry my Visa card does not have the balance right now to buy a plane ticket to your town, rent an economy car, and make a day of kicking your ass in the name of all the humiliated, downtrodden, "little people" you have wronged throughout your life.
I'm sorry I got up this morning. I'm sorry I got in the car and drove to work. I'm sorry I put the headphone on and answered the phone. Most of all, I'm sorry that I hate you. I never wanted to hate you, I just answered the phone and it sort of went downhill from there...
The Anonymous Cog
Thanks for reading...
CNN reports that the UN Commission on Human Rights has been refused access to Guantanomo by the Bush Administration:
" 'The lack of a definitive answer despite repeated requests suggests that the United States is not willing to cooperate with the United Nations human rights machinery on this issue,' said the statement issued at a meeting of U.N. Commission on Human Rights representatives and experts."The UK Guardian certainly didn't beat around the bush in their article,
"U.N. experts blast U.S. on Guantanamo"~CNN
"They cited ``information, from reliable sources, of serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights."I'm not going to even quote Aljazeera and other sources...
One dollar and eighty-three cents...
That's all I had for the rest of the week after I paid for tolls and coffee.
Today had robbed me of my good humor and left me with an overwhelming desire to know why people from Newark, NJ* should be allowed to breed, let alone do business. All I had left to restore my sagging spirits was one dollar and eighty-three cents.
My baser instincts kicked in, and I started thinking about food. For a junk food aficionado such as myself, I was sure I could come up with something to change this foul mood. Then it hit me, Speedway! Last time I filled up, I saw the sign, "Two Hot Dogs For 99 Cents!" and "Any Size Fountain Drink 69 cents!". It would mean taking the long way home, but I was ready for some "me" time.
Once I got to the store I went "hard-core", and got the 44 oz. drink. Diet Coke with a hint of Regular Coke and a dash of Sprite to liven it up, I felt like I was 11 again making a “suicide big gulp”. Then I started assembling the hot dogs; onions, relish, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, everything that was free and in little packets except for the hot sauce and non-dairy creamer. I grabbed a handful of napkins and headed for the car.
When I finally bit into the dogs, it was like magic. I know, I know, you're saying, "What magic? These are the cheapest, unhealthiest kind of food that was ever produced from the naughty bits of a pig!". But you'd be wrong, dead wrong! Somehow, the most magic and delicious pair of hot dogs ever put on a hot roller had ended up in my possession. It was like the holy grail of divine pork products had been discovered, and I was the one that the gods had smiled on. The casing was firm, but not too chewy, and there was real flavor. It was better than a kosher beef dog, and almost approaching the beauty and subtlety of a bratwurst. The bun was warm and fresh, with a sweetness that reminded me of Hawaiian bread. If I had paid six dollars at a ball park for these, I would not have felt cheated, they were that good. I headed along the back roads listening to "All Things Considered" and my finally turning on The Talking Heads, Linkin Park and some vintage U2.
As I turned up the road to my house, I popped a mint to freshen my breath and hide the evidence of a pre-dinner snack. Mrs. Cog does not approve of such revelry so close to her fabulous meals. I realized two things at this point, it doesn't take much to make a bad day better, and 44 ounces of pop is way too much to drink at one time. I ran for the door....
Thanks for reading,
*If you’re from Newark and are offended by this, you must be a transplant. People from New Jersey know how to take a joke…
Morgan just showed me how to set up my site feed for rss(atom) feed. Click on the link above to get the feed.
Click above to visit one of my new favorite blogs!
"All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."~Blaise PascalPascal's quote has always haunted me. It lives in the dark recesses of my soul, like the dull ache of a tooth when I drink something cold, or a back-ache that flares up when I least expect it. Even though I value it, I still find myself running from solitude, running from true self-knowledge.
"We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves."~PascalYou would think an anonymous blogger would be able to let the truth fly like an archer empties a quiver of arrows. But its not like that. Even here I've developed an image I want to protect. I didn't set out to do that, it just sort of happened. I keep asking myself, "is it even possible to truly open yourself up like a body on a surgeons table to other people, yourself, or even God?"
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.Even now I have problems wrapping my intellect around the concepts in this text. In order to have a relationship with God, we have to essentially walk naked before him, all of the scars and warts, all of the sagging and waggly bits hanging out under the million candlepower brightness of his eyes. Only then, can we have a relationship with him. If we claim we have no sin, it's like we are putting on baggy clothes and hiding in the dark, saying "Of course I look great naked, you should see my abs!"
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."~I John 1:5-10(NIV)
There were more calls waiting in the queue than I had seen in a long time. I was doing my best to keep up and I was falling way behind. I was having one of those days where I attracted the most difficult calls and could not do anything easy. The supervisors weren't even yelling anymore, they were just picking up as many calls as they could and hoping this would let up soon.
When it gets like this, you take 3 or 4 calls and then turn your phone off and finish the transactions and then take more calls. Of course, the management at my center does not keep track of how many calls you have undone, that is unless they start getting old and people start calling back for confirmation on the trade.
"Anonymous Investments, This is AC, How can I help you?"
"It's about time! I didn't think you guys would ever answer the phone!" Answered a woman with a distinctly nasally midwest accent.
"I'm sorry about the hold time. What can I do for you?"
"Listen, I need this trade expedited. I may have already lost money being on hold for so long! Do you understand me?"
I took her information and gave her a control number and said I would try to send her an email when it was done. Then she got one more dig in...
"I want a call back when the trade is completed. I am not waiting on hold again! You people need to get your act together and start providing more prompt service! [CLICK]"
With that unceremonious click in my ear this little ray of sunshine was gone..
I stopped for a minute and thought about what I should do next. With her order, I had two orders waiting to be completed. She would probabally lose some money if I did not do hers now. Policy states I need to take four before I turn off the phone, but they don't check it.
I reached over and pressed the button to accept another call. She was not worthy of expedited service. She was rude, and selfish and had treated me like I was her slave and she was the only person in this world that had ever been inconvenienced by holding. I know it was the wrong thing to do. I guess its important I share my sins with you guys as much as I share my successes. I almost felt guilty about it.
"Anonymous Investments, This is AC, How can I help you?....."
Thanks for reading,
Yankee Sailor just tagged me for a book meme. So here goes...
Number of books I own:600. Stored in various drawers and boxes and bookcases.
Last book I bought:Pensees("The Thoughts") by Blaise Pascal. Excellent apologetical work, and evidence that being a Christian does not mean you have to give up your intellect. He's right up there with C.S. Lewis in my book.
Last book I read:Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Orwell tells about his time fighting against fascism in Spain. I admired him even more after this. He wasn't just a stuffy writer smoking a pipe, sitting in an overstuffed chair. When he saw injustice and something worth fighting for, he took up arms and kicked some ass. It's an awesome book about a part of history very few people know much about. It also shows you where he got a lot of the ideas for 1984 from. If you think war is a glorious endeavor, read this, and you will think again.
Five books that mean a lot to me:
The Bible-My compass,my conscience.
1984 by George Orwell-"Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4. If that is granted, all else follows." After reading this book, I was inspired to think and live out of my head and my heart, and to be human no matter what.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens-Capitalism with a Conscience-the dream for all that work in the world.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-Books open your mind. TV rots it.
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis-We all choose our own Heaven and our own Hell. We end up where we ultimately desire to be.
Thanks for reading.
Tag! You're it! Sinned Often,Norse Horse,Brownie!!
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."~Henry David ThoreauI remember driving to work early one spring morning in particular. I was on time for once and had even ran through Hardees for some of their bodacious cinnamon biscuits. The sun was mostly above the horizon but it was still slightly dim with pastel shades of pink, orange and red dominating the sky.
As I pulled into the parking lot I saw the building where I work at five days a week, fifty weeks a year. It was cold and gray. It almost appears to have been dropped out of the sky into the middle of what used to be farmland. The building looks like some alien monument of steel, concrete and polarized glass. Sometimes it reminds me of some futuristic religious icon, calling its worshippers to devote themselves to all that is cold and inhuman. It stands as a monument to the most heartless form of capitalism, callous ineptness, and corporate stupidity. Unfortunately, I am one of its altar boys.
But as I started the 400 yard trudge to the door, I could tell something was different today. The building still loomed over me, its countless shiny windows resembling teeth, but it didn't just suck the hope out of me the closer I came.
The pastel colors in the sky made the building seem not as stark, and not as powerful. The dewy, emerald grass added to the effect. I could hear birds from all around me. They were in the bushes and trees around the building. Cardinals, goldfinches and big fat robins sitting on the ledges and on the roof and anywhere they could find. Birds always seem so busy in the morning, so happy and full of life. It was as if they were singing just because they could, for the pure joy of it, just because it made them happy. I stopped in my tracks and just soaked it all in. I listened to their songs. I watched them fly and play in the remains of the pastel sky. I took a deep breath and savored that sweet grassy smell that dew makes on a freshly mowed lawn. The building looked pale and weak compared to the show nature was putting on for me that morning.
I confess it seems like I go months at a time, especially in Winter and never even look at the natural world around me. I let this gray, unnatural tomb of phones and computers, memos and staplers dominate me. But then, a sparrow will appear in the bushes outside the building, or I'll watch a duck cross the parking lot, or roll the windows down and just smell all things green and natural. I'll look up at the stars at night and ask myself how can I live my life without taking time to savor these kinds of sweet pleasures that contain no vice, no lust, no evil, just the love of God shown simply through his creatures, his world and everything he created.
These two worlds always collide, the natural and the artificial. The unnatural world of staying busy to earn my bread, the world of the voices in my headset that never go away is strong. Complaints, memos, requests for information, the steel and concrete world always wants to suck me in and anesthetise my spirit. There are months at a time that I forget about that other world. But it has never lasted forever. I still wake up to remember that there is good in this world, even if many of the people that inhabit it aren't.
Real life, that quality of consciousness that makes you glad to be on this earth, is not what happens at work...
Thanks for reading,
I've often talked about how there is not a great deal of discipline in our call center. Reviews, enforcement of policies and memos, and real discipline is not enforced very strongly, if at all. I know there is not just one answer for this, and that I can't lay the blame for everything on the General Manager and my direct supervisor Larry. But they are responsible for a lot of it. I know they don't want to rock the boat, they have no carrot to give, so they can only use the stick so much.
Two weeks ago something happened that sort of forced their hand. Here's how it happened...
One of my coworkers named Sonya is an incredible worker. She excels at everything and I like working with her. That said, she has a problem with losing her cool from time to time. Sometimes a customer or another worker will push her too far and she just loses it.
This particular day Sonya realized that one of our customers had exceeded their escrow account and was not current in their account. She realized this after the customer had just called with a large trade. She called them back to explain why we could not help them until they were current. When she called back she could not get the manager that called it in, she got his new assistant.
This guy is a piece of work. He's ignorant,haughty and does not listen to what other people have to say. I've dealt with him before also. He's fresh out of some almost-ivy-league school, and has decided he is more than an assistant, he is an extension of the authority of his boss. The best way to describe him is a recently promoted crew chief at a fast food restaurant who takes everything way too seriously.
When Sonya explained this trade was not possible at this time. He said,"Well, you'll just have to increase our escrow account!" (which is impossible, unless his company sends the money into us). Sonya kept trying to explain why they had to send us money and this moron just kept saying,"I don't see why you just can't handle this and we will send you money in the next billing cycle." Finally Sonya just blew up and explained to him that his company was a bunch of deadbeats, and if they did not get current, we would take their escrow account to cover their bills. Then she slammed the phone down and stomped out of the room.
We have a new supervisor named Gladys that was taking over for Larry during the during this incident. She came from another division of our company in another city, because of our staffing problems, I think she's going to be sort of a swing-shift supervisor. Well, after Sonya left for the day, the actual customer that placed the order called back after his weasel of an assistant told him what Sonya said. The customer is very angry that treated his assistant so poorly and acted so unprofessionally. Gladys wrote up an verbal warning and gave a copy to H.R., the GM, and Larry.
The way Sonya described it, the warning wasn't a big deal. She was given a copy, but she said it seemed like Larry and the GM were just going through the motions, and that it Gladys that was really the driving force behind it all.
As much as I hate to see Sonya wrote up, I'm kind of glad it happened. Sonya went over the top, and it wasn't professional. Maybe this is the start of more discipline. What concerns me is will it be even-handed. Will we be allowed to slack off for a while and then be overwhelmed with harsh discipline? Employees like to know that right is right and wrong is wrong. They want consistency and they want to know where they stand.
Thanks for reading,
Because call centers have become so common, it is inevitable that everyone will have to deal with call center workers more and more often whether you want to or not. What I'd like to do is give you some ways you can get off the phone quicker and make sure you get quick, responsive service.
1. When making your call, have the following things in front of you: your personal information(address, account numbers, ID numbers, etc.), a pen and a paper, and a magazine or Game-boy(you will probably spend some time on hold).
2. Before you start speaking to the agent, remember this very important thing: you've got to let the agent take control of the conversation. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying let them abuse you or sell you something you don't want. What people calling call centers don't realize is that all call centers have a call taking screen on the computer in front of them. This screen is where they enter all of the raw data that will make up your order. The program is set up to make the agent ask the questions in a certain order. If the agent can follow this order, they will finish your transaction very quickly. But if you fight them all the way and insist on telling the story your way, they will either have to do a lot of mouse work, or write things down on paper, or just keep asking you the same questions over and over until you stop talking and start listening. Letting the agent ask the questions makes them feel like you are not a jerk and builds up social capital. That means they will want to help you if you aren't a pushy jerk.
3. Call center workers are sometimes graded on how long they take on calls. Don't tell them all of the background of your life leading up to the pivotal event that led you to call them...
"After watching the dolphins play so carefree, I realized my life was going nowhere. I felt confused and lost. This was when my dog started sending me very clear psychic messages encouraging me to find a "a new space" for my spirit. That's when I decided that I was going to make a pilgrimage to find this "new space". I then realized that an increase in my credit line would facilitate my journey into inner peace and harmony." You think I'm going way over the top, but I'm not. I have had calls almost that ridiculous. Maybe it would have been better to simply say, "Hi, I'm calling to get an increase in my credit line." and then shut up and let the person on the other end of the phone help you.
4. Invariably, most calls end up with me asking you numbers and addresses and you telling me once and me repeating them. I'm going to let you in on a three tricks that makes this easier. First, realize that people can't remember letters bigger than three digits in a group. If you rattle off a letter like 6978 4634 2513 without grouping it, you may end up repeating it twice. Secondly, when you group numbers, group them as two or three digit number groups:
359 is pronounced "three-fifty-nine", not "three-five-nine".
6732 is pronounced "sixty-seven-thirty-two" and not "six-seven-three-two".
What this does is prevent many common mistakes and makes it easier to understand the other person, even if they may have an accent different than yours. Thirdly, make a conscious effort to imagine your are writing these numbers down or typing them yourself. This will make you slow down and try to allow them to type the numbers in more accurately.
5. One more thing related to numbers and letters. Don't use a phonetic alphabet("Alpha,Bravo,Charlie,Delta") unless you have memorized it, or its part of your job. I have people do this and think they sound cool, they don't know the all the letters, make up silly words, and just make a simple call go on and on and on. Just say the freakin' letters, ok? And for the love of all that is holy and good, do not say "Niner"! You are not trapped behind enemy lines calling for air support! Ok? Unless you are a pro, we are just laughing at you after the call!
5.When you first start the conversation, write down the person's name and the time the call started. If they won't give you a name then ask for an extension or operator number. Then when you are done, ask if there is a transaction number, or a control number. This gives an advantage if there are problems in the future with your transaction, and is sort of a low-key way to communicate that you expect good, accurate service without being obnoxious.
Thanks for reading,
Call Center Magazine wrote an article (click link above) on how to motivate call center workers and how to make a call center a more pleasant place to work. It's a good article, and I'm not even saying that because they quoted me several times. Can you feel the smugness coming through the monitor? Don't worry, it won't last long, and I'll be back to my beat-down, depressed and humble,(yet incredibly insightful) old self...
Thanks for reading,
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