Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
  The Evil We Do...

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...


I have done a lot of work on metrics in call centres. It seems to me that you need a defined "service level". This is normally defined as "x percentage of calls will be answered in y seconds for z percentage of the time", with 80/20/90 being a popular standard. The idea behind the service level is if it's not being met, then more agents must be added. Specifiying the 90% level means that management agrees to accept spikes in traffic when the level can't be met. If your centre is close to the first two numbers (4 out of 5 calls answered in 3 rings), the other call is usually answered in 5 rings or less, which is not an unconscionable time to wait.

I agree some managers and centres go overboard, which is too bad. If it's approached properly, agents learn that if they work honestly, and the level is met, most clients will not be angry when their call is answered. If the level isn't met, and the agents are working honestly, then management will make the effort to make changes to get service back to standard, which will reduce the number of angry callers. If the service level is always met, the centre is properly overstaffed, and management can either reduce staff, or find work for people to do in slow times.

None of this is going to help with callers who are just too clueless to live, but it may keep the workload at a respectable level so you have the infinite patience required to deal with these monkeys.

Continue to rock in the non-totalitarian segment of the planet!

Frank Drakman
Well, I have to say that there have been times that I've felt pretty stupid asking the idiotic questions that I was instructed to ask customers over the phone. Questions that only lengthen the call and make the next customer wait longer. ("have you changed your address in the 5 days since we sent you this bill?") Sometimes it's no wonder they get mad. But if you try to skip one and they're listening to calls....
this is my spaces blog... where i have posted something from your blog but have made sure to tell everyone it's not mine and to come see you :D
When you work in a call center, you never start out as a jerk. But after a couple years you find yourself evolving into one.

Tech support is a little different, because you get the absolute dumb as dirt people calling, it speeds up the 'jerk making' process.
I would have to admit that sometimes im not just a jerk on the phone but a complete ass.

My response comes from the customers response. If they are polite and listen I rock and go the extra mile to help.

If people don't listen and just are plan rude I become a jerk. I anwser with snid comments and such.

If people argue are rude and call me names im an ass. I mean plan old mean. I don't put up with shit, customer service or not people can't treat others badly.

So do your best but don't let people walk on you.

Rage On,
Sinned Often
It sounds like you need a complete shift in your management team. It's obvious that being "mean" to the customer is part of the culture in your company, and just like shit, that runs downhill too. No one wakes up in the morning saying, "dude, I think I'll yell at customers today!" But slowly, if the leadership team does NOT foster a customer centric environment through action and policy, this happens.

Sadly, that's 90% of the companies out there....

and of course, some customers ARE MORONS.
"It's so easy to judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their actions." - AC

That is one of the most profound (and true) things I've heard in a very long time. Thank you for saying it.
Thanks Brownie...
I wish they were my words. That is quoting Ed Cole, author of Maximized Manhood. "My Bad" for not giving credit at the time of writing.

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Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.

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.

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