Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
  Informal Networks and the Blame Game

I'm not really sure why I have not been writing much about the call center lately. Nothing really monumental going on. People are coming and going and things are moving along ok. No raises yet,(no surprise there), but no substantial problems with management either.

All I have been experiencing is that incredible boredom that sucks my soul dry from time to time. The love of my wife, the love of good music, and a continuing obsession with finding the perfect breakfast, are the pleasures that make life worth living for me.

Lately, I've really noticed how management has a habit of going off half-cocked at the slightest scent of trouble. Last month, there was a problem with how billing was prepared for our mutual fund customers. Instead of asking around, and listening, they just yelled at everyone connected. It was really a shame, because the informal network that existed in all the offices already knew what the problem was and was handling it fine.

Many managers don't understand this network, it exists outside of a mission statement, outside of the chain of command. It consists of the "little people" who move the paper and enter the data everyday. It could be the relationship that three clerks within three different departments have. As purchase orders flow from purchasing through the departments that receive and sell stock, those three people actually take care of making sure everything runs smoothly.

Yet, if you get their bosses involved, they don't know about the relationships that make things run smoothly. Instead, they get involved and bluster and cuss, and try to make sure blame is placed squarely on someone's shoulders besides theirs.

If you are in management, take the time to talk to the people that actually process things, ask questions in a manner that shows your desire to understand the flow of work, instead of appearing like a prosecutor trying to find the guilty party. Sometimes there is no one guilty party, or even two. It may be the result of many factors that may not be related to you or your department. Most of the time, you'll find you look better when you facilitate the relationships that already exist, instead of making everyone play the blame game.

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

I'm a contractor working in a call center. I call it "call center heck" because it isn't quite hell. Our main customer went ballistic over something totally unimportant the other day. She screamed at my coworker for something that was not his fault but because we're contractors, we have to put up with it. Normally she can't be bothered with us (thank goodness) but when she sticks her nose in, it can get pretty nasty. Power does baaaaad things to some people!!

I like your blog -- you sure know about the whole call center minion (that's what I call what I do) experience!

Keep on writing!
I think raises have come to a screeching halt in a lot of companies, along with other benefits. It sucks.

But appreciating your wife is a good, good thing. Keep doing that--wives dig that sorta thing! :)
Thanks for the great comments.

One of the wonders of the call center is how much work gets done in spite of management!
It's amazing what bosses can find out if they do take the time to talk to workers at the coalface. Where I previously worked, we were having problems with our billing system & the call board was constantly red with the number of customers trying to get through to us. The Managing Director (extremely wealthy) decided to find out what was the cause of the problem, and called a meeting with the billing manager, call centre manager, a couple of team leaders & a call centre service rep (me). Everyone else got flustered and tried to kiss his ass and pass the blame - I just said in 2 sentences what the problem was (an ambiguous line on the bills). He thanked us & gave instructions to the billing manager. A week later the problem no longer existed.
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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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