Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
  I Almost Forgot...

Friday came early and ended late. But it was important because it reminded me what I hate about this place.

My wife called about 9:30 to let me know her parents were coming over. I could not be late, I had to be home by six. I normally get off between four and four-thirty, so I wasn't really concerned. I have a a 30 to 45 minute commute depending on traffic, so I had some time to play with.

The day rolled on and on, like trying to run up a hill during an avalanche, dodging most things and getting hit by others. I ate a couple of snacks, but never got to warm up my General Tso's chicken from last night. The queue times kept rolling, getting bigger and bigger. Twenty calls holding over ten minutes and one point and then falling to five calls at three minutes. All day long it was constant, never letting up.

I got some easy calls, but I kept getting calls that took way too long to do. I spent the day cleaning up problems and doing all I could to go the extra mile for my customers. I dealt with customers that called me back three and four times just to handle one trade. Then kept calling me, and kept calling me, and kept calling me. I felt like I had fallen into a pit of leeches and they would not come off.

Today was one of the few days that I fell into that horrible old feeling where I wanted to take more calls than I normally do, but I also noticed my calls were getting old. If I took more calls, the trades would be later and later, but if I didn't take more calls, people would have to hold longer. I've complained about this part of this job over and over. I just have such a block when it comes to this. I know policy is take four or five then start processing them, but the other people are taking seven or eight and then having things wait for sometimes an hour, which is a real no-no. We advertise that things are processed within twenty minutes, but that is certainly not always the case. This dichotomy is always what I struggle with it. It makes me vacillate between feeling smug because my average process time is quick, but sad because I don't handle as many transactions as everybody else.

Nearing the end of the day, I checked and my numbers were down, not enough to be fired, but noticeable. As I cleaned up my desk, one of my last calls was from a customer who started cursing about the high costs and his wait. I had to make a claim and give it to the quality department. It was 4:30, and this would take 15 minutes.

"AC, We've got twenty calls in the queue! We need you to stay until this rush is over!" my supervisor yelled across the floor.
"I'm sorry. I can't stay. I have people waiting for me."
"Are you sure you can't stay?"
"Yeah..I'm sure."
He looked really disappointed and didn't say anything else.

That's what really burned me up. I had already been there over ten hours. I had already given my all, and it wasn't enough. The other veterans had hit the doors. It's never enough for them. I give and give, I stay over, I go the extra mile, but its never enough.

The phones will keep ringing. I could stay all night. I could answer every phone that rings in this place, but it would never stop. They don't stop. There is no end. Its an eternity of that same high pitched chirp stored on the same solid state chip in the same grimy plastic phones. The phones will wear away to nothing, but the fucking phones will still keep ringing.

There are jobs in this world where you produce something. You put it in the mail, or on a pallet and it goes on a truck and that is it. There are jobs in this world that have a definite beginning and an end. There are places where when your time is done, people don't ask you to keep working. There are actually places where a bell or a buzzer rings and you drop everything, go home, kiss your wife and open a cold beer.

That's what so wrong here. We're a bunch of rats wearing little headphones, running on a wheel that never stops...

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

Anonomous, you've got to see the old foreign movie, "Mon Oncle D'Amerique", which juxtaposes a story with a plot, with a lecturer lecturing on stress. At one point in the story (with the plot) the characters run around wearing rat heads! Funny thing, not really related, last night driving across the bridge out of Fall River toward Providence I asked myself, "Is this where I want to be?" By God, I came back with a resounding, "YES".

Hold down the fort, Anonymous!
That is one of the things I have really enjoyed about reading your writing. I went to your blogs and old web site and have read your stories about all of the different jobs and places you have been.

Other people would ask "Why didn't he stay in one place? He should have put some roots down!" But as I read all those experiences, I could see that you were sucking the marrow out of life, not living for a paycheck, but living to enjoy life. You are an inspiration to Anonymous Cogs everywhere!

Here is the thing that I try and remember about my call does not own me, it does not make or break me, and it isn't even an extension of who I am...I don't care if the CEO asked me to stay late on a Friday - it just isn't happening. Nobody has been canonized for staying late at a call center, just chastised for leaving on time...

I really, really hate call centers.

Thanks for sharing, AC. I hate that feeling of walking away from the pile, the queue, the stack that feels like a giant iron ball chained hopelessly to your ankle. You try walking away and it drags behind you. If you find the key to the lock, let me know.
Tom-Glad to see you are back with us!

I guess what it is about it is no one in the management where I am looks at the queue like something they can conquer without doing anything different. They keep thinking that if they just buck up and try harder the queue will go away.

No matter if we don't have enough people or our phone system is messed up-we just need to keep trying harder.


When I worked at a helpdesk many moons ago we would often refer to our managers as the "Bloodstone Believers" because they constantly believed that you could solve all the volume problems with the current staff and technology that we had and that you could "get blood from a stone" if you just keep squeezing...

Sometimes, it just ain't going to happen. Done...

Sorry, I have no experience in call centers' buzzz iness and after reading your post I realize this ignorance might be a blessing.
i relate to this so much.
keep on keepin on,and dont let the bastards grin you down.
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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.

Email:anonymous.cog at

"One must know oneself, if this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better." -Blaise Pascal

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