By Minerva Jones
Dedicated to everyone who has ever taken a call, dreaded it, tried their best – gotten screamed at for nothing – felt helpless – tried anyway – and took the next call, and never broke. Put up with managers who shouldn’t be allowed to manage the play area at a Burger King. They don’t know. But maybe now they will.
I applied – easy enough via their online site, from an ad in craigslist. T. had told me no problem – easy work – sitting inside…inbound calls, customer service stuff – easy no problem!
About three days later I was called in for an interview – unlike any of the other interviews I had had before, and trust me I have had a great many – this was by far the strangest. At first I was greeted by a very chipper young woman named Amber, who seemed to cover everything in the department called ‘vague’, next up was Anthony, though his questions were more pointed – they were still very circular in nature, yet oddly vague enough to make you second guess yourself.
I was then told that I had made it through round one of the basic interview for an agent but they thought I had team lead potential – I was to come back in three days and interview again with a Bruce. And so…I did.
Phase two of the interview involved some role playing – that of sitting across from my interviewer getting him to insert a disk into a DVD player the right way – determining if it was on, plugged in, the DVD turned up the right way or not. I was recommended to be interviewed by the SOP – so come back tomorrow and interview again. Ok. Mind you this whole time I have no idea what kind of customer support or technical support I will be doing – at all. I have just been interviewed by a Cuban man who had me basically act out a phone conversation with the equivalent of my grandmother and get her to play a movie through her XBOX console – and for this I was recommended to be interviewed for Team Lead. OK – but of what?
I go in for the interview with Alan, I have no idea what a SOP is, for all I know in my head it is another HR department person who just does interviews, and honestly that was what I was thinking the entire time – just some dude…another HR guy in what appears to be a never ending chain of surprisingly happy people. I went home and thought about it all.
How do you find that, maintain that – almost hysterical sense of joy? I don’t know. I got an email, I got the job as agent, and training started the next week. I was cool with that.
The first week of training – was fun, confounding – bizarre, different…confusing. We would have to take these ILN’s - online little training modules, ok…fine – I would be going through it – then come to the end and the questions for the part we had just gone through…literally, had NOTHING to do with it – nothing at all to do with the test questions. I would sit there and look around the room – confused as all fuck. Reading the questions over and over, and yes noticing every single spelling and diction error throughout. I was skeptical, when the trainer balls out insisted she was Scottish royalty – kept on insisting. She had so little control over the training room and the class and other adults – not that we were rowdy – but that no one took her seriously as an educator. That she once threatened to call the OM and have him NOT pick up the celebratory pizza he was bringing us for having done well in training as if he were our Daddy….
Man, I shoulda fucking known then.
It only ever got worse – and between some of us it only got better. We became better friends, some of us hated each other more…other things flared up like storms at the edge of the desert.
In training we were bombarded with information that was conflicting, insufficient, badly worded and poorly delivered. You want to know how I figured most of it out? How we all did? A test account and google – then when I decided to move over to the chat team after training – it was worse – because that was payroll and taxes with a team lead who knew NOTHING and said NOTHING TO US – and would not get out of her seat to speak….but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Training, let’s just sum it up – bad. I mean…I had run a business before, I didn’t lose the business or file bankruptcy or anything, but you know training people to do the work the way you want it done is an investment – um like an important one, and almost some of it is like a trade secret at least in painting, the techniques are that cut down time and effort etc. For some reason they must of charged like they were sending us to Harvard but we actually were sent to community college on the Rez that the federal government forgot. Because everything was horribly mis-managed; the instructor was not a teacher – she had worked over at some call center before training there, but was really a rocket scientist. Swear to god. And so she tried to teach us about quickbooks – and taxes – while ramming the tax part down our throats in a three hour cram session and then a three hour test all while assuring us that we would never ever touch taxes or payroll – and all of this did not have anything to do with a real grade none of it did but it did because there were now ‘rankings’ - and those would determine shifts and we at some point would then bid for a shift …
See they were like that…and god love em, they would suddenly say something like yeah you know we want you to build this kitchen table thing with the customers, this real intimate feeling – so don’t worry about anything. And at some point maybe DAY TWO someone says something about being scored in this industry, cause Ive never heard about this – Ive never worked in a call center what the fuck is this scoring thing? OH yeah they say to us, don’t worry about that so much it’s a small part of your work here we are far more interested in customers being satisfied – and slowly and pathologically under your nose it goes from develop a charming relationship with the customer to, yes the percentage we need is 45% but that is so far below the industry standard that you would have to not even be answering the phone to 65% at the height of tax season when they have just laid off everyone for NO apparent reason - then you must maintain a 75% Tnpts in order to maintain employment here…and yeah I’m getting way ahead of myself.
They start you off slow, kinda like a dealer would I guess. Start hiring before the season explodes – we were not prepared at all. I got a ill feeling about it all – I took to the internet to fill in the gaps in my head about the product, and then about the company, and the BPO that I worked for and also the industry as a whole. So did everyone that was smart.
We would flock to the smoking deck, hilarity would ensue. We were all ages, from everywhere, having done lots of different things. Just like you. We were all ok in training we were safe still.