Life in a Call Center

If your teenaged son is asking for your BMW to drive and is ready to do “anything” for it, but you are not sure if he is responsible enough to be handed over the keys, just ask him to join a call center for six months. I think the best way to discipline an errant teenager is to make him work in a call center. He will either quit the job within a month or if by any chance he completes your given tenure there, take my words, you should stop worrying about him now. A Six month job experience in a call center is enough to turn your bad boy into a “Thorough Professional.”

Call centers are best known for their odd working hours and high stress levels. It is also said that only two kinds of people join call centers, ones who are not getting job anywhere else, and others who want to earn some pocket money during their study breaks. A call center executive may be earning more than an MBA, but he is hardly a source of envy for others.

The working hours are mostly 8-9 hours or more precisely 480 minutes to 540 minutes per day. I have mentioned minutes because you actually have to work for exact minutes here, not even a single minute skipping will do. Where employees of domestic call centers have to work six days a week, international call center employees have a little leverage over the domestic ones as they work five days a week.

A day at call center typically starts as soon as 5.30 AM, if your working hours start at 6 AM, you must reach office at 5.45 for “Briefing.” In briefing you get to know about latest updates about the products, and also about the latest problems the customers are facing for which you may be getting a complaint call that day. If you are slightly late, be prepared to face the insult from your Team Leader in front of whole team. No excuse, however genuine it may sound, will save you from the verbal assault.

Although you may want to kill your Team Leader for it, but you should accept the fact that even he is an employee and he has to go through same Sturm und Drang for poor performance of his team. So don’t hate him, rather get up on time and reach office at least five minutes before the briefing session to avoid any delay.

Now once you start taking calls, you have to leave your “Attitude” beside and listen to every call empathically and with superabundance of humbleness. Remember that you are working in a complaint center where no one will call you to appreciate your hard work or for counting company’s good points. They are calling the helpline because they are facing problems with company’s product and services.

Secondly average waiting time to talk to a customer care executive is around five minutes, which can increase two to three times during peak hours. Customer has to struggle through a recorded voiceover welcome message and few irrelevant schemes announcements before finally reaching you, so their temper bar is already on a rise.

For Service Industry like yours “Customer is God” and come what come May, you don’t have any right to insult him. Practically speaking your each call is recorded and any one can be picked to be “barged” (checked for quality purpose) so don’t make this deadly mistake. You have to test your patience level at times with some irritated and some errant customers, but you cannot drop off your patience. You will not get a second chance to repent and the management will not consider anything before throwing you out of your job.

I am not saying that customer is always right. They are sometimes too exaggerating, sometimes complaining only to get discounts and sometimes calling just to do time pass. They are even abusive. But you can’t hang up the call without requesting them “Thrice” to stop using foul language. You have to act and react totally different with your headsets on.  This can either teach you to increase your patience lever and how to control your reactions in tight situations or it can add to your stress level manifold. The only thing that you have to understand is that the customers are abusing the services or the products and not you, so don’t take it to your heart. This understanding will help you to find a calmer you.

Now we should talk about the working hours of a call center. You are given a target of handling the customer queries for 480 or 540 minutes as the case may be and beware of your habit of dillydallying as your working will not be counted for the day till the time you complete even the last second of your given target. Call centers have a software to measure the actual time you spent in your work station, listening to the calls, so all your short breaks, chatting sessions and cafeteria roaming is not included in between. 480 minutes of pure working and you earn your wages for a day.

You can’t ignore the quality prospects of your calls as well. Every call of yours is recorded and some calls are picked randomly to be monitored for quality prospects. Your call is checked on different set of rules like
  • ·         AHT (Average call Handling Time),
  • ·         The information provided to the customer (whether right or wrong)
  • ·         Were you sounding empathetic or monotonous
  • ·         Did you understand the customer’s query well
  • ·         Did you give your opening and closing greetings well (Yes you have to greet the customer, no matter how ever angry he may sound
  • ·         Did you were attentive enough or customer had to repeat his query.
  • ·         What was the call hold duration and did you tell the customer before putting on hold.
  • ·         Did you wrap up the call with in stipulated time, which is generally 2-3 minutes?
  • ·         You also have to make note of the conversation with the customer mentioning his name and contact number in the computer so that others can also extract the information if they get call from the same customer again.
·         There are several other things that count on every call you take.

You may think that these are small things that anyone can do, but my friend, you will realize the actual situation only when you are sitting among several other executives, and handing 160-200 calls per day, where most of the customers are shouting at you. On the top of it, Team Leaders and Team Managers are pressurizing you to wrap up the call within two minutes that too with all the greetings and information and formalities completed. Talking to a customer just for two minutes to pacify them is much more difficult than Talking to your friends all night long.

One last point you should keep in your mind is punctuality and attendance. You can be deprived of all your hard earn incentives for even one absenteeism. Whether you consider it as fair or unfair, you cannot take an unscheduled leave at any cost. You are given one weekly off, or in some cases two every week that does not necessarily fall on Sunday. You are not allowed to take any other off except that day although you can swap your week off with any other executive within same batch and working hours. Also you may be told at the time of joining that you will earn two leaves every month you work, but the company would rather pay you in cash than to allow you to avail your earned leaves.

Life is different at Call Center with all those erratic work schedules, screaming customers, quality calls, lack of work life balance, but I still suggest all those youngsters to join a call center to know the value of time, value of punctuality and value of patience. So next time think twice before making a call to a customer care just to have some “fun” because these executives are also humans just like you. They are actually earning their sweat and money working in such tough circumstances.
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