The company opened a new call center up north to serve a large cable provider client. They sent me up there on my very first promotion. I was a supervisor. Yay!
I was so innocent.
The culture up there was… different. White collar work wasn’t all that common. Franchises were few and far between. Mom and pop stores dominated.
On one hand it made for a quaint and often beautiful town of 100k people. On the other hand I found myself having to explain why fist fights in the call center were not a way of showing honesty and respect. Seriously, the common objection I’d get was: “But he made me mad! I can’t just pretend I’m not angry, that’s dishonest!”
They were good people but their approach led to some uncomfortable situations.
For example, I’m monitoring a call that goes something like this:
“But I shouldn’t have to pay the late fee!”
“Well… You were late. That means there’s a late fee.”
“Can’t you waive it?”
“No, that’s not something I have a way of doing.”
“Give me a supervisor right now!”
“Okay I’m… not sure… um… how to do that.”
“Oh my god forget it. Where are you guys? I’ll just come down there.”
“We’re at 123 Address St., but you can’t just…”
Oh no. You didn’t just… Dammit…
So here’s the thing: I don’t even remember anything about who did this. Obvious why-would-you-do-that mistakes like this were so common it was just part of the background noise of the place. I don’t even think I was angry, just… more exhausted than anything else.
So I wrote up an email to the manager letting her know we should probably send a memo out to all the teams about what information we should / shouldn’t give out. She sent out an announcement and included it in the pre-shift talks for the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, I walked over to reception to give them the head’s up that someone was on their way for a properly awkward conversation. About an hour later someone told me the customer had arrived.
He was hauling on the front door, confused that he could see people inside but it wouldn’t open for him. (It’s a call center. You need a security badge to trigger the door mechanism.) His round head was getting redder and redder over his round little body as he banged on the door, calling out “EXCUSE ME? EXCUSE ME!”
I take a different exit and approach him outside. It takes about 20 minutes to get it through to him how call centers work, and that there’s no customer service counter for him here.
“Well what should I do then?”
“Go home and call, or actually go to the storefront downtown that has the actual cable company sign on it.”
“This is ridiculous! You guys don’t even have a sign on your building, did you know that?”
“Yes, I do know that. Because customers aren’t supposed to come here. Because it’s a call center.”
“So can you waive my late fee?”
I look around. We’re standing outside. What…
“No. Like I said, you call, or you can go to a customer service counter.”
“See, this is how you scam people! Just tacking on fees for no reason. Forget it, forget it!”
He storms off.
Wish I could tell you my time up north got easier from there…
UPDATE: Just occurred to me there’s an oddity here I should explain: yes, it’s weird to have a call center taking calls from the same city it’s located in. Management blamed IT “still working out the kinks” for the new place. Later I found out it was actually used as a selling point to the client to have local people taking local calls. Eventually it dawned on everyone that maybe, for privacy purposes, that’s a terrible friggin idea. They shuffled things around after a few months.