Being Rewarded

We have a reward scheme and incentive scheme at work. People who have gone above and beyond or achieved something notable are rewarded with some kind of gift. This can be all sorts of things from ipads, xbox, days out, etc.

Getting rewarded for something we have done well is nice. I’d be surprised if anyone said otherwise. The actual receiving the reward can be a completely different experience, however.

Our rewards are given each month during a ‘ceremony’. This is actually disorganised chaos in the break area, which is completely blocked off for people who wish to take their break or lunch. There is music blasting out so those manning the phones can’t hear anything the customers are saying, and people are crammed into the room standing on top of each other. Other people may think that this is a lot of fun.

I was nominated for an award this month. Stood near the back, or rather got squashed at the back. I could smell everyone’s body odour and other things. I couldn’t see what the hell was going on. I could hear most things. Some of the people rewarded I knew personally so that was good. I heard my name called amongst the nominations but I didn’t get the award. Crap!

On a good note, a friend of mine got awarded with a day out at a local posh spa – Hoar Cross Hall to be exact. She won this for long (very long) attendance without any sickness. I reckon she was hypnotised the day she began working there.



I’m sitting watching Daybreak before going into work. They were talking about taking children on holiday during term time. Apparently the authorities are now putting their foot down and saying ‘no’. Holidays during holiday time only. I completely agree with this.

When I was kid we went on holiday for two weeks during September. The new school year had already started so my brother and I always missed some of the lessons. It was nice to have time off. It was also embarrassing to go back to school after missing so much. Luckily both my brother and myself now have letters after our names so we haven’t done too badly.

At that time, when I was a kid, the education in this country was considered the best in the world. In the last 40 years we have seen an influx of migrants and assylum seekers into the UK. Many of whom can’t speak English. The education has been lowered to accomodate these people. And it shows.

Working at the call centre has opened my eyes to the appalling lack of education and common sense that some people have. Only yesterday I asked a woman for her address and was asked: ‘Do you mean my address?’

I not sure what address she thought I meant. Buckingham Palace? The Sheikh of Brunei? Of course I was asking for her address. I can’t answer questions without getting her details on the screen.

We also ask for the customers phone number as part of our security questions. I got asked the same question yesterday by a different customer: ‘My phone number?’

I wanted to say: ‘No. I want the phone number for London Zoo. I want to speak to Mr G Raff.’

I managed to refrain myself. Just.

We need to spend more on education in this country. We need to forget about the lack of English that some people have. If they want to live in this country they should learn the language. It should be available for them to learn in the evenings at community centres. Schools/colleges/universities must be focused on teaching people properly. They should not be lowering their standards.

People need to realise what an effect a lack of education is having. I have even seen young people working at my company, who find it hard to read from a peice of paper. Education is the future. At the moment our education system is a disgrace. We are no longer seen as the best in the world, but the bottom. It needs to change.

What’s The Price?

Today was another day of ‘here-we-go-again’.

‘I’m looking at your…cover on the website. The one that’s £19 a month. Could you tell me what it covers and what the price is?’

‘As you just told me the price is £19 a month. As you can see it covers…’ Was my reply.

What is it with people? When a person tells me they are looking at the policy they are ringing about why do they need to ask questions about it? Especially when they have already told me the answer to the exact question they are asking, and they have the full details in front of them.

Another customer asked: ‘I am looking at the cash back offer. It says £29.50 a month. Is that correct?’

What does he actually expect me to say apart from ‘yes it’s correct’. Maybe I should say ‘no it’s not right at all. We just put anything on the net. It’s ok to advertise anything for any price on the net. When you set it up we’ll charge you something completely different.’ I’m sure customers would enjoy that.

Is it really so hard for some people to realise that what they are looking at is the actual information and won’t change if they ring us? Do they not realise that we can’t advertise a product unless it has the correct information? If we didn’t we would get fined and possibly closed down. I don’t think the company will want to risk that somehow.

Lies And False Accusations

It’s not a pleasant experience to be accused of something you haven’t done. It’s happened to me in the past. You get the odd idiot hoping to cause trouble because you have something they don’t have or you have achieved something they haven’t. They didn’t succeed. It’s often quite easy to turn the tables against people like that. But when the lie is a potential treat to your job then it’s a different story.

I answered a call yesterday to be greeted with a woman demanding to be put through to another department. She barked names at me but had no extension numbers. With a company of several thousand people it’s a bit difficult to find the person you want without an extension number. I figured there may be some kind of note on the system so I asked for her details, also explaining to her that I would need to pass on her details to the other department. This is standard company procedure, politeness, and also data protection. We need to know that we are speaking to the policy holder and not someone masquerading as such.

She gave me her name and then informed me that I was wasting time and should put her through immediately. I politely explained again that I needed her details. Other people would refuse to take the call unless DPA had been done. In fact I explained this several times very patiently, while she had a go at me. It was all in vain. She had no intention of giving me any information.

So with no details, no way of looking to see if there were any notes on the system, I informed her that if she was not prepared to give me any information then there was no point in continuing the call. I said ‘goodbye’ and hung up.

About 40 minutes later she called back and spoke to one of my colleagues. Same thing. She wouldn’t give him any details, but kept barking orders at him. However, she did tell him that she had spoken to me previously and that I seriously needed disciplinary action because I had sworn at her. She then hung up on him.

My colleague had to act on this straight away. An agent swearing to the customer is gross misconduct and employment can be terminated immediately.

He took the details to the relevant folk who have access to the call recordings. They managed to track my call down. This was listened to within minutes. Thank the Gods that the call was recorded. My colleague informed me that it was found that I had not sworn at the customer. In fact, they said I was polite and had handled the call correctly. I was vindicated.

This woman had deliberately and maliciously tried to get me into trouble, to the extent that I could have lost my job if it hadn’t have been for the fact that our calls are recorded. Just because she didn’t want to give me her details or confirm who she was.

This was plain ignorance and there is no justification for this type of nastiness. All she succeeded in doing was making me livid, and now none of us what to speak to her or help her. In fact she may even find that we are extremely slow and are having problems with the system and the phone lines every time she calls us in the future.

With any luck she will develop the biggest puss filled boil on her backside that will plague her for months to come.

Renowned For Our Politeness

We’re renowned for our politeness in this country – with the exception of a few people. But I sometimes think it would be really good to say exactly what we think without holding back.

I spoke to a very nice gentleman earlier today, so I was naturally polite. However, if I had said exactly what I wanted it would have been a very different story. The conversation would have gone something like this:

ME: ‘Good morning. You’re through to…How can I help you?’

CUSTOMER: ‘Hello. I’ve just been looking on the internet at your boiler cover. Could you just run through what it covers for me? I’m looking at the one that is £.. a month.’

ME: ‘No problem. It states quite clearly on the internet what it covers, but if you wish me to tell you as well, here goes. It covers…just as it says in front of you.’

CUSTOMER: ‘Does it include a boiler service?’

ME: ‘As it quite clearly states on the internet, yes it does. It’s that big blue bubble that says free boiler service included. The one that’s stuck in the middle of the page. You can’t miss it.’

CUSTOMER: ‘Do you do cover for burst pipes and electrics as well?’

ME: ‘Well, you know the page you are looking at right now? If you glance ever so slightly to the right you will see our package cover with all of that included. That’s right, it’s right next to the boiler cover.’

CUSTOMER: ‘What does this one cover?’

ME: ‘I’ll run through it for you. You can follow the list on the web page as I’m reading it out to you. It covers…’

CUSTOMER: ‘What’s the price of this one?’

ME: ‘You see those big numbers with the pound sign in front of them? That’s the price.’

CUSTOMER: ‘How do I set this up?’

ME: ‘It can only be set up on the net. As it states.’

CUSTOMER: ‘I don’t know how to use the computer.’

ME: ‘Well you found our web page on the computer. You also found the boiler cover that you were interested in. You didn’t have too much problem there did you?’

As I say, the actual conversation on my part was more polite than this. Probably for the best. We do have customers like this very frequently, though. Not just about the internet site, but also about their documents. It’s very clear that they have the information in front of them, but they can’t be bothered to actually read it themselves. It’s easier to call us. Perhaps they’re hoping that we’ll tell them something completely different.

Another Day In Earthly Purgatory

Actually it wasn’t all that bad today. I even had my photo taken and my ID pass replaced. It’s not brilliant but it could have been far worse. My old one was extremely scratched and I most certainly don’t have wrinkles that bad.

I had yesterday off. It was my birthday. There was no way in hell I was spending my birthday at work. You feel bad enough getting older, but work ages me 20 years while I’m there. I lose them as soon as I walk through the door to go home. I can do without the premature aging when I’ve aged another year biologically.

After my previous post about safety, I forgot to mention that quite a few of us seem to get a call between 1 and 5 minutes before the end of our shift, and it’s often the same type of call – sales. I don’t believe in coincidences. The calls I get are always the same type of sales call, where I have to go through a few more details than normal. Sure enough the same thing happened today. However, the woman I was speaking to suddenly got a caller at her front door and didn’t want to stay on the phone. This left me with 3 minutes before I could leave.

Well, I certainly wasn’t prepared to take another call during those last three minutes, so I used the time to log some notes on the system. Of course this was interspersed with putting things away in my locker. I upped and left exactly at 5.30pm, with the nastiest look from a certain sales manager.

This is a particular sales manager who doesn’t seem to have any clue about employee laws. I reckon that sooner or later she is going to come off quite badly. Without going into full details because I’ve not got permission, she has actually put someones life in danger, medically speaking, and she’s got away with it. I don’t think that will happen twice.

Please Know What You’re Ringing For Before Calling

A potential customer was asking me about the ‘gap’ in the supply pipe today. She explained that there was a gap in the pipe under one section of property. How the hell water was getting into her home with a gap in the pipe I really can’t explain.

She asked if we would cover this ‘gap’. I explained about our policy coverage. She then told me that her ‘household’ won’t cover this ‘gap’. I asked what she meant by ‘household’. I figured this could mean anything from meaning that hubby couldn’t fix it, family couldn’t fix it, landlord couldn’t fix it, lodgers couldn’t fix it, students couldn’t fix it, house insurance couldn’t fix it, and the list goes on.

She didn’t know what she meant by ‘household’ either.

She then asked about what the water board would do. I explained what the water board would do in regards to a burst on this pipe. She then asked me if I would ‘like to guess’. What the hell I was supposed to guess about I have absolutely no idea. She completely floored me with that one.

Now I know that most people aren’t technically minded. If I didn’t work at this company I wouldn’t have the knowledge about pipes, etc, that I have learnt. But why can’t some people have a basic idea of what they are talking about before they ring up a company? You don’t have to have the technical stuff. Just simple straight forward questions and then we can explain the technical stuff to you. We would prefer people not to call if they can’t even voice simple questions.

A bit of common sense wouldn’t go amiss either. If your water supply pipe has a gap then you won’t be getting any water and there’s probably a major problem. Very simple. Your watter supply pipe does not have gaps in it unless it’s burst or damaged.

And another thing – I don’t do guess work. If you want something conjured out of thin air go see a magician.

Safety First

My company says that if I get a call 2 minutes before I’m due to finish then I have to take that call, and do whatever the customer asks, even if it means setting up several policies. That could mean double numbers if it’s a landlord. I don’t agree with them.

The latest our department works is 8pm. People have had the misfortune to be stuck on a call setting up policies until almost 9pm. By this time everyone has gone home, except about 2 other people. A manager is required to stay until everyone has finished, and a person on the operations team is required to stay.

Our company is situated about a mile and half from the nearest town. It is on the bus route, but anyone who catches buses in the UK will know how bad they are after 6pm. There’s a bus on the main road at 8pm that we invariably miss, and the next one is at 8.30pm. That then means waiting in the town for the next bus or the train if catching public transport. Not a nice prospect during the winter months. For myself, catching the buses when I finish at 8pm would mean getting home at 9.30pm. I live 10 minutes away from work when travelling by car.

Add to this problem the fact that our building is at the bottom of a dead end. A road that has no lighting whatsoever – really safe. You can’t see people walking down the road in the dark, so it’s very easy for someone to be lurking.

The security is situated at the first building – two or three minutes away. So there is no security in our car park. The gates are open. They have had people entering the premises during the day to check out the equipment, and even entering the call centre while we were all working, so the company knows how easy it is for people to enter the premises on foot.

In this area there are no houses around us, just other companies. And people have been attacked on the main road, including being assaulted with a screw driver. Some of these people work at my company. Our CEO has sent messages around warning staff to be on guard, on several occasions.

So imagine finishing work even fifteen minutes after everyone else in the middle of winter, never mind 45 minutes later. The car park is empty apart the from the couple of vehicles belonging to the manager and the operations agent who have stayed over and possibly you.

You walk to your car, which may be parked at the other side of the car park, so by the time you get there the others are alraedy pulling out. You are left alone. You car decides not to work. It’s freezing cold and dark. You then have to wait for someone to turn up to help you, or walk through 3 empty car parks to get to the security.

If you haven’t got a car you walk across the 3 deserted car parks to the main gate – it’s safer than walking down the road that is not lit by a single light. You then have to wait for the bus on the main road where people have been attacked. You’re alone. The other option is to walk the mile and half on your own into the town.

Many people who use public transport either get someone to pick them up, or get a taxi. It’s a lot safer. Friends and family don’t want to be kept waiting. Taxis certainly won’t wait long. We are not allowed to use mobile phones in the call centre, so we can’t contact those waiting for us to let them know that we are stuck on a call! We finish the call only to be greeted by either family/friends who are really pissed off at being kept waiting, or they could even be worried that you have already left and something has happened to you. Or the taxi has cleared off. You then have the job of calling them back and waiting for them to turn up.

None of this is safe. But our company thinks that it can bully us into finishing that last call and work over. We don’t get the time back either. They only pay for each 15 minutes worked over. I have flatly refused. My safety comes first. If a customer calls at the last minute, well it’s advertised that we close at 8pm. I tell them we’re closed and I’ll call them back tomorrow, or get someone else to call them back. The managers don’t like this. I don’t care.

They have tried bullying people because of it, even taking them into the back room with 2 managers and telling them that it’s their job. I’ve told my manager I’m not doing it. My safety comes first. As far as I’m concerned, after the CEO has sent warning messages around over the last few years, then the company is well aware of how unsafe the local vicinity is. If they are deliberately telling us to put our safety at risk, then I reckon they are in the wrong.

I’m waiting to get the next instalment on my taking a stand. I’m waiting for something to be said next week, in fact. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say. I think I am in the right here. I don’t think that my company has any right to ask or expect people to put their safety at risk. I think it’s completely out of line and I’m not backing down.

Margaret Road Wednesbury WS10 7QT 07505067286 By appointment only, so please contact me to discuss available times.