Bad Recruitment

This morning I got an email from a well known online job site, offering a job in my department for £2000-5000 more than what I’m on. Well, I read and re-read this email and the job specs. I was furious. As you can probably imagine.

I got into work at 7.30am and went straight to the sales manager who was in early. I asked him why the company was advertising jobs in my department for more money. I told him I’d been there for many years and wanted a pay increase.

He assured me that it was incorrect. For another department he said. I told him that the other department was not mentioned. He didn’t seem unduly bothered. Just told me to email HR, which I did. Much use that was. They can’t be bothered to get off their backsides for a mere agent.

About two hours later I spoke to another sales manager. She took a bit more notice – probably because two managers overheard and the pay on offer was more than they were on too. This sales manager asked me to forward the email to her. She then got in touch with HR. They answered her, but then she’s a senior manager so they would. Turns out that not only is the job for a different department, but the vacancies have already been filled.

Of course our HR department is blaming the job site. Specs all wrong and vacancies filled. However, I’m thinking that the specs advertised were given to the job site by someone in HR. The job site couldn’t just make them up! They may not have been told that the vacancies were filled, but they would have to fill the advertisement with the details they were given.

It won’t be too difficult to find out what the new people are being paid. Are I know quite a lot about how the company works and I can use that to my advantage.

I pointed out to the sales manager that if it was my department and new people were being offered far more pay than any of us, then I would be photocopying the email and I would hand it out to every person on the floor. It would cause absolute chaos.

I’ve done this before and got our department our bonus when the managers tried to say that we weren’t eligible. So they already now what I’m willing to do.

Watch this space. This could be all out war.

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I had occasion to speak to another call centre today. I rang them on behalf of one of our customers to get confirmation on a subject for him. I spoke to a very helpful young man, and had a bit of a chat with him too.

The company was a boiler manufacture, and it seems that this call centre has very similar phone calls to the ones that my colleagues and I get every day.

The agent told me that their boilers have stickers on the underside of them, which show the model and the serial number of the boiler. Just like many other appliances that we buy. Well, it seems that many customers don’t like the white colour of this sticker and ring them up asking for a different colour!

Yes, we’re not the only ones that get the weird calls.

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Wrong Numbers

We get a lot of wrong numbers coming through at the call centre. Most of them don’t bother us at all. The customer apologises and redials. However, the ones that do annoy us are just like the one I had today.

CUSTOMER: ‘I’m ringing on behalf of Mr…. You installed a boiler in his flat and you’ve left a load of rubbish there. When are you going to move it?’

ME: ‘We don’t install boilers. How did it for you?’

CUSTOMER: ‘… did it.’

ME: ‘Well, why don’t ring that company? You may get an answer if you ask the people who actually did the job.’

CUSTOMER: ‘Why can’t you do it?’

ME: ‘Because we are not…, and we didn’t do the job. May I suggest that you ring the right people.’

Fortunately these type of calls don’t happen that often. Most people are sensible enough to get the number for the company they wish to speak to, and not whatever number that just happens to appear first.


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Questions And Answers

We have to ask customers a multitude of questions at the call centre, to get the answers we need to set up the policy they require. Here are a few examples of the questions I ask and the answers I get:

ME ‘Can I have your full address please?’
CUSTOMER ‘Errr. Ummmmm. Errr. I think it’s…’

ME ‘Can I have your full address please?’
CUSTOMER ‘It’s sw10.’

ME ‘What’s the model of your boiler?’
CUSTOMER ‘It’s a combi.’

ME ‘What’s the model of your boiler?’
CUSTOMER ‘That’s a good question.’

ME ‘What’s the model of your boiler?’
CUSTOMER ‘It’s one of them on the wall.’

ME ‘Can I have your policy number please?’
CUSTOMER ‘The originators number is…’

ME ‘Can I have your policy number please?’
CUSTOMER ‘My phone number is…’

ME ‘Can I have your policy number please?’
CUSTOMER ‘I phoned your number.’

ME ‘Can I take the reference off the letter? It starts with the letters…’
CUSTOMER ‘There’s a number at the side. It’s 010287…’

The worst one out of all of them? For me it’s the address. There are too many adults in the UK who do not know what their full address is or what the term ‘full address’ means. It’s shocking. But this is what we have to deal with every day.

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Call Centre Hassles

We have many hassles at the call centre, not just the normal job pains. Most of the hassles are from the various calls we take day in and day out.

At 8pm closing: ‘I know you close now and I’m sorry to trouble you, but could you just set up three policies for me. I know exactly what I want.’ (I know what I’d like to give you.)

‘I’m expecting an engineer from…(our competitor). Could you tell me when he’s coming?’ (Try ringing them.)

‘You’ve put the price up. This is extortionate! I’m a pensioner and can’t possibly afford this. This is just daylight robbery!’ (It’s gone up by 50p for the whole year!)

‘I’m not happy about this renewal price. You’ve put the price up by 10.257%. Can you justify this?’(Thanks for being so specific. Yes we can justify it. This is a business not a charity. We can put the prices up whenever we damn well feel like it.)

‘I want to take out a policy but I don’t have my bank details with me. If you set it up now I’ll phone later to pay.’ (Like hell I will.)

‘I want a job doing. A blow job.’ (That’s fine. I bite.)

‘What underwear are you wearing?’ (The colour wouldn’t suit you mate.)

Oh what fun we have!

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Mystery Shoppers

A few of my colleagues and I believe that we have had a spate of mystery shoppers phoning us. There have been a number of potential customers ringing up and asking every question under the sun about two or three policies. The questions range from the utterly ridiculous to extremely technological. Definitely not our normal customers who tend to ask questions when they can’t be bothered to read the mailing that has been sent to them. Or the customers who look things up on the internet but can’t be bothered to actually read the information in front of them. No, definitely not our normal customers.

Occasionally we get a customer who knows exactly what they want and what questions they need to ask. This is usually about one policy and they are very specific about what they need to know. They are very different from the mystery shoppers.

The mystery shoppers will start with a basic policy that doesn’t cover too much. They’ll ask some very standard questions about the price, the length of time before cover begins, what’s included, the cancellation period. They will then ask a couple of technological questions about the policy. They then change direction and begin speaking about an upgraded policy, asking questions that are specific to different areas of the upgrade.  These questions are usually too specific to be our standard customers’ questions.

The next tactic is to bring in a third policy and ask a few questions about that. Then the interrogation starts. The questioning goes back and forth between all three policies and if we are not careful we get confused and say the wrong thing. I always make sure what policy we are talking about before I answer, and my answer will always begin by referring back to the specific policy or element we are talking about.

The question is:  Are these mystery shoppers from our company? Or are they from another company? We don’t know the answer there. But one thing is for sure, if we answer incorrectly we are in serious trouble.


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Call Centre Explodes!

I’m reading a book about making money on the internet. One section deals with blogs and suggests increasing readership with dramatic headlines. Hence today’s headline. It isn’t actually true. The call centre hasn’t exploded. But did it grab attention? Did it increase curiosity?

It’s the type of thing that newspapers use to get reader attention. They use a dramatic headline that often has no bearing on what the story is about, or else they’ll use dramatic wording that is totally illogical. One example that immediately springs to my mind is the headline ‘Crocodile Attacks Swimmer’. This was in the papers a few years ago.

The online dictionary states the definition of the word ‘attack’ as:

1. To set upon with violent force.
2. To criticize strongly or in a hostile manner.
3. To start work on with purpose and vigour.
4. To begin to affect harmfully.

So to attack is to use violence. But surely to use violence, or to attack, is an act requiring some thought. It’s a purposeful or deliberate act. So did the crocodile attack with purpose? You could say that it’s purpose was to procure food. But do we attack to obtain food? It’s certainly an act of violence to kill, and it could be called an attack. The guy jumped into the lake without looking. Did the crocodile have time to attack? Or did it see a chance of quick meal and act accordingly? Could the spur of the moment act be classed as an attack? Or defence?

I think this headline is completely misleading. It should have read ‘Guy jumps on top of crocodile and animal defends itself, obtaining a free meal at the same time’. I doubt that this would be an attention grabbing headline though.


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Why Work In A Call Centre?

I began to write a blog about the day to day experience of my working life. I’ve been working at the call centre for over 11 years now and this seemed like a good way of getting rid of stress and of laughing at some of the stupid things that can happen at work.

I have never mentioned the name of the company I work for – I don’t particularly want to be on the end of a lawsuit, although I sometimes think that being fired would come in very handy. I also don’t mention the names of any colleagues or customers for the same reason. Saying that I think I manage to convey what is going on reasonably well.

You may wonder why I’m working in a call centre. Well the reason is very simple. I got sick of being treated like a pack horse and being plied with responsibility while being paid peanuts.

I began my working life as an office junior after a year at secretarial college. I picked up the ropes very quickly and eight months later I landed a job as branch secretary/PA to general manager at a different company. A few years later I left to have my daughter.

After maternity I began working at a foundry as a buying assistant/materials controller. I loved it. I stayed for several years but in the end it was the pay that made me look elsewhere. Along came the position of secretary to three lawyers. After a few years there I moved on to a new company as materials controller. It was here that I had my eyes opened.

I remember one of the foreman on the shop floor complaining about his pay. He was in charge of people using machinery and would he would let me know if any raw materials were running low. He showed me his pay slip and said it was for one week but the company had short paid him. They were paying him more in one week then what I got for the month and I was far more qualified. I then found out that the guy who swept the shop floor and did the occasional delivery was on more than double what I was receiving. He had no qualifications whatsoever except a driving licence.

Well that did it. I wondered why I was working for pennies and being laden with so much responsibility. So I began to look at the job market. Guess what? I found a part-time job inputting data for the same money I was getting as materials controller. I went for it. Typing in figures and having my afternoons free. And it was a five-minute walk from where I lived.

After that I went into sales. I realised that this was where the money was and it was up to me to put the work in. No responsibility and I could double my basic pay easily every month with commission. I’ve done this now for several years.

Of course all good things come to an end. The commission was not compulsory so it could be removed at any time. Now the Financial Conduct Authority no longer want sales staff rewarded by monetary means, so the commission has disappeared.

Working in the call centre is no longer as profitable as it once was.

Respect At Work

When you work as a team you’d think that the team members would be respectful towards each other. Two days on the run I’ve had occasion to speak to people about their lack of consideration.

Yesterday we had a new team member join us and after half hour of being on the team the person put his feet up on the desk. Not his desk. This was the desk of someone not in yesterday. I asked him to remove his feet as someone had to sit there afterwards. I then heard him making nasty comments about me to another team member!

You would think that people would understand how unhygenic it is putting dirty feet and shoes on a desk. Especially a desk where someone else normally sits and often eats. I found out today that he had also written over the other persons paper work. What a lovely considerate person.

Call centres are noisy places to work at the best of times, but when people are not busy they start chatting and the noise picks up even more. Trouble is the types of conversations people have, as the customers can invariably hear people talking in the background.

Today I asked someone to speak a bit quieter as the customer I was speaking to could hear the conversation she was having. And, you probably guessed it, I got a load of abuse. The conversation was around a magazine article about sex.

Well we can all have a laugh and a joke but it’s not professional if the customers can hear what is being said, especially when it’s a smutty conversation. A simple request to speak quieter should be respected – you would have thought so anyway. But no.

I got told ‘It’s a call centre. What do expect?’

My simple request to be quieter was met with abuse. I was then called ‘the ****police’! Both myself and another colleague then felt that we had to speak to a manager. It wouldn’t have been taken further if the noise had been reduced.

Well after some of my posts about the professional people I work with and the fact that many of us are qualified in many areas, unfortunately it’s also a fact that there are other people who are not as experienced or as professional. These are the types of people that give call centres their poor reputation.

Other Jobs

The call centre is a well-paid job, but a few of my colleagues also have other jobs. It can be very stressful being on the phones full time, mentally exhausting, especially in the busy periods. Due to regulations from the Financial Conduct Authority we have a lot of important information we need to give customers, which means our average time of setting up a policy is around 15 minutes. Consequently many people work part time and then make up their money with a second part time job.

I work full time and it can certainly take its toll at times. I keep my sanity by reading self-motivation, studying, or working on my hobbies – tarot reading and astrology. As such is here is a totally unashamed plug:

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