Same Cover?

A guy called asking to take out cover. He came through on a particular line for a particular cover we do. The customer then proceeded to give me the reference for a completely different cover. It didn’t throw me. I merely double checked the reference and proceeded to set up the policy. I reached the price details and the customer then proceeded to tell me that he had a different price on another sheet of paper. After some questioning it appeared that he had received mailings for two different covers at different prices covering different things.

I pointed this out to the customer and explained the difference between the two policies. However, the customer was having none of this. Why? Because he had received the mailings at the same time.

‘You may have received them at the same time,’ I told him, ‘but they are different policies. They are called different names and are different prices.’

‘Yes, but I had them on the same day. And this one is a cheaper price so why are you charging me the more expensive price?’

‘Because you asked me to set up the other cover. Why don’t you read the letters first and then decide which policy you want? Then you can call us back.’

‘But I received these on the same day!’

What I really wanted to say was: ‘Just because you had them both at the same time doesn’t mean they are the same fucking policy! They cover different things. If you actually read them you would see that. It’s not rocket science. You don’t need a master’s in brain surgery. If they have different names and different prices they are OBVIOUSLY DIFFERENT COVERS you dumb bastard. Do I really need to explain the difference again? It’s very simple. They cover different things. That’s why they are different prices!’ However, I managed to keep my cool and was very polite at all times.

I decided it would be best to take a walk away from the desk after this call.

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.

The Anti-Climax Of A Celebration

I’m looking forward to watching the TV program ‘The Call Centre’ tonight. The trailers look interesting. Lots of fun and games. If it’s anything like our call centre there will be a lot of things going on specifically for the cameras. I shall keep my comments until after I have seen the show.

We have TV cameras in from time to time, whether it’s for a TV interview or a company video shoot. People are sometimes chosen to sing or dance – to look mildly talented basically. The rest of us know it’s all put on and we try our best to avoid the cameras at all cost.

We also have fun days when the company is celebrating. I’ve been there for quite a few of these: We’ve been in the top 100 companies to work for on more than one occasion; I remember when we hit 3 million customers; all the times when the policies were upgraded; and countless other occasions. I’ve had my share of free bottles of champagne, chocolates, free lunches, sweets, big prizes, all sorts in fact.

I’ve also had back, shoulder and hand massages, tai chi lessons, health checks, my biological age checked (it took quite a few years off me), and lots of prizes. I’ve won a £150 red letter day, and a home theatre surround system, as well as loads of smaller stuff.

We had a celebration day yesterday, in fact. We had a glass of something (bucks fizz I think) on arriving at work, free breakfast, a big bag of wine gums, a rucksak type of bag that advertises the company – it’s bright yellow so you can’t miss it. We had a pen and a free mouse mat – both advertising the company. We all had our choice of ice cream, and a raffle ticket – I have no idea what the prize is. The raffle is supposed to be drawn later in the week (I think there were a few bags of wine gums left).

All this was due to one of our policies being enhanced, or upgraded. It’s our main policy so this change is a big occasion. They advised us of the changes some time ago, with the assurance that everything had been checked and all would go live yesterday. We had company briefings, and team briefings. There were memos about it, printed leaflets. In fact, this was all built up so that we were expecting a day of sheer brilliance.

The call centre started at 8am – we couldn’t log on to the system. Luckily we have the old system (from several years ago) that we were able to use. After the first few calls we found that the codes for the upgraded policy were not working.

The drinks were supposed to be served between 8am and 9.30am. I had mine nearer 10am. The breakfasts were due to be served to us at our desks between 9.30am and 10.30am. They brought them round at 11am.

We then found that some of the pricing information about the enhanced policy was not available on the system. The managers began to panic. Eventually, about lunch time, it was all sorted out. But this is not a new occurance.

Whenever they tell us that everything is working we know we are going to have problems. Whenever they build something up to such a height, we know it’s going to be a real anti-climax. I know this is not a good attitude to have, but it comes from experience.

I actually managed to keep my mouth shut yesterday and not make the comments that my managers were waiting for. I kept quiet but I wasn’t able to get rid of the smirk.

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