Tag Archive | call center

Gotta Be Coached

Just when I thought things were picking up, I learned there was an emphasis on the word “temp” in the phrase “temp agency.” I was hoping for a longer run, but the work dried up and the need for me was no more.

A lot of good came from having a job again. Probably the most important thing was being able to pay off one of the smaller creditors. Unfortunately I also had a $500 car repair bill, which would have helped to pay off more of my debts if I didn’t need the repair. It is what it is.

Before I left New Jersey, when I had just started with an insurance job, there was one day during training when one of the owners of the agency came in to our class and spoke to us. He gave us four things to remember to do:

  1. Write down your dreams
  2. Be coachable
  3. Have a good attitude
  4. Let go of fears

At the time, I wasn’t writing down my dreams even though the idea of going to Japan was at the forefront. I did have a good attitude, as I was convinced, even while I was watching everything fall apart, that I was doing just fine and that my problems at the time were starting to turn around. I didn’t even think of my fears, so how could I let them go? What was I even afraid of at that time? As for being coachable, I wasn’t in a position to be coached, so I didn’t have to worry about that at the time.

I was coached once in this past month. When I was told I would be coached at some point during that day, it felt like the equivalent of saying to me, “wait until your father gets home.” I was a bit nervous, wondering what I had done wrong in my calls and everything else.

It wasn’t as terrible as I had anticipated, though. To begin, one of my calls was audited and I scored a 92 out of 100. That came later during the coaching session. The coaching actually started with trying to overcome rejections, people telling me they weren’t interested and me accepting that as an answer. I was also asked to change the tone I used for the introduction script, as I was far too cheerful and also sounded like a recording. My boss played one of my calls, and it was one where some woman answered the phone with a curt, “What do you want?” I went into the introduction, completely broken out of the tone I had been using.

“You were talking so naturally,” my boss remarked.

“Yeah, because I was scared of her!”

My boss talked about how I could carry on conversations rather well, as he had asked about my umbrella earlier in the day and I was telling him that no, it wasn’t actually a sword even though the handle looked like a katana. I love that umbrella because it always sparks a conversation or at least catches someone’s glance.

But the meeting wasn’t entirely me being told what to do or what I was doing wrong. If I had questions, I asked them. Sometimes I asked if I was doing something right, or if it was acceptable at all. Sometimes if I was given advice, I would slightly question that advice or explain why I was doing things my way, because I was looking to understand the methods used instead of just blindly doing things a certain way.

I walked out of that coaching session feeling pretty good about things. Better still, I applied some of the advice I had been given, and I noticed an improvement in my metrics, my number of completed surveys per hour.

So understandably, I was sad when work dried up because I’m not working there now. I feel like things had just begun, you know? I was honing my skills, and now I have to see where I’ll be going next.

But I was coachable. And it worked out well.

There is another side to this. Not that there was a time when I wasn’t coachable, although I’m sure I’ve had stubborn moments when I just didn’t understand what I should have done and then didn’t change.

I had one job where my immediate supervisor actually refused to talk to me.

I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting a uniform shirt. Someone said I had to “earn” the shirt, but no one told me what I needed to do to earn it. My first shirt was a pink shirt, for breast cancer awareness month, which meant I still needed the regular blue shirt by the end of the month, but it was a start and I wouldn’t need to wear my own shirt anymore. When I got my name tag, my first name was split, and below that it said “Media” while everyone else in my department had a name tag that said “Media Specialist.” After a year, I was no longer on the schedule, despite my willingness to pick up extra shifts when people couldn’t work when they were scheduled. I knew exactly who my immediate supervisor was, and we were rarely scheduled at the same time, but when I did see him, he was always too busy to talk to me. So I never knew what, if anything, I was doing wrong. All I knew was I wasn’t getting the best treatment, but I stuck with it because I thought things could improve or that I could show that I’m actually a decent employee.

Of the four points I mentioned, while I agree with all of them, I think being coachable is so often overlooked and forgotten. I think people get into this mindset of doing things how they want to do them, or they might do their own research to see how to improve, but I don’t think people actually invest the time to talk to others who could point out their flaws and how to change. Even if a person allows someone else to tell them what needs to change, I don’t think enough people actually try to understand what’s being said, they might think they know the advice they’re being given but they don’t know how to apply it or how to change.

And also, write down your dreams. I think I’m going to go do that now. Oh wait, isn’t that why I have a blog?

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Alone With My Supervisor And Coffee

One of my supervisors at work is a lot of fun to be around. At first, I knew I was just more comfortable around him but didn’t seem to have a reason why, nor did I need a reason. When I noticed his computer wallpaper was of the Pokemon Mew, and he talked about some of his geeky interests, I realized we had similar interests, and that was probably one of the reasons why I got along well with him.

When he was building interest for a project that was based on the west coast, I volunteered to be one of the people to work on that project. It guaranteed that I would have something to do with the company beyond the project I was hired to work on, so my motivation was that job security. Not to mention, because of the difference in time zones, I would be working later hours, which didn’t bother me because I was usually awake during that time anyway.

That project had five people volunteer to work on it, four people who could commit to the schedule, and three of us who did most of the work. It wasn’t as large of a project as the two other projects I’ve been working on, with about a third of the number of call lists, and each list being about one-seventh as long as the other lists I was used to working with. Even with two or three of us making the calls per night, we breezed through the lists of phone numbers, and my supervisor was able to get more lists from the client as a result of that. However, one cause of our speediness has been the fact that so many people have hung up on us or not even answered the phone. Because of that, I developed a habit of wasting even less time on those calls because I can tell what the resolution will be, I know the tones for a number that’s not in service, I can tell when an answering machine or a voice mail service is starting.

For whatever reason, either because of scheduling and availability or because of how awesome I am at making at least 60 calls per hour on this project and overcoming objections, I managed to be the only one scheduled for the project last night.

Just me… and my supervisor.

And a pot of coffee.

This is how things start, isn’t it? You get a man and a woman alone in the same room, two people who get along well, have similar interests, all of that. It starts getting late. One thing leads to another. Before you know it, I’m telling you how I’m not his type, and you’re wondering how I know I’m not his type and telling me that I shouldn’t say things like that, that I should be confident. Well, I’m not his type, because before last night, he had already casually remarked that he was gay in front of the whole call center.

It wasn’t even much of a surprise for me. He speaks in that effeminate manner that is usually associated with gay men, but it’s rather subtle and not backed up with flamboyant hand gestures or slang. But it’s not like he figuratively wears his sexuality on a frilly sleeve; he actually dresses like any guy would, wearing plaid button-down shirts when he has to dress more professionally and athletic hoodies when he’s cold or is just dressed more casually. I don’t mean to resort to any stereotypes, however I do know that some people base their “gaydar” on superficial things, like a man’s interest in musicals. And, my supervisor actually prefers the non-musical Disney animated movies like Finding Nemo, if you must know.

It’s not like his sexuality even mattered to me, because it wasn’t something I thought about. It did help, in a sense, to know his sexuality prior to last night, because then I can talk about last night and say, “I know how this sounds, but nothing happened and nothing would have happened.”

But oh, I’m making a big deal out of this, aren’t I?

In a dream I had last night, the earlier events now being a forgotten haze, I was listening to a phone call directed at me, and it was as if I was listening to a voice mail as it was being recorded. I don’t remember everything that was said, but one of the last things that was said that I do remember was something like, “… and I saved that voice mail of you and play it back just to hear your voice.” As that’s being said, my supervisor is ascending the stairs in a stairwell, and he’s the one saying these things as I hear them over the phone. When I see him and he sees me, I’m smiling because it’s so romantic to me to have someone admit the silly things they do because they’ve fallen for a person, and in this case it’s someone who has fallen for me. Once he has climbed the stairs and is in front of me, he kisses me softly on the lips. The rest of the dream was spent not far from him. I was giddy over the idea of having a significant other again. He slightly evolved into Giovanni Ribisi by the time I woke up, but in my defense I was watching Lost In Translation before going to sleep, and they’re both similarly-dressed skinny white boys.

Upon waking, I had to remind myself that my supervisor is gay, that none of that would happen. And yet, it’s something I want to have happen, maybe not with my supervisor, but I like thinking that someone can’t quite get enough of me. It silences the thoughts that are in direct opposition, suggesting that I might be bothering people or they’re really not interested in spending time with me. It reminds me that I’m not the only one who does silly things when the relationship is new, or barely budding, or even just to think that a person might be someone worth keeping around for a while.

So now it seems awkward to do so, but I want to ask for my supervisor’s phone number. I sincerely hope you understand why I would ask for his number, and why my own mind has sabotaged the retrieval of an important bit of information, before I even explain. I want to ask for his phone number as a future reference for job applications, nothing more. Unfortunately I feel like I’m going to overly explain myself upon asking, when even I know I’d question someone’s motives if they had to explain that, “I won’t call or text you, ever, it’s just to use you as a reference for future job applications.”

Special thanks to my mind, for taking a completely innocent, professional experience, and turning it into an awkward situation that I have to deal with in the real world. The idea to write about it all might not have been the most brilliant of ideas, as now it’s possible for my supervisor to find this and things can become even MORE awkward. However, I’m pretty sure that others have had similar experiences, so I have to remind myself that I’m only human and that I need to roll with it. After all, the worst that could happen still isn’t that bad.

Workplace Awards

I feel like I’ve filled out more job applications in the past two years than I ever have before, and that’s despite the fact that I’ve actually been employed twice in that time. I’m at the point where I dread having to fill out an application by hand because there’s no way to populate the fields from my résumé or from another website where I’ve entered all of my career information. It’s about as redundant to me as small talk on a dating website, but at least there’s the promise of being paid if the job application leads somewhere.

One of my biggest peeves is when there’s a space to fill in any awards or accomplishments while at a particular job.

I realize there are jobs out there that actually celebrate good performances, so being a hard-worker sometimes pays off and sometimes it’s good luck. If you put in more time and effort than your peers who skip out five minutes early every day, you deserve an award. If you manage to get the most sales, you deserve an award. If you’re the reason why people keep coming back and it’s not because you did something wrong, you deserve an award.

However, if you got the most sales, it’s not always because you were skillful at closing a sale. It’s possible to be fortunate enough to get people who weren’t going to refuse your service and needed what your company offers. It’s possible that the ones on the low end keep getting customers who are on the fence and wouldn’t have closed a sale even if the best salesperson was speaking with them. The people with the fewest sales might just need to understand that they are doing something wrong, and what it is, and sometimes it takes the right person using the right words to get that message through to the struggling salesperson.

And then you have managers. Not all managers are blessed with a skilled team, and some can’t see the faults of their subordinates or know how to properly educate them to do better. Some businesses congratulate a well-performing team from time to time, but I haven’t heard of any company that evaluates why other teams were underperforming.

I don’t have any awards that I can put on a résumé. I could probably brag about getting a “kudos” when a customer said I did a good job back in 2005. However, that’s one customer out of hundreds that I’ve dealt with in the past 12 years. That’s not to say that I don’t have a few more satisfied customers, just that only one has spoken to a supervisor about me and it’s been put in writing that I was awesome. One customer isn’t much to write home about, so I don’t mention it.

I don’t even try to get awards. If I’m good, I’ll achieve something, but if I try, I’ll stress myself out and disappoint myself when I fail. So I go to work, I clock in, I do what I must, and then I go home.

What about the days when I’m not even up to my regular standards? I’ve gone to work while ill, when I had a bacterial infection in my respiratory system and couldn’t walk to the back of the store without being out of breath by the time I got there. I’ve gone to work with bronchitis, when my bosses wouldn’t let me take any more days off and I have to take phone calls in a call center when I don’t even have a voice. I’ve worked while I’ve had a parent in the hospital on their death bed, when a part of me has wanted to be by their side but another part reminded me that I needed the money and I convinced myself that I might be able to get my mind off of things if I kept busy. Of course, there’s no awards for going to work when you’re not up to snuff, when you’re physically and emotionally drained. The Center for Disease Control would love it if you avoided people while you’re ill, but your bosses always want to keep your seat warm and will be willing to replace you. And no one cares if your parents are dying, but you can get time off once they’ve passed.

So my job application probably looks like most of the other applications being submitted. Then again, maybe I’m the only one without any awards to her name. I don’t actually mind, because maybe I wasn’t in the right place to get an award, or on the right team to develop my skills to one day achieve something great. That’s not to say I don’t already have the right skills, just that I wasn’t in the right place or had the perfect opportunity to use what skills I do have. While I’m looking for that perfect opportunity, I’m definitely building my job application skills. It’s a shame that those skills only pay off when I land a job.