November And December Chaos!

Well it’s that time of the year again. The month when companies want everything all at once. When they have loads of offers/sales and try to succeed in getting everything at once. My company is no exception. It’s total chaos. November and December chaos.

We’ve got mailings galore going out. Offers on the internet too. It’s crazy at the moment. So busy that we don’t have time to breathe, never mind think about what we’re doing. Of course it’s bringing out the silly questions and the annoying customers. It’s exhausting the agents and making us cranky and do stupid mistakes.

Friday was the worst day. I was ready to scream after one hour. At the end of the day I was ready to commit hari kari – and it wouldn’t have been on myself.

I asked a customer to confirm the address of the property covered. ‘Your address?’ He asked.

Another customer rang up complaining about an automatic renewal on his policy. He read the section out on the documents:

‘I states here that it will be an automatic renewal unless I advise you otherwise,’ he said. ‘I told the young man I didn’t want it automatically renewed, so why is it on auto renewal?’

‘It isn’t on auto renewal,’ I told him. ‘You the told the agent you didn’t want it and he’s removed it. You will have to contact us next year to renew.’

‘But it states it will be automatically renewed unless I tell you otherwise.’

‘Yes. You have already told us otherwise. My colleague has removed it.’

‘But it states here…’

I ended up explaining 6 times that he had already ‘advised us otherwise’, so the auto renewal had been removed. Eventually he got it.

It may not be a physical job, but it is very exhausting to deal with this day after day, especially when it’s busy. It’s mentally draining . Mind numbing. These last few weeks especially I have felt brain dead by the time I get home. I’m not sleeping, I’ve got a cold, I strained my shoulder, and I’ve been having stomach pains. On top of that two of my colleagues – in another department – have been annoying me. So much so that I’m ready to grab one of them and smash her head through nearest wall.

I’m definitely not in a good place mentally at the moment.

Why Write About A Call Centre?

I wanted to write about my work in the call centre because a lot of people think it’s a dead end job, that we’re common-as-muck, a room full of chickens. Ask a chicken to change your bank details and see how far you get.

The recent BBC series didn’t do anything to alleviate this preconception – if anything it made it worse. I watched a few programmes and was quite shocked at how they could get away with half the stuff they were doing, not to mention how stupid some of them were made to look.

We have a lot of graduates in our call centre. There are a few school leavers as well. We have to adhere to strict DPA laws as well as confidentiality regulations. We have to be emphatic, understanding, sympathetic, as well as know how to operate several computer systems. On top of this there is constant training on the products. It’s a very pressurised environment. Mentally draining and exhausting. They can’t just employ anyone.

I hate to admit it but there are also a few idiots.

On Friday I had to ring a particular department as a customer had been waiting for a call from them. There were no notes on my system to tell me what was going on, so I was unable to help the customer myself. This is not an unusual occurrence for this department. I got through to a young guy who informed me there were no notes!

‘I know that,’ I answered. ‘Why can’t you guys put notes on the system so that we can help the customers?’

‘I completely understand,’ he said, trying to sound emphatic. ‘We have this problem all the time.’

I’d never of guessed if he hadn’t told me.

Luckily I don’t need to be emphatic, understanding, or sympathetic with colleagues – only polite. I politely told him to take the call and help the customer. He got the message.

Why Write A Blog?

Why write a blog? I asked myself back in February. It’ll be a waste of time and I won’t have the time to keep it going. I’ll get fed up of it within a couple of weeks. So what’s the point?

Well I’ve actually surprised myself that I’m still going and quite enjoying it.

I began it for a number of reasons. Here are the main ones:

1) Sheer curiosity
I read about people writing blogs and wondered what the fascination could possibly be. What is it that keeps people writing what are often short accounts of their day, their thoughts, or opinions? What motivates a person to keep up this type of writing? And why do other people enjoy reading them?

2) Writing practice
I don’t get to write (or type) freely at work, apart from notes on a customer’s account or logging complaints. It’s very rare to be able to write about anything and everything, so the blog has enabled me to do that. I did a writing diploma many years ago – last century in fact – and I’ve not done anything with it. I thought keeping a blog might be a way of getting in a bit of practice again.

3) Letting off steam
After a stressful or crazy day the blog has been great for getting the stress out of my system. It’s also enabled me to voice opinions about work related matters, and write what I’d really like to say to some of the customers who phone in. It’s been a great vent at times. Writing is definitely good therapy.

4) Keeping my brain active
Some work days can be mind numbing. Writing the blog has given me something to look forward to other than sitting on the phone. It’s kept my brain active after a boring day. I’ve kept a note book on my desk to jot down any notes about memorable calls, or even any ideas about stories that I want to start writing again.

I admit I started the blog with writing every day, but it’s now every few days. This is more to do with lack of time due to my shift pattern. Earlier in the year I was able to change my shift to nice early hours. Can’t do that now. It’s messed me up a bit. A lot actually. I much prefer starting early and finishing early.

I have been surprised how easy it is to write this blog, and how much I’m enjoying it. I also enjoy reading the blogs of other people and getting ideas from them. They sometimes job my memory of instances at work, or give me ideas from the way they’ve been written or set out.

It’s been really good to know that some people have enjoyed reading my blog, and some are even following me. A big THANK YOU!

I’m already working on the next one…

Marketing

I decided to dedicate this blog to the hard-working marketing department. These dedicated people who spent several years slogging away at university.

These wonderful university graduates thoughtfuly produce the literature that appears in our mailings and advertisements. They painstakingly and dedicatedly stoop all day long over the designs. They pour their heart-felt souls into producing the mail shots that will attract customers to the business.

Then they send them all out at the same time.

Is this the same for every company’s marketing department? I can’t answer that one.

For the time that I’ve worked at this company (I’m part of the foundations by the way) our marketing department have always operated in the same way. They have these wonderful ideas for mailings and advertisements and then publish everything all on the same day.

We are an insurance company dealing with domestic properties, including tenanted dwellings, and we offer many different types of insurance. Not to mention the extra policies available on the net.

This week we have mail shots going out for three different single policies, three different combined policies, and then for the landlords covers. Great! Call queues galore.

We now have non stop calls coming through for new policies, as well as customers ringing to change details or general enquiries. On top of that we’ve got people ringing with questions about the policies on the net, which are also on special offer at the moment. We haven’t even got time to breathe, never mind think about what we are doing.

Where is the sense in this? I know any company will want new customers, and the more the better. But trying to get so much new business all at once when there is not enough staff to cope is ridiculous.

Because there’s such a high call volume a lot of potential customers are giving up. Why should they be kept waiting for 15 minutes before they can even speak to anyone? Of course they’re going to hang up and go elsewhere. So there’s a lot of business being lost needlessly.

If these mail shots and ads were sent out one at a time, maybe ten days apart, the staff would be able to cope with the volume of new business. Potential customers wouldn’t be kept waiting so we wouldn’t be losing as many. But surely this should be common sense? Obviously these particular graduates don’t have the organisational ability that should, in reality, go hand-in-hand with marketing.

It’s not rocket science. It’s a simple matter of communication between departments – check that there’s adequate staff. If there’s mail shots being sent out, then stagger the drop. And definitely don’t send them out at the same time as the offers go live on the internet.

As I menitoned, I don’t know if this is the same in all or most companies. If it is, then no wonder our economy is in a sorry state with so many companies closing down. I hope our company doesn’t close – it’s a big international company so I can’t see it happening. They do need to learn from their mistakes though, and at the moment that does not seem to be happening.

Just Short Of Losing My Temper

Bit of a crazy day today. I almost lost of my temper with a customer. Well, actually I did lose my temper but my professionalism kept me calm under stressful circumstances.

It was a busy day starting with a nice gentleman calling to set up a policy. I set it up and informed him I was going to run through the cancellation details.

‘Cancellation for what?’ He asked.

‘The policy I just set up for you.’ I reminded him.

Great start for the day, which was followed up by a kind person ringing to tell me that they were sending in a cheque. What is the point of ringing a company to tell them you’re sending in a cheque? We can’t do anything until we’ve received the cheque. So what’s the point of sitting in a call queue to waste your time and our time? Crazy!

The highlight of the day, however, was an extremely rude, ignorant person, who happened to be of a prominent profession, which I won’t name. This was obviously an educated person who thought they knew better than me about doing my job. Said person really wound me up the wrong way.

I began by giving him an outline of what I was going to do while setting up the policy. This is not only politeness but gives the customer clear information on what is happening. Said customer immediately told me that I didn’t need to give him this information I could just take the payment. I explained that I needed to check that the property was eligible – he started moaning about that. I explained that due to regulations I had to give him certain information – he complained about that. I gave him the option of listening or sending the form in the post. He told me to hurry up and do it over the phone.

I ran through the details keeping very calm, and tried to be as pleasant as possible, while being interrupted several times. I finished everything and asked if there were any questions. Well this was just the wrong thing to say to this person. I was categorically told that I didn’t need to give all those details. I should have just taken the payment. If the customer says they don’t need the details then that should be accepted!

I explained yet again that we are regulated by the FCA and have to follow the regulations we are given.

‘I don’t care about these regulations.’ I was told. ‘You should just accept my payment and set it up.’

I informed the customer – categorically – that they wouldn’t do half a job in their career and I wasn’t going to do half a job in mine. Customer didn’t accept this either. All through the call I had been interrupted and this person had spoken over me. It ended with a bit of an argument where I had to take several deep breaths to keep calm. This person was extremely rude and ignorant.

But can you imagine what would happen if a professional person only did half a job? Take a doctor for instance:

‘Doctor, I have a high temperature, feel sick, have a severe headache, and a rash.’

‘Take this tablet.’

No name for the tablet. No details of how, when, how many times to take it. No details of what’s wrong with me. No details of possible side effects. Half a job. Not pleasant. Not satisfactory. Definitely not doing the job properly.

How about a builder just building the outside walls with no rooms inside?

I may work in a call centre. But I have a job to do. I have letters after my name and consider myself professional in my career. If my job includes giving certain information then that is exactly what I’m going to do. I don’t do half a job. I have far more credibility, sincerity, and professionalism in what I do.

Money Raising For Charity

One of my colleagues is currently raising money for a charity helping the widows and orphans in Syria. She organised a day last week to sell samosas, spring rolls, and raffle tickets. I helped, along with two other colleagues.

The four of us spent the whole day walking around the site raising money. We didn’t even manage to get to all the departments. We raised over £600 in one day, and we are doing it again tomorrow.

People jumped at the food – everybody loves samosas! But many people were putting their hands in their pockets and giving us handfulls of coins, and notes of all denominations. On top of this we had a colleague who runs a restaurant part time donating a meal for two. We were then donated another meal for two by a colleagues cousin. We were already selling raffle tickets for a big hamper – all the items in it new and donated. So we have two more prizes to raffle off tomorrow.

I would definitely recommend rasing money for charity if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps. It was so nice to see how caring people are and how generous we can all be. It lifted my spirits, and I’m pretty sure my colleagues would say the same.

It was a very tiring day. I could hardly walk when I went home. Had to put my feet in the foot massager for 1/2 hour. I was absolutely fine the next morning. Had a lovely cheer-up too. One of my colleagues who had helped with the fund raising is a fit young guy in his twenties. He said he was still knackered! Made an old gal like me feel so much better.

Work Canteen

We have a canteen at work, in the main building, that offers a good selection of food. It’s an outside catering company, and the food is subsidised by our company. It’s hard for me to admit this, but we are spoilt really.

In the building that I work in, which is a few minutes walk away, we have a coffee shop that offers a selection of sandwiches, jacket potatoes, soup, and a few other small things. And, yes, it’s a large company. Our site alone has 3 large buildings, each with two floors.

Along with the canteen and coffee shop there are also plenty of tuck machines around the site, and microwaves. In our building there is a microwave in each break area.

Anyone new to the company, or visitors, would probably think that we are well looked after. Jacket potatoes are cheap. They cost about a quid with butter, cheese and tuna. They taste nice too. Chips are cheap, stale and dry. Puddings are usually nice. Sandwiches are expensive, often soggy, and don’t taste nice at all. As an example, an egg mayo sandwich in the subsidised coffee shop is £2.25 while in M & S (free advert here) the same sandwich is £1.35.

The coffee in said coffee shop is expensive – £2.50 for half a cup of liquid and half a cup of froth. Luckily we have a coffee machine in each area – they’re free!

On the whole, if you steer clear of sandwiches the food isn’t too bad and is often cheaper then elsewhere. Sometimes I’ll go to work extra early to get a nice big breakfast.

Yes, I suppose we are spoilt.