Kansas City Bastards

On the Front Lines: The Call Center, Part 1

by on Jun.26, 2010, under Blogs, On the Front Lines

Day jobs suck, and it’s easy to see why people like myself go crazy at them. Let’s face it: day jobs are there because if there is a God, He is indeed vengeful.

Before I get too far into things, let me familiarize you with the myth of Sisyphus. This will become important later.

Sisyphus is a mythological character, in both Roman and Greek mythology. He was the son of a King who was a deceitful trickster – a real bastard, but a crafty one. Eventually, after being called on his own bullshit, he dropped the hammer and aired some of Zeus’ dirty laundry. Because of his trickery, he was doomed to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a steep hill. Just as it reached the top, it would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again.

Thus began the term “Sisyphean task.” It is in this colloquialism that this story holds real weight, so to speak.

I work at a call center. I’m not going to tell you which one, or who the client is, or anything like that, but it is one that combines tax information, technology, and idiots. There are really two “bosses” in this case – the company that hired me, and their client – that determine whether or not I am doing my job well.

The client wants only the best in customer service and privacy law adherence, although they tend to go overboard with both. If there is a file on a caller, it does not matter whether there is anything that realistically needs to be done with it, or if it holds any utility in the actual question – we must pull the file. To do so, we need a variety of personal information, and overall it takes a fair amount of time and is usually an exercise in redundancy.  Then, to adhere to privacy law, we need even more information to make sure we can talk to someone about whatever it is.  Given the nature of the beast, there’s a lot of parents needing their kids’ social security numbers, and vice-versa – neither of which know them off the top of their heads, so they have to spend several minutes searching so they can avoid calling back and waiting exactly zero seconds to get a representative on the line.

The company that hired me wants things done quickly. This is fine, except they also want things done up to the client’s standards. The client’s standards dictate that things don’t get done quickly.  When the most common types of calls, doing everything that the client wishes, take roughly five minutes without bringing in the variable of how cooperative or on point the caller is going to be, and the set standard for call times is three and a half minutes, that’s a problem.  Factor in that most people will make you repeat something like a web address half a dozen times, and that becomes more of a problem.

To illustrate, I have created a Venn diagram.




This is why I have lost faith in humanity.



So on a given day, I am either told my call quality sucks or my call times suck. Therefore, I have determined that my day job sucks.  If at any point you think I’m just whining when I say that I feel like Sisyphus – refer to the Venn diagram.  Both aspects of that diagram are constantly shoved down my throat via e-mails, monitoring results, daily statistics, and bulletin board posts.

Next time we’ll explore the wonderful world of callers.  Until then – don’t be a dick, be a bastard.

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