In 2012, Americans on the internet went apeshit about armies of Invisible Children. In 2013, we have continued to ignore the invisible adults. Sure, I could turn this into a diatribe about homelessness or some other social issue, but I’m a vain, grumpy person at times. This is gonna partially be about me, or at least, partially about my industry. You see, depending on who you talk to, working in call center makes you a member of “The Help” social class. Other members include, but are not limited to the cleaning crew, the lady in the hairnet that makes your sandwiches at the sub shop, the guy who plunges the clogged toilets at work, and the FedEx guy. On the hierarchy, I believe that the d-bags among us put this class somewhere between dog shit on your new Manolo Blahniks, and severe burn victims. It’s an unfortunate existence.
thing is, the world needs the Invisibles. Who would help you regain
access to your information when you’ve locked yourself out of your
account because you ignored that weeks worth of “your password will
expire on Tuesday” emails? Who would restore your ability to totally
wreck the work bathroom instead of your own? Who would deliver your
copy of 50 shades of Gray that you bought on company time? Without The
Help, none of that could happen. You may believe people holding those
jobs are beneath you. You’re not alone. A good many people do.
genies have been handing out the power of invisibility for centuries,
but we’ve had it all along. All you need to do is answer a phone for a
living or have a job that requires you to wear your name on your shirt.
And that’s where our power is. When people think you’re less than
human, they tend to talk more freely around you. Show up wearing a suit
and people mind their p’s and q’. Crawl under a desk to plug in a
mouse that some self-important gas bag couldn’t be bothered to do and
people assume you’re deaf and dumb as well as invisible. Empty a trash
can and speak another language to your peers on the job, and suddenly
you can’t understand a word of English and it’s a free for all for
what’s discussed in front of you. There’s an enormous respect gap
between “average” jobs and people who clean up after the messes that
happen in life.
me tell you a story. Just this morning, the guy that I share a cubicle
wall says to me, “I just hit a new high on the gross out scale.”. He
had a customer who he’d never spoken with before rip the kind of burp
that tingles the base of your skull and repressurizes your ears with the
force of it while they were on the phone. She didn’t even acknowledge
it, much less apologize for her behavior. We’ve trained ourselves that
people who answer the phone have no rights, and we can’t ask you to
treat us with respect, much less like we’re human. We’re taught that
the first person you speak with on a call to a toll free number is just
there to keep you from getting to talk with someone who really knows
what they’re doing. So, if you’re rude long enough, you’ll get to the
people with the real power.
that’s the way you wanna play things, great. Just hope that’s the only
time you have to put a call in to that company. I say that because,
well, we talk. Alot. Whether it’s a kindly heads up that goes out in
an email to the entire group, an idle bitchfest between calls, or
watching a fellow CSR do some pretty intensive IT Yoga at their desk, we
know who the PITAs are. Sure, we can’t overtly fuck with someone.
But, we have little wrenches that hold up the works pretty well when
tossed with precision. Call back asking for a status update 20 minutes
after your original call? Sure, I’ll get it to the guy with the ticket.
Just let me take my lunch break before I update your request. Agree
that you’re asking for something that we aren’t able to assist you with
just to get me off the phone so you can call back and talk to someone
else? Ok, well, let me know how that works for you when everyone has
been advised of what you’ve been told and to also deny your sneaky
attempt to circumvent one of us. Most of us are just going to laugh at
the sack it takes to do that sort of thing.
think though, one of the shining examples of how to burn a bridge with a
call center forever came from the story of Twerp. Twerp is obviously
not his real name, but it’s about the kindest noun I can think of for
this guy. He’d ordered a replacement cell phone for his personal use
and rather than having it shipped to his home address, he had it shipped
to work. Well, when our receiving dock signed for the package, they
saw that it was from the cellular provider that we did all of our
business with. They were under orders to deliver any and all orders
from them to the IT department. So, it ended up at our call center
since we were a point of contact in the same building. It was then on
us to inform the voice team that they had a delivery and someone would
get them the package. This had worked flawlessly countless other times.
However, this time, the package got lost in the shuffle. We had
records that it had been signed for and delivered to us, but that’s
where it went missing.
to say, this really angered the guy who had ordered the phone. He
started with phone calls. He would call in an verbally assault the
person who’d answer. He wanted to know what we were going to do about
losing his phone, and why the hell we had it in the first place. Anyone
who knows anything about working first contact phone work knows that
we’re the first to get blamed and the last to know anything. We didn’t
have an answer for him. His idea was that we had lost it since we were
the voices for the department. Never mind that we hadn’t been the ones
to take it to the other area where the voice team worked. We’d only
made it known that there was something ready to be delivered over there.
Oh, and did I mention that the person who’d signed for the delivery
was out that day? In Twerp’s mind, that was a sure sign of guilt.
calls to us didn’t cause a new phone to magically materialize for him,
he began harassing our boss by phone. And then when that didn’t get
results fast enough, he started calling the director. Over the course
of two days, I think he made two dozen angry attempts to get someone to
“snap to”, treat him like some sort of superior being and get him his
heart’s desire. Eventually, he started to come down to our office and
stand at the front of the call center, berating the employees. He fired
accusations at us all the while we were supposed to be on calls. The
choice we had was to take one of us out of queue and pay attention to
him, or continue to ignore him to meet the needs of the customers
contacting us the correct way. Either way, his yelling and bad behavior
could be heard by everyone, even the people on the other end of the
phone. Eventually, the supervisor came out to calm things down. And
here’s where it gets interesting. As a man, I adored the sup. However,
this was the day that I think I lost all respect for him as an authority
than take this man who was about three sentences from foaming at the
mouth into another room where he couldn't make as much of a scene, he
stayed right where he was. And where he was located was right in front
of the entire call center, desktop tech, and customer facing managers in
the department, throwing an absolute tantrum. The words that came out
of Twerp’s mouth that day still ring in my ears, “I don’t know if you’re
incompetent, or just thieves, but one of you lost my damn phone!”. To
which the person I reported to directly looked at him and replied “Well,
maybe we are, but. . . “
that’s when I quit listening. The perfect storm of insults was roaring
on in front of me, and all I could do was pick my mouth up off the
ground. I just had a manager insult the integrity of his team right in
front of them in an effort to soothe an irrational beast. And that
beast is one that we can’t please without a new upgraded phone, and
probably a blowjob from one of our severed heads. I understand that
sometimes you have to apologize for someone else’s bad behavior. I do
it every day. What you don’t do is use that tactic to make your
underlings feel like they really are that dog shit on your new $500
shoes. And that’s exactly the message both of them sent that day.
thing is, there are people I would completely bend over backwards so
far that I could lick my ankles to help. And they’re not all the most technical
or the smartest. They’re the ones who treat me with respect.
also know who to talk to if you want to take a hot knife to all the
lard of corporate doublespeak. If you want to know the real dirt, talk
to the maintenance guys. If you've ever doubted that the walls have
ears, then you’ve not worked in a large company before. They do. And
often those ears are attached to people with their name on their shirt.
I know growing up, I heard a comedian talk about how if that was how
you described your job, congrats, you failed at life. Then again, if you've ever watched a spy genre show, you know that the best intel can
be gained by wearing a uniform and looking like you know what you’re
doing. Wanna know if you’re being outsourced? Talk to the guy with the
drill. Wanna know the real reason so and so got fired? Talk to the
guy running cable through the ceiling. Do you just have to know if
those two you suspect of boinking in the unisex bathroom really are?
Hunt down the kid with the spare mouse and instructions to replace one
that works perfectly fine but just “clicks weird”. If someone didn't tell them directly, they overheard it two cube rows down while they were
doing their invisible job.
can badmouth those of us who work the unseen jobs, or the ones that are
less than savory to you. You can’t deny that you need us. We serve a
real purpose, even if you think it’s lowly and simple. Once you've gotten past the idea that a person’s worth is based on what they do to
pay the bills, you might learn a few things. Get to know us. Say
hello. Realize we’re humans with friends and family just like you.
Understand that “If you prick us
do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do
we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”. Forget about a
job as a measure of judgement or worth. Hell, take into account that,
in the days of Obamaphones and handouts to anyone with a sob story, we
are working. All I think any of us asks for is respect. Meet us in the
middle and we can both do the jobs we’re supposed to and nobody leaves
at the end of the day with bile in the back of their throats. In the
end, we all win.