Posts Tagged ‘Call Centers’
During my life I’ve worn several hats to earn a salary; sometimes there was no salary at all. My wife had to take care of me. Life is like the sea, it has its high tides and its low tides.
After being a Financial Director for the Panama Bureau of Tourism (Instituto Panameño de Turismo), I lost my job because there was a changing of the guard. The PRD (Partido Revolucionario Democrático) won the elections in 1994 and the new General Director wanted to have his own team and needed my place. I knew that was going to happen, as soon as the election results were known. So I submitted my resignation, and that was that.
Finding a new job was most difficult because of my age. I was 48. In order to keep the ball rolling, my wife had to enter the job market. She was hired as a waiter in a small restaurant and became the bread provider of our home. I stayed home and became the house keeper the best I could—I lacked the skills to cook and all that stuff. I had to learn how to mop, sweep, wash clothes, wash the dishes and occasionally cook very basic food—like boiled eggs. (Omar smiles.)
After a drought of ten years, I found a job as a CSP (Customer Service Provider) for a company called SITEL. It was, and still is, the largest call center in the country. The pay was scant, but nevertheless it was a stable job with paid vacations, Social Security benefits, XIII Month and regular paychecks every two weeks. In Spanish it’s called The Quincena-–the most anxiously awaited day of the month. Payday was a sweet word for us.
My job at SITEL was to give customer service to customers of a U.S. company called XM Radio. They marketed satellite radios and were very popular in 2007. XM Radio later merged with Sirius Satellite Radio and became the largest satellite radio provider in the United States.
It was a stressing job. Everything I said was in a script and I couldn’t stray from the structured job description. If I did not follow the script to the word, my supervisor would deduct points from my performance and place them in a large sheet of paper pasted on a wall for everyone to see. I was embarrassed to see my name printed there beside a mediocre performance.
Sometimes customers would ask where I was from, due to my deep Spanish accent. They usually thought I was from India. Frequently they would not want to talk to me. They would say, “Sir, I don’t want to talk to you. I’m not giving my Social Security Number to a corrupt Indian guy. Switch me over to an American operator. I want to talk to an American.” I tried to persuade them that I could help him or her (it was part of my job to do so), but they insisted or hanged up the phone. I remember crying at the end of the shift. It was so humiliating, but we needed the money.
I hanged in there until July 3, 2008 when I finally retired after filling in my application with the Panama Social Security. Since I had very good salaries in the past, my pension was generous. For a change, I didn’t have to memorize a script and nobody could fire me anymore, as long as I lived. Our problems to buy food were over. It was Nirvana. I couldn’t believe it for several months. The quincenas were paid regularly and we went happily soon after to buy our food at El Machetazo, the nearest supermarket to our house. With all the time in the world, I became an amateur photographer and a neophyte blogger and here I am writing to you guys now.
Below is a picture of an award I received for being one of the best customer service agents in the second quarter of 2007. At least management didn’t consider my English accent awful and my overall job performance was up to par. When I got the award, I felt like a million bucks. I felt useful for a change. The simple plastic award is sitting on my computer desk as a reminder of the most embarrassing job I ever had in my entire professional career. The good thing though, is that it kept us going for several years. In every difficult situation, there is always a bright side. Not everything is black and gloomy. Good Day.
The transition from active work to retirement is a blessing in more ways than one. When I was working, I was not me. I was a puppet activated by my employer. They determined the clothes I was going to wear, the kind of food I would eat at the company’s cafeteria, the way I should speak to my customers, at what time I got to work and at what time I was allowed to return home. Every single detail of my life was scheduled by my boss. I was a puppet dancing at the rhythm of my company’s tune.
My family was always placed on the back burner. It played second place behind the requirements of my company. My wife’s anniversary had to wait if there was a strategic planning project to be sent early next morning to company’s headquarters.
Yep, they were the ones pulling the strings, and I moved as the strings were pulled. It was not my own personal life. I was a zombie always following company’s work regulations. All my job description was legally spelled out in black and white including the most insignificant detail. They made sure every i was dotted and every t was crossed, if you know what I mean. I couldn’t even plan my vacations; it was carefully arranged by the Human Resources Department several years in advance. Couldn’t get the whole 30 days, no way—only 15 days due to work projects in the pipeline.
After working for over a year at a call center assisting U.S. customers using sophisticated satellite radios—XM Radio—, I finally retired two years ago. It was like traveling to Shangri-la. Now I can do whatever I want whenever I feel like it. I finally regained full control of my life. My wife is also retired, so both of us are free at last. Our chains have been removed and for the first time, I have no bosses.
It’s difficult to put in nickels and dimes words the bliss of being retired; to belong to the fortunate community of retired people. No wonder they call it the Golden Years. I’m now enjoying the pleasures of reading my news on the Internet, blogging at Lingua Franca, ordering my favorites books through Amazon.com and leisurely driving through the city with my wife.
Recently we decided to go to El Dorado Mall with my wife’s walking partner Julia, and enjoy a warm empanada de pollo and a steaming cup of cappuccino coffee. It was ten o’clock in the morning. When I was working, this was the middle of my work shift. Look at me now, enjoying a cappuccino coffee at El Dorado with my Honey and her friend. Yep, that’s taking advantage of our Golden Years.
Below are a couple of pictures of my wife Aura and her walking partner Julia. Here we go.
Behind Julia and Aura is a beautiful Bonsai tree. That will be tomorrow’s story. Oh, before I forget, I no longer wear a watch. I don’t need it any more. My wrist watch was part of the links of my heavy chain which kept me incarcerated to my job. It’s so nice to be retired! Good Day.
Below are three calls to different computer Tech Support call centers from around the world. As you can see, these customers were not too bright and probably don’t deserve to own a computer.
Having worked for two call centers in Panama, I know first hand how difficult some customers can be and the extra effort it takes to get the job done. These calls reminded me of some of my calls.
Call No. 1 (Samsung Electronics):
Caller: “Can you please give me the telephone number for Jack?”
Operator: “I’m sorry sir, but I don’t understand who you are talking about.”
Caller: “On Page #1, Section 5 of the User Guide, it clearly states that I need to unplug the fax machine from the AC wall socket and telephone Jack before cleaning. Now, can you please give me the telephone number for Jack?”
Operator: “I think you mean the telephone point on the wall and not Jack’s phone number.”
Call No. 2:
Caller: “I deleted a file from my PC last week and I have just realized that I need it. If I turn my system clock back two weeks, will I have my file back again?”
Call No. 3:
Tech Support: “I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop”.
Tech Support: “Did you get a pop-up menu?”
Caller: “No sir.”
Tech Support: “O.K. Right-click again. Do you see a pop-up menu?”
Caller: “No sir.”
Tech Support: “O.K. sir, can you please tell me what you have done up to this point?”
Caller: “Yes sir. You told me to write ‘click’ and I wrote ‘click’ as you said.”
Yep, these clients are so bright they just don’t deserve to own a computer. What da ya think?
Navigating through these complex mazes and reaching a live human being in a call center in some far-off land, is often the hardest part of the journey toward customer satisfaction. I know this situation very well because I used to work for a Call Center in Panama.
Many times I was approached by very irate customers asking, “Are you a machine or a human being?” They were sick and tired of going round and round in a never ending loop solving absolutely nothing. They desperately wanted to talk to a human being and get their problems solved.
If you are having a hard time with IVRs (Interactive Voice Response) in the United States and want to find a way to avoid these irrational technological labyrinths, I have good news for you.
The Gethuman 500 Movement has been created from the voices of millions of consumers who want to be treated with dignity when they contact a company for customer support. From its inception, the “gethuman movement” has been an all-volunteer effort to improve the lamentable state of present day telephone customer service. These persons decided to organize a Web site specifically to solve customer service problems.
This web site includes the necessary steps to bypass the automated system and direct your call to a live customer service operator of numerous U.S. corporations from different economic sectors.
The Gethuman 500 Database includes U.S. companies classified in the following categories:
I’m sure this information will avoid you many headaches in the future. High quality customer service is the name of the game. Do you agree?