Call Center Employee (Retail)

Call Center Employee (Retail)

Call Center Junkie

7 Years Experience

St Joseph, MO

Male, 27

I have been working in the Call Center retail Industry in the Sales and Customer Service aspect for 7 years. In the retail part, i have handled everything from tv and internet service through cell phones and beyond. I enjoy what I do because I get to talk to new people every day from all over the country and the world. Ask me anything, while i'll never claim to have seen and done it all, I have enough experience that I can usually figure it out if I don't already know it.

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Last Answer on April 13, 2015

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What's the meanest thing someone's said to you on the phone? Has anyone every threatened to hurt you? Not that that would be possible if they didn't know who you were i guess...

Asked by LeFort over 4 years ago

I have gotten told i was going to get fired more times then i can count by customers. It has never happened. Agents are more likely to get fired for HR policy violations like sexual harassment then a customer complaint (obviously that's not a common issue either)

People say stupid stuff when they are angry. I have been called a towel headed sand n**** (thats the N word) a terrorist, a theif, and several other names. The only thing they do is make me laugh. I will say one angry guy that was unhappy I wouldn't reduce the cost of his bill without removing services (cell phone company) so he called me (for those that get offended, i'm simply telling a story, I was offended too) I was called a cock gobbling ass dragon. I laughed at the guy and, within the policy of my company, ended the call. He heard me laughing at him and when the call was reviewed (he filed a complaint) my supervisor gave my a $10 Starbucks card for not going off on the guy and remaining as professional as possible. The customer was told to either pay his bill or switch by the supervisor when he called them back to ask if i'd been fired yet.

I have no pity on those people. They have deeper issues and I don't take it to heart. Most newbies have a bleeding heart. They want to give every person every thing they can. Training is about refining that to the people that actually need to be helped and then learning on the job refines the definition of who actually needs help and how to best do that.

We all have thick skins. You have to in this industry. If you don't and you take every situation and problem personal, you can't last in this industry or customer service as a whole.

Does it suck sometimes? yeah. Dealing with a crying wife/mother because she is canceling the service of her son/husband who was a soldier and died in Iraq or Afghanistan, those calls hurt. I have had to step away and cry a bit because of it. But as a whole, we have to just shut up and deal just as much as the customers do because i'm going to talk to another 100 people after that person, and they aren't going to be in a good mood either.

So every night, i go home, kiss my son, kiss my wife, watch some big bang theory to bring some more light in my life, and get up and do it again the next day to face a new set of people that are mad, not at me, but the situation they are in. Like i said in a previous question- customer service 101- see it from their point of view. but don't get too attached, because it makes the job you get usually horrible pay for that much worse. No need to over do it!



If a customer service representative screws up in something she tells me (like gives me a wrong price for a service for example), is the company bound to honor that, even if the rep just made a mistake?

Asked by Edok0 over 4 years ago

I'm surprised it took someone this long to ask this!

The short answer is no. Humans make errors. a company can't be held liable because sales rep you talked to knew he was about to get fired so he told the last 5 customers he talked to you could get free cable for 6 months. They are honor bound to do SOMETHING, but are not required to do anything other then say it wasn't a valid offer and they can't do anything.

The only time it gets to where the company has to do something is if its advertised. Then they need to investigate it. If the ad was printed wrong or something, a simple retraction letter covers them on it. Now if you were promised a valid promotion and that wasn't given (89.99 a month for a year for your cable bundle) the company is bound to correct that within a reasonable amount of time as long as its caught within a reasonable amount of time. For example... if it takes you 6 months to realize you didn't get the promotion, don't expect to get credit for the difference for the last 6 months or whatever it would have been. rule of thumb is 90 days. As far as i know that's a policy of the FTC has. Now some companies ( i have done this myself) will start the promotion as of the date you catch it and let it go for the advertised time.

Now if a company has its reps telling customers one things and they are doing another, that's a whole other issue where the FTC and BBB need to be contacted as that's false advertising and fraud. But one off issues, the laws usually favor the company because of the possibility of human and computer error.

I will say though, all calls are recorded and MOST companies have to note the calls. These are both able to be used in legal proceedings.

Do more call center reps work for several companies at once, like they have to be trained for any of them, and then their phone displays which company a caller is calling about?

Asked by rich over 4 years ago

I have only seen 1 company that does this but i know more exist. They use software that routes the call to the agent and shows them the number the customer called. These are usually pretty horrible centers. They are revolving doors for people just looking for a paycheck. The third party company that operates the center cares about the bottom dollar, not the rep. Those of us with more experience that have come across these companies avoid them like the plague unless its absolutely necessary. Ill work fast food again before i go to a company like that. The companies that use them usually have very little concern for the customer experience either.

Now its not uncommon for companies to use third party companies to supplement the call support. But, the ones that do better will dedicate reps to different accounts. For example, 50 people are dedicated the cell phone company A, they only take those calls daily and its like they work for that company they take calls for they just get a paycheck from the 3rd party company. This is done by companies to Outsource and save money but still keep the jobs in the US so they don't take the PR hit and its easier for them to control what the outsourced reps do.

What education do you need to work in a call center? I have a GED, and I think I'd be good in customer service but would I be competing for jobs with college graduates?

Asked by Maebella over 4 years ago

It depends on the company to be honest. I only have a diploma and I have been in entry level management at a previous company so you have a shot! The best thing you can do is to look at the job requirements and see what they look for.

I would however caution you to make sure you look up information on the company you are looking at applying to. Make sure they have a good reputation and that they have things in place like Vacation time, benefits, and other things like that. The work I do changes every day and stress management is a huge part of being able to get out of bed every morning so make sure the employer has things in place that can help you with that.

It's not uncommon to have call centers that are "revolving doors" as most are due to attendance. But If the reason people aren't coming in is stress, you may need to evaluate your stress processing abilities. If you can find anyone who has worked at that place currently or previously, get some time to pick their brain about a day in the life of an agent in the area you are looking at applying for.

There is a whole lot more to what we do then taking calls. The average call center agent is monitoring their performance in several areas simultaneously so it can be overwhelming for some while others, like myself, it doesn't phase. The better you are at multitasking, the more potential you have as a call center rep.

As far as competing against college graduates, again it's going to depend on the company and the abilities the position requires. I can tell you, having been in the supervisor role, I sometimes prefer the newbie with no college degree and experience because i can train them right from the beginning and avoid certain bad habits that some call center employees can develop. On the flip side of that, certain positions, i want an individual who knows certain things only a degree education would provide.

Talk to the HR rep of the company and look at the job requirements for the position. Research is your friend in this industry.

Do you have a go-to script or strategy for getting an angry caller to calm down?

Asked by bigbadwolf over 4 years ago

I use a few different strategies when dealing with angry callers. I actually enjoy them. I like making people have a better day so if I can diffuse an angry person and make them like me, I see that as a win.

Customer service 101 you learn to look at it from the customers perspective. That's why I liked doing retention work for the cable company because that's all i did. So i always try to see it from their point of view. Using that tool resolves a majority of issues.

Unreasonable individuals are a whole other animal and are unfortunately the more common angry customer. I have to remind myself that not everyone is going to leave my phone happy because of something out of my control or their lack of acceptance to the situation. First, i always try to use reason. That works about 10% of the time on a good day. Since it's rarely effective i will double back to trying to see it from their POV. As this is difficult, at this point, i usually have to put my foot down and take control. Once I have assessed the actual issue and confirmed this from the customer, I resolve it, or if its not something that i can resolved (technical difficulties, IT is working on it, something like that) I have to do my best to tell them to get over it and be patient.

The most effective call center agents can tell you to shut up, get over it, and pay your bill anyways, and they will make you feel like it was the best experience you have ever had. because we don't have body language to use as a tool of communication, our tone is 80% of what we do. What we say is the other 20%. You will find most people that have an extensive call center based resume can usually do this without thinking. That's what makes us good at what we do. We have to be able to relate and mirror all different types of culture and mannerisms so we learn how to deal with almost any type of person.

But when all else fails and a customer is still being angry and unreasonable, i have to very simply and professionally shut them down. "other then the issue that you called in about which i have explained, is there ANYTHING ELSE i can help you with." I hate hate hate having a call get to that point. But when it is, I'm done, the customer is done, and we need to both be adults and part ways.

Are most call centers still big bullpens with hundreds of phone reps or is it moving to a system where you can work mostly from home?

Asked by shot22 over 4 years ago

Some companies have a very virtual system. This allows the flexibility of working from home or telecommuting during bad weather situations. However, because of the liability issues and the bigger risk involved in that situation, most companies do not allow it. Several do but require stellar stats for a year or two before you can transition to a work from home capacity.

How does your performance get evaluated? Do supervisors listen to your calls and what if they happen to choose a really crappy set of calls to evaluate?

Asked by Ertro3x about 4 years ago

Most companies are going to monitor several metrics. Handle time, speed to answer the call, accuracy of information given, sticking to the quality expectations the company has as well as schedule adhearance. Schedule adhearance is important in the industry because that means the agent is on the phone when they are supposed to be. Things that would have a negative impact on schedule adhearance are things like getting stuck on a call so you are going to break late or going to the bathroom when its not a scheduled break time, that sort of thing. basically anything that goes off the set schedule you are under, hurts you. 

For the call center industry, time is money. There are people that run constant analytics and forecasting for any sector that is customer facing. They use forecasting models to predict call volume so that the company can make sure they are adequately staffed. If someone gets stuck on a call and goes to break say 5 minutes late, that five minutes late they come back (break still needs to be taken obviously) then that can have a negative impact on the numbers the business is graded on like abandon rate (customer hangs up before they get to an agent because of the long wait time) and overall customer service ratings (if it takes forever to call in, you aren't going to be very happy with their customer service. right?) So the goal is to stick as closely to your schedule as possible to keep the number crunchers happy. 

Now obviously an agent isn't tied to a desk and refused bathroom breaks so if ya gotta go, go, just hurry. But they encourage time management so that you are at your desk, on the phone when they need you more. Most companies have a goal of around 90-95% minimum but want as close to 100% as possible. As 100% is almost impossible, they do give a little bit of breathing room to account for real life, but use the facilities and get a drink on break because when you aren't on break, you need to have your headset on, talking to whoever is calling in. Handle time is important because if everyone is hitting handle time goals, then forecasting is a breeze and customers have a better experience when they call in which helps create more revenue (happy customer buys happily) and stuff like that.

The industry as a whole is more or less a numbers game. Once you learn the numbers and what they mean, you have to figure out how to hit it and do it. That's what your paycheck is going to reflect.

Yes supervisors listen to calls. This is how the agents get better at their job. Typically the supervisor will go over any calls that have been monitored and scored by the QA (quality assurance) department (which are supposed to be randomly selected) and go from there. When i was a supervisor, and I have seen in my experience this isn't an uncommon practice, I would also randomly find calls and listen to see what I can find personally that QA might miss to help my agents better develop professionally. 

It does occasionally happen where an agent has a bad set of calls. We all have bad days. As long as nothing is considered "gross misconduct" like hanging up on a customer to avoid dealing with the call or speaking inappropriately to a customer (negative things about the company or product, swearing, or anything generally offensive) then its simply a matter of showing the agent the mistake and helping them learn from it. I have never fired an agent because of a bad day as long as the customers weren't treated poorly. Missing a few things on a QA evaluation or unintentionally giving incorrect information are all things that are easily fixable regardless of the situation. As long as the customer isn't mistreated (for examples of mistreatment, see comcast LOL) then we have the ability to fix the issue as long as the agent responds to feedback and actually puts into place the instructions the supervisor gives, then we have no issue. If it becomes habitual and the agent isnt improving, then we need to look at evaluating if the position is the right one for that person. But that takes months in most cases so the agent knows what is coming.