Monday, December 19, 2011

Answer that phone

This blog post is generously sponsored by Global Response, an outsourced call center providing jobs in Florida and Michigan.   

I listened to my husband spend 20 minutes on the phone with our cellular phone's customer service representative.   His phone wasn't working at it was a stand off with cell phone service and the phone manufacturer.  His conversation, wrought with tension, transported me back my days doing that exact work. I wondered how the person on the other end of the phone was doing.  

As it turned out, my husband's phone problem was created by GMail.  Neither the cell phone service nor the device manufacturer were responsible yet they were the front line of help. Oy.  

In the not-to-distant past, we were in a cellular phone store talking to the sales representatives.  One of our questions he couldn't answer;  instead he referred us to their 800 number, saying that they had better training and resources and would be able to help us.  He was right.  They did know.  And did help us. It was impressive.  

Years ago, I worked in a software call center.  We took phone calls for updates and upgrades for software; back in the old days -the years when software was delivered on disks - years when we couldn't download updates, the modem speeds weren't fast enough.  My job's learning curve was astronomical.  I had to learn every software program and the corresponding updates;  I had to learn what people would have to pay for, how much leeway I had with complaints, and where to send those callers who would never be happy.  Just when I had it figured out, the company(s) changed their updates.  We would have to shift gears immediately, incorporating changes in real time.  It never helped thinking that one of our client companies might call and check on us.  

On that side of the phone, people could be so incredibly rude and unrealistic.  I would think about the fact that we were supplying software updates - how unhappy could people be about the time the postal service took to deliver it?  Well, quite.   There were things I could change and things I couldn’t.  You know where that fell.  

Staffing was an issue too.  It took time to train, to learn the products, to get the hang of the computer system, to get the flow down.  While we could learn while observing, reading, and watching, at some point, we learned best by jumping in with two feet.  That my friends, was terrifying.   Drinking from a fire hose.  But I caught on and got pretty good at it.  

Earlier this year, I had to call my computer manufacturer to start the process of fixing my brand new, yet horribly broken machine. Knowing that the guy on the other end of the phone spends his day listening to people complain, I let him know my problem and asked him what he needed for us to go forward.  We had a delightful time on the phone as he worked through all the diagnostics.  He was helpful, professional, fantastic.  The very next day, I had a new hard drive. Along with a person to install it.

And yes, I have experienced those less-than-stellar exchanges - rude representatives, untrained, indifferent, many who have checked out.  But as the demand for immediate assistance along with on the fly resolution increases, so will the need for sharp, efficient, and knowledgeable staff to help us with whatever it is on our end.  

After my call center experience, I often thought that everyone should take a shift answering phones.  While it is easy to dismiss the individual on the other end of the phone, don't.  She (or he) can often be the best source of assistance, with access to tremendous resources in information and latitude in decision-making.  Ask for help.  You may be surprised just how much help you will get.

To learn more about Global Response, visit their website

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