CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL

The Team Rescues a Teammate

“I’d Give Anything for a Do-Over.”

By: Gordon Lawrence

It’s break time at the Call Center and the team heads to the cafeteria.

Sally opens her insulated lunch box and places fruit, cheese, carrots and a small piece of french bread on her plastic plate.

When she comes back from filling her water bottle, Sally finds Justin, Robert and Patricia at the table.  

I pull up a chair and Sally looks up, scans the faces and asks, “So who called this meeting?”

Everyone looks at me as I smile and say, “Sally, it was me.  You don’t seem yourself lately – you’re too quiet.”

Patricia smiles and adds, “And so we’re here to help.”

Sally growled, “So you’re here to help.  All of you are here to help. I don’t need help. Why are you doing this?”

I pull my chair closer to the table, “Sally, we’re here because we’re your friends.  We will always be your friends.”

Patricia jumps in “Sally, we love working with you.  You make us laugh, you’re a great teammate and you have helped every one of us. Now we’re going to help you.”

Robert smiles, “Mama, please talk to us.”

Sally snaps at Robert, “I’m not your mama.”

Robert smiles and replies, “You’re not my mother but I’d be proud if you were. Please talk to us.”

Sally looks at Robert, at Patricia, at Justin, and at me.

“I’m so depressed.  I can’t deal with the thought of doing this job forever.  I could have been a teacher. I could have been a nurse. This was just something to make money to go to college.  But I didn’t push. I was not ambitious. I had goals but never took action.”

I jumped in, “Sally, you are not doing this job forever. It’s just one day at a time.  Just worry about today. And tomorrow, we’ll worry about tomorrow.”

Sally looked at me, “Gordon, is that the best you have.”  

I smiled, Patricia smiled, Robert smiled, Justin started laughing and then we were all laughing – loud and long. Sally was laughing the loudest.

After a minute, Justin spoke up, “Sally, I think you want to tell us something.”

Sally smiled,  “Justin you are so young and yet you are the smartest of all of us.”

“Yes, I do want to say something. It will mean the world to me, so listen closely.”

“I’m too old to change. I’m a Call Center lifer because of the decisions I made.”

“I dreamed of being a teacher or a nurse. I wanted to make a good living helping others and live in a home that I own. And I could have. I had the skill. I had the brains. But I didn’t have the drive. I dropped out of college. My dream slowly slipped away.   A year in this godforsaken place has turned into a lifetime. I settled. And here I am.”

Sally looked around the table, “It’s my fault. It’s my goddamn fault. So in the last few months it hit me that this is it.  I’m a call center rep for life. And I hate it. I hate my live. I would give anything for a do over.”

Justin spoke up.  “Sally, you’re right. This is it. So here we are. What are we going to do about it?  Depression is not an option. How can we help you make the best of this?”

Sally smiled, sadly, and said, “OK Justin. We need straight talk, not handholding and singing kumbaya.  And you’re right, as always. Depression, or worse – and I’ve thought of worse, is not an option.”

Sally continued, “I know that you are doing this to help me. I appreciate it.  And I do need the help; it’s wonderful that I’m not in this alone. Thank You. And there is one more thing you could do.  Actually it’s a must. You must do it.”

Robert was first to answer, “Sally, anything, just say it.”  We nodded.

Sally looked at us, person by person, right in the eye.  And then she spoke; “I want each of you to promise me that you will work your ass off to get the hell out of here.  And I will arrange the going away party.”

Sally continued; “Robert, you go first.”

Robert spoke up, “Sally, I promise you that I will work my ass off to get the hell out of here.”  Sally smiled, “Robert, I believe you and I’m going to push you until you put your resignation right on the desk of Larry Randall. Now cross your heart.” Robert nodded and crossed his heart.

Patricia followed and then Justin, who added, “Sally, I will finish college and my MBA, then join a Private Equity Company and take over this place” to which Sally answered, “From your lips to God’s ears.”

Sally turned to me – I looked her right in the eye and spoke from my heart,  “Sally, I promise you that I will work my ass off to get the hell out of here.”  And I crossed my heart. “Oh, and you will arrange my wonderful going away party.”  

Sally laughed, turned to everyone, and said, “Thank you. I feel so much better, so much stronger. I love you.”  

After discussing crazy callers, great callers, money problems and weekend plans, we started to pack up to return to the phones.  

Sally tuned to us, “Thank you. I could not get through this without you.”

Three minutes later, I heard the beep and said, “This is Gordon, how can I provide outstanding service to you today.” Sally looked over and smiled.  

We truly are all in this together.   

…….Thanks for Reading – You Are Invited to Visit GordonLawrence.com for more stories > http://bit.ly/1Va70Yg

__________________________________________

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Meet Sally…The Rep with the New Mercedes GLS550 SUV (and Kids in Private School)

Meet Sally  

by: Gordon Lawrence

The Call Center Rep with:

  • A Son in an Exclusive Boarding School
  • A New Mercedes GLS 550 SUV
  • Ownership of a Pilates Studio
  • A Highly Successful Lawyer Husband
  • An Upcoming Vacation to Europe.

 

Monday, 2:15 PM

The call center team trudges into the breakroom.

It is the 2:15 break and everyone takes their regular place.

Robert grabs a coke and sends a text to his daughter at school.

Juanita takes a corner chair and reviews her english lit textbook.

Don logs onto Indeed.com, using encryption software.

Justin signs onto Snapchat.

Rasheed gets water, puts on his headphones and cues up Kendrick Lamar.

Sally sits down at a table with Patricia, LaShun and I.

Sally looks out the window, closes her eyes and thinks of her upcoming tasks:

  • Enroll Adam, her fourteen year old, in the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa.
  • Take the Mercedes E-400 to the dealer for a 1,000 mile checkup
  • Start work on the greenhouse expansion – meet with the architect.
  • Schedule a two-week vacation to Europe with her husband, Christopher.
  • Make arrangements for the vacation – meet with a travel planner.
  • Coordinate with Christopher’s AA for visits with European clients.
  • Schedule visits with friends in Paris and Rome.
  • Meet with “A Catered Affair” re: Christopher’s working dinner meeting for twelve.
  • Meet with the painter to plan for the house exterior.
  • Schedule lunch with her daughter, Alye, to discuss the upcoming school year.
  • Schedule an in-person meeting with the principal of Alye’s school.
  • Prep for a board meeting of the Robertsville Country Club.
  • Meet “Perfect Pilates” (owned by Sally) manager Kelly Harlowe,  re: New Promo.

Sally smiles and sales to herself:  ‘I love my life.  I love being so busy.  I love how hard I work and how it brings such good things to my family.  My life is my family, but also, I’ve built a successful business and I plan to expand.  Christopher said my budget is unlimited and he hopes that I exceed it.  I love my husband and I’m so happy that I spend my life him.”

Sally thinks back to the day she met Christopher and continues her conversation with herself:   “Christopher was leading a study group at Tisch Library at our college, Tufts, and I happened to be walking by and our eyes met.  That was it.  My wonderful life was set.”

Suddenly Sally’s stream of glorious thoughts was rudely interrupted.

“Sally, Sally, time to wake up, LaShun called, loudly, in Sally’s ear. Girl, you have been on some kind of dream trip.  Come on, break time is over, we need to get back to work.”

Sally, snapping back to alertness,  took one more look out the window.  In the distance, the far distance, she could see a mansion on a hill.  Was that a greenhouse in the back?

LaShun pulled Sally by the arm and I grabbed the other.  Shun smiled at Sally,  “Girl, I’m taking your arm and pulling you back to your desk.  I am not going to let you be marked late.   And Girl, I saw on the report that you are five calls behind so you need to get your calling game on.”

Sally looked at LaShun, “Thanks Shun. I appreciate you. You too, Gordon.”

LaShun replied, “You are very welcome.  And I don’t know where you were in your sleep but you were smiling the whole time.”

Sally laughed, “Yes, it is a beautiful, beautiful place.”

LaShun laughed, “And I’m guessing that the call standards were less than here at our call center.”

Sally laughed again, “Shun, they sure were.”

LaShun and I steered Sally, walking arm in arm,  back to the department.

Sally sat down, plugged in her headphone, signed on, heard the beep and said, “This is Sally, how may I provide outstanding service to you?

Back to the real world.

…..Thanks for Reading Call Center Confidential

 

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RAISING CASH

by Gordon Lawrence
SALLY:
(Speaking to her daughter, Gwen)
“Hi honey. I got your text and now I’m on a break.  How are you?  How is Jamie?”
GWEN:
“Mom, Jamie fell and hit her head.  Very hard.  We’re in County General.  She has a brain
injury, they call it a traumatic brain injury, and she needs an operation.  She’s going to
need to be at home for two weeks and then at a rehabilitation center for 6 weeks.  And
the chances are high for her to later have seizures, or a stroke.”
SALLY:
Loud Voice
“Where did this happen?  Why did this happen?  Is she in pain?  I’m coming over, right now.”
GWEN:
“Mom, Jamie is not in pain, she’s knocked out.  And you can’t see her until after the operation, 
which will be in two days.  You can visit tomorrow.  But I have a problem.”
SALLY:
“Tell me”
GWEN:
They want money and payment arrangements before we start the operation.”
SALLY:
“Of course they do.  Bloodsuckers.  Does your insurance help?”
GWEN:
“Mom, I told you, I can’t afford $650 a month.  I don’t have insurance.”
SALLY:
“OK, What does the operation cost?”
GWEN:
“$72,500.  And that’s with a 30% discount.”
“To perform the operation, they have to have $20,000 up front and $1.000 a month for five years.”
SALLY:
“And what do they say when you tell them that you don’t have the money?”
GWEN:
“They say that nearly every patient gets help from their family.”
SALLY:
“OK.  I’m starting work now on the $20,000.”
GWEN:
“Mom, how can you get that kind of money?
SALLY:
“Don’t worry about that.  Stay with Jamie.  It will be fine.”
GWEN:  
“Mom, I’ve moved in here.  I have pajamas and clothes.  I’m not leaving.”
SALLY:
“God Bless You and Jamie. I’ll get back to you soon. Goodbye.  I love you.”
_______________________________________________________________
RECEPTIONIST:
“Ma’am, Mr. Stonecliff will see you.”
HOWARD STONECLIFF:
“Hello Sally, may I call you Sally?”
SALLY:
“Of course.”
STONECLIFF:
“You have met with my assistant and she explained the terms to you?”
SALLY:
“Yes”
STONECLIFF:
“Great. In that case, I’ll just summarize.”
“You are signing forms for life insurance.  At your death, the proceeds will
go to this office.  And in return, you will receive immediate payment”
“Any questions.”
SALLY:
“How do you know how long I’ll live?”
STONECLIFF:
“Sally, we don’t know.  However we gave you a quick health checkup and you
completed the questionnaire, so we’re confident that we know when you will die,
give or take twelve months on either side.”
“And clients always ask when that will be, and we always reply that we will not 
answer that question.”
SALLY:
“Actually I was going to ask you to go over the numbers again.”
STONECLIFF:
“Of course.  You will receive a check for $10,000.  Your policy is for $250,000.
We will make the monthly payments.  We will check in with you every three
months.
SALLY;
“To see if I’m still alive.”
STONECLIFF:
“I prefer to say that we will inquire about your health.”
“Also, this is a private matter, so we ask that you not disclose our arrangement
to anyone else.  And we will keep your copies of the contract here in our office
for safekeeping.”
SALLY:
“Mr. Stonecliff, you have thought of everything.  You’ve done a few of these
transactions before me?”
STONECLIFF:
“About 1,100.  And we truly believe that it is a fair transaction for both parties.”
“We have about 25 clients who have exceeded their projected end of life by
over 10 years.  I hope that you join them.”
SALLY:
“Thanks.  But there’s no chance of that.”
“If you will show me where to sign, I’ll take my check now.”
STONECLIFF:
“Very well.  The first signature is midway on page one.”
_________________________________________________________
 
DR. GABRIEL OLANKOFF:
“Sally, are you comfortable?
SALLY:
“Yes”
OLANKOFF:
“Great.  We will put you on a general anesthetic which will extend beyond the
operation, which will take about two hours.”
“You will not feel any pain.  The surgery is referred to as ‘keyhole surgery” and
is the least invasive and has the quickest recovery. My assistant, Monica, will attend
to your needs and will hold your hand until you go under the anesthetic.” 
“Any questions?”
SALLY:
“Doctor, how many of these operations have you completed.”
OLANKOFF:
“Perhaps fifty.  I’ve extremely confident that we will have a positive outcome.”
“And now we’ll get started.”
___________________________________________________________
 SALLY:
“Gwen, I’ve got the money.  If you will come to Westside Medical Center,
I can give you a check for $10,000 and a check for $15,500.”
GWEN:
“Mom.  Mom.  Mom. Mom. Mom. I can’t talk.  I’m crying.  How can I thank you?”
SALLY:
“Cry later.  Tell the hospital that you have the money. Schedule
the operation.  And you thank me every day by being a wonderful
mother to my granddaughter.  Get over here now.”
GWEN:
“I’m on my way.  God bless you.  I love you and Jamie loves you.”
SALLY:
“And God bless you.  I love you both.”
__________________________________________________
Thank You for Reading Call Center Confidential
Gordon Lawrence
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PLEASE WRITE YOUR FACEBOOK ID AND PASSWORD ON THE FORM

PLEASE WRITE YOUR FACEBOOK ID AND PASSWORD ON THE FORM

THIS IS REQUIRED FOR CONTINUED EMPLOYMENT.  THANK YOU.

by: Gordon Lawrence

 _____________________________________________________________

Larry Barnett, Call Center Manager, comfortably ensconced in his oversized desk chair, addressed his supervisor, Brenda Martin, uncomfortably seated in the undersized guest chair, “So here comes a new program from headquarters.”

Brenda looked up, “Let me guess; we’re going to reduce the desk size and squeeze in more bodies.”

Barnett laughed, “Hey, I like that. But no, this is about Facebook.  They want you to get each employees ID and password, check to make sure it’s accurate and then send it in to HQ.”

Brenda asked,  “What does their Facebook ID have to do with their work?  That’s their data entered in their house that has nothing to do with the job.  We should push back on this. What do the lawyers say.”

Barnett wanted no part of that battle.  Brenda, “Do you think legal hasn’t cleared this?”

He looked down at the printed document, switched into his speech making voice, sotto voce, and slowly read,   “You represent us at all times, in all places – you are the company – and we appreciate you. Our new Social Media program, which we call “Spread the Word” will enable us to provide you with wonderful messages to send to your Facebook friends. And to measure the results, we need your Facebook ID and password.  We will have our first message for you to send to all of your friends in two weeks. We are so excited with our “Spread the Word” program and know that we can count on your support.  Please write your Facebook ID and password on the card right now and give it to your supervisor. We value your contributions and never forget that it is you that makes us the great company that we are.”

Larry looked up at Brenda, laughed and said, “I’m reading from paragraph two of the memo that you will read to them in 15 minutes.  This meeting is ended. Thanks for your time.”

Brenda went back to her desk, accessed the system via her iPad and changed the call flow to schedule ½ of her team for a meeting.  She typed in a message that appeared real-time on the rep’s screen and announced into her microphone, which played in the headsets of the employees, that a meeting would start at either of two times.

Both meetings went exactly as Brenda expected.  Several complaints. Several alternate suggestions. Several questions.  And in the end, full compliance.

Brenda went back to her desk, signed into the “Spread the Word” system with the special id/pw provided in the memo, and typed in each employees Facebook ID and password.  Several errors were corrected, employees were summoned immediately and revised their id or pw.  In 2 hours the project was completed.  The company system now had the ability to send out Facebook messages in the name of the employees.

And Brenda knew that the initial “Spread the Word” messages, soft, cuddly with meaningful discounts or added benefits, would actually be well received by the Facebook friends of her team.  Facebook friends would actually thank employees for the great messages / offers.

And, she, Brenda the supervisor, would be required to cover specific postings by her team members in “teaching moments” to help them “better understand the company mission.” And some employees would be admonished, put on notice and fired.

As she signed out of the  “Spread the Word” corporate website, Brenda thought of Justin, the bright college student who responded in three words when asked by a coworker what he was going to do. “Moving to Snapchat.”

Thank you for joining us on Call Center Confidential. Please invite your friends and teammates. I welcome your comments. http://on.fb.me/1g0tHwa 

Gordon Lawrence

 

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CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL: Finding Work in 2013. The Final Interview. How Much Do You Want the Job?

by Gordon Lawrence

_____________________________________________________

Robert felt a tap on the shoulder as he left church following Sunday services. Fellow parishioner and acquaintance, Christobal Valdes, needed a minute of Robert’s time.

Chris came right to the point, “Robert, I’m looking for a job and I need your help.  I know that you are working at the call center and I’ll do whatever it takes to get hired. Would you help me?”

Robert took a deep breath and replied, “Chris, I don’t think call center work is for you. It’s hard, it’s stressful, it’s low pay and the hours are bad. You’ve always worked in sales and I suggest that you keep looking.”

Chris was desperate, “No! I need to work now. Robert, I would not ask you if I had a choice. I’m out of choices. I need your help. I know that you have job openings; please just get me an interview.  You know that I can do the job.  I’ll work for any amount and any hours. Help me, dammit!”

Robert thought to himself that if Chris was this determined on the job, he would hit every incentive bonus. “OK, I’ll help. Meet me at my house this Tuesday night at 7:00 and we’ll start the preparations.”

Robert put out his hand; Chris pushed it aside and wrapped him in a bear hug, and whispered, “Thanks.”

On Tuesday evening they spent four hours preparing for the simulation test and interview.  Robert played the interviewer and fired question after question; by 11:00 PM Chris had the technical skills to go along with his selling talent.

At the simulation testing, which consists of video taped role playing; Chris felt fully prepared and highly confident. His score was 3rd highest of the 25 applicants (remaining from the 375 original applicants.)

The one-on-one interview went even better; his enthusiasm, energy, confidence and sales experience pushed his overall score to #2.

The Final Interview

Twelve candidates were brought back for the final interview.  The group was told to enter a meeting room, together, and Brenda Martin, the supervisor, distributed pens, index cards and envelopes.

The manager, Larry Barnett, stood up and explained the final interview process. “Ladies and gentlemen, from over 375 applications, from 25 finalists, the twelve of you have made the final cut.  I congratulate you.”

Chris wondered what was going on.  Was everyone going to get hired?

Barnett continued, “Everyone here passed the background check. Your references checked out. Your credit is good and you passed every test we threw at you with flying colors.”

“I wish we could hire all of you. In time hopefully we will. Today, however, I can only hire six.”

Chris thought, “I’m in. I made it.”

How Much Do You Want This Job?

Barnett raised his hand to get everyone’s attention.   “So here’s how I’ll make my final hiring decision. Does everyone have a pen, index card and envelope?  Great”

“Please write on the index card your expected starting salary. Sign the card, place it in the envelope and leave the envelope on the table.  Then go to the the waiting area.”

Barnett’s voice got louder, “I will call out six names, representing the six lowest starting salaries. Those six will proceed to HR to complete the personnel forms, receive their schedule and meet with their supervisors.”

Chris could not believe what it had just heard.  The jobs would go to the lowest bidder?  This is unbelievable.

One of the applicants called out, “That’s not fair.  You have us bidding against each other. That’s not right.”

Barnett responded:  “This process is absolutely fair.  And it’s right because I say it’s right. Please complete your cards, if you want to be considered to work here.”

Chris was in shock. He quickly gathered himself and thought of his expenses: food, rent, utilities, truck payment, gas, cell phone – in that order.  Necessities only. No cable TV.  No vacations. No new clothes. No restaurant meals. No savings.  He could make it on $1,250.

$1,250, plus 15% taxes, divided by 160 hours per month is 8.99 per hour.  Chris picked up the pen and wrote $8.99, signed the card, put it in the envelope and left it on the table.

He joined the other competitors in the waiting room.  No one made eye contact; everyone looked down at their shoes. Chris thought, “Jesus, I can’t believe this shit. Bidding against each other.   Low bidder gets the job!”

After 500+ resumes, countless cold calls, personal contact with every person he knew, personal contact with every member of his church, hundreds of online job applications, twenty-four job fairs, three work-for-nothing tryouts, two volunteer jobs, visits to a dozen temp agencies, an application to every federal, state and local government agency – nothing.

So it’s come to this. Chris needs the job.  He desperately needs the job. He has to have the job.

Barnett entered the room, quickly noting that all 12 applicants were waiting, staring at him, making full eye contact.

Barnett looked up from his notes, slowly scanned the room and started calling out names.

Thank you for reading Call Center Confidential.  Please invite your friends,  family and co-workers.  I welcome your comments.  Next time:  “and be sure to write your facebook id and password on the application form.”

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CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL: No Way Out. Sally, 65 Years Old, Must Keep Working

No Money.  No Future. At 65 Years Old, Sally Must Keep Working at the Call Center
by: Gordon Lawrence
__________________________________________________________
It is 10:00 pm and the team logs out for the last break of the day.
Sally asks me to join her and we head off to the break room. Our team shuffles into our regular break routine. Don scrounges through his insulated lunch container and glances up at the TV, which is locked on CNN Headline news. Patricia, Juanita, Lashawn and Jake fire up their phones and check in at home.
Their voices rise and fall with the feedback from their family.
Demetrius is on his cell, angling for a date.
Khalid sits alone, staring out the window.

Shaquita is on the cell with her mom.

And Justin focuses on his poli sci assignment.

Sally gets started immediately – we only get 15 minutes.

“Gordon, I think I’m going to lose my job.  I just can’t keep up. My sales are terrible. My talk time is way over. And the boss wants to see me when we get back.”

Sally’s eyes fill up.   I jump in as she begins to sob.

“Sally, you don’t know what he wants. Maybe somebody wrote in to say that you helped them. It could be anything.”

Sally’s expression – fear and profound sadness – don’t change.

“No!  I can’t lose my job.  I need the money.  My credit card company raised my finance charge by almost $100 per month.  The interest rate is 30% because I couldn’t pay. The electricity bill is way up. My gas is way up. And I’ve been putting off getting the car fixed. I need clothes. I don’t eat right.  I can’t sleep.”

“Sally,” I try to help,  but she puts her hand up to stop me.

“Wait, here’s what I want to say.  I’ve been working on the phones for 25 years.
I have a lot of bills and no savings.  I’m 65 years old and struggling to do this job.
I thought I’d have a husband and a family and a nice house and days to myself.  Instead I’m alone, I’m in a small apartment, I work the 4 PM to 2 AM shift at a call center and I owe so much in bills I don’t see how I’ll ever get to stop working.”

And with that, Sally begins to sob, deeply and quietly.

“I just feel so alone. I know you could help me, at least with the money part.  Would you.”

“Of course, Sally, I’ll help.  Bring your credit card bills in tomorrow and we’ll get started.”

“I will.  I’m so afraid. I don’t have enough money. I just don’t see how I can keep working here forever.”

“Sally, don’t think of working here forever.  Just think of finishing tonight and then work on tomorrow.  One day at a time.”

Sally was feeling better.  I almost saw the start of a smile.

“And Gordon, you really will help me manage my money.”

“Yes.  Tomorrow at first break let’s talk about Social Security.  Maybe you could file and start getting a monthly check. And I’ll do my best to help you get a big tax refund this year.”

Sally began to feel better.  She made full eye contact and said “That would be great. Thanks.”

“You are very welcome.  And we had better get back, time is up.”

As it turned out, the manager asked Sally to switch days off in the coming month. No big deal.

The next day, I found a beautiful red, embroidered snowflake under my phone.  The hand-written note read, “Thank you. I sewed this for you. I’m not good at much, but I do sew well. Thank you. Your friend, Sally.”

…> Thank you for reading Call Center Confidential.  Please invite your friends,  family and co-workers.  I welcome your comments.  Next time:  Death by Cellphone.


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CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL: The Secret to Cross-Selling Success

By: Gordon Lawrence

It is called cross-selling, up-selling, add-on sales, “meeting the needs of the customer” or “providing convenient one-stop shopping.”

What it means to callers is, prepare for a sales pitch.

Representatives are required to ask for an add-on sale in 80% of our calls.

And the sales, on routine customer service calls, have turned call centers from loss leaders to profit centers.

Khalid just got out of a “sales opportunity meeting” with the sales trainer.

I met up with Khalid at break and he was not a happy camper.

“I hate to sell our shitty products. I would never buy credit insurance, it’s a ripoff. Credit Card Registration is a joke. Travel insurance is crap. The only thing we have that I would buy is a 0% loan, and even that has a 5% fee with no limit. So a $5000 balance transfer has a $250 fee! This is bullshit. So Gordon, how am I supposed to make the selling quota?”

“Well Khalid, what did the trainer say?” I reply.

“Just the regular crap; personalize the call, sell the benefits, ask for the sale and rebut twice,” he says, voice rising in anger.

“Hey Khalid. Easy does it.”

Khalid makes eye contact and then backs down a bit.

I try another approach. “Let me ask you this. Who around here is getting good sales? And what are they doing?”

“Majed gets good sales” Khalid replies.

Anticipating my question, Khalid continues, ” Majed sometimes rebuts 5, 6 or 7 times. He just doesn’t take no for an answer.”

Pausing momentarily and looking out the window, Khalid looks back at me and says, “If they want sales, they will get sales because I need this job.”

Going For The Sale

On his first call, a well-spoken Asian woman asked for her credit card to be activated.

Khalid checks his sales window, the recommended product is credit insurance, and swings into his C.I. sales pitch.

The woman replies, “No thanks” and Khalid moves to his first rebuttal, “Would you want your family to have to pay off your bill if you were injured and unable to pay.”

She declined the sale and Khalid moves to rebuttal number two. “The cost is very low and there is no cost at all if you have a zero balance.” She says “No thanks.” She has no interest in Credit Insurance.

Rebuttal three, “Our Credit Insurance coverage is free to try for 30 days” brought the same response, ‘No, I just want my credit card activated.”

After rebuttal five, and with no end in sight, the customer asked. “Do I have to buy the credit insurance to get my card activated?

Khalid carefully avoided the question. He explained, yet again, the benefits of Credit Insurance.

The caller said, “OK, give me the insurance. I’ll cancel it when I get the first bill.”

Khalid read the verbatim and got the needed “yes” three times.

Then Khalid asked the caller, “Would you repeat your original question.”

As soon as he disconnected, Khalid felt a tap on the shoulder, “Sign out and come to my office.” It was Larry Randall, the department manager, and Brenda Martin, the supervisor.

Khalid realized that his call had been monitored. He looked around for the guards, prepared for them to tear off his ID badge and push him toward the exit.

In Larry’s office, Brenda leaned toward Khalid, closer, closer, uncomfortably close, just inches away, and stared Khalid firmly in the eye. “I don’t know where you’ve been hiding it but that’s exactly the kind of aggressive sales call we’ve been waiting for you to make. Larry added: “That was truly a great call. You  presented the benefits and closed the sale – just like I taught you. Get back out there and keep up the good work.”

….Thank you for joining us at Call Center Confidential. I welcome your comments. Please invite your friends and coworkers to join us and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Next time: Call Center Confidential: No Way Out. Sally, 65 Years Old, Must Keep Working.

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CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL: I Get By with a Little Help From My Friends

Juanita’s Sick Daughter Spends the Day in the Break Room

by: Gordon Lawrence

Juanita has a problem. A very big problem. Her infant daughter, Isabella, is sick. Maybe it’s the flu. Maybe it’s something she ate.

But whatever it is, Juanita MUST get to work because she is “on notice” for attendance. One more absence will be the end of the job. And Juanita needs the check.

There have been car problems. Family problems. Child sickness problems. Many reasons for being sick or absent.

There’s no chance for Juanita’s mom to help; she has already left for her job. And Juanita knows better than to try to take Isabella to the child care center.

Juanita hates the thought of moving Isabella, asleep in her crib. “Baby, you’re coming to work with mamma today.”

Juanita makes a quick mental list: food, milk, blanket, clothes, diapers, toys, portable radio, big sign and small note.

Quickly gathering her lunch and the items on the list, Juanita picked up her daughter and drove to work.

The guard didn’t look up as Juanita tapped her badge to the security reader. Quickly, Juanita speed walked to the break room.

With no time to spare, she placed Isabella carefully between the sofa cushions on the couch and covered her with the regular blanket. Toys were strategically placed and the radio turned on to the familiar music station.

And with a kiss on the cheek, thank God, Isabella was asleep, Juanita placed the big sign by her daughter’s head, the large bag by her daughter’s feet, bottles in the refrigerator, and raced to her desk.

Juanita signed on to the call system with 7 seconds to spare. At the next desk, Rasheed caught her eye, “Whas up.”

Juanita passed him the note. It read, “This is Juanita and I need your help today. My daughter is in the break room. Please check on her when you go to break or lunch. Food, milk, diapers and toys are in the big bag.”

Rasheed read the note and passed it to Patricia. Patricia passed it to Shaquita, who passed it to Jake. In 25 minutes, it was returned to Juanita, after having been read by 32 co-workers.

At the first break, Sally read the sign, picked up Isabella and fed her apple sauce. Sally smiled, thinking of the grandkids she never had. Sally passed Isabella to Don, who laughed as he grabbed the clothes bag and moved to the sink, calling out, “Diaper changing time.”

Don handed Isabella to Maggie Simonkowski, a burly collector and, 15 minutes later, Maggie lovingly gave Isabella to Tamika. A mother of five, Tamika smiled at Isabella and asked, “Little girl, let’s see what we can find for you to eat.” Isabella returned the smile.

In fifteen minutes, the break room was empty. Tamika read the sign and said softly to Isabella, “Girl, it’s time for your nap after all this excitement”, and placed the infant between the pillows on the sofa and covered her with the blanket. Isabella quickly fell asleep.

At 11:45 Juanita took Isabella to lunch and through the afternoon the morning caregivers happily returned to care for Isabella.

Maggie, the burly collector, arrived at 3:15 to find a young co-worker holding Isabella. Maggie glared down and barked “Give her to me” and immediately was holding Isabella for another fifteen minutes.

Whatever illness Isabella suffered did not return through the end of the day. Each of the six times Juanita checked on her, Isabella was sleeping or happily smiling while in the arms of a co-worker.

At leaving time, Juanita raced for the break room and gathered her sign, bag, blanket, bottles and little girl. “Baby, it’s time to go home,” Juanita happily announced and Isabella reached for her mom.

A small group of reps gathered outside the break room door to say goodbye and Isabella acknowledged each person with a smile. Passing by the guards, who did not look up, Juanita tapped her security badge and left the building.

“Yes, I did it!” Juanita yelled after closing the car door.

As she turned the car onto the main road home, Juanita relaxed and sang along with the radio, “I get by with a little help from my friends, yes, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends, I get by with a little help from my friends, a little help from my great friends.”

And in the back seat, the large sign read, PLEASE TAKE CARE OF ISABELLA. LOVE HER AS YOUR OWN. JUANITA

…Thank you for visiting Call Center Confidential. Please invite your coworkers, family and friends to join us.

We welcome your comments and invite you to join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Next time: Cross Selling, Khalid Learns the Secret to Success

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CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL: October ICMI Conference in Dallas – Brenda Martin’s Surprising Reason to Attend

by: Gordon Lawrence  

“Larry, got a second?”  

Brenda Martin, Call Center Supervisor, dropped the nineteen page ICMI brochure on her manager’s desk.

Larry picked up the brochure, noted the October 11-13 dates and Dallas location and asked, “How much?”

Brenda deflected the question, “Lots of good sessions. Improving Productivity.  Improving QC. Improving Retention. Strategic Planning. New Technology.”

Larry Randall, Call Center Manager, grunted, “That’s a lot of improvement. Are the speakers from companies or are they consultants and salesmen.”

Brenda was ready, “Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Intuit, an Insurance Company, a number of companies.”

Larry pushed for a specific answer, “How many speakers.”

Brenda replied, “32.”

Larry leaned forward, “and how many consultants and salesmen.”

Brenda replied, “26.”  But there are also two site visits.   I’d like to see how two other good sites run their business.”

Larry was stuck on the consultants.  “Run some of the consultants by me.”

Brenda put the list on his desk and started reading,” Michael McMillan, Adrian Gostick, Brad Cleveland, Mary Cook, Tom Diaz, Dianne Durkin.”

Larry put up his hand, “I know several of them.  They’re good. So how much does it cost?”

Brenda gave him the price sheet, “$1,895. The hotel is $169 a night at the site.  And airfare, meals, transportation, all in – about $5,500.”

Larry pushed back, “That’s highway robbery.  We need a discount.  Call them up and negotiate a better price. $1,895 is highway robbery. Put those good negotiation skills of yours to work.” Larry turned to his PC monitor, indicating the meeting was over.

Brenda left the office, went around the corner and pulled out her iPhone.  She punched out a text message that read: Lookng 4ward 2 staying w-u on Sat 10-8 to Mon. In town for a conf on Tue 10-11. Mom, I can’t wait to cu. Bren.

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Thank you for visiting Call Center Confidential. Please invite your coworkers, family and friends.

We welcome your comments and invite you to join us on Facebook and Twitter.

……..Next time: I get by With a Little Help From My Friends

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CALL CENTER CONFIDENTIAL: Perp Walk: Ray Perry’s Last Minutes at the Call Center

by: Gordon Lawrence

At the Call Center, there is no privacy when it comes to individual worker productivity results.

Our statistics are posted for everyone to see.

There was a time when the report was sorted, best to worst. A horizontal line in the middle separated those making the grade from the “below the line” workers. The poor folks at the bottom usually were the subject of lunch room chatter.

The call center stats are now sorted alphabetically and most of us take a passing glance at our co-worker’s results.

The statistics are always on the bulletin board, updated daily.

And usually the stats are given to us individually with a note from the supervisor.

Usual notations include, “Need more sales,” “Get that AHT (average handle time) down” or “More rebuttals!”

And then there is the dreaded “See me.”

Veteran call center workers, the smart ones, have long stopped being concerned with the public posting of stats.

There is no need to see other people’s stats. They vary tremendously due to no fault of the person (a future column). And there are more important things in life than checking up on your coworkers results.

Which brings us to Ray Perry.

I met Ray in the break room when our team was off-schedule (usual break schedule changed due to a meeting explaining a new procedure) and I learned that Ray had moved from the country.

“I don’t want to work at home, I can’t get a job in town, so I moved to the big city.”

Being new to the call center, Ray was surprised by the availability of public statistics.

As he put it, “I’m new, so I can see why I’m near the bottom, but that doesn’t make it an easier.”

I explained to him that he will get better with experience, that we don’t examine the stats to see who is trailing, that much of the total is due to good luck, and that it it’s not a big deal.

“That’s easy for you to say,” he answered.

Ray was stressed out.

Security is tight at the call center.

As a senior manager once told me, “We want you to see a guard first thing when you come in the door and last thing when you go out the door.”

And the guards include several surly types who, we joked, ate raw meat for lunch and participated in mixed martial arts competition.

When the call center management announced a sales bonus event, Ray Perry made a very bad decision.

Ray saw that cash bonuses, of up to $100, would be awarded for upsell transactions.

The next day his numbers jumped, and continued in the following days.

LaShawn, our team member always looking to make more money, asked a few days later how all of a sudden his numbers rocketed up.

“I Have a Strong Feeling That This Won’t Have a Happy Ending.”

“LaShawn, I have a strong feeling that this won’t have a happy ending,” I told her.

She looked at me intently, leaned forward to ask a question and I held up my index finger to say, “Don’t ask.”

Seventeen days later on Friday afternoon, at 2:45 PM, four security guards formed a circle around Ray Perry.

“Turn off the phone,” one barked.

When Ray Parker failed to move, one of the guards unplugged the headset and yanked it off of Ray’s head, which snapped forward, then backward.

Two guards lifted Ray out of the seat.

“Now you’re going to get your personal belongings out of the desk,” a guard said.

When Ray Parker failed to move quickly enough, a guard moved his face inches from Ray’s and screamed, “Now, right now.”

Ray shook as he removed his few possessions and put them in the box provided by the guards.

Holding his box with two hands, face glowing red, he wondered what would happen next.

It was time for the perp walk.

The guards pulled Ray in a slow, zig-zag pattern through the call center.

Down one aisle, up the next.

Across the front of the department, across the back of the department, through the cafeteria, through each break room, slowing down as they passed meeting rooms for the shocked employees and visitors to take in the show.

Ray must have walked, or been dragged, over one mile.

At one point a guard screamed in Ray’s ear, “How are you enjoying this, cheater.” Ray hung his head.

At the door, as he left the department, as everyone watched, a guard snapped Ray’s security badge from the lanyard around his neck.

With great effect, as if brandishing a sword, the guard raised the badge and announced, “You won’t be needing this.” For good measure, the guards pushed Ray hard from behind; he left the department horizontally, flying through the door sideways and finally landing, hard, on the cement floor.

Finally Ray was deposited in an HR conference room for a 45 second termination meeting. Ray, totally shaken, had no idea of what forms he was signing; he scribbled his signature as the guards hovered over him, pushing him continuously in the back.

Finally, he was lifted by the guards, carried out the back door and thrown head first into the huge trash bin outside the building. The last thing he heard was the guards screaming, “Be sure to tell your friends what happens when you slam customers.”

If he was smart, Ray Perry drove straight to his family farm, resumed his chores and forgot his call center job. However it will be a long time before he, or we, forget his perp walk.

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Thank you for visiting Call Center Confidential. Please invite your friends and coworkers to join us.  I welcome your comments.  And I invite you to visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

…….Next Time: The October ICMI Conference in Dallas – Brenda Martin’s Unique Reason to Attend 

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