AHT, ACW and TNPS: Working in a Call Center

A year ago, after having my hours drastically reduced, typical during the Florida summer, I applied for a technical support position for a popular accounting suite. At first, there was hesitation, as it meant working in a call center. Not exactly a job that you go to school for, but neither is working at a gun store. Did well at the interview and was given a job that same day.

Three months of training, from the basics of the application to how to take, document and use the tools during the call. Not much attention given to the in-depth, inner workings of anything more advanced than basic functions of conducting/recording transactions. “You’ll learn it as you go along,” said the training/leadership staff, “otherwise you can ask those around you. You have great resources on hand to help when you get stuck.”

Such was not always the case. When official documentation ran dry or was non-existent, we turned to what most everyone uses: Dr. Google, with help from Sr. Bing and M. Yahoo.

I wish I could have just hung up.

There were days and calls where this was exactly what I wanted to do. Not enough accounting knowledge, too little documentation about a particular behavior or issue. Rude customers demanding the moon for nothing or expecting far more than I had been prepared to support. As much as I’d like to say this was not the norm, it happened far more than I’d like.

Perhaps our expertise had been oversold, or maybe the customer had greater expectations than we were able to deliver. Long-termers would probably advise that I was not about the “call-center life” as though it were a badge of honor. Perhaps they are correct, as I never saw myself working in a call center in the first place.

Fortunately, I learned a fair amount during my tenure. I was never rude to those who answered the phone when calling in, but now I’m even nicer, having walked many a mile in their shoes. I speak slower, with more clarity when giving information to prevent mistakes when transcribing. I have also noticed that my overall interactions are far more pleasant.

So what can you learn from my experience?

  • The person on the line is human. While I understand that you are in a hurry, the fact that you’re calling for phone support means you will be talking to a human, at least for the foreseeable future. Just because you don’t know them and your chances of meeting them are small, doesn’t mean that you have the right to be nasty to them. Calling them names and insulting their intelligence is uncalled for and does nothing to aid in the resolution of whatever issue you’re experiencing.
  • Patience is key to issue resolution. Maybe they are new to the job or not intimately familiar with your issue and require more time to determine the root cause. One of the biggest issues I used to encounter was someone wanting to talk to someone who was intimately familiar with a particular subject area. At least for what I was supporting, there was no one for me to transfer them to. We didn’t have specialists who knew more about a particular subject than anyone else. Sure, there was a department just for accountants, which I still couldn’t send them to if they didn’t have the appropriate membership.
  • Supervisors are not the end-all-be-all of issue resolution. They may know something, provided it was a direct promotion, but for the most part, when it comes to issue resolution, asking to speak to a supervisor is not a guaranteed resolution. Most of the time, they’ll bring you back down, reassure you and pass you back to the agent you were upset with in the first place. Very rarely do they have access to something your original representative does not.

Ultimately, patience is key. Without it, all you end up with is frustration. If it gets to that point, you’re better off just hanging up and calling back when you’re willing to be more cooperative.

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