Desnee Flakes's Blog

That Noise You Hear Is Real Talk For Real People

Desnee Flakes

Desnee Flakes
Aiken, South Carolina, US
December 04
I am a recently employed activist who has been writing all my life about the issues that mean the most to me. My interests lie in politics, parity, race, and history. I believe that each of those things are interconnected and that only when we look straight at something do we actually see it. My politics are left of center, and I don't rely on any movement to define where my center is. My father taught us to measure others with the same yardstick you measure yourself.


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JANUARY 30, 2012 12:57PM

The Metrics

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I just got fired from my job as a customer service representative at a third party provider for a large telecommunications company. I wish I had known when I applied that I had just stepped into “The Metrics.” In this world people who rarely come from the call center floor are charged with creating arbitrary metrics for performance that rarely have anything to actually do with performance. What it really is meant to do, is give corporations another way to make you  more productive in less time, to try to generate more money. What isn’t factored in is,  this is two and sometime more humans having a conversation, and depending on what the issue is 6 minutes of handling time is possible if the person actually knows what they are trying to do and have every bit of information you need on hand. Let me say right up front I never had a low average handle time in my three years of service. And I’m proud of that because you can actually help people if you aren’t paying attention to the clock in “The Metrics.”

If you have had to call multiple times for the same issue until you finally reached someone who would actually try to help you, now you know why. Yep, that person that asks a bunch of questions then directs you to call back is updating your account which takes about 4 minutes or less depending on how cooperative you are, then leaving the actual fixing to someone else. Since we were dealing with prepaid service even this could turn into a 15 minute call. Why? Apparently we have a lot of people out there who are either, dope dealers, hiding from the Feds, or paranoid. And these people rather than just saying I’d prefer not to answer that become defensive, then they interrogate you…”Why do you need this information for prepaid service?” “I thought this was prepaid that’s why I chose it, because I don’t want an account, I don’t want to have to tell you anything!” “I didn’t have to do this before or with my other carrier why do I have to do it now?” While I told people they don’t have to do it, I would also educate them that if they lose their phone and don’t have their number memorized there are ways we can try to find it with the information.
If they start getting defensive here chances are when you get to the security measures they will continue to treat you like the Hugo Weaving character in the Matrix.  I would love the common response of , “Oh I don’t care about that, this is a prepaid phone!” I can guarantee you that 7 out of 10 people who have said that, call back can’t verify their accounts, and now you are the foreign agent trying to keep them from their own information. When you try to verify this information using the prescribed methods, and they are unable to verify it, they are now positive you have no idea how to perform your job and  will need to speak with a supervisor. At this point you are 10 minutes into the call and will have to wait another 6,7,8, or more minutes before you can actually get them to one of the two people actually taking escalated calls.

People who activate phones often don’t have the information you need to activate the phone, which is perfectly reasonable. What isn’t reasonable is to think that you can get that information in 6 minutes and activate the phone as well on a majority of the calls. I had no idea how many people in this country are unable to read, this is a job that brings it right home for you. So when you are trying to get information found in the phone menu, on the box, or on the back of the phone invariably after trying several different methods and well into the call you are informed this person can’t read. Also a great number of people who have prepaid phones are elderly, and they have them because members of their families have convinced them they need them. For many of them to try to activate this contraption, is like asking them to find the next portal to escape the Matrix, they don’t even know where the end button is, or what it is for. Many of the younger representatives resent their lack of knowledge and they will rush them off the phone, while the older representatives tend to feel they need to do everything they can to help this demographic. These people tend to do auto payments far more frequently than the younger users, which means they guarantee a payment to keep their services going, and a large number of them don’t even use the time since they only have it to feel safe.  It would be in the companies interest to separate activations and troubleshooting calls from general payments and price plan/feature changes. But in “The Metrics” it is believed that you will get a good mix of these calls and therefore the numbers will average you out to the 6 minutes of average handle time. I’ve had many a night when 70% of my calls are activations so that theory is  a non-starter. They know it too, but they will never ever admit to it. Instead they will tell you that co-workers are meeting goal. Now I have no doubt someone is able to meet all the goals, though I seriously doubt they are doing their job the way wer're told. 

The place I worked was like serving two masters so they had different expectations than the actual client. In fact they often had to pay the client because we didn’t meet their expectations. They would offer us incentives like $5.00 gift cards and a candy bar if they heard you offering the customer every specific target on the call. The problem is it was rare that any supervisor would actually get up from their desk to bother to listen. My supervisor needed to roll a chair in front of him to get around because he had a bad back, and his girth and height were about the same measurement. What do you think the odds were that he was going to be coming to listen to you? You’d be right.
At Christmas we were offered a $4.00 an hr incentive above our holiday pay if we came to work, we didn’t receive it till January.  This is a right to work state folks, and what that means is they have a right to work you anyway they want, because EEOC is literally a women in her 70’s doing intake in the Atlanta office. And the Labor Dept. isn’t going to do much either. 

What finally got me ejected from “The Metrics” was that I had started telling people the truth on my calls, and I wasn’t empathetic to people who had more in credits to their accounts then they had in payments, or wanted to change their features . I really couldn't see why I should feel empathy for people trying to scam me or those who just wanted to add or remove a feature. "Wow I can really understand why you wouldn't want that feature anymore," sounds so fake it makes me want to gag. Unlike others, I lost the  fear of receiving a bad customer survey from them.
A man called in about charges on his account  when I told him that there were usage charges on the account he stated emphatically that no one uses his phone. I asked if he was sure that someone else wasn’t using it again he emphatically said no, and asked how were the charges made. I suggested the phone must be a magic phone, since neither he nor anyone else made the charges, he in turn gave me a bad survey. My supervisor and operations manager really felt that I had not been very diplomatic and that the client would not be happy.  They also noticed that I hadn’t been diplomatic on another call a couple weeks ago, though neither of them would say I was actually rude, they determined that I really wasn’t cut out to be in “The Metrics.”

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