Logic’s Last Stand

October 4, 2009

Lessons from a Call Centre

Filed under: Computers, Life — Tags: , , — Zurahn @ 9:04 pm

It can be difficult to get a grasp of a person over the Internet, even in a social environment such as this. For myself, one such attribute that may not be remotely perceptable is that I have little interest collaboration or socializing. My career path has been shaped by a desire to be independent. So as you may well imagine, you’d be hardpressed to choose a more inappropriate position for me than that of a representative in a call centre.

Fortunately the systems in place were so arcane and obtuse that there was still a substantial amount of knowledge involved, and thusly I was able to maintain a semblance of sanity by means of becoming a human encyclopaedia (a noted hobby of mine). But that’s not all I absorbed; these are the lessons from one year in a call centre.

Americans Don’t Listen

Sorry for the blunt statement, but this isn’t quite what you think. Not a matter of my own complaints of being ignored, but rather the flow of conversation. Apparently shocking to many, I actual listen to people when they speak, and don’t interrupt. It’s surreal to find that by doing merely this–by not talking over people–they themselves will stop to be reassured that I am in fact still on the phone.

American apparently is a different language than English

As some of you may have noticed, I can be a bit pedantic. As such, I prefer to speak with correct grammar, though I mostly gave up due to nobody understanding what I was saying. “To whom were you speaking?” is apparently too cryptic for many.

Read. Your. Bill.

A revolutionary idea, I know, but you should probably read your bill. Incredibly common is for a caller to state, “My bill went up this month and I was calling in as to why”. Are you illiterate?

FFS stop using IE6

Internet Explorer 6 was released over 8 years ago. When you’ve got hundreds of employees working entirely on web-based systems — JavaScript intensive web-based systems — all day long, you’re losing an enormous amount of productivity to that utter piece of garbage.

If you sit me at a computer, I am going to make things in JavaScript

Tools to help on calls, various games, animations, even clocks. I have an innate force to write web programs when at a computer.

Programming skills to the layman are indistinguishable from magic

Given enough time, inevitably as suggested by my previous point, there going to be a demonstration of my computer-savviness. The most significant example of which was due to a design flaw in the systems we were using. Discounts were listed on a page in drop down menues, and one such discounts would stay even after it had become obsolete on the account, yet prevent others. Frustrated, I injected JavaScript into the page via the address bar to remove it, which actually worked. Consequently this spread across the floor, baffling even the techy among them.

Another such incident had me gaining control of a digital display sign. Since the sign, when not set up for proper display, would show its IP address, I was able to gain access and the one thing I could change on the display was the name of the sign. So short messages could be changed. Well, someone else then accessed the sign, changed the password and set the message to “You Lose”. Within 10 minutes I found a security vulnerability that allowed me to change the sign without the password. I’m sure I just scarred whoever that was for life.

Speaking of which, I found cross-site request forgery in all the programs I tested.

By the averages, I am probably smarter than you

For a long time I had been primarily on the nurture side of the nature vs nurture debate when it came to intelligence. To sound like a school counsellor, I had seen underachievers simply not applying themselves while clearly capable. I can firmly at this point state that I have met far more who I am simply more mentally adept, which you wouldn’t think would be a painful thought. Though perhaps it’s just that at this point I’m now speaking with adults who are too old and too far gone to show any semblance of prior brightness.

I hate everyone

Ultimately the foremost force behind my leaving was due to further and further emphasis and requirement of sales. However, there is a separate issue that makes me wish I had gotten out much earlier, that being I feel as though I have been mentally poisoned. It’s a cesspool without allies; it’s a battle of the worst, and all sides fighting selfishly to their own end. Other employees and other departments shift blame, cheat the system and do whatever they can to avoid anything unpleasant. Customers’ sense of entitlement is inversely proportionate to their own ignorance. The company’s policies leverage its size and duopoly status in an increasingly abusive manner. I hate the company; I hate the employees; I hate the callers. It hurts so much.

Tears of joy isn’t simply a metaphor

The phrase “tears of joy” has always confounded me. It never really made sense to me about people saying that they cry at weddings. I mean, even the happiest of times, it’s more excitement that builds than anything else. However, when you’re essentially miserable for an extended period of time; have a crushing mental weight on you to the point of despair, and to see it finally vanish–the body lacks the capacity to express the feeling. With such a rush of relief, I can now understand.


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