The People at the Other End of the Phone

It has taken me a while to get around to writing this post, which is OK, because I understand now more what actually happened. However, I’ll let the incident speak for itself.

I monitor call volume at a telephone customer service center. I won’t mention the name of the company for which I work, nor will I mention the name of the client. I feel this would be a breach of professional etiquette, if not in violation of some paranoid agreement they probably will I insist I signed of my own free will in the wee small hours of a wintry morning after an evenings’ revelry. They shall be hereafter referred to as the Company and the Client.

The Client has very strict ideas about the number of agents that they want “on the phones” at any given time. I have come to believe that they divine these numbers using a Ouija board and fish entrails, but however the get them, that’s what they expect. There are multiple centers, so someone has to keep track of how many agents there are through ALL of them to see how we measure up against the predicted number.

The Company is in the business of running call centers. They have the experience to know how many agents are necessary. Those of us that have worked for the Company for longer than a day or two have seen all manner of calls wander down the wire, and all manner of unforeseen incidents that can affect the number of calls received by any call center on any given day. It’s frequently feast or famine- either we’re up to our butts in alligators or we’re organizing Canasta tournaments.

One weekend the Company, in league with some upper to middle range representatives of the Client, decided to show those with decision making power within the Client that these numbers were unrealistic. So it was decreed that we would have NO MORE agents answering calls at all centers than the number provided by the Client’s bean counters. For example, if the predicted number of agents needed for a particular half-hour period was 150, we could have no more than that number taking calls at ALL centers. This called for co-ordination between centers on an unprecedented scale. It also meant that no matter HOW many calls we had waiting, if we had MORE than 150 people “on the phones”, we had to take them off an have them do training or attend team meetings or clean the center or organize a Canasta tournament.

The problem was that we frequently had as many as 200+ people in the queue waiting to be served, JUST at the call center where I worked. Those calls were left unanswered. Too bad, but a point had to be made. It was very confusing, let me tell you.

However, it left me wondering. What about all of those people at the other end of the phone, who called in expecting “customer service?” WHERE was the customer service in this exercise? How many customers were sacrificed to this little spat?

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