My 10-hour shift began at 4:30 am so upon arrival at 4:00 am, I’d watch a quick 20 minutes of YouTube or Hulu in the break-room with headphones until it was time to make my way upstairs to my desk to begin my day. I’d see maybe 1 or 2 other people whom I didn’t know, come in for free coffee or tea which the bank provided. Very nice of them. We’d say hello or wave, and that was the extent of our contact.
All employees for each area started at different times of the day, so there was no time for conversation. 1 person may have 5 minutes within their 15-minute break to heat something up in the microwave, another may even be a half-hour late. No one knew anyone else’s schedule, and no one cared, just as I did not. We were there to only work and take care of business, we were programmed to think this way. The truth is, who wanted to talk here under surveillance when you knew you’d be talking nonstop all day to customers in just a few minutes.
When I arrived at my desk, I’d hooked into the system which took about 5 minutes. I’d stand or sit in front of my adjustable desk which held a keyboard, mouse, multi-line phone with 10 key, and 2 giant monitors. I’d talk to customers about their credit card and banking needs. There was no time in between calls to chit-chat with those around me because the calls would come in back to back to back non-stop.
I knew absolutely no one there other than my supervisor via email and maybe an occasional scheduled face to face meeting. When I started this job, I had fun with the people I went through training with for my first 6 weeks, but I never saw them again after class was over. We all had different schedules, supervisors, and areas in which we worked. I’m sure this is planned. Personal banking information is so sensitive, we are specifically trained not to even see it, let alone remember it and especially not talk about it. You may as well count on being fired.
Dealing with the Customers
On the phone, the customer, for the most part, is cordial; however, customer service work is the best place to be if you only want to solve problems and listen to complaints all day. It’s also never customary to get friendly on the phone. The conversation must remain strictly business and sometimes, you even have a script to follow, and you will be docked bonus money if you miss one word. Seriously, I was docked $50.00 dollars once for saying the words ‘if you decide’ instead of ‘as you decide’. It was ridiculous.
Understanding banking products and services which include fees, interest rates, deferred financing adjustments, catching and reporting lost or stolen cards, fraudulent practices from merchants, and even just looking over simple credit card statements and making payments can be somewhat difficult for the average person to grasp. So, I was the go-between. The cushion between the bank and its customers. It’s true for every successful business, customer service is very important for the company’s image and reputation. I understood that very well.
The company’s policy regarding customer service is to try to “turn” an upset, or should I say, the problematic customer. Meaning, we had to end the phone call with a calm and accepting customer on the other end of the line. Even if we could do nothing for them. Customer service has always been, company policy first, customer satisfaction afterward. I was very good at it. I have a calming quiet disposition so it was easy for me most of the time.
The bank would take surveys from the customers as to how you did on the calls, each week your supervisor would call you in to give you, not the excellent reviews, but the bad ones, and most of those the supervisor admits is the customers own misunderstanding, and not your lack of training. However, you would still be denied a bonus, simply because of the existence of the complaint. How bogus is that?
The promise of bonuses is a huge draw when employees even consider customer service jobs. But somehow, and this is true for most CSA jobs, companies have ways of offering, then denying those bonuses based upon performance. It’s indeed a problem, which is why there’s such a high turnover rate within customer service driven industries. Particularly those where you must read scripts.
A new concept is the Freelancing Customer Service Agent. The best part about it is the fact that you can work from home. There is no longer a need to be subject to the procedures of the office and if you like the actual job of speaking with customers over the phone, this would be ideal. There’s still the isolation aspect and the fact that it’s a stressful job considering the needs of those customers. However, the “boss hanging over your head” aspect is now gone and you can work whenever and however you want to.
The only drawback would be in getting set up for work. You must have your own computer with a reliable connection to the internet. Headset and phone which is normally land-lined by request from your employer. Other than that, it looks like we as a nation have crossed over to a better way of doing Customer Service work for the employee.
Why seek a Customer Service job?
Bottom line, it’s pretty easy to get a customer service job if your communication skills are on point. There are always ample jobs available due to the high turn-over rate. But, be prepared to deal with the companies’ rules and regulations. That aspect can only be learned after being hired.
If you’re punctual, consistent, patient, empathetic, and have a strong work ethic, customer service is a good place to be. The pay is usually more than average, the interview is self-explanatory if you have common sense, the hours are flexible due to a 24-hour workday schedule in most cases, most jobs are entry-level because they want to train you, and you probably don’t have to commit to years of service. In fact, temp services love customer service agents.
Allison C Whitfield, author of "The Shelter of the Shade Tree", is a Freelance writer who creates articles describing the unconventional for those who wish to explore new ideas and new challenges. She has had 30 + years of experience in Office Administration and Customer Service. She is also a [...]