As part of my severance package I participated in a weekly career and job search seminar. One of the activities used to breed familiarity amongst our diverse but downtrodden group was to guess other’s professions. Our success rate was poor but it did prompt laughter and lively discussion. However, there was one exception that we scored with a near 90% accuracy. Most of us guessed who the customer service professional was. He had purple and brown circles under his eyes which bore a weariness that made him appear significantly older than his 45yrs. He was dishevelled but well spoken. Now, we could attribute his look to his then current circumstances but given that we were all in a similar situation, we understood the toll his profession had taken on him over the years.
At that point in my job experience I had only limited exposure to customer service work. That is no longer the case. I feel his pain. Many of you out there probably do, as well. Working on the telephone can be rewarding for some but it is very difficult work. Customer service reps eat shit for a living. As a representative of the company or account, you are expected to maintain a “professional” demeanor, especially in the face of adversity. To add to your stress levels, your performance is constantly monitored, measured, evaluated, tweaked, coached and judged. At times the representative can feel very alone. Angry customers are just part of the equation. Senior management, often unaware of the experience of the customer service rep, make strategic decisions which may look good for a client but can wreak havoc on the folks speaking to the customers.
The calls can be relentless. One after the other they flood the ear, followed by more, and then some. It is a virtual torrent of ups downs and performance anxiety. The reps are expected to maintain a vast reservoir of knowledge as there are updates sent if not hourly, then certainly daily. Resolution databases can be poorly maintained, out of date, or worse, suffer bandwidth issues. Try looking up a solution when there is an angry customer on hold and the page will no load. The responsibilities of our beaten representative grow and the rate of pay remains the same. Are you ready for a stroke? Perhaps a heart attack? Good luck with your application for stress leave.
When one works in customer service, your disdain for the Canadian public can grow exponentially. But please take comfort, go to the local grocery or department store and look at the folks behind the customer service counter. Now, that is stress.
Think about how you should to speak to these folks before you call. That would help us all.