Friday, February 29, 2008

If You're Looking For a Wii, Please--Don't Call Me!

Telephone technology has advanced tremendously since the days of going through the operator to get your next door neighbor, and, oh, those party lines! Being an employee in a call center, I have to keep certain secrets of the trade, but it might be good to have a clue how to talk on the phone in these times of electronic world-shrinking. You will first notice that I have listed my job title as a call center HBA. HBA stands for Home Based Agent. I get to do my job from the comfort of my living room. No battling bad weather to get to work. But the really interesting thing is that the company I work for has agents all over this country! And probably most of them, if not all of them are HBA's.

Businesses all over the United States and even the world are now tapping into the idea of using call centers to cut down on telephone usage within the businesses themselves. When the call centers can be equipped with enough information, they can answer questions from clients or customers up to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (or 366 as in this year). Some of these businesses have employed call center staff from countries outside of their own country. That means, it could be that the person talking to you on the phone might be in his or her own country of origin and not living or working in the country you are calling from. It's just another way the internet has made this world smaller and brought us all closer together--if not physically or socially--at least through our telephones.

The next time you try to call for tech support for a computer program, for example, the person you are talking to might not be anywhere close to the location of the main address of the business you are calling. That also applies to stores, government offices, and many other business entities. Most of the time, the scripts used by the call center staff keep it unknown as to whether these people are located right inside the business or at some remote location. The businesses don't hide this information to be secretive. I think they have the idea at this point that the general public just isn't ready to understand it all and that they won't be happy not being able to talk to someone directly in the building. It is kind of like talking to one of those automated systems that can't understand what you are trying to tell it. We don't like them. I think businesses will think we won't like call centers either. Having worked in a call center, I have an inside view. With all the information we have at our literal fingertips via the internet and our computer keyboards, and with all the efforts the businesses put into making sure the information is available and kept up-to-date, the call center employee, whether located inside the physical business building, or in their own home somewhere on the other side of the country or the world, is able to answer your questions and help you find what you are looking for. If we don't have the answer, we know how to transfer you to the person who does have the answer.
So why do we have to deal with these call centers at all? Think of it this way. Call centers keep the phone calls out of the way of the actual staff on the floor of the business so that those employees can devote more attention to the client/customer who is standing or sitting right there in front of them. Just like all other forms of technology, call centers and how to talk to them is something we will all be learning how to adjust to. And as we get used to it, just like all other technology, things will change again and there will be something else to adjust to.
But, without giving away secrets of the trade...if you are calling to find out how to find specific hard to get items, don't get mad at that person on the phone if they tell you they don't have or can't tell you any information about them. They are just as frustrated as you are, and they have to stick to the scripts they have been given. Everyone knows these items are hard to find. If you want them bad enough, you are going to have to break down and do some driving, or some finger walking through the internet. And that is good advice for anything you are calling about.

To end on a humorous note, do you know we also get telemarketing calls? To make that even more funny, when we try to hang up on them....they don't go away!!! Today for example, I had one telemarketer--in a recorded message--continue calling and ringing into my phone line, even though I was continuously hanging up on him. If someone out there knows what kind of technology they have that keeps them connected even after you hang up, let me know. I am curious. Just don't get too technical in your explanation. I am not kidding. This recording just kept going and going and would just pick up where it left off as I kept hanging up on it. Today was the first time I had to actually get off the phone lines for a few seconds to stop the cycle. Be glad when you get your calls from telemarketers, that you can hang up once and that is the end of it. But, if you get a call from a telemarketer who is not a recording, be nice. Like me, they are just doing their job, reading their script, and probably getting pretty tired of saying the same things over and over again. It is paying their bills just like your job is paying yours.

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