Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Life In The Call Center--Calling to Check Application

Okay, so you have applied to this company or that company for employment. We are all told that we should keep calling to check on our application so that they know we are interested in the job. So, you call. But do you think about what you are doing when you call and that your call is making an impression on the people you talk to when you call?

At the call center I get calls all through my shift from people calling for just this reason. They have put in their application, want to call to check on the progress, or return a call about an interview, or for some other pre-employment reason. What do I hear on the other end of the call? TV's blaring. Children screaming. People talking and chattering. Dogs barking, and just about anything else you can think of that could be going on in the background--in the same room where the caller is. I have even had people scream in my ear--remembering I wear a headset so it is even louder and I can't move it away fast enough--as they scream at their children to be quiet, or at their spouse or some other family member or friend for whatever reason. And they are calling to check about possibly getting a job.

I tell you, if I were the one doing the hiring, I would toss their applications in the trash. I would want employees who know how to behave in a professional manner. In one class I took in preparation for employment (not at my employers'), we were taught that everything we do is part of that initial first impression and interview. How we present ourselves on the telephone is just as important as how we present ourselves when we show up for an interview. So, why would we even try to call to check about the application and hopefully talk to a hiring manager when we are not in a quiet location free from distraction and noise? Why would we make this call without thinking about what that oh so important person on the other end of the call can hear when he or she picks up the phone?

Another type of applicant caller I would not be interested in hiring is the one who calls to check about the time for their interview. They have already had that appointment set up when they were called for the interview, yet they forgot what time it was scheduled for. For me, that would be a huge strike against this potential employee because I want an employee who can keep track of a full schedule that may cover anywhere from 2 weeks to a month at a time. If they cannot keep track of one simple interview appointment, what makes me think they can keep track of their work schedule. Especially if the company has people starting at all kinds of times and shifts.

Along with this type of caller is the one who can't make it on time to the interview and calls to let the person who is interviewing them know. Oftentimes they don't even know the name of the person doing the interview so they don't know who they are even asking for when they call. Other times, they aren't just going to be late, but can't make it at all and will need to reschedule. I am aware that things do come up. I would not toss this one out completely if something legitimate came up. But it is a strike against them before the interview even starts. If they are already having difficulties to make it to a half hour or hour interview, what will be their problems when it comes time to get to their full shift on time?

Basically, what I am saying here is that if you are applying for a job, think before you make that important phone call. You don't know who is going to answer the phone. It could be the person who will be interviewing you. Or it could be someone who works close enough to the person interviewing you that they will be asked questions about how you handled yourself on the phone. Make your calls in a quiet location free of noise and distraction. Make your calls with as much previous information as possible. Try to have information about who you need to talk to. Practice what you want to say, both to the initial person who answers the phone, and to the one who will be interviewing you and hiring you. Be as prepared for this phone call as you would be for the actual interview. It all counts.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Life In The Call Center...Listening

Today, I got a new name by someone not listening to me when I said my name was Cindy. This time it was Sissy. Occassionally, we get calls from law enforcement personnel who call and ask for a specific department. This caller sounded like one of those callers although he did not identify himself as such. It struck me as funny, though, if he was in law enforcement. I mean, if he isn't a good listener on the telephone when calling someone, is he a good listener out in the middle of an investigation? At least he is in good company of those others who don't really listen when I tell them my name. Today I was also called Susie. It just makes me chuckle.

Another kind of conversation opener that tickles me, but also is a bit frustrating, is when callers say "How are you?" but then don't wait for you to answer. I have noticed this in regular life as well, but not as often as in the call center job. Most people will pause and wait for you to respond when they ask you how you are. But there are some who apparently think this phrase is just a greeting and isn't a question to be responded to. Do they think they are being more polite when they ask the question? Personally I don't think it is polite to ask and not wait for a response. In this case, it would be more polite not to ask in the first place because it is obvious you don't want to know the answer. Of course, most people are going to say "Fine", but why ask and not wait for the answer?

Both of the above incidents are just reminders of how rushed people are these days. People just don't think they have time for the niceties of having good paying attention to the person you are talking to (or in this case listening to). And it is a bit sad that people sometimes think they are expressing good manners by asking the proper questions even though they have gotten into the hurried habit of asking and not waiting for the answers before continuing with their conversation.

It is so nice that the calls are balanced out on the other side of the coin with callers who do take the time to use good manners, listen to the person on the other end of the call, get the names right, and wait for answers to whatever questions they ask. What does it actually take? A couple extra seconds of time?

I just thought of another listening issue that I think is rather rude. That is when callers ask a question about a specific topic and don't listen to the answer that is given, but instead jump in and ask to be transferred to the department that deals with that topic...even to the point of interrupting in the middle of a sentence. What was the point of asking the initial question?

I must say that this job has made me more aware of how I hold up my end of the conversation when I call a business. What kind of caller are you?