The “Eewww” Factor

I recently wrote a post about keeping your poker face at all times with employees, lest they see what you really think when they do something stupid. That post brought to memory a story that I have tried to repress, to no avail.

In my last call centre, headsets were like gold. Valuable and hard to find. This shouldn’t really be the case in a call centre. You can’t answer phones without a headset. Our phones did have handheld receivers, but you can’t actually use one while typing and flipping between screens at a rapid pace.

In my first call centre, each employee had their own headset that was their own responsibility. People took good care of the equipment and we didn’t need to replace headsets all that often.

My second call centre was not so enlightened. They refused to assign anyone a specific headset. I know they were worried about high staff turnover, but they shot themselves in the foot. Our employees just had to grab any headset they could find when they arrived. This meant they had to always carry around their “foamies”, or ear covers, for hygienic reasons.

I can’t even count the number of foamies we went through. People didn’t bother to keep track of them and they were easy to lose because of their size. Since the headsets didn’t belong to anyone in particular, you can guess what happened. No one even tried to take care of them. We always had broken and semi-broken headsets. We had very few on the floor that worked properly. I and the other managers begged and pleaded for assigned headsets and always had to justify a request to order new ones.

I thought telling employees that we could not supply headsets that allowed them to hear customers and vice versa was one of the dumbest tasks I ever had to perform. It was hard to look professional with faulty equipment that should not have even been an issue. It didn’t teach the employees any respect for their work environment either.

Since we regularly only had half a dozen mint condition headsets, employees took to hiding the good ones so the headsets would be available when they started their next shift. This caused us a lot of headaches when we actually could not find enough headsets for everyone who happened to be working at any particular hour. Can you imagine, coming to work and not being able to do your job because we couldn’t find you a simple headset? Our customer queues were actually longer because we were scrambling to find headsets for employees.

To alleviate this, we always had to harp on the employees to not hide headsets. We became good at ferreting out their best hiding places. This pissed off the hiders to no end. Which finally leads me back to my poker face story of the week.

One employee I’ll call Giselle came up to me one day all disturbed. “I can’t find my headset!”

To which I replied, “It’s not your headset. You have to share. Please find another one.”

“But you don’t understand. You see this rash on my face?” She got right in my face to make sure I didn’t miss it. Trust me, it was hard to miss before she got that close.

“Yeesss,” I replied.

“It’s Impetigo! It’s highly contagious. No one can use my headset. They might catch it.”

Cue the poker face. Don’t think I did such a good job this time.

“Why are you at work?!”

“Uhhhh.”

That was the best she could come up with.

Fortunately, we didn’t have any impetigo outbreaks at work.  I swiftly took myself to the safety of the HR offices so I could bitch in private. Some days just go like that.

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