Why Cell Phones Sometimes Drive Me Bananas

I’m no Luddite, but sometimes I don’t think of technology as progress. Particularly when it involves my employees during work hours.

I never thought smart phones would be the bane of my existence, but phones in call centres try my patience. Any employee can be distracted by their phone. In an admin environment it gets annoying when too much time is spent texting, but otherwise isn’t much bother. Unless of course the employee is too dumb to switch their phone to vibrate/silent.

Cell phones in my call centres caused major productivity headaches.  Phone reps would sit in wrap up for an extra minute to shoot someone a text. This is a problem when you have 25 callers sitting in your queue waiting five minutes each.

You might think high queues would prod employees to answer the phone they are being paid to answer, but you would be wrong.

We had an outright ban on cell phones on the call centre floor, but that stopped no one. If I turned my back on some employees, the phones would zip out.  It drove me nuts to be constantly on my employees for not doing their jobs.

Did they ever stop? Sure, when the call centre closed.

The dumbest cell phone incident I can remember came when a new rep was still in training. In any call centre, new reps usually spend the last day or two taking actual phone calls with the help of the trainer or an experienced employee. In this case, the trainer had the small group each take a few calls and helped them when they needed it.

While on a live call with a customer, a new rep I’ll call Marsha had her cell phone out on her desk and turned on. It rang during the phone call.

What did she do?

Why, she tossed off her headset mid-call and picked up her cell phone, of course. You could hear the confused client through the headset, “Hello, hello?”

The trainer was standing right behind Marsha, so this wasn’t an attempt to be stealthy. Clearly not a bright rep.

We conferred with HR and decided Marsha was already a lost cause. If she behaved that badly in training and in front of management, can you imagine what she’d do when we weren’t looking?

For some reason Marsha seemed surprised by her firing. Another sign we’d made the right decision.

Sometimes team manager equals juvenile babysitter.

A Day of Remembering

With Remembrance Day approaching us this week, I am reminded that I have zany employee stories for every occasion, even this one.

Right or not, most call centres are open Remembrance Day and don’t even stop for an official moment of silence at 11am. They will usually offer employees the opportunity to take that one minute for themselves, should they desire it.

In my cynical call centre management view, I am surprised by how few employees actually take this opportunity, giving that it means a brief respite from their phone duty, if nothing else.

We did have one employee who was particularly unimpressed with this policy. He was always a bad fit for the call centre business. He hated all of the clients and spoke to them like they were morons. (Plenty of the clients were nuts, but we did have normal ones too.)  He was always ranting about something and looked miserable dragging his butt into work each day. He was never going to last.

My boss sent an email to the floor the week before Remembrance Day explaining the company policy to everyone. It wasn’t new, but we always had new employees.

The employee I will call John thought the policy was awful, and at first expressed his displeasure in a professional sounding email to my boss. She responded in an equally professional email stating that she understood his concerns, but the company policy would stand.

I knew nothing of this email exchange while it was happening, so I couldn’t figure out why John threw down his headset and stormed off the floor.

My boss burst from her office to find John, because he had just sent her back an email telling her she was “pathetic”. That’s an exact quote. It was the nicest thing he said in his electronic tirade.

Calling the big boss pathetic is never a good career move. We didn’t have to worry about firing him for this exchange or his other moody behaviour and poor client handling, because John was so mad about the incident that he never came back. I guess his principled stand made life easier for everyone.

While I don’t agree with John’s response, his anger was at least well placed this time. I think all call centres outside of 911 should pause to mark this solemn occasion. Lest we forget.