Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ashamed, part 2

By the time my supervisor returned to my desk to check on me (two minutes, tops), I was hyperventilating as I wrestled with the decision to hide in my cubicle while I made a feeble attempt to get my shit together, or make a run for the ladies room and risk running into more witnesses. I am an “ugly crier;” there’s no hiding my red, splotchy skin and puffy, bloodshot eyes under those fluorescent lights. Luckily my sup made the decision for me and ushered me off into the nearest private office and closed the door while she tried to help me calm down.

I told her that I couldn’t handle this shit. I cannot deal with people screaming at me and verbally abusing me on a daily basis. She tried to assure me that I don’t have to put up with it; when a customer acts like that we’re allowed to immediately put them on hold and find a manager or supervisor to take the call. This is great, but what’s the limit? I can’t be transferring calls every time someone yells at me. I’m trying to prove myself, so I keep trying to do a good job while waiting for this bullshit to stop getting under my skin and bothering me so much, but it’s just not working.

She got me calmed down and told me to take a break, splash some cold water on my face, and go back to my desk when I was ready. I did just that, and walked around outside for a bit, but I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. Thankfully, I knew that my lunch break was scheduled in about 15 minutes anyway, so I figured I should just take a few more calls in the meantime because the longer I put it off, the harder it was going to be.

When I got back to my desk, a coworker had left me a message that said, “Don’t feel bad, it happens to all of us.” I thought that was sweet and I really appreciated the sentiment, but I was still fighting back tears on every call. I didn't even bother trying to sell anyone a single product or service. I just wanted to get off the phone. Just tell me what you want so I can get off this phone. Thank God my lunch is an hour long.

I started to feel a little better during lunch. I must have looked like shit. The nice lady who runs the cash register in the cafeteria told me I looked like I could use some comfort food. The same coworker who left me the message came to check on me and make sure I was okay before she left for the day. She gave me some really good advice about things that she does to deal with difficult customers. “Last year, I decided I’d had enough. I wasn’t going to let it upset me anymore. I wasn’t going to let it make me sad. I wasn’t going to let it make me feel sick.” And I appreciate that but I don’t know HOW to do that, how to just shut off my reaction like nothing happened.

Toward the end of my lunch break, I checked the clock and realized I had 15 minutes to get back to my desk. Normally I would be happy about that; I had a nice meal and I still have plenty of time to kick back and relax. We have a really nice break room with a large TV and comfortable couches and I always feel reenergized at the end of my lunch. Today, though, as soon as I saw the time I started to panic. I only have 15 more minutes before I have to get back on the phone. I could feel my heart start racing and beating harder. My throat and chest felt tight and I could feel sweat pooling under my arms. Just the thought of getting back on the phone was filling me with dread and making me feel nauseous.

Suck it up, buttercup. As I made my way back to my desk, the supervisor I had spoken with earlier waved me over and asked me, “Are you feeling better?” I just shook my head. “What’s wrong?” I asked her if we could speak in private, and she led me back to an empty office and closed the door.

As soon as I started talking, the tears started again. I told her that I needed to know what my options were, if any, to remain with the company but transfer to a different department. I know that the policy is that you’re not eligible for a promotion until you’ve been in your current department for at least 12 months, but I wasn’t sure if that applied if you were willing to “downgrade” or be demoted or whatever. “I really want to work here, but I don’t know if I can make it through 9 more months of this.” She told me to wait while she spoke with the department manager who I think is in charge of HR or something like that, and then sent me over to her office.

I repeated my concerns to the manager, crying the entire time. She didn’t bring up the 12-month policy, but she did tell me that right now there just isn’t anything else available for her to transfer me. I told her that I don’t think I can take this daily onslaught of verbal abuse. It’s not just once in a while, it’s every day. Every single day and not once has it been because of anything I’ve done wrong. People are just rude and nasty and I’ve been screamed at every single day for every reason imaginable, and none of them have anything to do with me.

“I like working here. I think this seems like a great company to work here and I had really high hopes of making this a career, but I can’t deal with this shit. I could understand if I had done something wrong, but 9 times out of 10 it’s not even something the bank has done wrong. People make mistakes with their accounts or don’t pay their bill on time and get charged a late fee or don’t understand how interest is calculated and somehow that’s my fault and they’re screaming at me.”

This isn’t a customer service issue, either. I’ve worked in customer service in various positions in different industries for 18 years. I’ve never had a job where I wasn’t somehow in customer service. I’ve never been treated this poorly at any other job, and experiencing it every single shift makes me anxious and sick to my stomach. People exhibit behaviors on the phone that they would never show in public. If you walked into a bank branch and started screaming and cussing at a bank teller, you would be asked to leave or forcibly removed by security, so why do you think it’s acceptable on the phone?

1 comment:

  1. Sorry that you've been having such a bad experience. I've worked in call centers for over 10 years and it truly is amazing how people will act over the phone. My best advice is to try to distance yourself emotionally from abusive callers. When I get a caller like the one you described, I tend to view them as a toddler having a tantrum. It is not about you-they don't care one way or the other about you-you are simply the mouthpiece of the "big, bad bank" that has upset them. And, just like with a toddler having a tantrum, trying to explain things rationally (like you did when you told the caller it would be illegal for the bank to do what he was accusing them of) is not going to get you anywhere. Just let them vent, acknowledge that they are upset, tell them you will try to help them and do your best to do so. If that does not satisfy the person-realize you can only do your best and some people will not be satisfied. If you are able to transfer an abusive caller to a supervisor, do so when you need to. Above all, remember that is isn't personal.