(Read part I here: Inside an Inbound Call Centre: “Welcome to GM ‘Hot Button’!”)
Much to my surprise, my former supervisor, Debra, actually called me a week later. The GM promotion had ended but Resolve still needed agents for their regular clients, including Petro-Canada. Would I be interested in a permanent job?
Sure, why not? I came back to the call centre and met the team of “regular” agents. A few temps like me had been called back as well.
This time, we would manage Petro-Canada’s Petro-Points card, a Canada-wide loyalty program. Customers from all over the country would dial the 1-800 number to apply for Petro-Points cards, redeem rewards, inquire about the point balance or solve card-related issues.
I was trained by one of the permanent employees, a woman who had been working in the call centre for a few years and loved it—“It’s a permanent position! What else could I ask for?” she said. We still had a script but our tasks were much more extensive and more problem-solving oriented than with the GM promotion.
After a few days, I was comfortable enough to work unsupervised. Most people called to redeem points for a free hotel night or to inquire about their point balance (they invariably thought they had more points than they actually did and often blamed us for the bad news). Customers were supposed to show their Petro-Points card when paying for gas to collect points, but when they forgot it, they could keep the transaction receipt and call us to have the points added to their account manually over the phone. Some callers had a stack of ten, 20, 30 transactions. “Why don’t they remember to carry their bloody card with them?” we would complain. “It’s faster than calling us at the end of the month with all these receipts in hand!”
The “mute” button was our most handy tool. Especially when we needed to take a break to laugh at a particularly weird customer, or share the details of a funny call with a co-worker. Some couples in the middle of a divorce were calling us to argue about points splitting on a joint account. Some folks yelled at us because their Petro-Canada credit card application had been denied. Some callers had an accent so thick we couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying. Others were a nightmare to find in the database: “What’s your name, sir?” “Singh.” “And you live in…?” “Toronto”. “Sir, I have 10,000 occurrence of the name ‘Singh’ in Toronto, can you give me additional personal information?”
I learned a lot about Canada. The way people were conducting business, the demographics of the country, how workplace relationships worked, how workplaces were managed.
Sure, it wasn’t exactly my dream job. Again, the work was mind numbing and repetitive, shifts were long and most days, time went by very slowly. To keep us busy between calls, we would read the funny notes left by other agents on customer files—we weren’t supposed to but snooping was our only distraction. If a call was particularly rude, he/she would earn a note or a nickname, added to the database for future reference. Hint: never be rude to a call centre agent!
In the spring, I eventually decided to quit. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my work visa in a call centre environment—since I had decided to apply for permanent residence status, I wanted to see what was out there in terms of job opportunities.
My supervisor wasn’t surprised to hear I was quitting—there is a huge turnover in the industry. I said something about “focusing on my university degree”, she encouraged me to contact her again over the summer. We both knew it wouldn’t happen but she agreed to be my reference, my very first Canadian reference.
All in all, working in a call centre wasn’t a bad experience for me. It was a great first job in Canada and it taught me a lot about Canadian workplace, the people, the country.
That said, the fact that I worked in an inbound call centre rather than in an outbound call centre made all the difference. See, people were calling us for help. We were providing customer service, not selling anything. I can deal with that, even if the service industry isn’t always an easy environment. Now, cold calling people…
… Yep, that’s something I did too. Want to hear the story? Coming up in Working in a Outbound Call Centre : Welcome to Hell! Stay tuned…