Sometimes the jobs we have change us in unexpected ways. Of course we have to learn how to perform whatever tasks are part of our responsibilities, and the various hows and whys and wherefores. We often come away from our work experience with other knowledge that changes our thoughts or behaviors. For example, someone who has worked in retail, as I have, might be more careful about putting things back on the shelf nicely, because we've straightened up after people thousands of times. We may also be more patient when we see that there is only one staff member and five customers, because we've been in that situation, too. And we can smell a phony sales pitch from the other side of the food court.
Spending as many years as I have in customer service, both in retail and on the phone in banking, has made me more conscious of my interactions with people who work in service positions. I've always been a a polite and courteous person, but I didn't realize, until I was a bank teller or a retail sales associate or a telephone banker, that some people are not like me. Some are not necessarily kind or respectful. Of course, this goes both ways; not all people in service positions care about the people they serve, and sometimes are flat-out rude or hateful to them. I've known a lot of wonderful people working in the service industry, and some that were just angry, cruel, or downright hateful. Most businesses will do whatever they can to improve the performance of their customer service staff. If a staff member gives horrible service, they can be retrained or their employment can be terminated, but when a customer is mistreated, they are often gone for good. Angry customers often let their friends and family know about their bad experiences, too, so even more damage can be done.
When I worked in telephone customer service, I knew that I wanted to give my customers the best service possible. I also knew that there might be someone listening to my calls at any time. We were scored by our Service Quality Department on several calls every month, but there was always the possibility that a member of management might decide to listen to your calls at any time. When things were going well, this was a good thing, but if you had an off day it could mean trouble.
Until I became a trainer and had an opportunity to listen to live and/or taped calls myself, I didn't fully understand how call monitoring really worked. I knew that the analysts could start a tape recording on a specific staff member's calls for training and quality monitoring, and I also knew that the taping could occur more randomly. For example, the analyst could set up the recordings so that all of the calls going to loan servicing specialists could be monitored. This gave a more random sampling of staff members, and it also gave me more entertainment.
I don't know about the phone systems for other businesses, but here's something interesting I learned about those recordings one day - when you hear that your call may be monitored for quality and training purposes, the recording doesn't begin when the representative picks up the call. Oh, no. The recording starts when you finish with the press one for this-es, and the press zero for thats-es. So whatever you say while you are waiting for your call to be answered, or while you are on hold, is recorded. This is why I started listening to a recorded call on headphones, and my colleagues ended up hearing me laughing until I cried.
A lady who was waiting for her turn to speak with a banker decided to keep on doing what she had been doing before she placed her call. It was really no surprise to hear her eating and drinking while she waited, but I never realized how having the phone so close to one's mouth could make eating seem so...loud. Then, the conversation with the people around her started. Or perhaps I should say gossip. The only part I remember clearly is her saying, "Somebody really should tell Sue that her hairstyle went out of fashion more than twenty-five years ago. In fact, I think Farrah Fawcett might have worn her hair like that in the late seventies. She really might want to change her hair." I was gasping for air because I was laughing so hard, but the best was yet to come.
A few minutes later, the customer's dog walked into the room. "Hi, my little, bitty baby! Do you want something to eat? Do you need to go outside? Do you need to make a pee-pee? Come on, baby, let's go outside!" The dog was let out, and Sue's hair was discussed for a few more minutes until Fido came to be let in the door. "Come on in, baby! That's my good baby! Who's the sweetest baby doggie? Did you go pee-pee? Do you need a drink of water? Does baby need a drinkie? Did you go poopies? Did you make poopies? What a good baby!" I was getting hysterical. It was like all of my silly pet parent moments, and everyone else's, condensed in just a few moments. I had to stop the recording and set it aside. I was already laughing so much I was starting to cough, and my coworkers were laughing because I was. I knew I'd never make it to the actual service portion of the call, but I'd had some good laughs.
Ever since that day, I have been very self-conscious about what I say or do if I am waiting to get on the phone with customer service. I usually sit quietly, doing something on my computer, or reading a magazine or a book. Although I may be tempted to gossip or discuss the news of the day, I say nothing. I don't want to be the person someone's laughing about at work today. Unless, of course, the person I've been waiting for finds me witty and entertaining beyond belief. That I can live with. And laugh with!