call center job misery

I’m calling on the readers’ help with this one. A reader writes:

I recently took a job in a call center doing order entry. I’m very overqualified but it’s a job and my unemployment ran out so I had to find something with an income. 

As part of being a call center agent, I’m expected to maintain certain stats. One of them is called “accountable time,” which means the amount of time you were clocked in vs the amount of time you were logged in on the phone. We’re supposed to maintain a level of 90%, which doesn’t sound so hard. For a 30-minute day, that gives you 48 minutes leeway, including two 15-minute paid breaks. The problem is that the company uses something called “required time off.” This is where the call volume is low and they don’t need as many agents answering the phone. I understand why they do that, it’s better to send a few folks home early than to lay them off permanently.

I’m not too thrilled that I took a 40 hour a week job that rarely results in 40 full hours but that’s not what ticks me off. What does tick me off is that when they figure out your accountable time, they don’t seem to take into account the fact that they send you home early and after you’ve already taken both of your paid breaks. For instance if I’m sent home an hour and a half early I only have a 39 minute leeway and with just 9 minutes to “play” with that cuts it kind of close when you’re waiting for the computer to boot up or adjusting your chair (since we don’t have assigned seats, I have to readjust the chair wherever I land that day).

I’m not normally the type to complain about a simple rule like this or claim something isn’t fair but this detail ticks me off. The first week I was on the phones and didn’t get sent home, I had no problem meeting this 90%. Since then I’ve been sent home 3-4 days a week and haven’t hit the 90%. And of course you never know if/when you are going to be going home. Further, after my probationary period of 60 days, they look at your performance including these stats (and others, this isn’t the only one) and decide whether or not to keep you on. So now I’m worried because of this problem that I might be out of a job once the probationary period is over. (It is an at-will state and I fully understand that I could be fired the day after my probationary period ends for whatever reason they like.) Since this isn’t an ideal job for me, I haven’t stopped looking elsewhere and I hope something else comes up, but given that I was out of work for so long I fear that I won’t be able to find anything and that I’m at the mercy of this company. 

I’m not sure what to do. Do I skip my breaks? Or only go long enough to use the washroom? Is it right for them to make people’s job dependent on a statistic that they have so much control over? I’ve pointed this out to my manager and he just told me to work on getting my number back above 90%.

First, in case anyone else makes the same mistake I did at first: When I first read this, I thought they were requiring you to be at 90% of a full 40 hours, even if they only allowed you to work 32 hours that week. But that’s not it; the issue is that you’re taking breaks during the day on the assumption that you’ll have a full 8-hour day to make your 90%, but then they send you home early without warning, which throws your numbers off.

What do other people there do, people who do regularly hit 90% or above? Do they skip their breaks? Eat at their desks while they continue to work? That’s the first thing I’d look at.

It’s also worth mentioning that call centers are notorious for being miserable workplaces. I don’t know why — I assume it has something to do with the high turnover meaning that they don’t really care about people’s quality of life, because they’re not making a point of trying to retain people. Therefore, my usual advice about trying to make a rational argument to your manager about how this is impacting you probably doesn’t apply, because they probably don’t care.

In fact, it could be that they’re hoping this system will actually encourage people not to take breaks, which is obviously really jerky.

I’d love it if any readers with call center experience weighed in on this one.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I would like to comment on this although I was never into the numbers like this dude is/was. I worked for 3 years at a call center and the managers were always pumping us to be positive to sell, sell, sell. I did well a lot, but other times did awful and those are the times the managers were on my back all day. It was a 5 hour work day and we got a whole 15 minute break, and if you wanted to make more money for yourselves(commission), you wouldn't take any breaks. I myself couldn't do that. And near the end of my work there I started taking longer breaks and eventually quit.

  2. Tim*

    I've worked in call centers before, and this situation sounds odd in that they are counting the breaks as part of the time where they are allowed to be working, but not on the phones. Requiring X amount of time "logged in" and ready to take calls is normal, as is (unfortunately) sending people home when the workload is too low, but where I've worked, the break times were not counted as part of the "offline" time. That does seem very unusual to me.

    This would especially be the case if this is in a state where breaks are mandated by law, and I would think that in this situation, having the breaks count against the 90% requirement may be considered akin to requiring someone to work through a break. But without knowing what state this is in, it's not possible to know one way or the other.

  3. Anonymous*

    I, too, work in a call center and our every minute is monitored, micro-managed and accounted for, which is the nature of a call center environment.

    Call center management love to play with stats and there's nothing you can do about that, but here's what you can do for yourself:

    1.Keep track of your own accountable time, especially those days you're sent home early after taking all your breaks. Keep a log of this. Tedious, I know, but do it.
    2.When you meet with your supervisor to go over your stats, bring your log to compare your percentages with his. Be professional, calm and positive when you point out that it makes more sense to calculate accountable time against actual hours worked versus the 40 hour week/8 hour day.
    3.Continue to do your best to meet those stats, but there's no need to put any passion into it – like you said, it's a job, you need a job and it's not forever. Any emotional energy expended over policy in your call center is wasted energy. Save that for your job search.
    4.Keep looking and best wishes for a speedy deliverance from call center heck.

  4. Jenn*

    I worked in a call center for 2 1/2 years and I can share why they are miserable work places. One of my co-workers had a stroke at his desk and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Because his group didn't meet the minimum staffing requirement after he left his desk, he was written up for missing work. Pregnant women suffering from morning sickness would keep buckets at their desks so they wouldn't be reprimanded for running to the bathroom while they were supposed to be working.

    I think this is one reason why customer service has declined. If the companies treat their employees this way, those employees aren't likely to go the extra mile for customers. The companies don't really care about high turnover because there are always unemployed people who are desperate for jobs that pay above minimum wage and have good medical benefits (if you're ever allowed to take the time off to use them).

  5. Anonymous*

    I used to manage a call center, though its adherence measurements were not as draconian as this one seems. Measuring your "on" time is not unusual, and is probably the easiest way to be sure that hundreds of people are doing what they're being paid to do, and not off wandering around. That said, it's a pain in the neck sometimes.
    As mentioned, the 90% is a proportion of the time actually working, and there's an expectation, I would assume, that that the 10% "off" time should be paced throughout the day. It's like when you quit halfway through the year, but you've used more than half of your PTO and you have to pay it back. It's a bummer, but the expectation is that you would have spread it out.
    For the breaks, etc., it's not always easy to do, but if call volumes are slow, it's probably not a good day to take all your breaks by 2pm. If you know this is going to happen, pacing your break time makes sense. Take 12 minutes every hours, for example, and that's 10%. Adjusting your chair and turning on/booting up your computer are probably things your company wants you to do before you log in. I imagine your start time is when you are expected to be available to take your first call, not when you come in the building.
    Call centers are good for entry level jobs, or easing into retirement, or finding a job that's just a "job" where you come in, do your thing and go home. Call center jobs are not good for people who need a lot of autonomy and flexibility.
    I don't think trying to fight the system will end up being a good use of your energy, nor logging your minutes independently. If you can't work in this type of environment, you're certainly in the majority. Call center management is, by necessity, about controlling the time spent by the employees to maximize output with minimal cost. No one grows up wanting to work in a call center, so there's a high percentage of employees who don't care about their jobs (like the OP, I imagine) and don't want to be there, and without tracking time, there is a lot of shrinkage. This is expensive to the company, the customers, and unfair to the employees who ARE adhering to the policies. So the call center managers aren't trying to be mean, or exercise some power trip, but need to get people who really don't want to be there to get on the phones and help customers.

    1. Mirelle*

      were you a manager? for real? how could you ? managers are so mean, they do not like to be bothered with questions on a broad variety of scenarios, they are always corrrect, God forbiden if you answer back, or probe they are not correct on a policy or rule or technical procedure that they do not even understand. They give an attitude, they do not want to take a supervisor call, make you shake in panic when you approach them for anything; they have THEIR FAVORITES, oh boy specially with gals, they feel they are in their harem. So, too bad for those not so good looking or aged women. And love to demonstrate they are Team players when it comes to a general company meeting, in front of the CEO, but once that meeting is over, their true colors come back to their persona, and if the agent is part of that minority with an accent, and different skin characteristics that managers had to hire to be in compliance; oh boy, I better not say anything, I do not want to leave a bad taste on this segment.

  6. Anonymous*

    I'm more than a bit disgusted to hear people suggest that breaks should be skipped and lunches be taken on the job. At least here in Washington State, paid and unpaid breaks are a required part of the day for the vast majority of hourly workers.

    Setting draconian standards like this is a great way to force these breaks to go away. I don't care how tight your costs are – if you cannot manage to give your employees the required breaks that every other business in the state can give (and yes, Washington has *plenty* of call centers), you and your company have some serious ethical and possibly legal issues to deal with.

  7. TheLabRat*

    I don't suppose you're working for an outgoing call center that does opinion polls in Sacramento, CA? This sounds familiar.

    And anon above me, In California those breaks are mandated by law as well. But missing quota when you could have worked through your paid break can still get you fired. They won't tell you to skip your paid breaks but if doing so would get you your quota, I guarantee you many people will do it while management looks the other way. It happens everywhere all the time.

  8. Anonymous*

    Looks like the OP should explore the legal issues/state law surrounding the breaks and what not. I'm really curious if the state labor board has an opinion on whether or not breaks are supposed to be calculated based on *scheduled* or *actual* hours. (The comparison to using up all of your vacation my mid-year and then quitting seems reasonable here.)

    Whether that will do any good, who knows. It's not like the jobs are worth filing lawsuit over. Otherwise, "suck it up" looks like the best advice.

  9. Anonymous*

    I survived two call centers for four years because I couldn't leave my area and they were the only jobs I could get. Really, there are only two strategies to surviving:

    1.) Try your honest best to follow the rules and hope management responds with sanity. Even with the BS technicalities you're talking about, you might still be in the upper tier for metrics compared to your coworkers. I wouldn't keep your own records or argue — your bosses are probably very threatened by you and looking for any excuse to punish you. I had one supervisor whose favorite line was "Are you calling me a liar?"
    2.) Refuse to take the job seriously, do whatever you want, keep your head down and stay out of the way, and see how long it takes to get fired. If most of your coworkers are like you (very underemployed), this is probably not the best idea. But if a lot of them are clearly too stupid or lazy to do any other job (and possibly too stupid/lazy to do this one), you can cruise for months.

    I followed the first strategy until I was fired for going off-script and taking too long on handle time — two weeks after winning a customer service award from corporate for outstanding post-call customer satisfaction survey results. At the next job, I followed the second strategy, and it took over a year for anyone to notice I was underperforming and discipline me; by the time they did, I already had a job offer in hand from somewhere else.

    Hang in there.

  10. OP*

    OP here. First off, thanks to Allison and everyone else for the help. I really appreciate it. Second, to clarify a few things, the "Accountable" time is the percentage of time we're logged into the phones compared to the time we're clocked in to the time clock. So just for example, say I worked 100 minutes, and I get a 10 minute (paid) break. That means I'm clocked in but not logged in, and that's 90% and there's no issue. The issue is that they send me home after say, 75 minutes. Well now I'm at about 86%. This is oversimplifying it of course and the numbers aren't that drastic. And, to be fair, that isn't the only stat I'm measured on. And yes, this is just a job for me until I can find something better. BUT I don't know when something better will come along. I was unemployed for over a year and technically I've been looking for "something better" for over 4 years. Since I'm somewhat new I'm still in my probationary period. At the end of it (I'm half way there) my manager will look at my stats and determine whether or not I keep my job. This is why I'm worried about my numbers. My unemployment was exhausted so if I lose this job, it's going to be very tight until I find something else. That's what I'm really concerned about, it's just a crappy job I only need to survive for awhile but who knows how long that while will be.

    As for where I work, it's at an inbound call center in Omaha. I'm not sure what the labor laws in Nebraska have to say about breaks.

    My husband tells me not to worry about it that managers just give people a hassle because they can. Perhaps I should just not worry about it. While giving way a lot of free shipping…

  11. OP*

    I had another stats review with my boss today and again my accountable time was down. He suggested taking shorter breaks. I hope something better comes along soon.

  12. Anonymous*

    Speaking with some experience as an employment attorney, including Counsel at an IT company, I can tell you this behavior is definitely against the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that guarantees overtime, etc.

    Every employee of a call center should see an Attorney in their state immediately to get exact details, but the basic idea is that it is not relevant what employers call breaks or metrics or whatever: as an hourly employee, you are entitled to the protections of the FLSA. Plus, the commenter who had pregnant colleagues with buckets probably has a discrimination claim, as well.
    If you are treated like garbage at a company, why not treat them the same?

  13. Anonymous*

    Oh, and if your pay is based on the time you are online and ready to take calls, that is also illegal. They have to pay you when you are on the clock-including adjusting your chair, booting up the computer, etc.

  14. OP*

    I get paid for when I'm clocked in, not just logged in to the phone. I looked up the state laws and NE has no laws regarding paid breaks or their length. They have a law about an unpaid meal break but it doesn't apply to call centers. I'll look into the FLSA thing.

  15. Anonymous*

    dear friend,
    i know i am too late for a comment,but i just got thru dis article now.
    i did call center INBOUND job for nearly 5months when i was finally terminated.
    to be frank, callcenter remains da last option when nojob is available to do, and in middle east for expatriates its more difficult to chooose a job just due to not havin a workpermit.
    i did choosed call center job just to get the workpermit, it was technical troubleshootin,dis is da only company provides internet and u cud imagine da customers!
    dey use to abuse, dey use to complain and stay on calls for longer hrs yellin n shoutin upon internet service, i got mentally tired due to being away from family, 1day off and shift timings…and NO WORK EXPERIENCE for better job.
    finally, i abused a customer and it got worse when i was finishd from job, but in return i got much better doing Masters degree, also gonna start certifications related to networking field.
    but i am not @ all in favour of callcenter jobs for those who r really requires alot of SACRIFICES! TOLERANCE ! and GIVING UP YOURSELF..10mins or 15mins breaks aint a solution, we r not ROBOTS ! we r humans! and these call centers cant treat us like humans i pray for all those of u out dere workin in callcenters may get a better job.

  16. WFM Kyle*

    Sorry to post so after the fact, but I'm new to AAM (love it!) and can't resist! I have 14 years in Contact Centers and currently manage the team that provides all these stats to the Managers.

    We've struggled with this metric before. Some employees do the math as the OP did, and see if you account for the two breaks, that leaves 18 minutes they "have" to use. Some employees make it a point of using all these minutes and can get into trouble… It's important to remember the company isn't trying to say please use all this time, it's the minimum standard they set to maintain productivity. Of course, some Managers over emphasize this metric or mismanage it. My contact center actually stopped publishing this metric to the managers and my team provides feedback if any particular employees are missing the metric severely. My suggestion is to stop counting the minutes, and focus on helping as many customers as you can. A good Manager will get a feel for whether you are working the system, or genuinely doing your best, regardless of the metric itself.

    I have to make three other quick points. My CCC takes about 6 million calls a year, if you assume we pay $10/hr (which is less then we actually do) and every employee reduces their unproductive time by just 1 minute, that saves $28k per year, that's more than an FTE, for just 1 minute. 2nd, my last contact center was an outsourcer, we got paid per minute of phone time. We couldn't keep our productivity high enough for my particular client and we lost it, 300 people lost their jobs and we all wished we had worked harder. 3rd, There are good and bad Managers, good and bad Contact Centers. They can be a great place to get some experience, learn some customer service skills and learn about the corporate world. For those who work hard they can also hold a lot of opportunity. But I definitely agree, it's not an easy job.

    1. Anonymous*

      It sounds like you are a good and proactive manager. Most of the management I have dealt with during my callcenter experiences (horror stories) have pushed numbers and nothing else. They don’t stop to consider how good or effective you are on your job. They only care about numbers, and in doing so, they treat all of the associates like numbers. Your methods seem to be an improvement to the overall attitude of most callcenter managers.

  17. larry*

    It all depends on where you work… There are a lot of really bad Call Centers out there… These places are usually third party or outsourcing companies that set unrealistic goals and sales targets to keep everyone in fear of their jobs and to make as much money as possible… the tuen over n these types of places are very high on average people do not last more than 6 months. Then there is in house call centers or contact centers. These places can be much better… I work for A loyalty program in Canada and the company treats us like gold.. has great benefits amazing work life balnce and a lot of growth oppotunities. In the end if your thinking of jingin a call cneter do some reasearch first… there are great ones out there but ar far and in between

  18. Anonymous*

    I agree. I did a CC job for years and it is very very drowning and builds up frustrations.
    Most supervisors know less than the agents but push and kick them whenever they can. Not a good job at all.

    1. Anonymous*

      Most managers and supervisors do next to no work while the agents are constanly slammed with back to back calls. If you want a liesurely job at a callcenter, apply for a supervisor position and forget about applying for agent positions. Even if you have to fib on your resume by stating that you have supervisory experience somewhere else, do it. Chances of ever being promoted into a supervisory roll at a call center are incredably low, becuase you will have to meet a bunch of nearly impossible stats to even be considered for the promotion. The aver age callcenter manager or supervisor probably could not do the job of an agent for long because of the stress levels. I just hate the way the y prance around visiting and joking with each other while at the same time enforcing stats which they themselves do not have to answer to.

  19. Ben Dover*

    I hope that by now you have been able to GET A REAL JOB.
    Call-center jobs, by the nature of the business, are jobs run by and for bottom-feeders. And as an agent/TSR working in a call-center, you should expect to be treated poorly. You should get used to being expected to treat your customers in a manner in which you would not like to be treated yourself. Those conditions are just a fact of call-center life.

    No offense intended, but you lacked the sense to turn down the call-center job and as you admitted by stating that you were very overqualified, you are an under-achiever. But you are not alone. It’s only temporary. I laughed at myself when I realized that I was an under-achiever because I worked in a call-center and had to plan a budget to pay for my annual membership dues in Mensa.

    You may be in the same boat. It’s a place called Arizona. Arizona is notorious for low pay and very little worker protection. Some other states are moving in that direction as well. But don’t expect it to change soon, because there are too many people in the U.S.A. who do not understand why there was a labor movement in this country.

    If you work in a call-center you probably live in a state where ignorance abounds and poverty is on the rise. A place like Arizona that breeds call-centers run by people who have no respect for their employees, their customers, or people in general. There are many call centers where they have on-going new-hire training classes and never have much fluctuation in the number of employees. That is because people are continually quitting or getting fired. I worked in a call center that had a written policy of firing employees for talking about unionization.

    Although I am embarrassed to admit it, I have had 5 call-center jobs and am considered by people outside the industry to be a loser. Now that I think about it, most people in the industry know that they are losers too. Either that, or they are narcissistic sociopaths. Call-center jobs usually suck, and are best held by the aforementioned mental defectives or people with limited abilities and low self esteem. Or maybe like you and me they are just using the job to pay bills while looking for a suitable position.

    The only call-center job I had that did not suck was the tech support job. That job will not be part of this discussion since it was a good job with a good company, and I provided a valuable service that can only be performed by a skilled, licensed professional. That is not the norm in Arizona. In fact, one should never move to Arizona with the expectation of finding a good job.

    Three of the remaining four call center jobs consisted of performing outbound fund-raising calls, and the last was doing outbound sales calls. All four of those call centers were sweatshops where few things mattered other than management’s belief that they were entitled to treat the agents poorly. An agent’s performance was expected to exceed the average while still keeping other performance numbers near the average range. The supervisors fail to comprehend that when one number goes up, another must go down. As a top performer the numbers that matter will be high, but during an evaluation the supervisors will offer criticism for the inconsequential numbers that are below average. In a nut shell, it’s all about control. The supervisors lack the intellectual capacity to understand the relationship between the numbers, and they most likely are incapable of holding a position that requires intelligence and thought.
    My advice to anyone who has the gift of intelligence and the ability to think for themselves is to avoid working in a low-quality call center.

    I hope this information is helpful.
    Thank you for your time, and thank you for providing a forum where people like us can share our valuable experience with others.
    Now go get a real job before you get stuck in this rut.
    YOU CAN DO IT!!!

    1. Anonymous*

      Not all of us are bottom feeders. I myself have completed an associates degree and am working on a bachelor’s degree. The only reason why I work in a callcenter is because the last tech job I had laid me off and I couldn’t find another one due to the economy (thank you Obama). A callcenter job can (sometimes just barely) pay the bills for the short term, but the job does suck majorly and I am always turning out applications and resumes for something better.

  20. Jill of All Trades*

    I know I’m late to this one (I’m new to AaM and catching up on reading the old posts), but I just wanted to say that my worst job ever was in reservations at an airline. I was completely miserable, but what I noticed is that not everyone was miserable (no one loved it though….). I figured out that for those with the right personality and temperament, it’s a good job. For those without that personality, it’s miserable. I was able to move out of the call center into the finance division of the same company with a 59% jump in pay (went from non-exempt to exempt and my new pay was the absolute bottom of the barrel of the “corporate” jobs.). I have had this brought up in interviews about the job I liked least, and in my answer I take ownership of the fact that I did not have the right personality for the job, that I need something more autonomous.

    At the end of the day, it made me a much better customer when I have to call in to a call center. I think everyone should have to do a stint as a waiter/waitress, retail associate, maid, and customer service to name a few. I think there would be fewer jerks in the world.

  21. vickir*

    I’ve worked in a call center for a local utility company for about 2 years now. Every call is monitored, how long we are on the phone, (known as CHT=Call Handle Time) how long it takes us to complete the order after releasing the call, (Follow-Up) as well as any errors you made on the customer request, and our “Unavailable” time, and most recently an outside/third party company selecting random call to evaluate the call itself, based on several factors. The call monitoring gets me because they say we must “hit” all the points they want, like “welcoming the customer”, using positive words/phrases, SMILING, using an upbeat tone, speaking in a professional manner (not using slang, such as nope or yeah). I get that part. What I don’t get is the subjective part-how do you say I don’t sound positive, or I’m not smiling? We must keep the calls short, complete the order/request, yet we cannot talk over the customer, we cannot interrupt them like we used to be able to in order to meet their unattainable “CHT-call handle time”, yet hurry up, finish the order/request AND NOT MAKE any errors, and move onto the next call. I’ve listened to people talk for 20 minutes (because I couldn’t interrupt) they’ve told me why they think their water bill is high, telling me ALL about how they takes showers, not baths, I’ve been cussed at, threatened, yet I have to say yes sir, no ma’am, and if I were to hang up on a customer, it’s grounds for automatic termination. Yes, Florida is a right to work state, so it’s hire and fire at will. But c’mon we’re human beings, yet we are treated like cattle. I too was a victim of taking any job due to having been laid off, unemployment running out, I’m WAY overqualified but I thought, well this is a utility company, so certainly I can get something else later, let me just get “my foot in the door”, well, there’s too much office politics and nepotism tfor those opportunities to arise for me. I feel your pain. Anyone ever worked for or is working in a call center, I’m reminded of a period of time where people were treated as property…that is how I feel call centers treat a good majority of us. I think it borders on cruel and unusual punishment we’re tied to our desks, subject to low lighting, infrequent bathroom and other breaks, yet they crack the whip and say work harder. No raise again this year, no bonuses, more and more is dumped on us in customer service (we do SO many other department’s jobs-it’s not even funny). Many people have taken the steps to go as far as working during their lunch and breaks (ILLEGAL) but they feel they must, in order to meet the ABSOLUTELY UNATTAINABLE statistics that are set and expected out of us. We too have had 2 people stroke out at the office, 1 recovered, 1 lady died at her desk. I just pray each day something else comes along, or a job opens up where I work that I can transfer to, but with this economy… Good luck to everyone.

  22. Anonymous*

    If you have a chance to vote against “Right To Work” in your state, VOTE AGAINST IT. If your reps want to pass it, write them and tell them NOT to. “Right To Work” may sound like a good thing, but it is actually does not promote any “rights” of the people. Instead it gives corporations the right to treat people like complete slaves and fire them at will. Stand against “Right To Work”. In my opinion, it should be called “Right To Corporate Corruption”.

      1. bob*

        Actually right to work means the employer does not need any reason to hire or fire you. That’s all right to work means

  23. rohan*

    i have worked with heroites 1yr , aegis 5 yr and convergys 2mnth india.
    all are pathetic yes they really dont care about employees. some examples.
    HEROITES keo keep cribbing dont leave us but they give limited breaks of 15 mins each, in inbound they dnt even allow you to go to loo

    AEGIS – 5 yrs they suck my blood, after 5 yr top performance no promotion salary hike of rs 85 / annum i left them hopelessly.
    one ops manager after returning from pregnanacy leaves was silently removed. becs her work was given to some one else,
    another quality mangr removed after coming back from matenity leaves as her work was given away to some one else. unqualified team leaders keep shouting at times more qualified agents.

    CONVERGYS hires 200 people to do work which should be done by 2000 people, you keep talking and talking and talking without breathing, i rememeber the beep sound you disconnect 10 calls you get 10 beeps in a second thats their call flow(incoming) pathetic, moreover they dont allow you to login for 1.5hrs from your shift time thats their meeting time every day, 1.5 waste hours each day apart from 8 hr login and the team leader will strip you each day, plus 2.5 1 way cab time maximum for any agent as a policy , that means if some one coming to gurgaon from noida will travel 5hrs a day if first pick up and last drop. i kicked their job in needy months time

    an employee joined aegis when he was 19 left when he was 25, he thought he got a job he stop doing graduation, become a senior agent and after 6 yrs top performance kicked by company stating your salary too high we cant afford to pay you 28K,

    some employees terminated becs they were sitiing on answering machine for 5 secs, some 10 and some 15 secs. thats the Employee Relation team told them

  24. rohan*

    when i joined i was 61 kgs now 98 kgs, have cardiac disorders, sugar, smoked lungs, penniless and highly unqualified, no sector hires me they say tum 6 saal call centre main kya kar rahe the

    when the other person joined he was, 54 kgs now 93 kgs, sugar, was doing graduation now under grad dropped, from 28k to 19k , grown old not even a bpo wants to hire him just wondering how he will spend his life

  25. AkaKelly*

    Wow never have I imagined some people shared my sentiments.
    Well I’m not as tenured as you guys, BPO is my first job after deciding not to pursue further studies anymore. I’m just on my 11th month as a CSR, im feeling exhausted thats a given but I dont completely hate the job yet. My manager is okay what I don’t like is the client. The clients and their metrics. Theyre literally looking for “super agents”. We’re located off shore and we have an American account so our awake and sleep time are in a topsy turvy. But they expect us to be in top shape all the time. I do understand the management at one point since some people get absent for work, not because of sickness just pure laziness, but surely there are some who’s totally exhausted from work. I remember just to meet client’s requirements our management imposed mandatory OTs. My supervisor who always tell us to show empathy to customers but doesnt practice it herself made it more traumatic by imposing mandatory OTs to the team mates of the agent who was absent. Shes saying since we’re a team, we should all suffer the consequence of that agent getting absent. Talk about “positive scripting” and even though we’re team, it doesn’t mean we have a hold of each others’ necks. I dont really get her way of thinking. Anyway I only said yes to it once, I told her even how many hours I render OT, it wont add up to the prod hours of my team mate. Turned out hes doing that to meet “her” metrics, at the expense of her agents. So I guess im hating my call center job 1) inconsiderate supervisor 2) out of this world clients and metrics 3) my health. Im going back to school this June, it’ss pretty far but I might as well use the free time to look for other opportunities and get back to shape.

    1. Tequila Skye*

      we don’t have mandatory overtime anymore, persay, but it’s encouraged. Back in the day it was mandatory.

  26. Tequila Skye*

    This sounds exactly like the call center I work in. There’s logic…and then there is call center logic. At mine they say something that goes kind of like this … “we aren’t saying you CAN’T go to the bathroom when it’s not your assigned break time BUT you DO have assigned break and lunch times……SO if it becomes a habit that you’re going outside your break times, not that we aren’t saying you can’t go BUT if there’s a pattern, we’ll need “documentation” (ie, a doctors note for regular bodily functions), or there could be write-ups.” Ahh yes.

  27. Anonymous*

    I have had the misfortune of working for several call centers. The usual answer is “unpaid overtime”. One of my employers actually required it. They had been sued in the past and found that the fines, fees, and backpay were less than the amount of extra profit they made out of forced unpaid overtime. So you either did the unpaid overtime, quit, found a new job, or got fired.

  28. Deb*

    I worked in call centers for 7 1/2 years. and I understand what everyone is saying. I worked in an inbound directory assistance call center for 7 years. You had to develop a thick skin to work there. You were called the most foul names be callers every day. That resulted in the place being a revolving door. My call handling time was a bit slow, but with all the people quitting they were short of agents. This ensured my employment until the center closed. You also had to get used to being under constant surveillance. They had cameras all over the place, including the break room.

    The second call center was also an inbound call center , but they had only one client. That client called the shots. When the economy went bell up, this client set such a low call handling time that even agents who had been there fore years were not achieving it. Almost all the employees were set a call handling goal. We had 4 weeks to meet it or we were out the door. I had to take 4 minutes off my call handling time. I managed to take 2 minutes off so I resigned rather than be let go. They only retained about 5 or 6 employees out of about 30. They eventually closed.

    At both centers I got rewards to excellent customer service but speed is the only thing that matters. At the second place I was always typing up my cases during my breaks because I had to time to type them up between calls a lot of the time. In addition they expected you to check you email 20 or 30 times a day, also between calls. The supervisors insisted on wasting our time with a lot of test questions when were were dealing with customers. I always checked my email regularly but I had no time to do so when I was the phone. I was too busy answering calls and typing up cases.

  29. john*

    I have this to say,All call center and telesales appointment setting jobs are bad. If a business is any good it does not need to ring people up.
    Many of these types of jobs one is treated like garbage, if the appointment do not come in then they get rid of you.
    You are blamed for their poor system, a lousy data base.

    I tried a number of these so called tax incentive jobs for home owners here in Australia they are all scams and my advise is keep well away from people who try to part with your money offering you so called incentives

    The world is now heading for a final conflict this will cause everything to collapse even the value of your money.

    Do not get in debt do without

  30. Felicity*

    I recently left my call centre job after working there for about 5 years. I worked for one of the big 5 consulting firms in their Business Outsourcing Process division, specifically in inbound customer service.

    Hope this makes you feel better. Our metrics look like this:
    -Late is getting to work 2 minutes or more after your scheduled time
    -2 lates in one month for new hires in probation = fired
    -8-20 seconds breathing time in between calls (normal); no breathing time when it gets really busy
    -you have 23 min of not logging in on time for a 7.5 hr workday (around 7 min for 4 hours of working day); if a customer caused you to take your lunch late this screws up your metrics and unfortunately you have to take the hit

    Tips? Learn to find the loopholes in the system as your means of survival. Note that this takes some time to find out unless the folks with seniority there are willing to share their tips. Ie. you may find that u can log in manually with your handset and not have to wait for the computer to reboot so u won’t be “late”.

  31. David*

    I read the article and the comments and have to say I was disappointed that the cowboy spirit I thought prevailed in the United States seems to be lacking. I worked in Call Centers but in Canada where judging from the comments employers seems to treat employees better ( we have provincial labor laws which make it very difficult to fire someone after a year service and a culture that values that others think well of us). Regardless of that I too had managers which treated employees poorly. What did I and my fellow employees do? We treated them poorly. It amazes me how everyone commenting seems to be accepting of poor treatment as an inevitability. You don’t need a union or united labor movement to clearly demonstrate to a micromanaging tyrant that their behavior is inappropriate. We had a strong social bond between employees which made it very awkward for management to impose things that were too strict. My advice would be to look to the most delinquent employees as a source of entertainment and trouble for management. Send sarcastic emails about how to improve efficiency, productivity and other corporate jargon. Its hilarious because as long as you can keep a straight face the corporate ideology of the day forces management to take you seriously. I remember one time when a fair manger got transferred and my team found out our new manager was a person we all despised. We wrote up an organizational plan that suggested the team share management duties with no increase in pay and the company could save money by putting the manger on the phone like us. We sent the email to the senior manger who believe it or not took us seriously. Small rebellious gestures reflect badly on low level mangers. Use them to your advantage cause if its a shit job who really cares if you get fired? You can probably get another call center job the next day. Stop being so complacent. There are advantages to being a bottom feeder. It becomes hard once you take the system seriously.
    As for a labor movement in the USA Call centers could and should form the backbone of that movement with the rise of service industry jobs and the decline of manufacturing. The question is whether the American people are still capable of intelligent informed rebellion. They were before 1980. I don’t see why it can’t happen today.

  32. anonymous*

    I have worked for a electric utility company for a number of years in customer service…in a call centers environment. I really enjoyed my job.. Until the last t recent 2 years. And its getting worse..up until 2 YRS ago we had stats to maintain but they were reasonable to obtain. Up UNTIL 2 YEARS AGO WE DID NOT HAVE AHT…we took the time needed to mske sure the customer was satisfied. Now we are under extreme pressure to get them off the phone but with first call resolution with perfect monitoring svores………whst is most discouaging NOW THE POWER CO HAS S NEW MONITORING SYSTEM WITH A SCORING SYSTEM THAT IS LITERSLLY CAUSING ALL AGENTS TO FAIL ON MONITORING SCORES now…we r all getting failing r under grace with new monitoring system until jan 1 2014 then the scores count.. ..i am very discouraged. So much pressure in the name of money. Try and work so hard and cant measure up to what they want..seems like everything we say or do is wrong now…we r seasoned reps who care about the customers but everything is so pressured now….when talking to customers now under so much fear if u saying every right thing…i am very discouraged and majority of reps r too. I have been with co a long time..i dont enjoy my job anymore and its too stressful with all performance demands ….too much pressure.

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