Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Let me make myself clear.  Crystal clear.  I don’t just hate call centres.  I hate the people who work in them.  And I don’t hate them simply as a frustrated end user, but I hate them as a colleague, having spent many years connected to a telephone via a piece of shit one sided headset, which in turn is connected to other human beings, being allotted rest breaks and the necessity to notify our superiors of the need to go take a piss.  In fact, when you think about it, working in a call centre really is no different to being in a Chain Gang, albeit with mildly improved wages and less manual labour.

A typical call centre, minus the headsets and miserable scowling faces

I have worked my way up to an internally respectable position, and I say internally, because nobody outside of call centres considers you as anything but “a something in a call centre,”  and I excel at my job.  The big cheeses love me.  But you know what?  I fucking hate every day of this shit.  I got myself off the phones which was a miracle in itself, and now I’m stuck in a soul destroying, meaningless job, because I just can’t get away from call centres.  I smile at the right people, produce all the work that’s asked of me, but my god, how I hate it.  I’m perceived as being very good at my job, and if they knew it was me who was behind this blog... well holy fuck, I’d be dismissed on the spot, before being frogmarched from the building I slave in seven days a week, amid a chorus of shocked and beleaguered faces.   


But hey ho, we all need an outlet, so without further ado, I present you with everything I abhor about our call centre culture.  And let this blog serve as a warning to you should you be considering a job in a call centre anytime soon; maintain your self respect, please.  Working in a call centre without realizing how demoralizing that shit is, is bad enough... but knowing beforehand just makes you a dipshit.



Once you’ve spent a few years in a few different call centres, you’re fucked.  You will never escape.  It will become a vicious, inescapable cycle, as you slowly come to realize that employers do not see call centre skills as ‘transferable’ in any respect.  You know that cosy office job you’ve been looking for?  Yeah, unfortunately, all the relevant experience you’ve gained through call centres doesn’t mean shit, and you’ll find yourself on the reject pile faster  than an all new rehabbed up Kerry Katona at an Icleand audition.  


Here’s a newsflash : they all have the same stupid bullshit slogans that the staff secretly laugh about behind their backs.  Some crap about putting customers first, some drivel about how important you are to them.  Ever notice how these principles only apply so long as the shit isn’t hitting the fan and they aren’t uber busy?  Seriously, next time you’re call after call, just pose a simple query to your Team Leader / Coach / whatever, and keep on going back to them with new problems, and see how quickly their own principles are abandoned in favour of subtly hinting “ we’re busy, get rid of them.”  (Also known as arrange a callback/escalation/raise a complaint)


Ever had a Team Leader, or worse still stupendously overpaid community leader / operations manager tell you that YOU’RE the most important resource the company has, without YOU, the business simply couldn’t continue to function?  Yeah, that’s bullshit, and you know it.  So, you’re the most critical commodity the business has, into which they invested god knows how many thousands of pounds into you huh?  Then maybe they could explain to you why, with the exception of the maintenance team (and even then it’s ambiguous) you’re the lowest paid employees in the entire company, save for the canteen staff and security guard?  That’s right, you’re so important to the company that they pay your hardly- superiors a few thousand pounds more than you, and your “big bosses” up to three times as much.  That’s how much they value you.  


And I know, because I used to be one, and a very good one at that.  I had a certain amount of calls I was required to listen to on a weekly basis, team reporting, coaching and 121’s – it was a walk in the fucking park.  ANY Team Leader who has the nerve to protest their jobs and the difficulties therein, are fucking awful at their jobs.  And before you question my credentials, I was a Team Leader with one of the largest five brands in my particular arena, in the world.  It’s a piece of piss for a job, particularly on weekends where, providing you aren’t a total goon needing to catch up on the monitoring you couldn’t be fucked to do through the week, you get to sit on your ass all day and play on the internet / text your buddies on your iphone.  Of course, you may get the odd indignant asshole who wants to complain “to a manager” but quite frankly, we all know how much fun it can be to antagonize the shit out of them on a dull day, shooting those assholes squarely down with some miniscule piece of crap from their terms and conditions.


Because most of the time, they don’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about.  To the credit of most call centres (and one of the very few credits they will ever attain) many have cottoned on to this by now, and gingerly suggest that “rather than giving the customer the benefit of the doubt, we should clearly explain why they may have not fully understood the terms of their agreement.”  Bravo.


When I was placed in charge of operations for the particular section of the business I was responsible for, I couldn’t believe how fucking easy that shit was.  In a very brief nutshell, my chief responsibility was to provide a gap analysis based on projected call volumes, and make sure they were filled so we didn’t lose (or abandon) any calls.  The Team Leaders sent me reports on how they were performing including things like sickness (yeah right) holiday, maternity leave and so on.  Shit I didn’t have any use for really, but was a requirement to keep some dickhead at corporate level happy.  Running operations is so fucking easy you could do it blindfolded.  And they get paid a LOT more than you.  You know when they play down how much they earn?  Yeah, they earn only a little bit more than you... AFTER they’ve paid tax and BEFORE you do.

Also, you know those annoying dipshits who call your Team Leader if you’ve been on an unusually long piss break or you’re late for your lunch because you’ve been speaking to some insufferable dickhead for an hour and a half?  Yeah, their job is cushy as fuck my friends.  They are essentially paid to keep the systems up to date with who is doing what and when, and keep tabs on leave allocation.  Maybe I’m super efficient and possess a deadly intelligence which escalates me to Limitless-esque levels, or maybe it’s just that shit is so easy to do for a living your grandma could do it with a few weeks training, who knows.  But either way, when you think to yourself “I could do a batter job than those fuckers”, you’re absolutely correct.


I don’t trust any fucker who claims to enjoy working in a call centre.  Don’t hate it, sure.  Tolerate it, okay.  But enjoy it?  You’re an unaspirational piece of shit, and I envy  you, for having few loftier goals in life than getting pissed with your mates, and watching the football.



Hoo boy, I have met some fuckwit jobsworths in my time.  I once worked with this fat fuck, who was such a corporate kissass, they stated their “dream holiday” would consist of spending time with their work colleagues, somewhere hot.  Another guy, a Team Leader in fact, was registered with a dating website for professionals... who must have felt like the biggest tool in the universe when a colleague brilliantly asked, in a blase' manner “but why are you on a website for career professionals?  You’re a Team Leader in a call centre.”

That’s right dipshit, working in a call centre is not a career, no matter how far up the ladder you’re able to drag yourself.    You still work in a call centre, and you work in a call centre because you’re too much of a dipshit to get a real job.  Call centres always have been, and always will be, maligned places of ridicule.  I worked for a company once, before I made the mistake of stepping into the call centre arena under the impression it was a good career move, in which the manager told me outright “I would never employ a manager from a call centre as a manager here, I don’t care how much experience they have on paper.  It’s a different world.”  

Working in a call centre for twenty years, and finding yourself a big cheese in the grand scheme of call centre machinations, is nothing to be proud of.  In fact, it’s downright disappointing, that a fossil like you was unable, even in the days before call centres were fucking everywhere, to escape working in a call centre.  Actually, I would say it makes you the biggest fucking loser in the place.


Call centres ought to have revolving doors which deposit you right in the fucking dole queue, and the jobless in your seat.  Getting a job in a call centre is the easiest job you’ll ever get.  I cringed when I had to ask a plethora of bullshit questions about “times you’ve provided excellent customer service”, and note their responses which more often than not , roughly translated into either “it pays more money than the call centre I work at now,” or “I just need a fucking job, I’ll be out of here as soon as I get a real job.”

In the early days, I walked out of a couple of call centre jobs, because they were shit, and I was young.  And I always managed to find myself in another call centre within a week or two.


This fucking shit drives me crazy, and I have petitioned my employers in the past to do something about it – the fact is, if you get stuck on a call to some fucking utter dickhead at finishing time, and you leave five or ten minutes late – well then, fuck you, you won’t be getting paid for it, or get time back.  That’s just the nature of the job, and you were made aware of it when you signed up.  Too many call centres take this approach, and it’s disgraceful bullshit, particularly when you’re late and you have to explain every detail of your whereabouts from waking up to stepping through the office door.  Some call centres give you the time back or overtime after an allotted period – maybe twenty minutes – yet I can’t help but notice those assholes who run the place, can swan in as late as they like and leave on a whim, without retribution. 


This one is squarely aimed at both business and customer in equal measure; as both are as bad as each other when it comes to this particular annoyance – what sort of utter, utter dickead, will phone a call centre on Christmas day?  Granted, if it’s in regard to something which will fucking ruin Christmas for the entire family there and then, then fair play to you.  Get on the phone and get that shit sorted.  Just bear in mind, you may end up speaking to some poor bastard who wanted nothing more than to see their family and enjoy Christmas day at home, who has been forced to work because their name wasn’t picked out of a fucking hat after holidays were ‘fairly distributed’.  They won’t give a fuck about your problem, and will wish bad things to happen to you and your family if you call up for some stupid bullshit which could, in all honesty, wait a few fucking days.  Give a fuck at Christmas, only call in an emergency, hey?

And of course, let’s not forget – how many of the bigwigs have to come in at Christmas or New Year?  That’s right, fucking zilch, they are more than happy to run the holiday ship on a skeleton crew and not give a fuck about THEIR jobs for the day.

The typical sort of bullshit you'll find in a call centre around Christmas.  It's so hilarious, it's almost like I'm not working Christmas fucking day at all while you're at home with your family, and there's an inflatable Reindeer in your seat just to remind me you fuck.


...Unless you want to look like the biggest jerk in the world coming to work in your business dress, then you’re gonna have to pay.  Oh, it’s for charity?  Yeah, then fuck that shit I’ll be sure to be hiding in the toilet when you come around rattling your tin.  You pay me to come to work, I don’t pay you.


Hey there big guy, you know what you’re championing?  Some bullshit reasoning to make you seem like you matter to the business.  You know what would be great?  If you could travel back in time, make a visit to the coliseum, and declare yourself “Complaints Champion,” preferably in an arena full of rabid badass Gladiators and hungry lions.  See how you get on.


My business had in place a means of written feedback regarding different aspects of the business (as opposed to “anonymous surveys” which are, incidentally, always completed on your logins) and the outcome was hilarious to the point it was withdrawn unless people could use it responsibly.  “That blonde bitch who works downstairs can suck my dick she’s a retard” was one of many gloriously eye opening comments left for the management.


I have a unique opinion on this issue, as the first ever call centre I worked for, just didn’t give a fuck about it.  Seriously, there were fucking zero rules and the campaign we were working on was HUGE.  Like, the biggest in the United Kingdom huge.  We ate at our desks, read books, played network games, hundreds of people had a great old time.   Hell, I even met a kid I eventually became good friends with because he passed me leftover pizza and chips nobody could finish one afternoon.  Calls got answered, and nobody hated the fucking place.  People wanted to help customers, and went that elusive “extra mile” (corporate bullshit alert... whop whoop) because they were chilled as fuck and working with friends they could share interests with.  Then along came the client one day and said “aw HELL no, these assholes are clearly too happy, we need more professionalism about the place.”  And it all came to a grinding, painful halt.

Guess what happened?  Everyone left, management blew a gasket because calls were being abandoned left right and centre, and one disgruntled employee shat on the men’s toilet floor (which lead to many hilarious conversations among management as to the best course of action to clean it up)

The result was, a professional looking environment, full of seething employees who stopped giving a fuck about their jobs.  Look dipshit, if I have a book at my desk and I’m reading between calls, I’m not going to be suddenly taken off guard when a call comes through and answer with “Good afternoon, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo speaking... I mean, no wait, fuck, sorry”


OMGLOL.  You know why.


I know colleagues who have been off work with depression, and they are fucking depressed.  I can see it in their eyes; the crushing defeat of having to answer the phones day after day, dreading that next call; I even observed a colleague one afternoon just sit staring at his phone, not even logged in, as if he was about to have a fucking breakdown, he was so depressed.  I’ve been there too guys, and genuine depression is absolutely awful, uncontrollable, and frankly induces temporary thoughts the likes of which you couldn’t have even conceived just a few days earlier, so I would never make fun of the genuine victims of such a crippling ailment, but...

... then there are the rest of you fuckers who know for a fact the old ‘depression’ card is your free ride.  In a call centre, the easiest way to get out of work with virtually no repercussions on you – hell, it can often negate a piss poor performance over the last six months – is to hit them with a sick note for depression.  Often open ended, your dipshit employer will be all rich tea and sympathy for you, walking on eggshells to make your life easier when – and if – you decide to return to work.

The sad thing about this particular section is, most people who start off by faking it end up with genuine fucking depression at some point.  Hell, chances are you don’t even realize you’re suffering with depression – but don’t be scared to go see the doc if work is getting too much for you.  Call centre depression must be ridiculously rampant in this country, to the point where I believe it will attain that very clinical name.


Now I will admit, a lot of customers are nice enough.  Jolly and carefree, they care not a jot if you break bad news to them, so long as you do it smiling down the phone (ALERT ALERT) and in a manner which states “I’m sorry, I know my company is a complete suckass bitch, and I’m on your side.”  But then, you have the condescending dickheads, who think they are above speaking to the monkey and want the organ grinder whom, if they’re worth their salt as Team Leaders will back you up all the way, and they will bitch and moan at you, attempting to belittle you like the raging cockheads they are.

The best way to deal with them, I always found, was to put up a wall of indifference, and speak in a level tone, simply repeating the same information over and over in a monotone voice, talking over them, until they fucking explode and swear at you enough to cut them off.  Know your T&C’s and shoot those fuckers down in a hail of legality if needs be.  And f you’re sick as fuck, just slip in “my manager would advise you of the same thing” and bingo, you said the M word, and like some sort of subliminal suggestion, they’ll want your boss like fat girl wants loved.

'Hey girls, I just had this real asshole on the phone, I've got his email though so he'll be getting some midget porn later.'


Holy flipchart presentations, Batman!  So you kick off with an icebreaker, or “the most pointless bullshit ever conceived, given that it all it achieves is to put everyone on edge for ten minutes, and they’ll instantly forget everybody’s name anyway”, then you  follow it up with a little history on the business, usually backed up by some jobsworth asshole who will pop their heads in to high five the trainer and assure you just how great a company it is to work for, and throughout the two/three/four week period you’ll enjoy a carefree attitude towards breaks and lunches.  “Awesome,” you’ll think, ”this  will definitely be a good place to work.”

Slowly but surely, you will amass pages and pages of flip chart, detailing every topic you’ve gone over, which you’ve presented to everyone else while they slept, unless of course you’re ‘that guy’ with the ‘crazy’ personality, who seems to be lapping this shit up in an attempt to impress everyone.  You’ll do tests, you’ll practice on the piece of shit systems.  You’ll have a grand old time assessing the hot girls in your training group while bonding with your fellow male colleagues, and casting a critical eye over the totty ratio in the canteen, and critically, you’ll attempt to arrange a “night out” for your training group, which will fall hopelessly apart about a week beforehand.

You’ll have a blast, and if you have any sense, at the end of your training you’ll get the fuck out of there, taking your pay for a few easy weeks of doing fuck all and screwing around with your new friends.  If you’re unlucky you’ll stick around, quickly realizing how utterly fucking pointless training was, as you bumble your way through calls, asking for help on every fucking screen you come across.  Systems training wasn’t worth dick, and it’s suddenly a zillion times busier than it was in academy, now they’ve changed your skillset to reflect every fucking asshole who is able to use a telephone and mash the keys together to get through to your company.

The Matrix has you now.


Let’s get this one thing straight; Human resources (you know; the all-girl squad who sit on the top floor who are too busy to deal with your trifling little wage queries) within a Call Centre are there to deal with the ridiculous amounts of recruitment, and fuck all else.  In my early days, I went to HR because I felt I was being discriminated against by one of the big fat fuckwits who worked on the “we’ll sit here with pictures of our kids everywhere and read as many magazines as we want” magical desks at the far side of the call centre, and my very serious grievance was met with utter indifference, along the lines of “I know her personally and I can assure you that’s not something she would  do, there’s obviously been a miscommunication, really, try not to worry.”  No doubt soon after, she was off to the coffee machine to shoot the breeze with her chum from downstairs, and have a real chuckle about the attempted complaint.

You see, what you need to be aware of, is that in a Call Centre everyone but you has access to HR, and goes to have chats with them, getting to know them all by name and so forth.  They aren’t going to believe your shit, unless it’s pointedly serious, with witnesses, and they have no choice.  You can see it in their eyes; “you’re paid to work on the phones and we can always get somebody else to do this piece of shit job” is written all over their faces when you voice a concern.

You remember the company I worked for in my pre call centre days?  The HR department there was fucking awesome.  They even asked for pictures of my kid when he was born, remembering I had come back from paternity leave and were happy to genuinely spend time having a chat even if you were just walking past their office and the door was open.  To HR in call centres, you’re just a fucking expendable hindrance, unless you’re a Team Leader or above.


Who the fuck thought unions for a call centre were a good idea?  I joined a union once, and guess what happened when I approached them with an issue?  They advised me to speak to my manager, then his manager, blah blah.  Hey asshole, if I felt comfortable doing that, I wouldn’t be speaking to you, would I?  Waste of fucking time.  Don’t bother, because you have no rights, because you don’t have a serious job in the eyes of the galaxy.   

Folks, “I work in a call centre” instantly excludes you from partaking in any serious conversations with people in real jobs.  Understand this.  Admitting you work in a call centre to somebody is like telling them your parents are dead;  “oh, I’m sorry to hear that” is written all over their faces.  They will assume you have fucked up in life, or something has gone terribly wrong.   And frankly, they are absolutely correct.


Call centres have a rich lexicon, scattered with wee pearls of wisdom which, in the outside world, would be laughed out of the fucking building if you attmepted to rationalize them to anyone with a real job.  You've all heard them; the ridiculous customer focused buzzwords and phrases, which make you die a little inside every time you have to endure them, fully aware that they're fucking bullshit.  I can assure you, these are all real.


Fuck that shit, I used to slump in my chair and mouth “fuck you” down the phone... and still managed to sound happy.  I do not need to smile down the fucking phone.  What I need to do is convey information down the phone in a way that will send the customer away happy.  When I phone a call centre, I hate nothing more than some fucker sounding like they just opened their first Christmas present.  I want competence, not comedy.  I don't give a fuck about the person on the other end of the phone, so long as they fix my fucking problem.  They could call me a c*cksucker all day long; I just don't care.


Wait, what?  I manage to communicate in everyday life without paying any fucking attention to how I speak, and I seem to get along alright.  Do you assume I suddenly turn into Forrest Gump when faced with Johnny Customer on the other end of the phone?  Fuck you.  Pace, Piss, Off.


Apparently a way for the customer to know the agent hasn't fallen fast asleep listening to your bullshit which is the same as the last hundred customers' bullshit, which consists of making rudamentary grunts or sounds randomly throughout a call to denote they're listening, and not playing Connect 4 or snap with the guy sitting next to them.  I used to get so into my verbal nodding, I would completely zone out going "uh huh" and "yes," and have no fucking clue what the problem was by the time they'd finished rambling.


When the agent says “Did you know we now have this shiny new bicycle for just ten pounds a month” and the customers says “No thanks I’m disabled and wheelchair bound” and the agent says “I see but have you considered the benefits of a bicycle...”

This is the epitome of Stupid Fucking Call Centre Bullshit, you are expected to “handle” three objections before giving up on the customer because hey, the customer may not realize that they actually need that shit.  Don’t assume anything.  Don’t let the fact they’ve expressly told you that they know what the insurance is, they’ve read all about it on Moneysavingexpert.com and they think it’s bullshit and would rather go to prison that take purchase anything from you, they may not know all the facts.  OBJECTION HANDLE.  It may be something which could benefit them; they just don’t know it yet.


Your call is important to us.  Please wait, our advisors cannot fucking wait to speak with the next angry asshole who has been listening to our shitty music for ten minutes.

Yeah, we've all been there.  And do you want to know why call centres are constantly experiencing "higher than expected call volumes?"  Well, it's simple.  When the call start a comin', we all fuck off to the toilet.  We take a personal break, we fuck up our login on purpose so we have to call the helpdesk and crucially, don't have to speak to you.  It's nothing personal - it's just that taking call after call is so bitterly demoralizing - knowing there won't be any opportunity to pause for breath between now and the split second we'll have to mash our dialler keys in the hope of scoring a break when we're scheduled one - that we just snap, and give less of a fuck than at any other point during the day.