Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Call Center Funnies - April 2008

We all need a laugh or two each day to relieve stress or to put things in lighter perspective. Here's a cartoon courtesy of http://www.callcentercomics.com/.

You can also check out Will & Guy's Call Center Classics

If you have any cartoons or other funny call center stuff, please share with us.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Call Center Reps - Are You Being Paid Your Full Wages?

Several large U.S. corporations are being sued for not paying worktime wages to call center reps. Here's an article by Destinationcrm.com giving any overview of this issue and here is one from Earthtimes.org with the specifics of the lawsuit against AT&T Midwest.

The unpaid worktime in dispute is the time that a call center rep needs to log into or out of the acd phone system and other required software programs necessary to do their job. The lawsuit allegest that these companies only paid the reps for the time that they were available to take incoming calls. The time it takes for a rep to properly log into and out of their work programs varies from company to company but could be as much as 30 minutes/day.

If you don't know how your paid worktime is actually tracked by your company - ask!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Free Ice Cream Cone & More Freebies - April 2008

As a followup to my previous entry, "Your Call Center Salary - Stretch It With Extra Cash & Freebies - March/April 2008", attached is link from realsimple.com with a list of "23 Surprising Things You Can Get For Free".

I found there is one correction to the Real Simple list: the annual Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's this year is not April 17 (that was last year's date). This year the date is April 29, 2008. Here's a shop locator. Hope you have a Ben & Jerry's shop near you to enjoy on this day!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Call Center Workstations – Don’t Be A ‘Turtle Head’

The attached photo is typical of many call centers particularly the posture of the reps at the workstations. They are what I call “turtle heads” – backs hunched over, neck and head all scrunched down looking down at their computer screen. Sitting like this constantly 8 hours a day can do serious damage to your back, spine, neck and posture – which can lead to all other types of health issues. On a daily basis, it can contribute to headaches, fatique and lower call center rep productivity and quality. While most call centers provide ergonomically correct chairs for the reps, I find many fail to correct some of the other primary points of rep’s workstation that force the rep to sit incorrectly their entire shift. One primary point is the level of your computer screen. You should not have to look down to see it – instead it should be positioned at eye level or slightly below it. This can easily be corrected by the purchase of a plastic riser that any office supply vendor sells. Here is how http://www.wiki.com/ explains How To Set Up An Ergonomically Correct Workstation and here is what the Department Of Labor’s OSHA has to say about Computer Workstations.

If you feel that your call center needs to improve the ergonomics of its workstations, then bring these articles to your management’s attention. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your call center management does have an annual budget for office supplies and equipment that must be adhered to. If they can’t make these ergonomic improvements immediately, be patient and give them a chance to try to get the needed funds into next year’s budget. In the meantime, you may want to brainstorm with your supervisor or call center director some low cost immediate solutions. Bringing an important issue like to management’s attention - along with an attitude that shows respect for the budget and an eagerness to work with them as a team player to find reasonable solutions - demonstrates your leadership abilities and will truly impress them.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Shocking Call Center

Periodically, I have reps report to me that they are getting "shocks" from their headsets or phones. After I've convinced them that management isn't purposely electroshocking them to keep them awake on the job, I've had each incidence thoroughly investigated - brought in electrician to make sure all the phones, computers and rep workstations are safely wired and grounded, replaced headsets, replaced phones, etc. but never really found anything wrong. Yet, these occurances kept periodically happening - and randomly throughout the call center.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon the first plausible explanation I have ever found which can be found here in the article "Static In The Call Center" by Steve Fowler of Fowler associates and found on www.edsjournal.com. Finally! - some answers and some solutions.

If your call center is experiencing this type of problem, be sure to forward on this article to your Supervisor.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"The Call Center" Commercial

I'm sure one day there will be a reality television show named "The Call Center". Here's a proposed commercial for such a show that someone posted on Youtube.com. Enjoy......


Also take a moment to vote for who you would like to see in the "Celebrity Call Center" reality show - see poll to the right of this page.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Your Call Center Salary - Stretch It With Extra Cash & Freebies - March/April 2008

I know how hard it is to make ends meet on a call center rep salary. With rising oil, gas and food prices, it's getting harder and harder to stretch that paycheck to cover all your expenses - nevermind having anything left over to treat yourself. You may want to check out my previous posting about Call Center Salaries. In the meantime, a little extra unexpected cash, discounts or some freebies can help stretch that paycheck a bit more. I'll be including a category of postings here periodically with opportunities I found for free cash, rebates and discount coupons that might help you out - even if it's just a little more pocket change. So here's the list for the March/April:

Rebates and Refunds:

  • US. Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate - if you are a tax paying U.S. citizen, I'm sure you're already aware of this rebate. Most Americans will receive $300 to $600 with this tax rebate plan. However, you may not be aware of the specific eligibility requirements or when to expect to receive this rebate. You can go directly to the Internal Revenue Services website here for full information or you can review this article by ABC News. The most important thing to know is that to receive this rebate you must file your 2007 tax return. If you haven't filed your tax return yet here are three coupons you can use to save money on your tax preparation: H&R Block $30 Off Tax Preparation – new clients valid through 4/30/08, Jackson Hewitt $15 Off Tax Preparation - valid through 12/31/08, $5 gift card at Best Buy with purchase of any Turbo Tax product.

  • Airborne Refund - Airborne, the maker of this popular herbal supplement maker has agreed to pay $23.3 million to settle a class action suit charging it falsely advertised its best selling products can cure the common cold. If you bought an Airborne product between May 1, 2001 and November 29, 2007, you qualify to file a claim against the settlement. If you have proofs of purchase then you can get a refund for everything you bought. Otherwise, you can claim as many as six products up to $73.50. So if you used an Airborne product during the specified time period, here are links to the online claim form and more information about this settlement: Online Claim Form, Paper Claim Form, Settlement Website.


Printable Coupons - Groceries, Food & Beverages:

Printable Coupons - Miscellaneous:

If you're aware of any other good opportunities for free cash, rebates or valuable coupons, please comment here and share with us.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wacko Customers - Don't Let Them Get To You

Wacko customers - aarghhh!! You know what I mean - the kind that are rude, obnoxious and take abusive advantage of the fact that your job is to treat them well. It's not easy to stay calm and professional with these types and even if you keep your cool on the phone with them, it can be hard to shake them after the call. I've seen reps throw down their headsets in frustration and some even cry after being abused by these wacko customers. Rather than throw something or cry, check out this video for a creative and humorous way that a photocopy shop customer service person took out her frustration with "The Worst Customer Ever".

If you don't have time to create a video like this to vent your frustration & stress with wacko customers, read my previous entry on Controlling Call Center Stress for some tips on how to constructively shake these wackos out of your system. I'm sure (or I hope) that your training department has provided you with tips for managing difficult customers while on the phone with them. If not, or, you'd like more tips for handling difficult customers, here's a good summary of techniques to use.

Feel free to submit a comment with your story about a "Your Most Wacko Customer" or "Your Worst Customer Ever" - I'm sure you all have great stories to tell!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kind Comments About Call Center Reps

There are quite a few blogs and vlogs out there that either criticize or make fun of call center reps - particularly those reps who have a foreign accent. I won't even post links to these blogs and vlogs as examples because I don't want to encourage or add to their viewing numbers - they irritate me so much.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find one blogger who shows some empathy and respect for these reps. It's really refreshing to read his comments which you can find here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Call Center Salaries - How To Get A Raise

With home heating oil, gasoline prices and basic groceries at record highs, many call center reps are finding it harder than ever to make ends meet. Some who live in areas with no public transportation are even finding it difficult to get to work each day because they can't afford the gasoline for their car - and the price of gas is expected to go even higher this summer!

Now, more than ever, it's time to take a look at your current salary and make sure you are being paid a competitive salary for your call center job. There are many different resources you can use to learn what the competitive salary rate is for your call center job - just google "salary survey" and you'll find many listings. One of the more popular sites for salary information is Salary.com. Following are the U.S. national base salary averages listed for inbound call center reps (the different levels are primarily based on years of experience and the scope of responsibilities within the job):

Rep Inbound - Level I: Range = $21,956 - $35,552, Average = $28,246
Rep Inbound - Level II: Range = $24,589 - $40,114, Average = $32,145
Rep Inbound - Level III: Range = $28,294 - $48,942, Average = $38,197

It's important to keep in mind when reviewing these salary ranges that there are significant factors that determine whether the competitive salary for your specific call center job falls at the low or high end of the range. For example, the salary ranges listed above are base salaries (i.e. not including any other compensation such as incentive pay, bonus plans and/or health & retirement planning benefits). Other factors that determine the actual competitive salary for your specific call center job are the geographic location of your call center, the type of business your call center conducts, the skill level required to do your job, your specific job responsibilities, your years of experience and how well you are performing in your call center job. You can do a more customized salary search for your job at Salary.com.

Once you have a better understanding of your competitive salary range and what your boss would consider a "reasonable" raise, you can put a plan of action in place. I like the plan of action outlined on the website Soyouwanna.com. Here are the five basic steps listed there:
1. Make sure that you deserve it.
2. Prepare your strategy
3. Know when to strike
4. Read your boss
5. Avoid stupid mistakes
6. Go in and ask for the raise
Full details on each of these steps are found at So You Wanna Ask For A Raise? .
By far the most important step of all is the first step - "Make Sure That You Deserve It". For a call center rep that means consistently displaying high call quality, high productivity, excellent attendance, adherence to company policies and good interpersonal skills with your co-workers and management. If you have this first part in place with a reasonable expectation of what your competitive salary range is, the next five steps should be easy.

Friday, February 29, 2008

What Not To Wear - Call Center Dress Code

There is no one right dress code policy for call centers. What’s right for a particular call center depends upon the nature of the business, the background of its employees and even the geographic location. While more and more companies are relaxing dress code policy, many do still have definite guidelines. The guidelines often are stricter if there are occasional client or customer visits to the call center – and – there are quite a few companies who believe that dress code guidelines increase the overall professionalism and quality of its employees. I have to agree.

When I managed a small group of call center reps for a start-up web company, at first we didn’t have a dress code policy. During that period, most employees including the CEO and president of the company wore jeans and the chairman even occasionally wore shorts, t-shirt and sandals. However, as the company grew and the number of employees became larger and more diversified, the attire that employees wore to work was becoming an issue. Some of the call center reps would show up in what looked like pajamas, some in dirty t-shirts, some in raggy sweatsuits and some were dressed like they had a career “in the oldest profession in the world” like the singer in this music video.

A number of the other employees (both male and female) didn’t like it because it made them feel they weren’t working with other professionals - or - in a professional environment. Much to my surprise, the majority of the reps in my center actually wanted me to institute a dress code policy. So I did – with input from the employees. I knew what I wanted in a dress code policy, but I knew that I would get better buy-in from the employees if I solicitated their ideas and comments. I was very impressed at how much thought and consideration they put into helping me establish the dress code policy. It was still casual, yet sensible, more professional-looking and it took into account the diversity of our employees cultural, family and economic backgrounds. Was everybody happy with it? Of course not, but the majority of reps embraced it.

Most dress code policies include this list of 15 Don’ts.

Why should you give a hoot about your call center’s dress code policy? Because if you don’t it could be a career killer. Putting aside the disciplinary action that would most likely be imposed on you, not dressing appropriately for your job gives management a bad impression of you. You may just be a call center rep now – but if you want to get promoted to another position in your call center or another department in your company, then dress the part now. As much as we might not like it - Image Does Count.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Call Center Yoga

As a followup to my prior post, "Call Center Job Stress - Control It", here's a link to some more stress reducing exercises you can do at your desk. Don't get turned off if you're not into yoga. The exercises in these videos are more just simple, good stretches than yoga contortions. Even if you're not stressed, - - they're great exercises for getting rid of that aching back and neck you have after being hunched over your desk for 8 hours. Try them - and let me know if you like them.