Over 2 years ago I was working for Bell Mobility, at a fixed hourly rate of $17.21, with a comfortable benefit program as well as 37.5 hours a week guaranteed unless I wanted less. For those of you who know me well, you can obviously picture the lack of balance – currently I own and operate a design & marketing company out of Vancouver, BC (Synchronous Design & Marketing), and I take my own fate into my own hands. No benefits, no guarantees. I love this environment however because it constantly challenges me and I have no complaints.
That being said, the corporate world does give you some valuable insights into business, finance, and human relations, and I would still go through it again if I had to do it over again (although just after a year, I hated it so much I quit without a back-up job). For young people who want to become independent business owners and entrepreneurs, yet do not have the funds or the ideas to start upon, I would actually recommend going through a corporate job for the experience of it. Learn what you can get, and then leave.
My specific job function was a call centre agent, and for the most part I worked in the business/corporate account department. I was the asshole on the other side when you call 611 and then press 0 on your cell phones. And then I would go onto explain why that extra charge IS a valid charge and you still have to pay it, or give you some lame excuse to why we’ve raised the System Access/911 Fee on your cell phone bills. Now out of my defense, I was one of the best agents for troubleshooting phone problems, billing errors, and also troubleshooting our own customer management systems that we used to handle inquiries.
This job obviously involved plenty of conversation with customers, as well as interaction with colleagues as well as obliging to corporate standards and guidelines. It was interesting and educational while it lasted.
- Memorizing your workflow or training is not always the best thing.Memorization of cell phone plans, billing details, pricing etc. was discouraged at Bell. Of course, there are some items that you memorize after a while (price of Caller ID etc.) but the truth is that the pricing for those items, the conditions etc. can differ from many different account types, and trying to memorize this all during the training course was a ridiculous goal, not to mention unnecessary. The truth about these plan details and what not is that they tend to change from time to time as well. We had an internal knowledge-base system similar to Wikipedia, with all current and past details of different products and services that we were encouraged to refer to. This may increase each call time by a small amount, but it drastically reduced training time as well as margin of error on account handling.
The same applies to my current profession as a design & marketing guy, who constantly works with PHP code. It’s a given that I probably have tonnes of PHP commands and syntaxes memorized, but I don’t try to memorize it. All I need is to be aware of what is possible, and when the time comes to use it, I look it up on the PHP official website to verify, or look it up on Google for application examples. Some people that know how much I code may assume I memorize most of my functions but that’s far from true.
- Rules ARE bendable depending on your people skills.In my work environment there were always disputes about pricing, contract extensions and what not. As much as there are corporate guidelines on the eligibility for perks and discounts for certain clients (based on length of business, length of contract, average monthly revenue and past promotion records etc.), there’s always a margin to it.
Some clients would call in all ready for an argument and complaints – some people just seem to have an issue with corporations overall, and preserve that left-wing attitude that makes them view corporations as the “enemy” or something of the sort. When these guys call in and start an argument from the beginning, there was no way I would budge and give a discount, or make a one-time adjustment. I would hold my ground and did not give a shit if it escalated to one of those “supervisor” calls (and they’re not always the actual supervisors – just more experienced agents specializing in escalations).
On the other hand, if a person calls in with a happy jolly tone, the last thing I feel like saying is “Sorry ma’am, that is a valid charge as per your service agreement.” or “That offer is no longer available on your account.” To avoid any potential arguments, and to keep the conversation civil, I would just let it go and turn a blind eye. Besides, the management is not capable of checking all the discounts and adjustments made, so small amounts could just fly. It was simply the margin of error that the corporation had in mind anyways.
- Sales pitches, and mirroring personalitiesEven in the customer service center which is set up to wait for inbound calls, we had a fair bit of sales quotas to meet. For example, when a person calls in, and we notice they are using some text messages but does not have a text messaging bundle, we can offer it and try to get him/her to add it to the account. These are small sales in amount but sales nonetheless, and throughout my career I became better and better at naturally spotting the clients’ needs, offering the right product in the right tone of voice, and getting the sale.
What also helps is to always mirror the personality of the person you are trying to sell. If it’s a rowdy businessman calling in with some ego, your tone of voice would match, and the choices of words as well (“You got that right sir!!!” in a up-beat tone, kind of sucking up would do the trick). If it’s an older female who is about to stick a golf club up your bum if you say one wrong thing, you want to keep things very fine-tuned (“Yes, that is correct ma’am.” in a polite tone would be suitable). There are many different archetypes of people based on personality, age, ethnicity and what not, and over time I obtained some natural feel on how to respond to different people. And this is a continuous learning process for me – to keep learning and polishing my skills for sales.