Thank You For Calling
Lessons from working as a call centre agent
“Thank you for calling. How may I help you?”
This was the opening spiel of an agent receiving calls from clients of a financial firm. I spent more than 2 years receiving calls as my job. I logged clients’ requests partially on paper, partially electronically via a diskette. Who even knows what a diskette is nowadays?
I find it interesting to see stats so here are some numbers for context. From memory, I have taken about 100 calls per day on average. There are approximately 200 work days a year when I exclude holidays, monsoon season disruptions, and leave entitlements and I did this job for 2.5 years. So I just realised I have received over 50,000 calls in my life. That seems like a lot.
While it was not my favourite job in the world, it was a decent one. It paid the bills, I gained skills, network, and a step inside a global financial firm. Looking back, the job taught me a thing or two. Here are those that stand out.
Those who get compounding interest get it, those who don’t, pay it.
Over half of the calls I received were from credit card clients who were called, in banker speak, “revolvers”. These are clients who do not pay their credit card debt in full each month. Most people did not realise the staggering interest payments that accumulate on their accounts, and in the end they struggle to pay debt and have their “credit score” (a number assigned to people representing their ability to pay debt) tarnished. Unfortunately, most of them were working class whose income levels were low. Their behaviour probably stems from the lack of information on how interest rates work on debt.
It is just as important to teach society (children and adults alike) about compounding interest as it is to teach history or how to calculate the area of a triangle. I would argue that it might be even more important as personal finances directly impacts lives.
When to not take it to heart
Once in a while or about 1 in every 500 calls is from an irate client. They shout at the agent, say condescending words, or give the longest speech about how the bank is screwing them over. So occasionally, some of my colleagues including myself would look like something a cat dragged in.
That job trained my mind to see those calls as a business conversation, not a personal one. To keep the conversation professional, the listening and responding skills come into play. The skill of pacifying angry clients proved quite useful to me in managing conflict in the workplace.
Rejection is part of life. Move on to find the next opportunity.
As a call centre agent, we had a cross sell target per day. It means we have to offer a different product on top of what a client already has with the bank. If you wanted to meet this target, of course, you had to offer at every possible opportunity.
The thing about rejection is that it is hard to swallow. Working as a call centre agent, the rejection experience becomes a fact of life and waving it off and trying the next opportunity becomes second nature.
The call centre experience feels like many moons ago. It was fun looking back and finding things I learned along the way. For my readers, I will say it over 50,000 times, thank you for reading!