This is not my story. I wish it was. I am not that cool tho’. This is a story I heard a while back from someone very dear to me. I loved it and I thought everyone should read it. In my mind this is the kind of story you tell your grandkids to be honest.
His name is Ștefan, a Team Leader and also a Fashion Designer student at London College of Fashion.
The story goes like this:
I was working for one large American corporation and coincidentally, it was also my first job. I had been dealing with crazy customer demands, system errors, convoluted situations caused by improper handling of situations and all in all, messy situations.
One may say working in call center and customer service is hell, but I may say it is one of the most rewarding experience I was able to get. Amongst its rapid-fire environment, pressuring circumstances and abundance of tasks to fulfil, customer service offers at times incredible moments which you will cherish for the rest of your life.
I was a customer service representative for a good year and a half, and I had recently been promoted to handling escalations. As you can imagine, the daily dialogues were something around people being „inconvenienced”, angry, upset, dissatisfied and all that memorabilia. Long-term, life in contact center makes it that your social life is reduced to your work colleagues and those 2-3 customers you always get to work with on a weekly basis. So that may or may not turn you sour. Add that to being tasked daily with handing odd or complex cases by your Manager and you are in for a thunderstorm.
It was a rather dull and standard day at work (at this point, everything was like that), and my Manager asked me to work on a case with a customer’s complaint. „See how you can cut down on whatever he wants”, would be the all-time favorite line of my manager. And thankfully, I was good with having dialogues with my customers.
The guy I was to call was in the absolute right; from a poorly sold contract with incredible things promised as part of the deal, we can easily say he was scammed to get in a contract which would only cost him more than if he was to go to another carrier.
The phone conversation starts and takes about 10 minutes in which I get presented with the facts (which I was well aware of), along with the customer’s personal beliefs on the matter and how he feels the company needs to improve. In short, the classic „complain, feedback and fix my issue” type of mentality.
The peculiar thing about this one was the guy knew what he was talking about. It was as if he had worked in call center all his life. Naturally, I felt for the guy and fell to help him as much as I could. Perhaps the reason he swayed me into helping him was he was a lawyer (and I think a good one). He was looking to get a hefty discount on his bill, for over $400, but I knew this was a no can do.
I bought myself time until next day, even though I intended to get it done on the same day. Our conversation really paid off. As soon as we agreed for me to chase this up, I got to my manager and scraped off $200 off the customer’s bill. Lo and behold, I called him back maybe an hour after I had had the exception awarded to let him know.
The guy wasn’t happy he did not get what he was expecting, but this is where setting limits and correct expectations is so important. I advised him I won’t be able to promise anything and will work to find a middle-ground solution. So naturally, he felt more than happy to hear we were both meeting halfway.
So the guy did thank me for being committed to fixing his issue. After a blurb of a few minutes, during which I could not make head or tails of what he was trying to say, I woke up in the middle of the call with him singing a good 3-minute opera segment dedicated to me. And the guy was good. DAMN GOOD, I may say!
The baritone quality of his voice, belting and vibrato techniques were on point. While he was singing, despite me understanding nothing, I was cackling and giggling on mute listening to it. I really felt appreciated and rewarded, and like my work made a difference.
So yes, if you have the chance, work in call center. It will teach you a great deal about accountability, responsibility, it will also equip you with a variety of skills and make you more confident in your capabilities. And perhaps, you will get the opera singing guy to dedicate to you an opera segment.