I guess most of you already know that I’ve worked for a large American corporation as a Customer Experience agent. That’s just a fancy title for Call Center, just letting you guys know this right now so we can get that out of the way. And I also managed to survive two years and three months at that job. Some will say that’s nothing, but I had people telling me „That’s too much time in a Call Center”. The weird thing is, I agree with both statements equally (but that’s another conversation, for another sunny day).

Being a Call Center agent has taught me a lot of things, and I bet the people who also worked in this toxic environment will agree, that patience is the one good thing we all learnt to master because of this job. Am I right or am I right? 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that need to change in this line of work. I am here to talk about one that affected my mental health when I was working for this home sharing company. For the people who did not work in a Call Center, do you remember the surveys you receive on your phone/email asking you to evaluate the conversation/experience you had on the phone with the agent? That’s what I want to talk about. Going back a few years, before I started working at this company, I never got any surveys, I had no idea what they were, and to be completely honest, I had no clue how important they were.

Having this job was hard enough. I mean, it’s no piece of cake to deal with angry customers that have outrageous demands and complaints. But you know what? Some of us are brave, smart and witty enough to do this job and do it gracefully. Leaving that aside, the most toxic and despicable thing a Call Center company can do is to let the customer evaluate and dictate an agent’s worth based on what they think and feel. Let me explain.

Cause I can already hear the „Oh, but it’s their opinion, their opinion matters, you know?” BS and I am not here for it. No, Susan. An agent’s value can not be fully evaluated by the customer and here’s why: the customer is subjective and will only, only give you a good survey if you provided them with the resolution they wanted. And sometimes not even then. Read that again.

Don’t stand there and tell me that it’s important for the company to receive feedback from the customer. Personally, I believe it’s amazing that companies want feedback from their customers, but let me ask you this then: why is my position in the company/income and the job itself have to suffer if a customer does not agree with the resolution the company asked me to give according to their own procedures?

Where I worked, we had to give bad news to the customers at any given moment of the day and no matter how good of an agent you were, and no matter how much you struggled to do everything by the book and to help the customer, they still would give you a bad survey and have the audacity to say in the comment section „The X agent truly was a life saver, but the policy of this company s*cks. Needs to be changed”. Now, let me ask one small question again: Can you truly say that this is fair for the agent, tho’?

To be perfectly clear, I have no problem with a customer sending their feedback and me receiving coaching and guidance when/if needed. But I do have a problem with him/her having control over my career, income and position in the company. This should only be evaluated by my Manager, Operations team and because I worked in a Call Center maybe the Quality team should have a say in this. Why? Because they heard all the calls with all the customers and they can assess the quality of my work based of the interactions I had.

But this was not the case. In this multinational company, whoever sends a feedback (meaning a survey) goes directly to the agent no matter what they say. And make no mistake, everything I’ve said so far, it’s true. It does affect the agent directly. Let me tell you how. The system they use, and this is a system a lot of Call Center companies use, it’s called NPS. And based on your NPS the company „can tell” if you’re a good agent or not. And also based on the same NPS you can qualify to apply for a promotion or not. So, if you think about it, you may be the best agent they will ever have, but if for some reason you don’t have the NPS to back it up, you won’t even be looked at. Side note: I can’t even tell you guys how many times this happened to me.

With this evaluation system, NPS, you have your promoters, passives and detractors. I bet you can figure out for yourself which of these are bad for you as an agent. You guessed it, passives and detractors… stay clear of them. Since life is not fair, neither is apparently the NPS because you can’t always get promoters. Be honest, if you got a detractor, do you know what would you be if you were attached to another object by an inclined plane wrapped helically around an axis? In case you didn’t watch The Big Bang Theory, let me tell you the answer: Screwed.

I had so much internal frustration I can’t even begin to describe it. And because I was working in a corporation, I was not allowed to show any emotions. What did you think that was? A healthy workplace where you can say what bothers you and receive guidance? That sweetie will be used against you. Just sayin’. I developed depression, anxiety and actually PTSD. I can still remember to this day my first detractor, who sent it and why.

Fyi, it was a guy who was mad that this company could not change the law for him. I admit it, this got to me a lot. For a while there my mental health sunk harder than the Titanic did. I had nightmares where I was dreaming that I was at work and refreshing the page to see if I received any more surveys and I would have pages and pages of detractors. My fear of detractors was ….unimaginable and inexplicable. And not to mention that…I always felt like I was in school, receiving these grades from 0 to 10. It felt degrading and unnecessary.

I know some of you are going to say „Oh, it’s you, you’re too emotional” „Just don’t let it get to you, it’s not that hard.” or „I bet no one else felt like this. You’re overreacting”. No, I am not. I was involved in my job and committed to be great at it even if I hated it. A quick PSA, I was amazing at it, and actually my entire team was. But what you need to understand is that these surveys had too much power over us, as agents. And it was impossible not to care and not be frustrated to the point where….your mental health just crashes (at least in my case).

„Didn’t you have like a Manager you can speak to and get this solved?” No one can fix this because the company itself does not care if you get a detractor. Actually, that’s what they want for a lot of reasons. They say the customer’s opinion is the customer’s opinion and they don’t want to change that. They don’t care if the customer is actually mad about the policy and doesn’t have anything against the agent.

It’s your fault for not being „nice enough” to persuade and manipulate the customer to give you a promoter. See the logic here? A lot of people made a fuss about this injustice, including myself, but the answer from the CEO was that they will simply not change the system and we should work on ourselves and improve our skills. This led to multiple conflicts between agents, Managers and Quality team, but in this article I will not discuss it.

For any Call Center company out there, this is your sign to wake up, grow-up and not make people hate their job even more. Don’t mess around with people’s mental health and sanity just because you actually don’t want any feedback from your customers. If you did, then that feedback would go to you, as CEO, Operations etc, not the agent who actually does the hard work and actually helps the customer.

The comment section is open if you guys feel like you want to share your own story/thoughts about this topic. 

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