Monthly Archives: March 2017

The types of clients you get at a call center

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People who work at call centers get all types of clients. Some are a pleasure, while others are just plain difficult or traumatizing. Here is an itemization of the types of clients you might bump into at a call center.

In a Hurry
Some clients are in a hurry and want to get off the phone as fast as possible. Some refuse to answer critical questions and ask you to call them back.

Refusal to Talk
Others just don’t want to talk to you. Perhaps they are busy or just don’t like you. Many won’t even listen to why you are calling, they just don’t want to talk.

Some clients are just angry. They might be angry at your company, or angry in general. It is easy to get angry clients when something happened to their phone service, their computer, internet, credit card or their account with your company.

Overly Talkative
Some customers just won’t shut up. They keep talking and talking. Any question you ask that requires a one word answer or a quick sentence ends up with minutes of rambling most of which is completely irrelevant to the question at hand.

Customers are often annoyed if they have to call in to a call center. Being put on hold, or talking to an automated attendant can be enraging. If the process could just be more simple!

This type of customer also talks a lot, but they interact with you in a meaningful way that you migth actually enjoy!

If you can think of any other types of call center clients, please write a comment to this blog!

If you work at a call center, should you be “too nice” to clients?

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One lady who worked at a call center was too nice to the customers. She gave them discounts when they had a problem. She was very patient to them when they were mean. She pulled strings in their favor. He colleagues criticized her for being too nice. But, at the end of the day her negative minded co-workers quit or got fired fast, and she lasted.

Sometimes a good call center strategy or business strategy is not about what gets you ahead, or even what makes you money. What is important is keeping your employees on board, keeping your customers and staying in business. In the long run, if you are still there, that is half the game.

If you are too nice to clients, in the long run they will probably stay with you for years. Companies that are successful normally have a huge base of clients who are loyal to them in the long run. Whatever you lose by giving an unwarrented discount is small compared to what you gain by keeping a client for ten years. Getting new clients is costly, but retaining old ones has been found to be a better investment. Some people say that getting a new client costs six times more than maintaining existing ties. So, it pays to keep who you have before you go spending a mint on marketing for new clients!

Call center hiring strategy: Pleasant vs. Knowledgable?

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If you have a call center, you’ll be very popular if you have pleasant people answer the phone. If you have had a rough day and you talk to a jerk on the phone, it can set you off your edge very easily. One mean person on the phone can ruin your day if you are sensitive. But, pleasant people don’t always have the skills to handle people’s business problems.

Smart people like computer programmers, technical agents, and senior business people have great skills. But, they are not always patient, kind, or empathetic.

So, how do you have that perfect mix of capable vs. pleasant workers? One call center client threatened to shoot themselves if they were put on hold once more. But, what if you had a pleasant person to babysit the client instead of putting them on hold. Yes, that is expensive, but would it make a difference? It probably would and might even be worth the cost if the clients are paying decent money for your service. Instead of talking to a robot, imagine being able to talk to a very pleasant person who could make small talk and route you to the correct person when they were ready. Your call might take equally long, but it would be much more pleasant.

On the other hand, what if you trained your most pleasant people to be technically saavy. Would it be possible? They might be able to learn light technical tasks in a few months, and it might be worth it if they stuck around. Could you also train your geeky people to be more personable? That might be a little more difficult. But, you might take the edge off their geeky behavior with some one-on-one smoothness training.

Having the perfect staff is a combination of good hiring, balance, and molding your staff to be the way you want them. In my opinion, instead of training people all at once, staff members should get two or three hours of training each week to kee them growing at all times. If you train them all in the beginning and they quit, you’ve lost a lot of ground which is why spreading it out makes sense.

How can a call center agent show compassion when their life is hell?

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If you have ever stepped into a call center, you will notice that human beings are attached to computers and machines like slaves. It is sort of like the Chinatown analagy where indentured servants are chained to a stove cooking kung-pao chicken all day long. How depressing — but, easy on the pao please!

The air in call centers isn’t so fresh, and there is noise and stress from nearby work stations. People work like sardines with tiny desks stacked next to each other. Bathroom breaks are not so easy to get either. On top of that you have to deal with irate clients on a regular basis and deal with annoying situations like credit cards that have been turned off, computers that won’t turn on, etc. It just seems like pure hell. No wonder the attrition rate is so high.

The problem is that big call center managers aren’t very creative people. I think they would benefit from reading my blog as well since I offer creative solutions to not so creative problems. If people live in slave-like conditions, how can they possibly stay on the job for more than four months or show compassion? The answer is they can’t. And the solution is to solve all of the hellish conditions one demon at a time.

1. Bathroom breaks
Call center agents should have a more flexible shift where they can take bathroom breaks whenever they like so long as they login the hours they were away from their post (AKA login how long the ball was away from the chain.)

2. Snooze breaks
Nothing beats a good snooze. You feel so much better afterwards. But, should your boss determine when you snooze, or your body? Your body has different needs on different days, so having a six and a half minute snooze at 3pm every Thursday might not be the solution. The freedom of choosing when to snooze is half the victory. There should also be snooze rooms where you can get a comfortable place to lie down in a quiet environment, perhaps with water sounds.

3. Air
I have a heart problem, so air is particularly critical to me. But, normal humans don’t feel good when they are around bad air. It makes more sense to be in a forest or near the beach to get clean air. And call centers have the freedom to be where they like.

4. Mean managers
Call centers can have certain managers who specialize in metrics, and analysis, and others who specialize in interacting with the workers in a way that doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way. “Your metrics are down 10% today Jose! But, I’m sure you’ll get the calls per hour metric back up, won’t you? — no pressure!”

5. Mean clients
If you figure out who the mean clients are and funnel them to someone who is better able to deal with them, your other agents won’t quit so often. Just one mean client per day can set off call center agents who I know!

6. Task shuffling
If you do call work all day long that can drive a person crazy. It is better to mix it up with data entry, writing, or some other task. It might be harder to find people who can do a good job on more than one task, but it would keep them around more. Being on the phone more than four hours a day in the long run drives me crazy which is why I limit my personal call work to 20 hours a week no matter what!

7. Stressful environment
It is obvious that a call center is the most stressful environment known to man-kind (or Manila-kind as the case may be.) To counteract that stress, why not have a call center in the most de-stressing environment like a beach. Instead of a huge office, why not have high-tech huts on an abandoned beach somewhere. You get clean air, relaxation, and a great environment. Agents could live in units near work and walk to work. And if they quit, they could go back to the city or wherever else they want. Doing the same thing in a forest or prairie makes equal sense.

It is much easier to show compassion if you have suffered in your past. But, being in an unbearable environment doesn’t enhance your ability to be kind to others. That is why a good environment, and a good system of taking breaks and dealing with others is imperative!

Learning about Western culture at an Indian call center

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How can you learn a culture without living in it I ask? I remember as a child growing up in Massachusetts, my only impression of Indians were from movies. I saw mysterious guys in turbans playing the flute and charming snakes. They had great accents and were fun to watch — a bit scary too. But, in real life there are only a few snake charmers in India and the rest are not like this. India is a complicated country with regions, castes, personalities, some lack personality too, classes, neighborhoods, etc. You cannot put a finger on the Indian personality, although there are some common themes and some common inept behavior.

For Indians to understand Australians, Americans and Brits seems equally daunting. How can you sit in Noida and have a crash course in what English speaking Westerners were like.

One lady was told that Australians are dim-witted, heavy drinking racists. How can you reduce the fourth largest country in the world in such a demeaning and simplistic way? I met tons of Australians in America, Taiwan, Europe and Singapore. I found them to be the most friendly, exciting, wonderful people anywhere, and I love their accent. Some of them drink heavily, but I didn’t meet the drinkers so much as I met cool people who were educated and fun! Describing an entire culture using over-simplified terms doesn’t educate a call center worker, it misinforms them. It might be better to depict a culture in terms of common behavioral themes. In high school there are the jocks, the geeks, the nerds, the cool guys, the average kids, etc. There is not just one type, and not everybody fits into the common types either.

Another lady was told that Americans are 90% big hearted while the other 10% are just down-right brilliant. I have lived my entire life in America with extended trips to India and Taiwan. I will tell you that ounce per ounce, perhaps there is more compassion (a Hindu virtue) here in America than there is in India. But, there are lots of underachievers here, dumb people, short-tempered folks, as well as some scarily brilliant people. Despite America’s stupidities, our country finds a way to have our businesses function and that is why we are more successful than most other countries who just can’t get it together.

The way to learn a culture is to live in it. If you have serious call center reps who you intend to keep for a long time and pay well, they should live in America, Australia, or whatever country they are going to cater to. The more countries you visit, the more you learn about culture, especially if you interact with the locals over a long period of time. Or you could hang around with Americans in India which is easier. The type of Americans who come to India are not always representative of the norm. Especially when you see white girls named Sally traipsing around town wearing a silk mysore sari. It might make more sense to import a good cross-section of Americans so you can feel the culture in a more well-rounded way.

Another way to learn culture for call center work is to see how various cultures handle various types of problems. Dating, marriage, education, work and various problems are handled differently in different cultures and by different individuals. So, seeing many examples of how people in Texas handle having their credit card turned off might be a more helpful cultural education rather than being told that Texans like everything big, yee-haw!!!

From my western perspective, I would say that the biggest flaws of Indians are their insensitivity to others as well as their incessant desire to nag others. Westerners don’t like nagging too much, loud noises are not appreciated (such as your screaming kids) and a refusal to solve problems is another things Westerners don’t like. Even if you have never met an American or Ozzie in your life, if you are attentive to being considerate, control loud noises, and solve problems quickly and effectively which might involve triple checking your work, oh, and don’t nag, you might be very appreciated by the average westerner — but, no guarantees. And one more thing — please hold….

How can you clear your head at a call center?

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When you read the personal accounts of call center workers, the text always reads about how they are chained to a desk or leashed to their work-station. How horrible and slave-like. The truth is that call center workers feel they need to clear their head. A walk down the hall works miracles. A trip to the bathroom can be the break from heaven. Taking a walk in nature works well too. These long days tied to a desk may be the reason for high attrition rates. Perhaps more worker freedom to take breaks whenever and for as long as ever would solve the problem.

But, then what happens when you work overtime and your boss doesn’t change your break time? Then you might really lose your mind.

Having a wireless headset allows you to walk around the room a bit between calls — how liberating.

Some agents clear their head by visiting places they’ve always wanted to go — but, online. Dubai, Stone Henge, Las Vegas, Paris, etc. Basically anywhere other than Manila!

I think that there should be professional clients who are pleasant to talk to. Every hour, each agent should get to talk to a really pleasant client. Maybe a female with a soothing voice, or perhaps somebody very caring, or sexy.

Personally, I have been doing calls for decades and realize how important it is to talk a nap, have a meal or take a walk in the middle of a work day. I am not advocating the Spanish siesta system. But, I do something similar with three or four hours off in the middle of the day. But, then I work all night!

Looking for outsourcing processes? A list of companies to call…

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Here is a long list of companies that outsource work. If you look up the company names, you can see where they are headquartered and how to contact them. You will need to SCROLL after you click the link below to see the long list. There are many companies you know of on the list such as Accenture, Google, AOL, Quaker Oats, etc.
Good luck!

Do you start clients out with your worst employees?

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It is a common problem at outsourcing companies that your best employees are busy on another project. When a new client calls, you spend a long time trying to pass off your worst employee off as a viable resource. Unfortunately, companies do this to me all day long. When I hire outsourcing companies, I want to get to know the employee a little bit as so many are so bad. If I interview twenty companies, I might only be satisfied with the employees at one or two of the companies. The result is that the others have wasted their time with me. They wasted my time too because they tried to offer me substandard employees who have poor communication skills, poor thinking skills and assumably poor work skills.

Many companies hire a fancy salesperson, and you get a wonderful impression of the company talking to the salesman. I want to get rid of the salesman as fast as possible as they are not going to be around when your work gets screwed up. The purpose of the company wanting you to spend most of your assessment time talking to the salesman is purely for the purpose of impression, and not for the purpose of transmitting reliable information. It is in a sense a con job where you hire the company under false pretenses.

When I talk to the company bosses about how they screwed up my project and lost me as a client before I even was a client by screwing up my test job. The answer is always the same. Their star employee Rahul was busy on another project and didn’t have time to work on mine. The result is that they lose me as a client forever because the boss couldn’t have Rahul sacrifice three hours of his time. Putting aside the fact that the other employee screwed up the job, the other problem is that the boss promised me Rahul and delivered someone else because of a last minute scheduling issue.

When I hire programmers, I like to work with the same person and know them. If you change who my programmer is each week, you make my code into a free-for-all with 100 different coding styles and I never get to know anyone. Indians need to realize that there needs to be loyalty to one’s job and that having employees who you treat as disposable parts doesn’t cut it with me.

So, the result is that most companies lose my work because they offer me their worst employees, don’t keep commitments, and rarely make sure things get done on time. It is like going to a dance wearing your worst clothes, unshowered, and with your hair a mess. If you show up at a dance looking like you just got out of bed, do you expect others to dance with you?

An outsourcing vision about the Lakota people

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Watching the news about Standing Rock has depressed me. Watching uranium companies devastate the land in South Dakota in the 1970’s and now watching oil companies do even worse things is really hard to take. Why can’t we just go solar and respect our land? But, I digress.

The Lakota people are spiritual descendants of the buffalos and used to live in harmony with this magnificent animal. The minute the buffalos were wiped out, so were the Lakota people. Their whole culture revolved around buffalos and nature. Due to generations of children being sent to boarding schools, few of the Lakota people know how to be natives any more or speak their language.

Reverse Boarding Schools.
The solution seems to be reverse boarding schools. For the Lakota nations to create their own language schools for children 3-7 to live and speak only the Lakota language and learn only the Lakota culture. They could even invite white kids to come to school with them which would be a reversal of “Nazi nuns” forcing their sterile white Christian culture on Indian kids. After that, there needs to be an economic structure where people could have jobs where they could speak the language. The problem is that there are hardly any jobs in the reservations these days regardless of language. But, I had a positive vision.

Planting Seeds
If the Lakota people want to get together and quit complaining about the past, and start doing something about the future, good things could happen. The buffalos can be revived if there is a seed population. Buffalos can be bred. The linguistic loss can also be rebred. There are about 2000 speakers of Lakota, so if those people were used exclusively to spread the language to children, then the language could grow from that seed. However, if the seed is lost, then the language will become extinct forever! Maybe it is God’s plan to unify the human species by reducing the number of languages spoken and having many or most of us know English. Maybe it is God’s plan to unify the races by having us all live together in big cities througout the world. It certainly looks like this. But, if the Lakota want to preserve their cultural heritage which matters to me (not convinced it matters to them), then they will have to start planting seeds.

My Vision
The vision I saw was a huge expanse of land going for miles filled with buffalos roaming freely. There were clusters of teepees with people doing tasks. Then, there was an underground tunnel that went to an undergound compound. A guy was there watching surveylance cameras. The buffalos were mostly killed off in the 1800’s by white people who didn’t live in harmony with nature. The lesson learned is that what is not protected will be lost or stolen. So, fences around this vast expanse of grassy land were built with cameras to keep poachers out. Next, I saw a building near the edge of this huge field with a call center. The agents were mostly Lakota, but they were speaking Ethiopian, Hebrew and Chinese. Apparently, after World War 3, most of the cultures of the world were wiped off the globe permanently. Most Africans died, but through a miracle of God, the Ethiopians survived and became a thriving spiritual culture. Israel suffered a devastating invasion and lost most of its population too, but rebuilt and populated to become a thriving spiritual nation as well. China also suffered terrible population losses, but got their act together and decided to live without polluting their rivers and air anymore. All of these cultures thrived and needed additional labor to help them deal with their businesses. So, they hired Lakota Call Centers in South Dakota which was now an independent country.

The Lakota people decided there was safety in numbers, so they decided to have at least six children per family. They also decided not only to make sure all of their children were fluent speakers of their language, but they also decided to have cultural tests once a year to make sure that all of their tribal members were experts at the culture.

0% unemployment
In traditional Native American societies there was zero percent unemployment. Everyone had a job. The women picked berries, gathered wood, and did handicrafts while the men were hunters and warriors. After the buffalo were wiped out and people were run off their traditional lands, the people no longer knew how to make a living. Having their children sent to boarding schools did not help the unemployment problem either. The problem was that they needed to adapt to find new ways of employment and the chiefs were not helping.

Paying Tax on the Land
The biggest issue here is that in real life in America, if you own land, you have to pay tax. Native folks don’t see why they should pay tax on land that belongs to them. There is always a price you pay for land. In tribal times, people paid with the lives of their male children to protect the land. Many boys would die in tribal wars to maintain control of hunting grounds and territory. In the modern world, people pay for land and pay taxes on land. American Indians never liked this idea because they figured the land inherently belonged to them just because their ancestors had lived there. Under a nation, if you own a parcel of land and pay taxes on it, you can maintain ownership. But, for nations, there is no intrinsic ownership other than your ability and willingness to defend the land. So, after the U.S. took over, native people no longer “owned” or controlled the land. But, in my vision, the Native Americans got over their hang ups about resisting playing by the new rules and decided that paying taxes on land and paying for land was better than being wiped out — so they did.

A gradual expansion
The Lakotas in my vision decided that they needed industries. Their traditional industry was handicrafts and buffalo hunting. So, they decided to continue this tradition by saving money, and buying land in South Dakota. They used the land to raise buffalos. The more money they made, the more land they bought. Land was not that expensive out there, so they quickly acquired miles and miles of land. After a few generations, they got back all of the land they had lost many generations previously. Since in my vision South Dakota becomes an independent nation, and the Lakota population grew to be huge, the Lakota population controlled the whole country. However, the Lakota people decided to become more hospitable to outsiders and let them stay in their land providing they would play by Lakota rules which meant living in harmony with nature, knowing some of the Lakota language, and passing a cultural test. The joke is that if there were such a cultural test given in 2016, not only would the whites all fail it, but most of the native kids would fail miserably as well.

A relationship with God
I don’t claim to know what the spiritual conditions are in Native Reservations throughout America. However, without God’s graces, evil forces like Uranium mining, buffalo genocides, heroin, child abuse, and many others will creep in. In my opinion, the entire tribe should have regular prayers to have God protect the land from abusers and have God heal the land that has been abused through natural forces. Without God, no positive growth is possible. The tribe also needs to understand that gifts from God come with Tything. Without giving to charity, not many blessings will come your way.

The Solution
The solution to the problem of cultural iradication of the Lakota people is:

1. Language incubation projects
2. An economic culture with industries that thrive in the Dakotas involving buffalo harvesting, handicrafts, and remote outsourcing businesses. An economic structure where the tribe makes sure that all are employed no matter what.
3. Repopulating the tribe
4. Cultural education for tribal members as well as guests from other communities
5. A willingness to pay tax on land and purchase land for environmentally sustainable use
6. A relationship with God is necessary otherwise all else will crumble.

China is outsourcing it’s pollution to Bosnia

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China has had a terrible pollution problem for years now. Due to economic constraints, China felt they had to use coal as one of their major energy sources and polluted their rivers, and land. The Chinese are now having a change of heart and are deciding that green mountains and clean water are like gold which is true. So, the solution is to outsource some of their filthier businesses to other countries. China is considering roughly 80 overseas coal projects currently. China’s coal power industry is being used at less than 50% of capacity.

One of the issues is that global agencies are not happy with the amount of pollution that will be created by these plants which would contribute to carbon emissions that would contibute to global climate change. China is not solving an ecological nightmare — they are just moving it a few thousand miles away. China also outsources dirty industries to parts of Africa. Perhaps moving dirty industries to places where population density is lighter makes sense. But, why not be clean and green?

The major issue here is that certain energy industries are essential for economic growth, and certain regions of China depend on coal as their main source of revenue. But, what good is growth if you can’t breathe or drink the water? What good is growth if everyone is getting cancer? My personal philosophy is that growth is an illusion. What we really need is to live in balance and grow at the speed of nature. All of this pollution is a result of humans being in too much of a rush and trying to achieve what should be done more slowly and cleanly. Does the entire planet need to be destroyed before humans get it?