I like my job. In fact, I love my job. I love engaging in conversation with customers and I love the various personalities of the people I work with. What I don’t like is how my coworkers and I are treated, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
There are two functions of my job; outbound and inbound. In outbound, we contact all of our customers and offer all of the products they don’t already have. Example: someone has phone service with us, so we contact them in order to try to get them to purchase TV and Internet service as well. I used to love this part of my job.
Secondarily, we take inbound calls from customers. Typically, customers want to complain about their bills, and it becomes our job to first explain that they do, in fact, have to pay the four hundred and fifteen dollars worth of collect calls from their incarcerated significant other. Then we have to get either the internet or TV into their home. This part of the job is slightly easier; satisfied customers who don’t feel intruded upon are more inclined to listen to you.
It takes something special to do what we do, especially on the outbound side. Let’s be straight; if you didn’t give someone your phone number, you don’t want to hear from them. It’s a violation, and it usually comes at the worst possible time. When the customer picks up the phone, you have roughly three seconds to make one hell of a first impression. Even if you keep them on the phone, chances are it’s because they’re being polite, not because they want to hear what you have to say. A successful call ends with you selling them something, despite the fact that they didn’t want to hear from you in the first place.
That’s what I love about my job, more than anything else. I love the pressure-cooker atmosphere, I love listening to the voice on the other end, gauging whether they’re becoming interested or trying to get off the phone gracefully. I love that key moment, when I find the right word, the right phrase, or the right objection, and their voice changes from disinterest to curiosity. And, of course, I love closing the sale, making sure they understand what they’re spending and what they’re getting.
To me, it’s like fighting all over again, and when I’ve overcome every single objection they’ve thought of, and they’re still buying what I have to sell, I’ve won.
My job also provides me with the opportunity to people watch. Brad is probably one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met; I could write a book about this guy. I love watching people do what they do best, and while I’m good at my job, Brad was born to close deals. Watching him is mesmerizing; you first meet him, he has relaxed eyes, a disarming presence that masks ruthlessness, and a country-boy demeanor that puts you completely at ease. He even speaks in the traditional country dialect, very relaxed, and somewhat lazy.
Then he gets on the phone.
Suddenly, he’s flawlessly enunciating every syllable as though he majored in English. He begins his calls by leaning back in his chair. As he draws the customer more into his pitch, he’ll sit forward and begin making circular gestures with his hands. When he’s closing the sale, the world ceases to exist. He’ll stand, turn away from his computer (he has no need for it, he’s already rung everything up), continue his hand gestures, and bring a certain intensity into his voice.
Brad personifies what this job is about. He’s very, very friendly, but he’s also completely about his bottom line. On either the company phone or his own, he’s about making his money. The difference between him and a traditional salesman is that he won’t screw you to make his bottom dollar.
Then there’s Paula. Although she’s an excellent salesperson, it’s not her desire to sell that makes her good; Paula has an innate sixth sense about people. She genuinely connects to almost every single person she speaks to on the phone, and she’ll remember them if they speak later. Paula is someone I have a great deal of respect and admiration for; I always look for the ulterior, darker motive in people, and I can’t find one in Paula.
She does what she does because she loves it. Because she loves it, she’s very good at it.
Beyond that, she’s just a very good person. Recently, she walked up to me, put a plate of heated leftover Mexican food in front of me, and said, “Here, eat this.” My head was in my hands because I didn’t see her coming. Upon seeing my eyes, she immediately asked, “What’s wrong?”
I know this may seem common to most people, but to me, it’s rare. So many people will just run off at the mouth about themselves without stopping for two seconds to ask how you’re doing. Paula devotes herself to the world around her without any thought of reward, and she’s so bright I can barely see her sometimes.
We do not have an easy job; you have to keep your energy up no matter what may be going on in your life. After nine hours of translating hillbilly to English, you don’t have a lot of strength left. By the time you get home, you barely have the energy to get in bed. It used to be worth it…
Part of what made the job doable was the ability to walk around and converse with my co-workers.
Since a merger (takeover would be more appropriate), the job has taken on a worker-bee mentality, in which we are nearly forbidden to speak to one another, be it in person or on the instant messaging system. Did I mention the instant messaging system is provided by the company, and we are allowed to add our co-workers? If we were only supposed to add managers and speak only to managers, I may not have liked it, but I’d understand it. This look-but-don’t-touch mentality is for the birds.
The pressure to sell across the board is insane. One of the top salesmen on the floor, having won numerous awards for performance, fell behind a bit on phone bundles (a landline package that is necessary to receive discounts on other packages). They brought the hammer down on him with such force that he nearly quit.
I think part of this may be my own bias; I wasn’t built to blindly take orders for the rest of my life. Granted, there are worse ways to end up, but if I have to sacrifice a lot to live on my own terms, so be it. And I’ve had worse jobs. My supervisor has cut me breaks when he didn’t have to, and I’m grateful for that. I just have no illusions.
Personally, I wonder if the company wants to drive its employees out the door; if so, it’s succeeding in droves. I’m one of five remaining members from my twelve person training class. The newer classes haven’t fared much better.
Why is camaraderie so frowned upon now? When we were allowed to have fun, we sold monstrously to show our gratitude. Since things have become more regimented and less enjoyable, our numbers have dwindled greatly, so much so that the higher-ups have begun asking why. We never abused our privileges, and we did all that was asked of us. As another one of my co-workers put it, “We made our goals, and then we lost everything.”
I’ve never understood the mentality of punishing people who worked hard for you. If you have a team, and this team is going above and beyond what you’ve asked of them, what do you gain by revoking their privileges? Do you even care when they seek work elsewhere?
It’s not a bad job, I love what I do, and I love the people I work with. But I don’t plan on making a career of this, not as things are now.
(c) Avery K. Tingle for Akting Out LLC
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