Monday, February 12, 2007

Charter Part II

In October of '05, I was ready to take calls on my own at Charter Communications' call center. Us newbies were not put on the main floor quite yet. We were assigned to a kind-of holding area called Center Ice. It was a little quieter than the main floor with less distractions and there was always someone in there to come to our aid if we had any questions while we were on the line with someone.

This big guy, Mike, who sat in front of me, had been consigned to Center Ice for several months, not because he was bad, but because the retention area (trying to keep customers to stay with Charter) had no desks open for him yet.

I worked a 9 to 5 shift during my time in this area. There weren't too many calls that came in in the morning. The afternoon was busier. Since my lunch breaks were now 30 minutes (instead of an hour), I couldn't really drive off to my secret location to walk any longer. However, one of my favorite things about the call center is that they had an exercise room. In it, there was an elliptical trainer, a sit down bike, one of those big blue balls, and a treadmill. I usually hit the treadmill twice a day. I walked about 12 minutes each time I was on it while watching something on the TV that they had in there. I also sometimes used my breaks to go online and check my email.

There were three types of calls that we generally received. One would be people whose cable went out due to technical difficulties. I would not hesitate to give them credit for that day's service and set up an appointment for a tech to come out and look into it ASAP.

The second type of call would be people who wanted to pay their bill by phone or who wanted to know what their balance was. And the last major type would be people who wanted to order pay-per-view movies. Included in this type were horndogs who called in from all over the country to order "sexually explicit" movies. They usually ran about $9.99. Most of 'em didn't seem to care which movie they bought, just so long as it showed some flesh.

I didn't get too many angry callers. It was always funny, though, hearing other people in the center start raising their own voice. It was obvious that they were trying to reason with an "irate" person. Many older people didn't like having to go through all the prompts to get through to a live person (one time, after I said my greeting, a lady asked, "Are you real or is this a recording?")

We were encouraged to try to get customers to upgrade their packages if possible. For example, if they already had all the movie channels, ask them about the internet and vice versa. We were given a small commission for getting someone to upgrade.

By November, I was ready to sit with the big boys (and girls) out on the main floor. I got a seat right next to the help desk. Out there, if you had any questions, you had to raise a 2-foot long blue styrofoam cylinder that said "Charter" on it. You would ask the customer to hold and then raise your stick in the air for all to see (some of the shorter girls stood up to make sure that the supervisors could see that they needed aid). Mike, now out on the floor, would sometimes wave his stick around and around all over the place (I was too timid to perform such theatrics myself).

I got a nice repreive from Charter over Thanksgiving of '05 when I went with my wife to Las Vegas (for the first time) to visit my in-laws for a week. Pretty much all 17 of us who were originally hired in September were still working there and doing well. We were one happy family. But as the winter came, discontent would rear its head and our class's numbers would steadily decline.

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