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"Call Center From Hell:" Disgruntled Call Center Employee Spills All

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Not sure what to make of this missive I found in our comments, but it makes for an interesting read. This guy apparently worked at Audatex Ann Arbor in Michigan and hated every minute of it. The most interesting thing? He was a French speaker and therefore couldn’t go to lunch with the other French speaker because then they would totally blow out the “bi-lingual” calling features. I’m going to try to contact him to figure out who he supported.

This is a long report that I hope you will read with interest, because it outlines what I have witnessed and observed during my 10 months of employment at the Audatex Call Center in Ann Arbor – the call center from Hell.

You are free to dismiss my comments as if they were to come from the usual petty rant of a ‘disgruntled employee’ or you can read it and judge for yourself. Let it be known that I have never written anything like this before, knowing full well that there are a lot of good people working at the Ann Arbor location.

At no time in my career have I experienced such a hostile environment at the detriment of employees (and customers) who want quality as being part of their work.

Within my first week of employment I was put on the phone queue to answer clients’ support issues ranging from software installations to automotive parts repair questions, which most TSR’s don’t know anything about unless they are the experts.

Since I have started my employment with Audatex, I consistently applied the highest standards in Customer Service and went above-and-beyond the call of duty regarding what I call ‘Wowing the Customer.’ Apparently management is not interested in providing quality, since quality is “quantifiable”, as in the quantity of calls taken vs. the quality of support.

Within a few weeks, I would find it increasingly unreasonable to keep up with management’s demands to keep the calls within 9 minutes. Nine Minutes barely gets you to ‘Hello, how are you and what is the problem?’

After a couple of months my supervisor pulls me out of the queue for five minutes to tell me that I was late 1 minute during my fifteen minute break and two minutes late during my 30 minute lunch another day of another month. That was shocking. They couldn’t possibly be serious!! Yes they were!!

My supervisor one day came to my desk to also tell me to refrain from eating together with my colleague; reason being we were the only two French-speakers and one of us had to be on the phones in case there were bilingual calls. I couldn’t believe it. What had I done wrong now??

My coworker and I would find it really ridiculous and petty since lunch wasn’t even paid for and if we had to apply the same principle to the English speakers, then we would never go to lunch!!

After fighting it over, we grudgingly complied, with the expressed promise that we would be able to eat together as soon as two other bilingual hires would start. That would end up being a lie.

The supervisors hired two bilingual TSR’s. One very young and inexperienced. Another one who was already set to leave within a few weeks. The new hire told me she told the supervisors that she was waiting for another job to come through. She also told me she was surprised they still hired her, knowing full well that in the next 3 weeks she would be gone. I was very surprised that management did not take into account the expenditures of time and money wasted away for training this new TSR who is not going to stay long-term. To me it shows that turns out the managers do not really care about that, and that upper management is not completely aware nor do they bother calculating the cost of training and the cost of other TSR’s training new hires.

Shortly after the two TSR’s came up to speed, everyone gets called into a meeting for the new Adherence Policy’ on breaks and lunches. It turns out they reneged on their original statement that my coworker and I could have our breaks and lunch together. Now all breaks are scheduled at certain times and so are lunches. All of us four TSR have been conveniently put on a scaled 30 minute interval between each other. The result is that everyone still eats alone every 30 minutes as well as breaks.

The managers’ behavior exhibited during the past few months regarding discouraging joint lunches or breaks with fellow co-workers, with a later written promise that once additional hires were made, that they would be allowed, I found it particularly questionable, since all of that would never manifest itself.

The new policy on ‘Scheduled’ breaks and lunch schedules are now being counted as being ‘in adherence’ without truly taking into account that a TSR may have been on a call longer than anticipated. This is particularly true during busy times. The call taken by the TSR ensures that the customer is being taken care of and satisfied that his/her issue is being resolved up to and until the customer ends the call. This should not be considered as ‘non’adherence’, but should be taken into account that the TSR either took an extra call or the call went beyond the TSR’s scheduled break/lunch.

There are many other factors not taken into account, specifically when a client requests a certain number of claims/assignments/estimates to be re-assigned. Many times the client will not stay on the line and the process involved with the claim number search, the log id number, switching from one screen to another (not to mention the effort from the TSR to provide ‘quality’ resolution) can take some time away from the queue. I have found many times that to perform those tasks during particularly ‘busy’ times, it is discouraged by management, preferring instead to have the TSR forego the customer’s request at a later time and take another call instead. If a TSR asks to be put on Project, it will be discouraged in favor of preferring the TSR take another call from the queue. To me this is not what I call a quality-driven technical support.

Another challenging instance during ‘busy’ times is the ever-increasing practice of putting the TSR’s out of ‘wrap up’ time 2 minutes after a call has ended. I find it particularly disruptive when there is a call that needs accurate documentation in the Remedy CRM database, at times slow and unresponsive, erroring out, crashing, slowing down, or not responding, and having to add a new solution because there is no solution listed, the solution listed simply does not help close the call because it doesn’t register when you select ’save & new to move to a new screen and onto another call.

All said and done, I believe I have just described fifteen to twenty minutes of wrap up time (not including the nine minutes of suggested call duration), and not to mention the instant message from team leads or supervisors wondering why you are still in wrap-up time and not on another call Management’s decision to ‘encourage’ their TSR’s to take breaks at their scheduled times in reality is in conflict with the quantity of calls and their abilities to meet queue wait times.

The TSR’s primary goal is to provide quality technical support to clients who are calling in for assistance. Management may say they agree with that philosophy but in reality the quality suffers daily. The quality is quantified’ without taking into account of the effort undertaken by some TSR’s who are truly committed to provide that quality which will make the customer happy and potentially recommend the Audatex products and services brand to other potential customers.

Those metrics do not provide an accurate read on the TSR’s or the department ‘numbers’ at large, but instead further confuse the procedures. It would be curious to know the reasons for not getting a full 100% daily compliance adherence, when every break and lunch I have taken has been taken on-time, without delay, and within the limits imposed.

I have observed that management has not always been ‘in adherence’ with the procedures outlined. Several times when TSR’s would ask for a particular permission, whether to adjust their own ’schedule adherence’ for a break, lunch, project time, or time allocation for a special project, non-response or delaying and stalling was employed by asking to wait longer and get back in the queue, before being granted that particular permission. That is particularly negative reinforcement and does not promote a positive level of trust between management and its employees. Furthermore, I find that there is a significant opportunity for management to empower TSR’s, liaisons, and team leads and promote a more trustworthy environment. There seems to be a wall of separation when it comes for management to communicate with their employees. To continue that trend, Some TSR’s were never formally introduced to their co-workers; either personally or via e-mail and some never even met their managers to this day.
I consider it outrageously self-defeating the fact that you have to wait 10 minutes in a chat room to get permission for your own 15 minute break. This has happened on more that one occasion.

I found it absolutely outrageous that one of my coworkers hadn’t even met or had ever been introduced to his supervisor until his monthly review. To me that is complete lack of respect and demonstrates how unimportant employees are considered.

The weekly/daily evaluations on calls and tickets are a good tool to improve and better oneself. Unfortunately, I have noticed that a few employees may have received some repeatedly and noticeably ‘biased’ evaluations that I would deem to be ‘over the top.’ An example of an ‘over-the-top’ evaluation criticism was that the word ‘battery’ should be written with two t’s and not three. An unfair, petty and ridiculous comment on the part of the evaluator, knowing full well that the TSR’s go through 30-50 calls per day and there’s bound to be typographical errors. Others will get low scoring because they have accents or English may not be their native language.

From what I heard and witnessed , there seems to be some ‘unwritten rules’ regarding granting (or denying) vacation time. This is not what I call really motivating for employees who look forward to spend the few days they have to reinvigorate themselves and be motivated to return to work. The incidence of denying, or stalling by management to grant vacation time if only a small number of employees are absent is unacceptable. This is so aggravating and problematic to many those in order to get their PTO with the least questioning; employees have scheduled their days off one, two years in advance.

Morale is really low because no matter what is suggested by the employees, nothing will ever change. You are praised one day for a job well done, given a warning the next second, and unceremoniously dismissed the next – nothing counts, nothing is counted and if there is an excuse to dismiss someone, it will be found to justify that dismissal. If management were truly listening and trusting of their employees, they would make some positive changes.
Having pizza and popcorn on ‘employee appreciation Friday’ or a one-day crash course on Six-Sigma Principles s not a cure-all for what truly ails this organization.

With every passing week, rules are never permanent and ever changing. The main rule seems to be getting the client off the queue and finished as soon as possible and move to the next without regards of having provided quality to the customer. I wonder what the next months will be like.

Tasks sent via e-mail are not standardized as they should be (in my opinion, they should be created and sent via Remedy to improve call-tracking and save time).
The minimum information that team leads should provide are: Customer full name, customer id, phone number; which is not always the case. There has been some improvement as of late due to persistently asking for the same information from the Team Leads. Lack of that information contributed in the difficulty of tracking Remedy tickets, since some were logged under the field rep. name and some under the company actually needing assistance. This is not the way calls should be handled because it will lead to confusion and possible unnecessary duplication of tickets. When the TL’s receive a call from a field rep. who received a call from a company, we should insist on receiving complete information regarding that specific customer (and not log it under the field rep).

As yet new procedures and rules have been implemented, such as the 2 minute automatic wrap-up-to- ready mode (as soon as the client hangs up, TSR’s have 2 minutes time to finish saving their call history on the Remedy database and the next call comes in automatically) If a client requests a shipment of some sort, and doesn’t stay on the line and hangs up, this requires project time, for the sake of accuracy, which will be denied during busy times.

I have been told several times by management (to my disbelief) to disregard the clients’ request and move on to the next call, when a customer requests 5 or 10 or 20 claims to be requeued from our host system. The thought process is that it should be the insurance dispatchers who do that and not the helpdesk.

I and others have observed supervisors unprofessional behavior many times especially after conducting interviews with potential candidates. I and others have witnessed several times comments on peoples’ physical appearances, which would make wonder what kind of off-the-wall comment they said about each and every one of us. The supervisors seem to be accountable to no one.

Several months ago, a fellow ex-coworker was fired merely for hearsay from another coworker in the cafeteria. We were commenting on the terribly sad episode at Virginia Tech, while watching the cable television news update. Unbeknownst to my coworker, a fellow coworker from another department, believing they had heard a completely different story, decided to take it upon herself to go see a supervisor. My coworker was promptly fired on the spot, with the absurd, vile and evil accusation of supporting such a criminal act broadcast on television.

I was totally dumbfounded and shocked that my coworker was dismissed under such a vile accusation without any base or reason, without having the opportunity of confronting the accusing party. Management had been waiting for months for the perfect excuse to fire him. I still remember one day while he was passing through to get a printout for a client, he simply said hello, and was promptly warned by my supervisor who was between the isles, not to talk to me or to my cubicle neighbor.

When I was first contacted for an interview, I was told the pay was not what it was but was less than advertised (that should have been a warning sign’). When I was first hired I received very little information on the hiring process, my ‘welcome package was scarcely equipped with all the necessary information. One of my co-workers received completely different information and we even had to exchange it among each other to get the complete information we needed. There was never an e-mail welcoming me to the organization either, which in my experience was quite odd.

Approximately last March I was summoned by the supervisor regarding some calls that I had received and that were interrupted. Apparently management came to the foregone conclusion that I had purposefully and knowingly hung up on incoming customers. Nothing could be further from the truth. They had their records, their times to the split-second and outlined all the calls that they deemed at fault. Judge, jury, trial and guilty verdict was automatically delivered. That was outrageous. I had faulty equipment the whole time. Which was proved by finally being able to change the actual phone line to my headset, and they wanted to know immediately from me if I had hung up on a customer etc. I have consistently alerted all the Team Leads and the supervisors at all times and in good faith.

Months later, exactly three days ago, after an extremely busy day on the phone I get summoned in the supervisor’s office. The reason is ‘for a very serious offense that was committed at exactly 9:01 am, Tuesday July 31st. blah blah blah’ I have no conscious idea what they are talking about…but apparently the have audio and they accuse me of hanging up on an Allstate customer who just happens to have called an anonymous Audatex Vice-President. The call was traced to me and so they are terminating me for hanging up on that customer. My supervisor accused me of not calling the customer back. How could I know who called me back, since the Remedy database pop-up caller ID did not show the number, and half the time it’s either not the correct number. There’s always a good excuse according to management. The TSR’s are always guilty of something. The TSR should have done this or that, or something else.

Firing someone who in good conscience was either not aware to have hung up and management unwilling to accept that under the pretext that it was a “serious offense” is nothing but Orwellian. How hypocritical, especially when countless times, when the TSR’s need to speak to a manager on duty on a client’s request, somehow none of them are ever available to help, but always quick on the trigger, and quick to judge because they have it on record, to cover themselves from the firing line, so as to not look incompetent.

I’ve alerted anyone and everyone, every time I thought I inadvertently hung up on a caller and did so in a very honest and open fashion. Why would I purposefully not say anything?? That makes no sense.

The only sense in this entire chaotic environment is that management has been after me and has just been waiting for the right moment, for anything really.
My firing was decided a while ago and the excuse was just a convenient way to make it official. Especially when one of my other coworkers had a similar run-in and told them point-blank that they can fire him or her, if they don’t like the way s/he works.

As a result of all this painful experience, within a seven-month period, the bilingual French support staff at the Ann Arbor location have been reduced from four TSR’s to just only one TSR full time and another one TSR remote part-time. I wonder how long it will be before there won’t be any bilingual French support at Audatex Ann Arbor, if that toxic culture continues to thrive at the Ann Arbor location. Audatex Ann Arbor has been facing quite a challenge in hiring bilinguals, since word has gotten around in this tight community at how unreasonable the working conditions really are.

This absurdity must end. I sincerely hope someone will make some major cultural and organizational changes at the Ann Arbor location, because at this moment, I cannot truly and in good conscience recommend Audatex Ann Arbor as a place of employment to anyone.

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