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I Definitely Exist, Thanks

, , , , , , , | Working | January 21, 2022

Many years ago, a popular mobile phone service provider noticed that a lot of their call centre’s time was being taken up with complex billing questions (and not-so-complex calls which took longer because customers wanted to complain about legitimate charges).

Up until this point, all of their contact centre agents were expected to deal with any and all types of customer queries including sales, first-line tech support, and other general queries. To address the perceived problem of billing queries taking up too much time, the business decided to create a dedicated “Billing” support team. I was hired with around twenty other agents to staff it. We were given comparatively intense and detailed training on the billing and payment systems but were not trained in any other areas.

Now, this would have been fine, but our team didn’t have a dedicated phone line, and customers being customers, callers would regularly ignore the system prompts and come through to us with unrelated questions which would then have to be transferred to other agents.

This would also be fine except that the other teams hadn’t been briefed on us and didn’t believe that we couldn’t handle questions that weren’t about billing issues. That all leads to this conversation I had with a coworker during an attempted transfer.

Me: “Hi. I have a customer on the line with a query about their upgrade. As I’m part of the billing team, I can’t answer their queries. Can I pass them through to you?”

Coworker: “No.”

Me: “Sorry? What do you mean, ‘no’?”

Coworker: “My manager says that there is no such thing as a billing team and that you need to stop transferring calls you don’t want to deal with.”

Me: “Ooookay. I don’t know what to tell you other than that we absolutely do exist and that we have had no training in anything other than billing. Can you please tell me your name again and give me your manager’s name so I can escalate this?”

Coworker: “I’m [Coworker], my manager is [Manager], and I’ve alerted them to this conversation and they are listening. Let me put you on hold and have a quick word with them.”

A few minutes later, during which I apologised to the customer for the delay:

Coworker: “Okay, my manager says to accept this call but to tell you that no other transfers will be accepted and that they will take it up with your manager.”

I spoke with my manager after the call. He rolled his eyes and told me that he couldn’t believe people were still complaining about this. However, a few weeks later, the company pulled the plug on our team and integrated us into the main pool of agents after a little further training.

A Tale Of Two Interns… And Then A Couple More

, , , , , | Working | January 20, 2022

The company I work at recently hired an intern through a recruitment agency. He’s been doing great, although he has had a number of IT issues. These issues prompted one of my colleagues who had been at the company for a while to tell those of us who weren’t there at the time about another time the company used a recruitment agency to hire an intern.

It started out normally enough. Human Resources provided the agency with the details of the job, and the agency told HR to expect [Intern #1], providing them with his details so our IT guys could get everything set up for him and his induction could go smoothly. The morning he was supposed to start, however, he called in to say he wouldn’t be able to start until the next day. The next morning, he called in to say he was feeling unwell and wouldn’t be able to come in that day, either. The morning after that, he had to spend the whole day at the hospital because of a medical emergency involving a family member. And so it continued, with each morning bringing a new reason that [Intern #1] couldn’t start his new job that day.

After a couple of weeks of this, HR got fed up with his excuses, told him his services were no longer required, and asked the recruitment agency for someone else. Cue [Intern #2], who was a better choice than [Intern #1] simply because she actually showed up for her induction. Unfortunately, that’s all she did. Two hours after arriving at the office, it was discovered that she didn’t have a permit to work in the UK. She was asked to leave, and HR went back to the agency to try again.

This time, the agency offered the role to [Intern #3], but they warned HR that she wouldn’t be able to make or answer phone calls. This wasn’t a vital part of the role, so HR decided that this was acceptable, assuming that the reason she couldn’t use the phone was that she was deaf. Instead, it turned out that she couldn’t speak a single word of English, and while phone use wasn’t vital, communication with other team members was. A colleague who spoke her language had to explain to her why she couldn’t do the job.

Fortunately, the troubles ended there, as [Intern #4] turned out to be perfect for the role, although he did spend his first couple of weeks in the job using the login details and email account that had been set up for [Intern #2].

There’s Gotta Be A Better Way!

, , , , , , | Working | January 20, 2022

I used to work for a now-defunct bookstore, and this is a story describing Inventory Nights from h***. The bookstore always hired an outside company to do the Inventory. Managers would stay all night and even bought the equivalent of a pizza party to feed the poor Inventory Workers who would stay all night to do their work.

Inventory took place starting at 5:00 pm and ran until 6:00 am — thirteen-hour shifts! Even with an hour of unpaid lunch break, that’s pretty miserable. Insult to injury? From 5:00 pm until 11:00 pm, the STORE WAS OPEN TO CUSTOMERS! The store should have closed early, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t.

So, you’ve got:

1) customers meandering around in the store, pulling books off shelves that were in the middle of being scanned;

2) customers wandering off with stacks of books that may or may not have been scanned into the system yet;

3) cranky customers snarling at the poor Inventory Workers who are “in the way”;

4) customers obliviously tripping over or kicking the Inventory Workers sitting on the hard floor and scanning books on the very bottom shelf;

5) Retail Workers doing the do-si-do with Inventory Workers, who have to creep behind the already cramped registers to scan books that are on hold;

6) announcements every fifteen minutes, for six hours, asking customers to “Please forgive the inconvenience: our store is going through Inventory right now,” which got old really fast to have to listen to;

7) absolutely no sane way to clean up the store before closing.

The entire evening was a kind of slow-motion scene of chaos. Can we put the cartloads of go-backs away? Nope! Not until the Inventory Workers have scanned them. Oops! Somebody found a pile of books hidden behind a chair. Better find a place for those to be scanned. Hey, has anybody scanned this cart of go-backs from the registers yet? No? I’d better leave this pile somewhere else for it to be scanned because the go-back cart is overloaded. Some Inventory Worker is currently scanning the shelf where these scanned go-backs need to go, so now we have to wait for the Inventory Worker to pass the spot where this is usually shelved so we don’t mess up the scanning.

I know it’s not the Inventory Workers’ fault that they got dragged in to do work at the same time as the Retail Workers. In fact, they had the grace to be apologetic to the Retail Workers as they tried to huddle in the smallest space they can physically curl into to avoid bumping butts with us.

Our Inventory numbers weren’t great, but what could we do? You can’t constantly shuffle the inventory while it is being inventoried.

I worked for that company for five years, and every inventory shift was basically the same song and dance.

You’ve Got To Be Kid-ding

, , , , , , | Working | January 20, 2022

My girlfriend works in a nursery in a not-great part of the city, so I pick her up as much as I can. Annoyingly, she is never finished on time, mainly due to certain parents not picking up their kids. It’s always the same ones who get special treatment from the owner, never have to pay late fees, forget to put sunscreen on their children, and just throw their kids through the door without a word.

I’m waiting (again) for a child to be picked up. Several phone calls go to voicemail. We wait and wait. Eventually, it goes past an hour. How both parents haven’t realised their four-year-old is missing is beyond me.

Eventually, the owner does something and leaves a message saying, “Pick up your children or we call social services and the police.”

Finally, a child appears at the nursery, appearing to be no more than twelve.

Twelve-Year-Old: “I’m here pick up [Smaller Child].”

Girlfriend: “You need to be an adult for us to release a child into your care. Wait, are you at home alone?”

Twelve-Year-Old: “No, Mum’s home.”

Girlfriend: “Well, go and tell her to collect her child, now.”

He shrugged and went home. Eventually, his mum showed up, acting like this was a massive inconvenience that everyone but her had caused. No apology, not a word.

She took her child (who by now was upset) and put him in the car.

The worst part is that the owner did nothing and expected my girlfriend to work for free every time, as “it wasn’t part of her hours”.

It wasn’t long before she quit; most of her coworkers did, too. Apparently, the place is still going, but it’s staffed with friends and family of the owner. They’re barely trained, and it shows in their plummeting Ofsted rating.

It’s Not Magic; It’s Technology!

, , , , , | Working | January 16, 2022

My brother is a very young lawyer; he just graduated from law school and passed the bar exam this year. He works for a much older lawyer. Unfortunately, his boss has decided that, A) since he doesn’t understand technology, it must be magic; B) since it’s magic, it must be able to do anything; and C) since my brother is young, he must understand how to make the magic work.

Boss: “We need a [legal form]. [Brother], go get one from the Internet.”

Brother: “I looked earlier and couldn’t find it. I don’t think it’s available.”

Boss: “No, no! It’s out there, just go get it!”

Paralegal: “[Boss], [Brother] has searched for the form and it’s not available online. Why don’t we call around and see if anyone has a copy they can share with us?”

Boss: “No! This is easy! You should be able to find it online!”

Brother: “Fine, then! If it’s so easy, you do it!”

Boss: “All right, I will!”

The boss storms off, presumably to sit down at a computer and remember that he doesn’t even know how to perform a Google search. Five minutes later…

Boss: “Hey, [Brother], [Paralegal] had a great idea. I think I’m going to call [Other Lawyer] and ask for a copy of that form.”