Thursday, October 3, 2013

Top Five: Why I Should or Should Not Work Customer Service

I have been trying to find work since I left my last employer, Xerox, in March 2011. I've already told my story about Xerox, and it seems to be my most popular blog. Since then I've put in application after application, and only received one interview, and I didn't get that job.

So I've been reviewing every aspect of my life lately to see why I'm not getting interviews for customer service positions, when I obviously have the experience.

Also I've been soul searching as to whether or not I really want to do customer service any more. I was reading the other day about SSDI and what would qualify me for benefits. They look beyond the injury to see if I can still do the kind of work I've been doing. The article also mentioned that the final result would not take into consideration how difficult it has been for me to find a job.

That got me thinking: Can I still do Customer Service? Could I ever do Customer Service? So without further ado, here are the

Top Five Reasons Why I Should Not Work Customer Service

5. It Makes Me Sick.

I've worked at call centers since 2001, longer if you count a brief strike at US West where I filled in for striking reps. At every stop along the road, I've had severe migraines. They don't start right away, these migraines are nefarious. I can make it through training, and a few weeks of steady call flow before they start to appear. When I started getting them, I thought they were sinus headaches and took all kinds of medicines to cure them. That didn't help.  So I went to a doctor, who told me they were indeed migraines and gave me medicine for them, that really didn't help much. The problem is not with my brain, it is with the stress that the job creates. If you doubt Customer Service is a stressful vocation, read this

Now, it is not the customer service aspect of the job that is stressful to me and causes the headaches. It is the phone contact. I had a wonderful job for my first 3 months working for Sento in Raleigh (now Total Outsourced Systems) where I participated in online chats with customers of Overstock.com. I literally had a dream job, where I could listen to music, 'chat' with customers over the internet in a text interface, and literally not have to talk. Then Christmas came around and everyone was put on the phones. The chat was outsourced to India. Funny, that. Overstock.com outsourced the customer service to Sento, then outsourced it again to India. Well how's that for irony?

But that wasn't the only position at Sento I had that I enjoyed. I worked for a time after Overstock for a rebate processor, first over the phones, then as a Mentor where I answered emails all day and took supervisor calls, which lessened my customer contact. But in that case, I had stress from a supervisor that didn't see eye to eye with me, increasing the stress and affecting my health, and I stopped being the mentor and went back on the phones.

Strangely enough, every job I've had since has been a phone job. Either I'm a glutton for punishment (which I am not) or the only work I could find was customer service, because that's where my experience came from. So despite the fact that it made me sick, I continued to work customer service.

4. I'm Not Enthusiastic. 

I ain't no freakin' cheerleader! ;-) I speak with a quiet, reasoned voice. Some people think I sound younger than I am. Good for them. I went to an interview back in May where the interviewer told me they were looking for enthusiasmI tried to play along, I couldn't force myself.

3. I Don't Like to Talk.

If you know me at all, you know I'm a very quiet person. I've been like that my whole life. I don't apologize for being that way. At several points in my life, I've considered shutting up altogether and going through life with a stack of cards that would read like this:

I do not talk.
I can speak, read and write.
I can hear and understand you just fine.
When I speak, it is with a soft voice. 
I am frequently drowned out by everyone else.
So I choose not to talk.
Please understand.

I've thought about making an app (there's an app for that) for those that choose not to speak. It would contain basic answers to frequently asked questions, menu choices from frequented restaurants, and perhaps vocalizations with a pleasant gender-appropriate voice. Or I could print out a stack of cards that will do the same thing. I'm tempted to make a video of me doing that, if I still had my camera and the resources to print the cards.

But in the world of Customer Service, you must talk. You must be enthusiastic (see 4). You must be friendly. I wouldn't say I'm the human equivalent to Grumpy Cat, but it's hard for me to be friendly when someone is calling me an idiot because I can't get his computer to work.

I stutter. It doesn't happen as often as it used to, but if I get rattled, it happens. I've been ridiculed over the phone because of it. That does not make me a happy camper. That increases my stress, which gives me migraines. (See 5)

Of course, at the moment I have no teeth. I will be getting dentures, but even then I may not be able to speak as clearly as I used to. All the more reason not to talk.

2. I am Not a Team Player

Actually, that's not exactly true. I can get along with people. But I prefer to work alone. I am not, however, the type to make small talk. I'm not overly friendly, I am not going to ask how your children are or ooh and ahh at their pictures. Let me do my work and I'll be as happy as a clam.
And the Number One Reason Why I Should Not Work Customer Service:

1. I'm Too Good!

Seriously, if it were not for the migraines I'd be content with the job. That's one of the weak points of my personality type, and why I've been content to look for jobs in this market for this long. Despite the fact that most employers are looking for young, enthusiastic reps, I still perform well overall, because I am consistent, I am calm over the phone and I can take a beating and still say 'Thank you for calling!'

As such, since I'm really getting nowhere in customer service and in fact, I get sicker with every new job, if SSDI decides I do not qualify for benefits because I can still do the same work I could before, I shall present them with this article, along with proof of my migraines.

I will no longer apply for customer service positions.

But that doesn't mean that I am incapable of working. so let's explore:

The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Hire Me
 as long as it's not for customer service. ;-)

5. I Work Hard.

Give me a task, and watch me do it. Or better yet, leave me to the task and it will be done even faster. I am capable of great feats of concentration, even multi-tasking. I regularly sit at a computer for hours without taking a break, as long as the task is interesting and I have the skills. And oh boy...
4. I Have Skills.

If we limit the scope of my skills or potential skills to just computers, I could literally do anything at all computer-related. But my skills go far beyond that. I have writing skills. Wanna see a few samples? Well read the rest of this blog. Read my books at Amazon.com. Read my screenplays. Don't know where to find them? Ask! 
A lot of companies make a big deal out of personality tests these days. I took one a few days ago and promptly was rejected. Something in the way I answered the questions didn't mesh with their expectations. So let's talk about personality. I am quiet. I don't talk much. I am creative. I see things a lot of people don't. I listen, observe and react in an appropriate fashion. I am honest, which is one reason why I didn't get that job, I suppose. I could lie, and choose the aspects you want me to have, but then I'd feel bad. I am intelligent, I'd like to think. I like to think! I like to imagine. I can put myself in other people's shoes.

I went to the NCworks.gov website. They allow you to post a resume, and you can add a description of your work, that the site uses to see if you are a match for other jobs. My first time through, it said I didn't have the skills necessary to be a customer service agent. So I went through their list of skills and added everything that I could do. Now it says I match for skills, but not in personality. Not a big thing, I don't want to work customer service any more. But the fact is, adding those skills made me somewhat more marketable. 

Here's a list of what I put on it: Edited Wrote Authored Communicated Composed Revised Conceptualized Created Produced 
Reviewed Researched  Write,
Interviewed Articulated Referred Listened Reported Clarified Resolved Collaborated Responded 
Communicated Solicited 
Explained Spoke Observed Consulted Contacted Persuaded Influenced Convinced Promoted 
Corresponded Proposed Acted 
Customized Adapted Addressed Performed Solved Adjusted Administered Analyzed Corrected 
Reduced Assessed Researched 
Adapted Answered Counseled Guided Represented Arranged Demonstrated Helped Resolved 
Assessed Diagnosed Assisted 
Educated Cared.

I like that last one, Cared. I do care.

3. I Have Talent.

A lot of people confuse skills and talent. Let me define them as I see them. Skills are the ability to do a specific task. A skill is learned through experience. Talent is the ability to move past skills to a 'higher plane' of work. In my case, my talents include creative writing. Being creative is something you are born with. Skills can be learned, and honed, but  being creative is something you have or haven't. No amount of training will make you creative.

2. I Live Outside the Box.

A lot of people say 'think outside the box.' I live there. It goes along with talent. My thought process puts me on different planets, within the bodies of aliens, male and female, in different situations, finding solutions to made up problems. I've lived lives over and over again, born, lived, died, moved on to another life and start the process over and over again, just in the last week. Think how I could positively affect a company that is tired of the same old, same old.

1. I'm the Protagonist. I Want to Make a Difference.

The simple fact is, I'm tired, mentally and physically, of spinning my wheels doing jobs that are under-appreciated. I want to make a difference in the lives of everyone I touch, and that is one reason why I write, that and my brain won't let me stop. It took me 36 years to start to tap my creativity, though my mind had been bugging me practically since birth, and write my first book. I haven't stopped ever since coming up with different plots and outcomes, and you know what? In every case the protagonist wants to make a difference in the world. That's me. I'm the protagonist. I want my ideas to have an impact on the world. That's why I share them here. That's what makes me valuable to any employer. I don't keep my ideas to myself. I'm not looking for wealth or power. Grant me the ability to use my creative mind in a comfortable surrounding, and I'll be happy with that, and my performance will prove it.

I didn't write this blog to blow up bridges or to keep employers from hiring me. I want to be honest about what you're getting if you do hire me.