Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Job Journal: Outbound Customer Service, Call Center in Oak Ridge TN

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Outbound Customer Service, Call Center, Oak Ridge TN

Duration: Two months

Year: 2002

It's tough to say if this was my worst job. Had I remained for close to a year, I'm guessing the answer would be yes. As such, I stayed at Dillard's for far too long and they win.

I'd been at my campus job at the Alumni Association past graduation, and felt like I needed to take a step towards adulthood. That meant getting a job (dun dun dun) OFF-CAMPUS. My friend Mark and I applied here at the same time, in response to a classified ad. We had to take placement tests; being more tech-savvy than I, he was placed in tech support. Being an actor with a good phone voice, I was placed in outbound customer service. At the time, this call center's client was BellSouth—specifically, BellSouth Fast Access DSL. That phrase rolls off my tongue now, but it took some effort getting there.

My duties were to sort various accounts in a queue into the appropriate subcategory (read: a lot of clicks on a computer). The only category I remember now is Pending Facilities. What that means is that a new customer awaiting their BellSouth Fast Access DSL service to start up is going to have to wait a little longer. That further means that I get to call them and tell them this. My stomach still turns at the sight of the words "pending facility." Ugh.

I would have a hard time believing this job is not now automated. There wasn't a true quota that I remember, but you definitely wanted to keep the number of accounts you sorted as high as possible. That meant a lot of repetitive actions, eight hours a day, five days a week. No music. No conversation, even though you're surrounded by people doing the same thing. And I had the good fortune of sitting near my boss, who was a furry.

No, seriously.

There were people in my training class who were surely, legally, mentally deficient. Nice people, but they could not wrap their heads around all the pointing and clicking we were being told to do on these computers. The training supervisor, sensing I was not in fact mentally deficient and maybe was getting the hang of this, had me take one of these poor souls under my wing. I did. He stayed on. One week after training. The first time we got paid, someone asked me what they were supposed to do with their paycheck. "Umm, you could deposit it?"

"I don't have a bank."

"Funny, you don't look like an Amazonian tribesperson."

The same guy marvelled at my ability to say "Hello, this is Colin from BellSouth Fast Access DSL," without, I don't know, chipping a tooth or something. I should've known something was wrong with him on the first day, when we were talking about the weather and he said that something about rain made him drive faster.

In future posts, I'll tell you more about ruining people's day via phone, the one redeeming thing I got from this job, and the glorious day I quit.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.


  1. I'm really loving these Job Journal posts. Please don't stop writing them.

  2. Thanks Leslie, glad you like them! I got a bunch more, don't worry.

  3. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

    Outbound Call Center