Day in the life of
Customer Service Rep – James Crawford
I worked as a Customer Service Representative for a major online retailer.
The moment you log on and go available within seconds, usually immediately, you will receive a notification that you have an email available and either your phone will ring, or the chat window will flash an alert that you have a waiting customer. The best piece of advice is to have a coffee by your side, this is it for the day.
Yes, your day will be spent fixing problems, you will locate lost parcels, replace or refund broken items, cancel subscriptions, reset passwords and pass messages back and forth with carriers. That is the easy bit. Most of your day is spent consoling, explaining, questioning, and just very occasionally, being the whipping post for your customer.
The best part of the job is the camaraderie with the rest of the team. Although everyone works remotely, a chat window is made available internally, and free speech is encouraged. I never met most of them, they are dotted all over the country, all over the world really, but every day, as the shift ended, we all knew that the only way we had got through yet another crazy shift was with the support of each other. It wasn’t just that we would help each other with off the wall queries, it was the spirit that was built up over time, and which at times went beyond merely work associations. It wasn’t always polite and well-mannered, disagreements could break out, arguments would rage. But isn’t that what happens in any family? No subject was off-limits, but be certain that no discrimination was accepted, and through this, I have managed to build up many friendships which have outlasted my employment.
Possibly the most attractive quality is that, with the changing shopping habits, and the explosion in online shopping, you can be fairly certain that you have a job for as long as you want it, or are able to keep it. The money may not be great, but you will have a steady income, and there are usually plenty of opportunities to do overtime if you want to top up the wages a bit.
Just imagine for a moment that you’ve done the job for a while, you are getting to grips with it and start to think that maybe you could take this a bit further. You are almost certain to find that the training is available to allow you to progress your career, and usually in any direction, you would like it to go. Should you decide however that this isn’t for you, you are still going to gain experience of valuable transferable skills, not least the soft skills required for dealing effectively with an enormous variety of people.
But it isn’t all a bed of roses. It gets busy, very, very busy. Most of the time, the very second you go available, either the phone rings, or the chat window springs into life to tell you there is a customer waiting, and an email gets pulled from the queue and dropped in your to-do list. You have 30 minutes to do that email, which sounds easy enough, but bear in mind that for the entire day, nonstop, the moment you wrap up a call or a chat, another one is going to come in immediately. So you work on the email while trying to take in what your customer is talking about, or while the chat customer types his response to your comment. Except when the powers that be decide that they need more availability on chats so instead of taking calls, you can have two, or three, chats at the same time, all at different stages of the conversation, usually all talking about completely different things. And time is ticking away on that email, and you have follow-ups that need to be attended to, and your manager is telling you for the fourth time to get that training module completed, and we need to talk about your stats from last week, and suddenly without warning you have been switched back and the phone is ringing again! And the email still isn’t done so you’ve missed another target – why?
It may appear to some people that it’s a relatively easy role, but by the end of your shift, you will be mentally and physically drained.
Talking of targets, there is a target for everything. An email gets sent out every week, I doubt if anyone reads it, I never did. A long spreadsheet with a list of acronyms and columns of percentages and ratios and who knows what else. CRPR, MCOT, PPS1, I don’t even know what they mean, never mind how I am supposed to hit them. They monitor customer satisfaction rates, to be expected, but then they add in things like, how long it takes you to claim another email after you finish the last one (I think you are allowed 3 seconds), or how long it takes the dispatch dept to reply to your request for a reason why they never answered your previous query. They even have a stat on how often and for how long you stop to clear your head of all the chaos that is whirling around in there (20 mins per week max).
You can only do the job for so long. It gets hard to show any kind of empathy when you start to hear the same story over and over again, day after day, week after week, year after year, the only thing that really changes is the name. Tedium sets in, the mind wanders, you lose focus, you lose interest. If you aren’t interested in seeking promotions, or if your applications get rejected or overlooked, eventually the constant maelstrom of activity will wear you out.
interact with customers to provide basic or scripted information in response to routine inquiries about products and services. May handle and resolve general complaints. Excludes individuals whose duties are primarily installation, sales, repair, and technical support.