Recently, Comcast and its call center habits have been thoroughly lambasted from all sides—and for good reason. But what many of us keep forgetting is that it's not just Comcast. The call center system as a whole is broken. And as you'll see from the tales below, it's breaking its employees along with it.
As we've tracked the Comcast-call-from-hell's saga, call center reps from all over the industry have been adding their voices to the growing list of complaints. We've compiled some of the more appalling stories left in our previous comments section below; the recurring themes of debilitating stress, impossible standards, and wildly high turnover rights are too prevalent to ignore.
Have you had a similar experience working in call centers? One that was the total opposite? Let us know down below.
These policies are uniform across the telecom board. I worker for an att mobility tech support call center and it was the same way. Nine minute calls, mandated sales, low transfer rates, and even worse are the text message surveys. Those things are reps lives and livelihood. When a question asks "How would you rate att" that answer actually impacts the reps income.
Imagine a caller who gets no service in their home. There is no way to improve that score. They aren't satisfied and never will be. Even as obvious as that seems management and VPs don't care. It hurts and I sympathize with everyone who works for a telecom. Those companies need to burn to the ground.
Yep. It sucks.
I think it's ludicrous to demonize just Comcast. ALL of these companies function the same and are horrific at all levels.
Work for AT&T for 2 years. Everything they've said in this article is true with them too. 4-5 rep helpers for a call center or 400+. Being told to aggressively sell products to "make it harder for customers to cancel" (yep, you're reading that right) even for tech support. Convoluted cancellation procedures. Retention being one of the few departments that regularly close early. I could go on an on.
Though I miss the money right now I would not go back to them. Never mind that they forced me to quite after I got sick and lost my voice for 3 1/2 months (yet they wanted to go back on the phones in 1 week) and refused to transfer me or work with me at all.
I worked for a major national bank that will never do well, no matter how far it may go, and I worked as a service rep in a call center. Sales was a whole other department, but we were expected to make tons of sales (far more than Comcast numbers in this article). Much like tech support, the primary reason banking customers call their bank (these days) is because there's a problem and they're already upset.
I worked there for only three months before I was almost unable to function outside of work, and quit. I could not give them a notice - although I had tried quitting twice and they talked me into staying a little longer both times, so they had to have known it was coming.
I left with no other job to rely on. I went through five weeks of unemployment before landing a part-time retail job paying about 60% of the previous hourly rate I had been at.
Best decision I've ever made. Not having money, being unemployed, scrambling to find a job... Nowhere near as bad as continuing to work for that bank. The customers weren't a problem - I can handle an irate voice. It was the company.
1) Four or five other people from my original training class of twelve left before I did.
2) All but one of those twelve had left the company by the end of the year.
3) A former coworker from the job I had before this one also tried working the same job at the same bank... Despite being a good salesman, he also left in less than six months.
4) A friend-of-a-friend lasted nine months there - but only because she didn't mind not meeting their sales numbers and was eventually canned.
So for Citibank retention they design the "incentive" part of our checks entirely around our ability to get a card member to spend more money on their credit card. When you stop to think about that it literally means (and we are trained this way) when someone calls in to cancel their credit card we are trained to try and get them not only to stay but to use their credit card more.
It doesn't really matter why you want to close if you're trying to get out of debt, going into a nursing home, in the hospital, getting divorced, dave ramsey what ever reason you state we are required to not only try and convince you to stay by making multiple offers but also trying to get you excited about using the card if we fair to try and counter your reasoning no matter what that may be then we could lose upwards of a thousand dollars (before 2009 a retention rep at citibank could pull in 70k+ a year after the financial crisis that number dropped to below 40k for the average rep).
I've had customers yelling at me in horrible rages wanting to close their account right at the start of a call for reasons like my husband is using the credit card for his mistress to I'm in the hospital about to die why do I need a credit card? and I've just listened to them and closed it only to get in trouble by management if I hadn't been a top rep with good stats else where I'd of probably lost a check for doing so. I know 5+ people that were on leave for stress related problems. My ongoing joke in retention was retention has a hard time retaining employees I'm sure you get why that is now.
I was on disability for mental health on and off for 2 years working as a tech support rep in a Comcast call center. I'm not alone, I knew many other reps that required a "mental holiday" to recover from the constant abuse.
My not so illustrious career lasted about 5 years and ended August 2013. By the end of my time with Comcast, I was out from Feb 2013 to Aug 2013 and would have serious panic attacks whenever I entered the call center.
Throughout the entire process, I was brain washed into thinking I was lucky to have a job with all the "benefits" they provided. When, in my opinion, the only benefit was their almost free courtesy services. Thankfully, last August, I decided to leave the negative environment fostered by unattainable metrics, outsourced mishaps, and no upward mobility.
On a different, and more positive note, I love my current job.
I worked for Convergys in Tucson, AZ. Tier II digital phone / internet. Training was a joke. Had experience in IT and knew my way around, was told forget about what I thought I knew as we were going to learn the Comcast way. Some of the people in my class were not capable of understanding the training. It was reinforced into us we HAD to achieve a certain passing grade to be hired. At final test time those that were having trouble even completing the test and those that failed were asked to stay in the room and were assisted in passing. Found out that the trainers had orders that everyone passes as Comcast wasn't going to pay for small class sizes. When I worked there we received a decent wage. Now I hear that new floor hires receive a lot less.
On the floor you had a usually poor quality 15" CRT that you had to have at least 6 or more windows open to populate with info and verify customer info. Floor supervisors were very hit or miss. Paging one when you needed assistance was usually a big waste of your time. You were monitored by special supervisors and would get instant messages from them about performance, but never any tech assistance. You were expected to spend NO more than 9 minutes with a customer, SO you told em what you needed to to shorten the call.. We were told in so many words that the customer was always right and usually idiots! You were expected to do everything to up sell a customer and there were quotas. We were NEVER EVER to tell a customer that others called in with similar problems in there area. A heavens forbid you had to make the call a " roll a truck " call. You'd better be 100% correct on that decision or you'd catch hell.
There as a big sporting event and a large area lost service and we got the massive overflow calls from the TV side. We were coached to act like the person calling was to only one with issues. Then it went to telling them you'll be up and running in a half hour and then we were told to use our own discretion and not to give our name. I saw quite a few reps that night meltdown. The call of that night was to get off the phone as fast as possible. Thank goodness that last just over an hour and the calls just faded away. The service wound up being out all night.
I actually started keeping a journal on the customers and all the nonsense. From people who were stealing service from neighbors and bitching about poor service an on and on.
My best was a call from a San Francisco bar wanting help to tap into the cable because there Direct TV was out. Guy got really, really upset when I wouldn't assist.
Unwritten rule was how to accidentally lose a connection to a very irate caller. Very easy to have happen.
I saw people fired on the spot when losing the temper with a customer. MANY who would cuss you out in just about every language you can imagine and were expected to take it. If you used one word that was deemed as swear word it was an instant firing.
The money I made verses the verbal and mental abuse was not worth it. Whole time I was there I saw a large turn over of people weekly, BURN OUT. Whole time I was there I only had 2 floor supervisors who were truly worth there position. That was VERY rare.
via Doc Martin II
As a former Internet CSR for an in / outsourced call center dealing with Cox Communications accounts across the country, I can say that even if I would have liked to have called that customer back to fix things, I couldn't. As soon as one call ended, unless I'd already coded in for and been approved for a break from the powers that be, another call would immediately replace the one that insisted they were on a mobile phone. [Apparently, the same kinds of folks who cannot tell their modem from their router also cannot tell their cell phone from a cordless phone.]
So now I'm dealing with another customer from scratch, and another CSR is about to get an angry customer who will now insist that I hung up on them, even if their actual problem is now resolved from the power cycle, but if their problem still isn't resolved, it's already going to be a bumpy ride for that poor CSR.
Unless they've majored in elementary education and have the patience of a saint, there are only so many of the same calls, day in and day out before the CSR reaches a breaking point. In this case, I don't even think this CSR was at this point. Exasperated, maybe, but not anymore than usual.
That breaking point can come much sooner for those of us working for the secondary companies because we don't even receive the same pay or benefits as someone working at the parent company. If I work at Time Warner, for example, I get $15 an hour plus free cable and internet services. But if I work for Infocision (one of the many secondary call fulfillment centers for Time Warner, where reps have to answer TW calls in between their normal political or religious fundraising calls) I get $7 an hour and -no- free services. Infocision pockets the difference that Time Warner is paying to them, probably also receiving payment for providing the call fulfillment services, and getting bonus money on top for meeting or exceeding certain call metrics, like call times, calls answered, etc. It's all about the numbers and absolutely nothing to do with actual call satisfaction.
Oh, and the real kicker for working at a secondary call fulfillment center is that if the customer asks if you work for the parent company, some of them insist that you politely inform the caller that "no, I work for a call fulfillment center contracted by [parent company]," while others have the complete opposite stance, having their employees claim with every fiber of their being that, "yes, I work for [parent company]". In a call, you can usually find this out by inquiring as to what the employee's ID number is. So many of us as secondary call centers don't have such a luxury. And, as such, the customer may never be able to place the blame on the appropriate employee.
But they ask for the numbers we don't have; they insist that we do have them. The call goes to hell, and there really isn't much we can do besides escalate the call to a supervisor.
I worked for Convergy's representing DirecTV and I was a week into my training when I was on the floor by myself with no trainer or supervisor. We hadn't worked on Labor Day so to make up that day we had to go on the floor on our own. That was a lot of fun especially since we were just learning how to use the software and what to say to people. I ended up cancelling an order for a customer because I couldn't flag down a supervisor for help.
I'm not saying these companies endorse what that employee did, because I certainly never handled a call like that…but when you feel like you have to "save" each customer because your check depends on it you start to get desperate. The customers want to leave and your team leader doesn't care how you saved the customer, just that you did because if you didn't it reflects poorly on his or her score cards compared to other TLs.
I really apologize. I knew how bad it was and made it my mission to give people the best possible service. SiriusXM is EXTREMELY shady in their billing and collections. And even though I was technically in tech support, I would take care as much as I could in regards to customer and billing support.
Some fun facts, they outsourced to call centers in the Philippines and basically an entire call center over there started stealing customers CC data. That was before I started. You would think after a huge liability like that SiriusXM would pull those call centers. Nope. The majority of the calls still got routed to the Philippines, and from the transfers I got it was evident that very questionable stuff was still going on over there.
Best part is that my calls were monitored and "graded" by someone over there. Oh and my "performance" and therefore pay, was determined by customer satisfaction surveys. The surveys were worded in a way that most people would read them as how did SiriusXM do as a company, etc. Now how did ZACH do with handling your problem? So of course the only people who filled them out were people who were irate with SiriusXM, in turn making it look like I was doing a horrible job.
Oh heres another fun tidbit. There is literally NO way to contact SiriusXM corporate. Although I worked for SiriusXM in name, I was actually employed by Stream Global Services, and then Convergys. If I had a customer who wanted to call in and complain and wanted to escalate the situation I would get a manager. Guess who the "manager" was? Someone who got paid the same amount of me but it was their day to take managerial escalation calls. I might have tuesday and thursday and someone else would take monday wednesday. Want to escalate above that? Write the company. Seriously. Theres not a number, an email, nothing. The ONLY information available to contact SiriusXM is via mail. Which probably gets shredded the second it gets in the door.
I used to work in a TMobile call center, and I have absolutely no doubt this is true. Our metrics were even scarier than the ones in this article. People, including myself, regularly sought treatment for job related anxiety, ADD and repetetive stress disorders. The therapist I saw told me that aquired ADD and carpal tunnel were nearly occupational hazards for the people they saw from call centers. Being unable to meet standards to make the paycheck led people to try and exploit their other benefits (FMLA, etc.), and being unable to meet their financial needs on what they were making had people selling the medicatioms they were receiving. There were so many messed up things that happened when I worked there, it was nuts.
Call centers for lots of tech companies have sales policies and performance appraisal policies that they would NEVER admit to publicly. My wife worked for one. You'd be shocked at how many new policies were communicated orally only, and when you asked for it in writing you were told that you can always leave if you like. Many of these new policies were illegal, unethical, unfair, irrational, or just plain stupid.
In contrast, the more reasonable policies that seemed to make sense were almost always delivered by internal email memorandum.
It became obvious to me that the company KNEW that policies which violated labor laws, or which would be a grave embarrassment would have to be disseminated by word of mouth only- but this made it impossible to know whether the problem was corporate or just the local center administration.
I won't say what company, but let's just call it RUNREALLYFAST
United Healthcare/Prescription Solutions
I was also a Convergys employee, first for United Healthcare/Prescription Solutions (mail order pharmacy and pharmacy help desk), but was incorporated into DirecTV when my project was shut down. Our training was very, very long (two or three weeks, if I recall correctly) with another week of nesting. Looking back, I have no idea what we did during that time, because I was wholly unprepared after nesting. Our quality scoring system was completely fucked. One minor mistake knocked the score from 100 to 96. TWO minor mistakes knocked the score down to 40% range (I don't remember the exact number, but it was between 40 and 50). This was not DirecTV's call, but a Convergys thing that was only happening on the DirecTV project at that particular location. The metrics looked great on the call center as a whole, but on the individual level, if you pulled in two or three of those 40'ish % scores, you would be fired.
Also, we were set up for failure. As CSRs, we had a very specific list of responsibilities and we were repeatedly told that we were forbidden to do anything that wasn't on that list, yet we were only allowed to transfer a certain number of calls per shift or be written up. There was also a promotion when I was working there in which new customers would be given (rented) an extra receiver for free. However, the free receiver wasn't automatically applying itself, so we had to use our own credits (a meager dollar amount that we were given per week to smooth over issues with a customer). If you signed two new customers, the free receivers took all of the credits we had available for the entire week.
I'm convinced that call centers are from hell.
I live in a city that houses a Verizon call center. My wife used to work there. I can tell you from experience that call centers are a hellish environment. My wife was actually scheduled to meet with an "observed" by a Verizon-appointed person who then "allowed" her to seek professional help. The people who do this are normally connected with the HR department in some way. After going to another doctor, which every person who worked there that I knew/know went to, they were then drug through the paperwork nightmare for FMLA between Verizon, their healthcare provider and the doctor. Once approved they would get FMLA. There were A LOT of people on FMLA. Every single one of my wife's "work friends" was on it. All attributed to stress.
Verizon gives a boatload of time off, but having that extra buffer was apparently something that they had to have. No one that I knew who worked at Verizon, outside of Workforce, was happy. No one I currently know who works there enjoys the job, but they just don't have a lot of other options available that pay that much money. My wife was able to move into tier 2 of her department, but she was so unhappy that she had to get out. Most people who move up are completely miserable, but they get a sweet free phone! WOO! Verizon has stopped promoting anyone who has FMLA to tier 2. They simply don't want to have to pay that many people that much more money to buffer for all of the extra time off.
I worked in Whirlpools call center but was employed by a staffing agency. I was hired to be a customer service rep but was told I was actually going to be on sales. They gave us 2 weeks of training where we couldn't be late or miss a day unless we were in the hospital. I drove to Whirlpool on a flat tire for the last 4 miles of my trip on a day when I was throwing up every hour or two just so I wouldn't be late and get fired before my job even began.
So anyways, I was trained for 2 weeks on how to use the SIEBEL software to handle calls, schedule appointments, and update customer information. During that time I was also trained to up-sell and cross-sell other whirlpool products when a customer would call in to buy something. There idea of phone training was only one day and we werent even on the phones. We sat next to a more seasoned tech rep. and watched/listened.
The first week went pretty well since I was only receiving calls to buy products and even had a few minutes between calls, however the next 2-3 months after that were absolute hell. Whirlpool decided to merge the water filter sales department with tech support. We were told it was going to be water filter related issues and the documentation to consult was literally just the support area of the whirlpool website. Half a week later and we were fielding full on tech support calls all day which we were not equipped to handle. They put us on some kind of a random system where you would either be sales or support. Presumably it depended on the volume of callers for the support department. I remember logging in and seeing 150 customers waiting and an average longest wait time of 45 minutes for support. If it was 20-30 people waiting for maybe 10-15 minutes you knew you were on sales.
They also gave us arbitrary metrics to follow for calls. We werent suppose to transfer a call to another department unless we absolutely had too. Without proper training, we absolutely had to a lot. Average call time was suppose to be 15 minutes or less but we couldnt hang up or push the customer off the phone for any reason. We had to attempt to cross-sell or up-sell another whirlpool product on at least every other call. Home technicians were from different contractors all over the nation; we werent suppose to schedule one unless the customer had a valid serial number within warranty and exhausted all other options. Oh, and because I was part of the sales department I also had to average $2500 of sold merchandise a week.
Every day I came to work and it was a flip of the coin on whether I would actually be doing the job they hired me to do, or if I was going to be a tech support rep. getting my ass chewed out every other call.
Did I mention I got payed $10 an hour with no benefits or paid time off and only worked 35 hours a week? Came to about 280-300 dollars a check after taxes.
work for a certain communications company . We have heart attacks ,stroke and FMLA at our centers… because the stress is high and we call it CORTISOL LAND because we have reps who actually die on the phone because of stats, limit of 60 minute personal time,evil management and loads of idiots on the phone who don't have a clue. Anyone who thinks tech support is easy should spend every fucking xmass talking to dumbasses who dont give a shit you are there doing tech support for them taking call after call and being cussed out and bitched at …when you should be home on xmass day with your family. No department is open but you . And you should not be getting calls but it's call after call of fun people with brand new computers ,smart TVs and game consoles calling you to scream and yell about getting them connected on line.., thanksgiving too . And other holidays . So yea it's not just comcast . It's all the others …people who call us are like those walkers from the walking dead tv show. Imagine spending 1 hour to get a moron to comprehend simple remote control instructions! Imagine day after day of dumb asses who don't have a clue! Without alcohol I would not be able to do my job. Yes it sucks . I went to college . Lived on romen noodles and did 12 hour days in school only to be the techno -slave to dipshits and weenies who have no clue. And die of a heart attack due to stress.
This is absolutely true. I've worked in the call center industry for twenty years, most only last for three. Currently I'm on indefinite leave for PSTD, I will not go into much beyond that but it's very bad. I will never work in the call center industry again.
The occupation leaves one emotionally dead to friends and family. Currently I have one friend, speak to my parents perhaps once a month and lead a very lonely and isolated life. From threads I've read with other call center employees or former employees their experiences mirror mine, as does the anonymous rep one of the commentators said was 'not true'. I don't believe that person is in any way qualified to say what is or is not true without working in the industry as long as I have.
One of our HR people at my last job said that one year of working in our call center was so emotionally stressful it was the equivalent of ten years in another business. I think her assessment was spot on. We had sales targets for our 'customers' who had been roped into unauthorized monthly subscriptions through our fraudulent website. Our job was to turn that angry customer around and convince them to stay or not reverse the charges once they had discovered how they had been taken advantage of. . .
I've also worked tech support for cell phone companies, satellite TV and internet and similar companies.
Call centers are contemporary sweatshops. That is all they are. Sweatshops. The industry is long overdue for reform and it needs to start with high level management and work down from there. Until that takes place, call centers will be the source of more suicides than almost any other industry out there.
I work in a similar company and if they're anything like us, that rep has gone off grid because of the high stress and horrible pay structure they give us. The company provides horribly inconsistent service. Often times the technicians and real customer service departments throw retention under the bus because they don't have to take the wrath and punishment we endure. I'm desperately looking for a new job because I feel my soul being smothered to make a living to provide my family. I went to college and trade school. The pay is above minimum wage plus commission but to make decent money you have to basically sell your soul. I'm not willing to do that so I am not a high performing rep.
The whole thing about feeling sorry for the 'retention professional' is bogus. I did that job once, for 4 days. Got through the training, was in the middle of the training where you and the old-timer rep are on the phone at the same time. I needed the paycheck to make rent. I still stood up and quit right before lunch that last day.
The camel breaking straw? Getting told that yes I really was getting paid to 'screw that old lady' and if I've done my job well 'she won't even know'. This after finding out this classically sweet sounding old lady was on a fixed income, and just wanted to switch to a basic service so she could make bills and keep her house.
That is evil. People who agree to do it for money are.. evil. Yes they need to eat. They can do I like I did and walk down the street to doing something that isn't evil.
Even pulling back some of the 'evil' rhetoric, the linked article just plays into a basic fallacy that modern corporations want us to forget. Money not made is -not- the same as money lost. If you lose some sales and don't get the bonus, that is not the same as losing anything. You never had it. Get over it and do better. ..or preferably get a better job that isn't screwing you over with metrics like call center jobs do.
I also worked in tech support at a call center and can confirm it was impossible to meet their insane standards and the job itself made me more miserable than I've ever been in my life. When I was there (about 3 years ago) the metrics were actually worse than it sounds like they are now. Average call time goal was about 7 minutes and sales goal was a conversion rate of 17%, if I recall correctly, meaning that we had to add a new line of service for 17% of calls taken, which was impossible for those of us who are honest. Have you ever had a Comcast rep hang up on you, or seen a service show up on your bill that you didn't ask for? Well these metrics are very likely why. This happened frequently and people were not fired for it, because management's only goal was to look good for corporate. I was actually great at my job, all things considered, because I am good at troubleshooting so they strung me along giving me the impression that I would be promoted, when what what really happened was that they made me do a supervisor's job while not paying me for it. The final straw for me was when I learned from my supervisor that NO ONE made the top bracket in their annual reviews/raises in the whole call center, which had hundreds of employees. He also told me that 20% of our staff was out on medical leave, and seeing how many people on my "team" alone were out, I do not doubt it.
Art via Jim Cooke