Hard Life Lessons Learned from the Unlikeliest of Work Places

When I started working in a Call Center almost 6 years ago I never gave it much thought. I was fresh out of college and I needed a job. It would never have occurred to me then that I would learn major life lessons not only from my customers but also from my managers. Anyone who has worked in a call center (whether it is taking inbound calls or making outbound calls) knows that dealing with the public on a daily ongoing basis is not for the faint at heart. The stress level is very high and it takes a lot of training and practice to feel comfortable on the phone with complete strangers.

That being said it is a common field nowadays and there are numerous call centers across the globe, let alone our own country. We speak to people on a daily basis in call centers when we call our utilities, or to check on our bank accounts, credit cards etc. When I started in the call center I would never have guessed that it would try my patience and teach me lessons on how to control my initial emotional over-reactions to what people say and how they say it. It is not until you take 60-80 calls in one day that you realize just how diverse we are in our world. One minute you could speak to a high school student and the next a 90-year-old man attempting to use the internet for the first time (One of my first lessons was learning how to explain complex steps to someone in layman’s terms without getting exasperated.)

I have learned many lessons from my time in the call center. A couple of them have also served me well in dealing with my children as unlikely as that sounds. My son is very hyperactive and tries both my husband’s patience and mine on a daily basis. If I hadn’t learned over the years how to better control my first emotional response to such tactics my son and I would have gone to blows before he was 2 years old. Thankfully I have a better sense of how to react and when not to react at all. We may not think about it often but there are some liberties we take when on the phone with a complete stranger that we may not do to someone if they were standing right in front of us. I have been called some of the ugliest terms in the English language and I believe even some in Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

With that being said the hardest lesson to learn for me was not to take offense. I worked in an inbound call center in the financial industry. I had to remember that the person on the other line was angry at the situation not necessarily me. This is hard to do nowadays. When someone starts to get emotional and starts making nasty comments we react immediately to defend ourselves. Of course who wouldn’t do the same but when you are representing a particular company and trying to resolve their issue defending your self is not worth the time involved.

It is not an easy feat to take a step back and remember initially why they are reacting the way they are. It is also not easy for you to find a way to show them that you do understand their frustration and are only trying to help resolve the issue itself. Unfortunately there are a great many callers that no matter what length you go to in helping them to resolve their “issue” they will always be angry and nasty. We just have to appreciate in the end that we did everything we could to help them whether they say thank you or not. Do not take the voice on the other line for granted more often than not they really do understand what you are saying. Sometimes we want to blame the low person on the totem pole and we think they have more control over the situation than we do. It is never a bad thing to take that step back yourself, take a deep breath and think about all of it rationally first before reacting emotionally and thinking last.

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