Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In Which I Remain Calm

Like most people, my job often tests the limits of my patience. I work for an answering service company that provides services for a wide variety of clients, and the caliber of intelligence of the people that I speak to on a daily basis is not very high. Sure, I get the occasional person who surprises me with a glimmer of intellect, but a majority of the people are dumber than rocks. Because of that, it amazes me that I've maintained a good standing within the company for so long.

Each day of work sends a shiver of excitement through me. Is today the day I freak out at someone on the phone and get myself fired? I wonder. I've made it three years with nary any disciplinary action, a feat that I feel should be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, as I am quite possibly the World's Most Patient Man.

I credit my success to my upbringing. If living in a house with two annoying sisters doesn't teach you patience, nothing will.

Last year, as I approached my two-year anniversary with my company, I did a by-the-numbers post, chronicling how I've spent my time working during the previous two years. I consider you all to be smart people, so I'm leaving it up to you to figure out how the numbers have changed over the past (almost) 365 days. I just don't have the brain power today to crunch those kinds of numbers.

Instead, here are some of the things I got to bite my tongue through this past week at work:
  • I answered a call from an older gentleman, who wanted to register for a free prostate cancer screening event at a local hospital. The event had been advertised in the newspaper for two weeks, and all the spots that the hospital had made available for the event had been taken already. He said that he knew about the event a week prior to calling about it that day, but didn't think to call to register until now. When I told him it was full, he wouldn't take "no" for an answer. He requested that I schedule a completely new event for later in the month, just so he could attend. He couldn't believe that I refused to do it, clearly not understanding that no hospital would do that for just for one person.
  • "I need to register for a Lamaze class," the caller told me, going on to say that she was due to give birth to her first child in two weeks. I looked up the schedule for Lamaze classes, and told her the bad news: There were no available classes in the next two weeks. This, naturally, was my fault. I pulled my headset away from my ears while she aurally violated me with the worst collection of foul language I had heard in a long time. Sure, I felt bad for her, because not knowing what you're heading into with giving birth for the first time must be pretty effing scary. But, it's not like she didn't have NINE MONTHS to prepare for this.
  • Mid-day Saturday, Labor Day weekend. I answer a call on a family practice office, who has a notoriously strict no-prescription-refill-on-the-weekend policy. Strict as in I've seen two co-workers get fired for paging the on-call physician for an RX refill for patients. The patient was completely out of his maintenance medication, a blood thinner. I read him the script we had prepared for such a situation, advising him of the office's refill policy (which was nothing new): If it the medication is needed urgently, go to the local ER for a temporary refill to last the weekend. Again, I was assaulted with profanity. I know that going to the ER on a busy holiday weekend isn't exactly desirable, but considering the alternative (a stroke), you might as well just go along with it.
  • As I listened to the caller tell me the situation with her child's illness, I came to the realization that my hands were tied and that I couldn't help her. She was calling on an insurance company after hours service, and she needed to get her child's member ID number so she could fill a prescription. Member ID numbers are protected federal HIPPA (medical confidentiality) laws, thus I am forbidden to give them out over the phone. She was understandably upset about it, and didn't change her tone when I told her that I would lose my job if I gave her the ID number. It ended up getting escalated to my supervisor, who told her the same thing I did. Saying the word "supervisor" after your name apparently makes all the difference.
As much as I think I deserve a raise for my never-ending patience and good work performance over the past year, I won't be getting one. There have been enough cutbacks and layoffs in other departments already, so I'm content to keep my job, even if it means I stay at the same rate of pay.

Here's to a better, calmer year. And smarter customers.


Little Ms Blogger said...

Wow, I can't believe you didn't schedule a whole prostrate screening at the hospital for the old man AND why didn't you just teach the pregnant lady Lamaze yourself?

Tammy Howard said...

I could not do your job even WITH a big fat raise. Kudos.

Samsmama said...

I'm with Little Ms are quite the slacker, it would seem. And to go one step further, after teaching the lady Lamaze, couldn't you have just given the guy a prostate exam yourself? I mean, where's your sense of devotion to your job?

Organic Meatbag said...

As a guy who has worked in tech support for 11 years, I can totally and I just don't get paid enough to tolerate such things...

Nyx said...

Keep on truckin'. And, y'know...a fun thing to do over the phone is to inform the customer that you aren't exactly of a sane naature, and their yapping was the last straw. :-D

minivan soapbox said...

Stupid people suck. I work in a real estate office - and at any given time I'll have 120 listings on the market...and inevitably someone will call and say "How much is the red house next to the big tree?"

Brutalism said...

Wow. Maybe THIS is the cause of the hives? You are a saint.

The Good Cook said...

I think you deserve an award and a raise. But then I'm one of your rare callers with a brain.

Tony said...

we have to follow HIPPA regulations too where I work and sometimes when one of the ladies at work tells the patient they can't give out information the patient get mad so they transfer the call to me - they seem to transfer a lot of angry patient to me - I tell the patient the exact same thing and the patient is ok with it. It drives the women crazy because the patient will accept it from a man but will argue with the women. I just tell the women that it's part of my charm

LiLu said...

Smarter customers? Don't waste that wish, my dear. ;-)

Doughmesticity said...

you deserve a raise for being so patient! i have to talk with stupid people as well. currently, to remain calm at work, i intermittently do breathing exercises and throw tantrums in between calls. the tantrums are much more effective. i suggest throwing a pen at the floor while yelling "uugghhh i hate stupid people!" but quietly, so that a supervisor does't hear. repeat several times a day.

Mrs Soup said...

Uggg, I totally understand. I'm so sorry you have to deal with these people. They suck. People just suck in general, but then you add in medical type stuff and you are screwed.

mumma boo said...

Don't you love when people tell you that they meant to do it yesterday, last week, 8 months ago? Like that will change anything. "Oh, you meant to call three days ago? Well, let's just hop in the way-back machine and get that done for you." You do have the patience of a saint. Saint Badass. ;)

GeekByMarriage said...

You are a Saint in my book. I hate people, I hate talking to people, and I hate hearing peoples shit. I avoid the phone at all costs unless it's family.

You should get your likeness as a bobble head on a dashboard and on a big gold medallion.

sn0tty said...

It's so true about the word 'supervisor.' Eyeroll.

Sassy Pie said...

Dude. I used to work at an outsourced call center for Orbitz. Do you know how many people don't carefully check their reservation dates/times/terminals regardless of how many times it repeats itself during the booking process.

I had one crazy old bitch (incidentally, my first day on the phones) tell me that I was stealing her life force. STEALING. HER. LIFE. FORCE. Are you fucking joking me? She flew way past the cuckoo's nest, I tell ya.

Danielle-lee said...

You have soooo much more patience than me!

Megan said...

i feel ya on the HIPAA BS. God bless the government for giving us that pain in the ass.

Yeah, you win. My patience is up the minute i answer the phone!

Rebecca Knight said...

I've worked in Customer Service in various capacities for 5 years now, and feel your pain.

No raise for you, but maybe we can start some kind of support group? One that serves alcohol?

Amy said...

People are total assholes over the phone because they have a sense of anonymity. I feel your pain honey...I too have to deal with such garbage at work!

Nej said...

"aurally violated " I feel the need to hire a shaman to see if you've recovered from the attack. :-)

Mwa said...

Well, here's to a great year.

I had a great conversation once with a yellow pages person. I thought we could be friends. I sure hope he didn't get that call monitored. Do you get nice calls too?

Aunt Becky said...

People are so stupid. Seriously.

Melissa said...

Not saying this is the case with your job. But with techies it works both ways.

I have had been trouble with my Internet service so I called their 24 hour line and the tech decided to be a dick and not help me. He said he would have to send someone out. I explained that someone had helped me remotely the week before and if he would just read the notes on my account he would know what to do. He said he could not help and someone would be out the next day between 8 - 5 (on a workday).

I proceeded to give him an "aural violation" then gave his supervisor and "aural violation".

Well the next day the tech came out (no I was not there) and he called me at work and asked me to call him when I got home that night, because the issue could actually be fixed over the phone. He went over the issue with me over the phone, we got it fixed and then he asked me to make an appointment with him on Saturday morning.

Win win sitch. I got my problem fixed and he got to take a nap in his truck for 3 hours in my parking lot on Saturday am.

Mrs. B said...

I commend you for your patience. At least in my job, I'm allowed to yell at my students and punish them when they're pushing my buttons.

Inna said...

I would never be able to work in a job like that. I'd definitely have tried to change the rules already or yelled back or hung up on anyone who was rude...

Bee and Rose said...

I hereby bestow upon you the Golden Patience Award...holy morons, Badass! I don't know how you do it! Doesn't it just amaze you that people like that really exist?????

Chibi said...

Even "supervisor" doesn't *always* work. I was a supervisor by the age of 18 at the retail store I gave 10 years of my life to: I couldn't begin to count the customers who would dismiss what I said out of hand simply because of my age, only to lap it up when the manager repeated me verbatim. *head desk*

for the love of pictures said...

I aim to use the term 'aurally violated' at work tomorrow - out of HR earshot (I don't need the hassle that would surely ensue :)

I understand dealing with morons at work - I really wish I didn't, but unfortunately I do. I hope your work days get better!

Mad Woman said...

I can't believe you refused to schedule a new session for the old guy. What if his prostate went and did something funky? And that pregnant lady....9 months just isn't enough sometimes. Did ya ever think of that? Huh? No.....and neither would I. geez. I can't the nerve of some people. I hated working in a call centre (I answered phones for AT&T and Cingular). People are stupid.

Cheryl said...


.. yes that was meant to be in caps.

Some people really need a good beating.

Badass Geek said...

Little Ms Blogger: I know. I'm such an asshole.

Tammy Howard: It takes a special person, I guess.

Sams Mama: Sense of devotion? I'm only devoted to my paycheck.

Nyx: I'll have to remember that.

Minivan Soapbox: UGH.

Brutalism: It very well may be.

The Good Cook: People with brains are too far and between.

Tony: But even then, charm only goes so far.

LiLu: I know, I know.

Doughmesticity: I work from home, so once the caller is off the line and my phone is muted, I can say ANYTHING I want. And you better believe I do.

Mrs Soup: Agreed.

Mumma Boo: I like the sound of that. Saint Badass.

GeekByMarriage: A medallion, eh? Good idea.

Sn0tty: I use it sometimes, even if I'm not the supervisor at the time, just to get people to shut the eff up.

Sassy Pie: How nice of her!

Danielle-Lee: It's a gift. It's a curse.

Megan: HIPPA is a double-edged sword.

Rebecca Knight: If you find one, let me know. I'm in!

Amy: The phone is a virtual soapbox. People aren't afraid to speak their minds on the phone.

Nej: Recovered? Not even close.

Mwa: For every 10 calls I take, only one or two are truly nice and polite. The rest? Assholes.

Aunt Becky: Totally.

Melissa: Oh, yeah. Tech support is a bad place, too.

Mrs B: I've yelled at a few people during these past three years. It was very liberating.

Inna: I've hung up on many, many, MANY people.

Bee and Rose: Holy morons is right.

Chibi: I hate that, too. Supervisor means SUPERVISOR.

FTLOP: Let me know how that works for you!

Mad Woman: The Lamaze one still gets me. NINE MONTHS, people.

Cheryl: Yes. And I wish I could administer said beating through the phone line.

Sandy said...

I think your job must be the worst of the worst in customer service. I'd be tempted to yank people's chains when they got really upset. As people/clients get more upset and loud, I tend to become more quiet and say less. You usually can't reason with an unreasonable person.

Aunt Juicebox said...

My husband was a help desk supervisor for years, until just a few months ago. Oh, the stories! lol He didn't get a raise last year, and in fact, everyone in the company got a 2% paycut. That's part of the reason he finally switched positions. He should have gotten a raise for that as well, but didn't. End of the fiscal year is this month, and there are rumors of no raise again this year. But, at least he has a job. For now.

lovelila said...

Oh gosh, customer service jobs... I start training for the customer service aspect of my new job TOMORROW. I'm thanking God that I was blessed with a lot of patience because this could turn into a hot mess. People + electronics + frustration = Oh. Em. Gee.

Sweton F said...

my job too tests my patience...well how do you feel while working in a telephone answering service...i m sure it will be quite interesting to you........well try something similar to your interest at

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