What Tools Do Call Center Agents Have At Their Disposal?

Ever wonder what call center agents are looking at while trying to help you? Our call center tipster explains that agents have only the tools they need to access your account, and nothing more.

There’s a manual that they follow, that tells them exactly what can and cannot be done in every case. They log into several programs when they come to work.

First, the program that sends them the calls. Then, there’s the work station program. Here is where they make notes, and open cases. If something needs to be done, like moving funds into the correct account, waiving a late fee, they just open a case and it’s done by the back office guys.

They also log into a program that pulls up scans of all of the customer’s documents and files (the number of customers who think they run out to a filing cabinet with the documents of several million customers is also hilarious) And if it’s something that needs approval, they can put the customer on hold and connect to a supervisor in the US (who are really just better paid agents with a touch more authority.)

No internet, no solitaire, no fun. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

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  1. zolielo says:

    From what I understand they also have a count down clock to help manage call length as to met flow rates.

  2. And coloring books. Every call center employee carries coloring books and crayons with them to work – it’s the only way to keep your sanity (sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc – are good options as well).

  3. tremorchrist says:

    eh, this stuff may apply at most call centers but it is by no means representative of them all.

    I have a friendly gui program that i can view account history on, waive fees, and so on. also if there is a larger problem i have a mainframe program that allows unfiltered access to change anything with the account i choose.

    The manual isn’t “waive 1 late fee if the fico is 720 or above,” so much as a guide of all our policies. Fees are waived by csr or supervisor judgment, or just for the hell of it because we haven’t waived anything for that card holder in the past 12 months.

    Also, we dont have a ticking count down clock either. I suppose my bank could be the exception i guess.

  4. dwarf74 says:

    This really isn’t all call centers… My own current company has fully-functional PCs complete with web browsing capabilities. :) I don’t get this current series of call center “exposes” written as if these stories are examples of all service centers.

  5. Kevin128 says:

    I’ve been a call center manager for a number of years…domestic and offshore, I seen it all.

    A “tool” often at a CSRs “disposal” is either a PSP or a Gameboy Advanced or some other like device and of course a cell Phone to text message their buddy across the room or on another floor. When it comes to hinding and using “call center contraband” without being caught by management, it is sometimes as ingenious as convicts in federal prisons hiding drugs. I’m not concerned about posting a few examples becuase like prisoners, when the secret is out, they’re already ten steps ahead of the gaurds.

    There are the obvious, under their desk held out at arms length, in desk drawers, texting without taking the phone out of their pocket, hiding Bluetooth headsets under their hair on their free ear…and my personal favorite, the “modified” training manual. My personal favorite is the “modified” training manual(s), I caught and agent who had carved up various training manuals like a custom molded protective case to hide his PSP, cell phone, and my favorite…a 1O inch portable DVD player. For a short period, we thought he was dedicated becuase he was always “reading” is training material, turns out he was playing cames and watching movies…this didn’t last long.

    Everytime I learn of a new way to wast time have to laugh…if only CSR could use their powers for good…

  6. Xeelee says:

    We used to have internet access a looong time ago but people kept messing it up by surfing while on call. The Client got annoyed and that was the end of that.

    We had https access for a while until a dumbass sent in a complain to management asking why another co-worker had access and he didn’t.

    Application control is enforced by IT and pretty much what we’ve got for entertainment is offline (books, magazines) or getting homework done (for the people who go to school).

    Oh right, forgot to mention we can’t bring in cellphones, PDAs, iPods, etc. Enforcement for this is usually lax but they do get annoyed at people doing stuff during a call.

  7. demonradio says:

    I worked for a somewhat large dotcom based in Brooklyn and lemme tell ya, I got some stories about shitty stuff we HAD to say and do to our customers. Maybe I’ll send Ben an IM one of these days and get all this stuff off my chest. ;)

  8. VeryFancyBunny says:

    When I did temp work at a call center a few years ago, it was only the low-level CSRs whose computers had only a few programs on them. Beyond that, their desks were little more than tables with low partitions separating one CSR from another. A manager was on the floor at all times, walking around and making sure nobody was spacing out, losing their temper, whatever.

    The higher-up CSRs, the ones who dealt with designated corporate accounts, had cubicles with 3.5 walls and PCs with Internet access.

    My job was to answer the mistakenly directed calls and send them either to the proper higher-up CSR, or to the phone farm. People would walk by my “desk” (table, out in the open) and tell me that maybe one day, I could be a CSR, too! The next job I interviewed for was not only outside of that company, but also outside of the western hemisphere.

    (The best thing about the call center job was that the mail was delivered by an R2D2-like robot. Seriously!)

  9. kuipo says:

    Really guys.. do u like check with someone else your facts or something?

    I have a nice cubicle, I’m able to talk with my friends on the other cubicles
    Sometimes i use my ipod while i don’t have calls.. I have even answered my cellphone!

    I have a completely functional hp pc that has internet access…
    Sometimes some agents use msn messenger(even do they’re not suposed to)
    Most of the time I have candies while on the phone…
    I can joke with my supervisors and they offer us pdf books to read while on the job also!

    I’m outsourced and i can give as much credit as i want to, $49.99 and down are already approved, $50 and up needs to be approved by a sup there in the same building were we are!

    When we achieve goals they give us pizza days and contests and they raffle ipods and computers even trips to cancun and shit!

    I only login to one program were I check everything about the acct, as well as giving credits, waiving fee’s and I login also to the phone so they know I’m working and i DO NOT have a script..

    Really guys… check the facts before posting shit like this which maybe true like on 5% of the call centers… but well…

  10. Firstborn Dragon says:

    Err, I second that. I worked for Sympatico teck support (Hellish job BTW) and about 95% of the calls we NEEDED internet access.

    Also we didn’t have scripts. We did have flow charts, but even they were limited.

    Here’s a list of what I can recall:

    1) TWO diffrent phone programs. (One to login the other to control phone calls.)
    2) TWO diffrent password reset programs (One for email, one for ISP password.)
    3) One upgrade program. (Yeah. We were TECHNICAL SUPPORT and we had to sell their shit. Most of it was crap I wouldn’t use even WITH the demos. I was sickedn just watching it.)
    4) The internet (Seriously we had to look up error codes and what not.)
    5) A Second upgrade program, which we had to record our sells.
    6) Text pad – We wrote up our reports in this.
    7) Some trouble shooting software (So we could file our reports, check up on the account, and whatnot.)

    I can’t remeber what else there was, but I remember having to remeber at LEAST 10 diffrent passwords, PLUS not having my own passwords to some tools and needing to use my supervisor’s. We actually all had sheets to keep all the damn things on we had so many.

  11. j.b. says:

    I have to agree – this article is painted way too broadly. There are as many help desk configurations as there are help desks.

  12. MostNutsEver says:

    When I was working at a call center one Saturday, I was bored out of my skull. The calls were few and far between and I was just losing it. I went into the computer and found where solitaire was hidden and played between calls. Sure enough, about 10 minutes before I was to leave, a supervisor saw me playing. When I came in on Monday, all of the computers had the games uninstalled.

  13. igj says:

    Have to 53rd the notion that these articles are waaaaay to broad. I have visited contact centers in Costa Rica where the agents have tiny faux cubicle walls, nothing on their PCs but what is deemed necessary, performance measured by calls handled per hour and little else, and all the other indignities of modern hell. But I also make my living writing about contact centers and talking to companies that sell the technology that powers them and the companies that use them–and the diversity out there is tremendous.

    In-house contact centers often/usually reflect the company’s general attitude towards customers and employees. I have spoken to employees of one contact center for an Australian outsourcer that have a fun, fun, fun til the corporate Daddy takes the T1 line away life…constant benefits like food, massages, etc. Not that their work is easy–they work those muscles into serious knots dealing with difficult customers like us. Other contact centers are drab and difficult places to work. The difference is usually whether the company views a contact center purely as a cost to be minimized or an opportunity to build the business through superior customer service. Those latter types can be hard work, but there is way more respect for agents and customers.

  14. Drezden says:

    I briefly worked for a temp agency when I was in grad school and got placed at a company that specializes in call centers and rewards catalogs. You want to use your points on golf clubs, tickets, miscellaneous junk, you get routed to this place.

    Because I already had a college degree they thought I might be better able to handle the tougher assignments so I got placed on the “code red” accounts, the REALLY pissed off people. For the large majority of the calls, all the people wanted was a simple answer but the call centers were totally unable to answer them because all they had was an FAQ binder and a simple application that let them look up only the most basic information.

    Even the CSR assistant and department managers didn’t have access to any additional information, mostly I assumed, because they couldn’t be trusted with things like credit card information. I on the other hand had access to detailed Microsoft SQL databases chock full of more info than you would ever imagine, all provided by the client companies. You had to get to someone like myself, a full five steps up the food chain, to get anything even remotely close to real customer service.

    On occasion I would have to check in with an Indian call center and they had it even worse. Their FAQ binder was a full month or more behind the local call center and in most cases they had no clue what the product was that people were trying to trade points for. I heard some horrifying calls from people with HEAVY southern accents trying to communicate with the India team, 90% percent of the calls ended in hangups. My favorite though was how the Indian guys all made up American sounding names to be more friendly. You’d call in and “Mike Jones” from Mumbai would do his best to help.