brycej / CC BY 2.0

An anonymous call center worker at an American telecommunications company describes exactly how any one of the 50 to 60 calls she takes in a given shift can “make or break” her paycheck and budget.

She writes at The Guardian:

Customer service jobs typically pay just above minimum wage per hour. I have worked as a customer service representative for several companies over the last 5 years and my hourly wages have amounted to $18,000-$21,000 per year. But hourly wages aren’t why anyone takes a job working in call centers. We are seduced by recruiters promising a pot of gold at the end of the month in the form of a performance-based pay bonus. This arrangement, known as “pay for performance”, can add several hundred dollars a month to our paycheck. But its a very precarious way to make ends meet.

One of the most important performance metrics is handle or resolution time. This is the number of seconds you are on the phone with me, from the moment I greet you to the moment you hang up. Handle time is something almost every rep is measured on because, if we can each shave 2-3 seconds off of it and drop our department-wide average, the company will save tens of thousands of dollars. It may sound easy, but it’s not. One long call with a particularly needy customer, and your handle time for the day is toast. …

Even the metrics within my control create uncertainty because they are always changing. If enough reps meet their metrics, the company will just make them harder. Better performance saves the company money, but if they make better performance the minimum expectation, they don’t have to pay us for it.

So the constant struggle to try and score a bonus check means you learn to take shortcuts, even if doing so could eventually jeopardize your job. After all, that coveted bonus check is what pays for Christmas gifts, car repairs, or a child’s entire wardrobe bought from a consignment sale. It’s not extra fun money; it’s a crucial part of the budget, but it’s wretchedly hard to predict. So you learn to work the system, transferring a customer with technical issues instead of resolving them yourself to shave a few seconds off your handle time. You become overly aggressive with sales and you know exactly which sales affect your bonus and which count for nothing. Outright fraud will get you fired in a heartbeat, but if your numbers are good and you’re not strictly violating policy, your manager will likely look the other way, because her pay is tied to your performance as well.

A single call could push a worker to the next level of bonus, the author continues, earning them an extra $100 — or dropping their added pay from $700 to $70.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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