30 Jan 2005

Giving Head

Working in a call centre means getting intimate with your tool.

The tool in question is a headset. They come in many sizes and shapes, but without them you’ll not get far, because they are the link between you and your public.

It’s easy to spot people who work in call centres as they all suffer from ‘head set hair’: a narrow parting that stretches from ear to ear. Some women like to adjust the headset so that it sits at the back of their neck to avoid it messing their hair do.

There are a several code names for varieties of headset:

The Madonna These are coveted, but rare, versions of the headset. Made completely of black plastic with a proper cover on the mouthpiece.

The Cliff This is a ‘double header’ with ‘two’ ear-pieces instead of the usual ‘one’, disliked by everyone as it is impossible to hear what the topic of the ‘between call chats’. Barney has one, and skates around the office singing ‘Wired for Sound’.

The Seagull People are possessive about their headset and some daub their initials in Tippex on the earpiece. The headsets are past from generation to generation, and eventually they get caked in the stuff.

The Spirit Level A headset with a spit bubble trapped in the mouthpiece.

The Brazilian A headset with a curly bit missing.

The Nadia A headset with no muff.

This post is dedicated to Julian Clary who has avoided another snatch.

25 Jan 2005

Get out my way!

I hope that SMAGELL gets the chop in the restructure. I’m coming to the end of my tether sharing my desk with a lunatic. It’s not enough that I’ve got a bleedin’ dream catcher floating over my head, dropping dust in my hair whenever anyone wafts past me, but she’s plonked a model of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, in the middle of my desk.

She won’t let me have Dannii Minogue, but Nellie the friggin’ elephant is fair game!

Ah well. She should be thankful that I’ve got more pressing things to worry about.

I’ve been concerned recently with all this talk of blog stooshing. That bloke at Waterstones lost his job. Dr Dre has stopped his NHS blog.

I might end up losing my job and that would be terrible.

24 Jan 2005

Bin there and done that

According to ‘experts’, today is the most miserable day of the year. Debts are high, Christmas has worn off and it’s a Monday.

It’s perhaps fitting that Bernard has decided to launch his restructure.

Bodies will appear in dumpsters and they’ll be dredging the canals. The culling started early doors with the Chuckle Brothers from Quandix. Apparently, the bottom has fallen out of the hygiene bin market.

18 Jan 2005

Starr’s in your eyes

The knives are still being sharpened in Bernard’s office and still no sign of the ‘first cut’, which as we know, is the deepest.

The topic of today’s ‘between calls’ discussion was about the heir to Freddie Starr’s throne: Prince Harry (lock up your hamsters).

Joan was horrified.

So was Barney, “It was a really bad costume, you’d think he’d have gone for the SS uniform, something with a little more √©lan.”

Joan was even more horrified.

Barney said, “Let’s face it, it would have been a big deal if he was Prince Charlie’s son, but he ain’t, so get over it.”

Joan spent the afternoon in the medical room.

17 Jan 2005

The wrath of the Medusa

Brenda keeps fixing me with those strange stares. There’s definitely something going on. Bernard has been locked in his office, scrawling on a flip chart, rubbing his chin, shaking his head and moving post it notes from one wall to another.

“It can only mean one thing,” Janice said, wide-eyed (as usual), “RESTRUCTURE.”

Yes, of course, the signs have been there for months, Brenda and Ian vying for position, coming up with hare-brained schemes to catch Bernard’s eye, they were making sure that they come out well in the cabinet reshuffle.

If you have been reading this for a while, you’ll know that things happen here in cycles, and the occasional reshuffles are designed to ‘keep things fresh’. In other words, people who know what they are doing are given new jobs so they don’t know what they are doing and it ends up with the Call Centre’s virtuous circle: nobody knowing nothing.

The disruption caused by this movement rumbles on for weeks. Old teams are sundered apart and new ones form.

It’s time for change.

It’s a time for new a vision.

It’s a time to order another register from stationery.

13 Jan 2005

History of Call Centres (Part Two)

It is pleasing to note that the first part of this History of Call Centres has been ‘searched’ by a number of people and will be forming part of dissertations in assignments around the world. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

The first Call Centres were created when people in the Stone Age began to live together. Before, when people lived in caves, they used to communicate to their neighbours using smoke signals: “Please can we order one of those sabre toothed tiger skin rugs.”

When they moved away from the comfort of the caves and began to build houses and live in villages, they built beacons on the top of the nearest hill so they could communicate to the next village: “Our rugs have gone bald – can we have a refund?”

These beacons were the first Call Centres.

They were staffed by the local student population, between their ‘Wheel Studies’ they would throw sticks on the fire under the control of a ‘Tribal Leader’ who dreamed of doing something better with his life, such as appearing in Ray Harryhausan films, but working on the beacon was a ‘stop gap’.

12 Jan 2005

New Balls Please

I had a ‘Sprout Surprise’ smoothie today. It sounds horrible but the apple, mint leaves and carrot make sure it really is horrible.

I threw most of it away and got a coffee from the vending machine – I know, I know – it’s a slippery slope, next I’ll be on bread and before long I’ll be puffing away on a crack pipe.

First Aid needed to be administered on one of Martin’s team. The foam ball gun miss-fired and hit Bess on the back of the head. It was like Wayne Rooney had hit her in the face, she took a dive and hurt her knee on a desk. The ball bounced behind the coffee machine. The desk is a write off.

Another great idea comes to its natural end.

11 Jan 2005

The New Wave

I was not surprised by the debate that Thursday’s post generated about the tsunami as the office has not stopped buzzing with opinion for the past week. It has genuinely affected people and, two weeks on, everyone is beginning to understand that life may never be the same again. At least it has raised the level of debate from celebrity gossip to world issues.

Joan said gravely, “Well, in the pub quiz about a month ago, we were asked, “What is a tsunami?” and we said “Newcastle United fans”. We won’t be making that mistake again.”

John Doe offered his theory on the matter, “I reckon that China finally got its act together and arranged to jump at the same time to see whether they really could dislodge the Earth’s orbit. China is making no comment.”

“That’s worse than the ‘Lex Luthur’ theory you had last week!” Barney protested.

Bring on Brad and Jen.

10 Jan 2005


While I have been chewing cashew nuts and trying to resist the cravings for chips and beans, Martin has been trying to ‘up’ the level of competition on his ‘Youth Camp’.

He got a gun that fires foam balls for Christmas and he is now using it as a means of punishing his worst performers of the day. At the end of each shift he lines the people who have sold the least against the wall and they have to plead for their survival. Depending on the content of their plea – if they make a good pledge, for example – they may get a stay of execution (he isn’t known as ‘the Best Boss in The World’ for nothing), otherwise, the best performer gets the chance to fire foam balls at their head.

It causes a great deal of merriment and cries of ‘why don’t we do that kind of thing?’ comments from my team.

It’s enough to put you off your Echinacea.

5 Jan 2005

Stark Waving Mad

When there’s a national moment of silence, there’s a logistical nightmare to ensure that everyone gets the message and that customers who are mid-way through the conversation are politely told to ‘shut up’.

Brenda spoke into the p.a. microphone in a somber tone, like John Paul at Easter, and above the wail of feedback, she made everyone aware that the three minutes had begun.

I’m sure that some customers decide to ring us because they are banned from Talk Radio shows. I had a complaining customer on at the same time refusing to co-operate:

He: “I want a full refund and compensation …”

Me: “I need to interrupt the conversation to observe a three minute silence for the disaster in Asia.”

He: “What! I haven’t got time for this – listen – I can’t even go to a football match without a moments silence for someone’s cat dying. Life goes on.”

Me: “I think it’s more serious than a cat dying.”

He: “Over the last year and a half the Americans and British have killed as many Iraqi people that the wave killed in one day – are we going to have ‘a moment of silence’ for them an’ all?”

Next caller, on line three, is Clive from Grimsby.

4 Jan 2005

Janus Long

I can’t believe that I’m starting another year in the Call Centre. This time last year – when Michelle McManus was soaring up the charts like a burst Zeppelin – I was setting myself a clear set of resolutions:

More exercise,
More dieting,
More tolerance.

For old times sake, I’d decided to have the same this year. I’ve been given a book this Christmas: “You are what you eat.” In my case “I am a Kebab – with everything”.

Not this year. This year I’m going to be a reduced carb person who eats pulses and examines my stools.

“Happy new year.” Brenda breezed in, fixed a strange look on me, and winked.

If Brenda is what she eats, she is a Tuna and Onion sandwich.