Moving The Goal Posts Of Corporatism

photo of a call center

This week would’ve been my 10th anniversary working for a large health care concern as a call center representative. I probably would still be there had it not been for the common corporate practice of weeding out the high wage workers so that lower paid workers can take their place. I’m sure you think this is just sour grapes, people get fired all the time. The point of this post is to rant about the practice of weeding out good workers just because they make high wages.

Back in 2003, I learned there was an opening at a major health care company. I applied to be a security guard and as a lark I applied to be a Customer Service Representative (CSR). I ended up getting the CSR job and 10 years ago this week started my training class.

I was good at the job which meant having to learn medical and insurance terminology. We had to take hundreds of calls a day and they would record random calls for quality assurance. They also controlled how we spent our time while at work through the computer system. If we were even a minute late getting back on the phone from lunch or a break a supervisor would come looking for us. People tried to game the system but they would get caught and fired. I never tried.

For several years, our customer service policy was that the rules were rules and if the customer didn’t follow the rules then they were shit out of luck. They could kick and scream as much as they wanted but we didn’t care.

Then due to market competition, where we lost a couple of large contracts, we changed to a member retention policy which meant we bent over backward to help the customer even if they didn’t follow the rules.

One side effect was the company now had specific things we had to say while on each call and if we missed any of the items we would get dinged – even if the result of the call satisfied the customer. We had a specific opening we had to use such as “Thank you for calling… how can I assist you today…”

At the time of the focus change I had a hard time with the more controlled scripting. They refused to give us a script yet wanted us to say specific things. I was also burning out on my job because I had to handle over a hundred calls a day so sometimes I forgot to hit all the required points during some calls.

I was put on double secret probation where I had to meet with my supervisor every week and go over the recorded calls. Of course they always picked the calls where I didn’t follow the rules. I was moved to a final last chance probation where I had to improve or I would lose my job. It just so happened I was making almost top pay for my job. I don’t think it was a coincidence. I had seen them weed out veteran workers before.

Now again the results of the calls – was the customer satisfied – wasn’t the issue. I would get dinged for not saying please or thank you at every point the supervisor felt I should have said it. I got dinged for too long of a pause between getting the member number and starting to resolve the call. Again it was subjective garbage nit picking.

The last day of my final probation and I got an excellent review on my call… YAY! Whew!

Then my supervisor said, “Doug, why did you wait until the last call on the last day to do what you were suppose to be doing all along?”

That’s when I knew I would lose my job. It was predetermined. They moved the goal posts and I could never succeed. Once I started down that road of “progressive discipline” there was no exit except the front door to the street.

That’s what it means to work at a large corporation without any contracts or unions. They can change the rules at anytime and they can let you go just because you get paid too much.

While I really don’t miss the job itself – it was a real grind at the end with the call volume – I do miss the people I worked with. They were the best people I had the pleasure to work with in years.