I sit. I listen. I observe. I assess. Some would say, I judge. Maybe they’re right; maybe I do. I don’t know, but I come to my conclusions as I sit, listen, observe.
There’s an awful lot of whispering going on. Clandestine conversations, secretive tones. It’s going on more and more, and while I can’t always hear what it is, I can almost always hear that it is.
The business group is changing, shifting. Something big is in the wind, on its way, a massive hurricane on the distant horizon cruising slow and deadly for land. I can see it, way off, but can’t feel the impact yet. No subtle breeze, no rumble of thunder. Not yet.
But, because I know it’s coming, I know we have to brace for impact. Almost no one else does.
Of the five people who report directly to my boss, only three remain who are salaried/exempt. We are the leadership team, and the others aren’t privy to the information we have. We get it in staff meetings, with strong admonition to keep it in the four walls. Now that the fourth member of our group is gone – the one who never quite stepped into her leadership role – the leak is gone too. What’s said in secret remains a secret.
The coming change will alter how we conduct business. It will be a deep change, and a permanent one. We will never again be as we were, and this change is the only hope our business group has for survival. We will go from a customer service organization to an internal service organization, from dealing with problems and urgency from the customers to routing emails and phone calls from the customers to the appropriate persons at other locations.
For the four years I’ve been here, there has been the distinction of doing what we do far better than any of the other divisions of our company segment can do it. We service customers. Those we worked with loved us. New customers coming in loved us. They loved us enough to be willing to pay a a service charge for what we offer, what we bring to the table.
Now, though, we have rumors from the customers themselves about unresponsive CSRs, unhappiness with our service, unhappiness with our dedication to them. We don’t seem worth the charge anymore, they can’t see the value we add, and they wonder why they’re paying the premium to come through our group.
I think a lot of it lies directly on what’s going on here, between the cubicle walls, over the IM streams, in those hushed and whispered conversations.
Some people here seem to believe this is largely a social experiment. They come in and do things between conversations. They don’t seem to have the urgency, the dedication to work with the fervor they once had. The one being accused of being unresponsive comes as a surprise to us. We never guessed it would come from one of her customers. The sales rep for that company seems dismissive of her too.
And the change? Well, I think there’s a lot more bf/gf sort of playing than there used to be. T and V are married, but not to each other. You just wouldn’t know that by watching them.
T comes in about a half hour earlier than V. Her shift ends about a half hour earlier too. When it does, she goes to V’s desk and they chat in those low, secretive tones. That half hour is a complete waste of time for V. He won’t admit that, of course. He fancies himself a lady’s man.
Because he does, he likes to play M off of T and make T jealous. Before M, it was another girl from the other business group, and he’d flirt relentlessly with her, even though she didn’t respond in kind. His blatant sexual remarks, I thought, should have landed him in HR long ago, but the women either like it or ignore him. (For the record, every female coworker I’ve asked finds him less than appealing looks-wise, so I’m left with “wft?” sort of head-scratcher.)
Then there’s D. D likes to walk around and have impromptu conversations with anyone who will listen. Or maybe he’ll walk away and text with his daughter. Or maybe he’ll walk to the lobby and talk to the receptionist. Then he can’t understand why he gets yelled at when our operations manager, my boss, comes out of his office to go to lunch and finds not a single person at their desk who can cover customer service calls. Half of them were taking lunch, others were just gone.
D and my boss had a shouting match behind a closed office door. You’d think he’d learn, but he still does it, every day. And what chaps MY hide about this is, he leaves his computer unlocked and unattended because he says he’ll only be “a few minutes.” That’s not only a direct defiance of my instructions to our business group, it’s a Sarbanes-Oxley violation. But he doesn’t care, and he won’t comply.
My boss and our Customer Service Supervisor (CSS) have been traveling for about a week. They just got back today. While they were out, I found out the CSS is concerned our latest CSR is sending out resumes because he’s under “so much stress.” After our ATR Coordinator left, the aforementioned M filled in. From December until mid-January, she was it. While she covered that job, her accounts were dispersed and many of them went to our newest CSR, who apparently can’t handle it.
The new CSR – let’s call him NG for New Guy – has been with us since September of 2013. He’s not new anymore. Not really. And he seems to have plenty of time to put on a phony chuckle for V’s rancid jokes, or for the “playful banter” between T and V, and he seems to have time to do some quiet whispering himself with V. But he’s too stressed to do his job and he’s overwhelmed by the new accounts? Really?
Then there’s the manic-depressive. C is either up and one of the most wonderful people you’ll ever want to be around, or she’s down and one of the most melodramatic doomsayers I’ve met, including me. (And that is quite something.) She’s on medications but apparently can’t always afford them, so she simply stops taking them.
When this happens she’ll start a downward spiral which ends with her calling to say she won’t be in. Before the end of calendar 2014, she had to be pulled aside and warned about excessive absence. She is the CSR for one of the biggest customers our entire company, not just our business group, has. They can’t be left unattended.
Meanwhile, we have another business group out there eyeing our $84M annually and salivating, because it’s easy to come and take them from us instead of growing their business the usual way. While it’s really just moving money from the right pocket to the left, it looks very good on their ledger. Our business continues to shrink, and our boss is now doing what I would classify as throwing a Hail Mary, trying to save us.
From ourselves as much as from the other business group.
We asked for our own building and were denied. If we’d received it we would’ve been part of this ravaging business group gobbling our customer base, and that would have been outstanding. But it would have meant having to pay real money, not Monopoly money, for a new brick-and-mortar, and would’ve meant we’d need to be somewhere else. But that didn’t happen, our boss’ pitch didn’t go as he wanted, and we are left with few options.
At the end of the movie Hollywoodland, Ben Affleck portrays a floundering George Reeves trying desperately to get work as an actor. He’s been Superman most of his career, and no one wants to help him break that mold. He’s left with one last, less-than-desirable shot, and it involved becoming a professional wrestler.
I’m hoping the movie I’m living now has a better ending than that one did. But it doesn’t feel like it.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all.