Writer, history researcher, biographer

Call Centre Carnage Chapter 3

Posted by Suze Appleton on Sunday, May 26, 2013 Under: Serial novel

The plot thickens

They continued to discuss the possible sponsors and Don volunteered that as wine was the obvious one he would approach all the wine shops in his area to try to get donations, hoping they would offer him samples to test. Krystal argued it was more obvious to get dairy farmers to sponsor it because it looked like a misshapen cow. Before they could come to blows, the door opened and Jo walked back into the room with Marilyn.
'Okay guys! Can I have your attention please? Come on, you've had long enough to make a decision,' called Jo. 'Now, I want one from each group to tell me what you're going to do and Marilyn and I will say whether we approve or not.'
Marilyn flicked her hair over each shoulder, leaning from side to side in one fluid movement as she swung her head round.
'That's right,' enthused Marilyn, 'Jo and I will give you all the help and encouragement you need but this will be a fantastic learning opportunity for everyone. We're hoping the CEO himself will come in to judge the videos and it may even mean instant promotion to the video unit for a really good effort! Think of that! Now, I'll take the front row, Jo will mentor the second and the lucky people on the back row will get both of us, so you'll get double the help! Aren't you lucky?' She flicked her hair again for emphasis.
Not one person on the back row could say they felt themselves lucky. Krystal snarled but contented herself with muttering under her breath. Matt felt sure that, having seen how much effort the two women had put in so far, it would just mean their group would fall down the crack between the two of them. They had done such little work on their training that it was fairly clear that they would struggle to manage two groups. In a way he was relieved because all he wanted to do was get through the training and get to work where he might get a chance to get some overtime. That's all he was here for, the money. If he didn't get some of his debts down quickly he was in danger of getting his computer repossessed and he wouldn't be able to live without that. It was his lifeline to people who were like him.
On the front row a heavily made up young blonde girl, Kristen, stood up to outline their plan. The front row was mostly young women apart from one, Ella, who was definitely older despite dressing like a teenager. They had decided to do a scene based in a model academy for hair straighteners. Krystal snorted again.
Then it was time for the second row to outline their plan. There was a bit of paper shuffling and glances up and down the row as they each exhorted the other to get up. No-one wanted to speak.
'Oh, c'mon guys!' Jo's voice had a hard edge. Marilyn flicked her hair again. She looked uncomfortable and stepped forwards.
'What about you, dear?' Marilyn pointed at Fiona, sitting in front of Don.
Don thought she was pointing at him and hit back with sarcasm.
'Not in front of the children, darling,' he replied, 'later, when they've all gone to bed.'
A titter lightened the atmosphere although Marilyn didn't seem to get the joke. She flicked her hair furiously, twice, as she tried to compose herself.
'There's no need for smut, Mr, er...?'
'Don, dearest,' supplied Don, completely unfazed by Marilyn's discomfort.
'Yes. Mr Dearest. Okay. Thank you but I was pointing at the person in front of you, actually. Yes you, dear, erm...' 
She floundered as Fiona pointed at herself, while everybody else tittered again. Marilyn had been told by Adrienne not to address workers as 'dear' or to use any term of endearment because it was patronising, although she didn't understand what was wrong with being friendly. The girl shook her head shyly and turned to a young man next to her. He blushed and shook his head and looked past the girl to a harassed looking woman who was consulting her mobile phone. She snapped it away when she saw them looking at her.
'Oh it's me, is it? Honestly, when there's stuff to be done you ask the person with the most on,' she snapped. 'As if I haven't got enough to do with our Hayley's orthodontist on Monday and Justin's football tournament tomorrow, never mind poor little Alice's reading practice. Oh for god's sake! All we've got is six different ideas and not a thing we can actually produce. Why don't you do something radical, Jo, and actually sit with us to teach us something instead of swanning off on another coffee break. Or better still, why don't you do one for us and we'll say we did it? Job done, you're off the hook and so are we.'
'Well I don't think there's any need for that tone,' blustered Jo.
'I do,' replied the woman, whose name was Joanne. 'I came here to do a job and as far as I see it, the best way to do that job is to practice taking calls and learning scripts. Not playing about solving riddles and artificial scenarios where it's easy to say you'll be nice to people when they're not actually shouting down your earpiece. C'mon guys, just let us get out there and do it!
A smattering of applause echoed round the room.
'John is most insistent that every new employee should understand the workings of the company and the principles by which we work,' put in Marilyn, looking extremely put out and flicking her hair furiously. 'It's important that everyone understands and supports the principle that we all have a vested interest in making this company a success.' Flick, flick. 'From the very beginning he has always ensured that each staff member knows that they have a voice and that he will listen to everyone. You're not just a call centre operative here. This isn't just a call centre, it's a customer support centre, and you're not just a cog in a machine, you're an important member of a crucial department. If you can remember back to Monday when we gave everyone a copy of the company mission statement, "To achieve greatness through individual effort". Without you nothing happens. It all revolves around you so it's important that you recognise how important you are.' Flick, flick.
A solitary clap echoed around the now silent room. One of the blonde girls at the front blushed and looked down to hide her embarrassment. Matt sighed as he wished that these people would put their high ideals into practice. From what he had seen before it was all mission-statement claptrap. At the last company he had challenged one of their stated aims which was to increase diversity, arguing that it amounted to discrimination. This had resulted in a rather heated discussion with the manager who hadn't liked being questioned but who had been unable to answer the question. It had taken place at an annual company conference where the employees had been sitting at tables of six with a tiny dish of sweets in the middle of each table. They had been set the challenge of brainstorming some ideas for the following years targets - 'employee led targets' they had called them. More like employees led by the nose, in Matt's opinion.
He seemed to be the only one that saw the con that was being worked on them. Give the workers a day away from their desks, feed them a few sweets and pastries and let them think they actually had the power to change their working environment. Nothing had ever changed except that the managers kept getting higher bonuses and the workers believed they had a voice in the company.
After that experience Matt had concentrated on his games design. All he needed from a job was an income while he perfected his game to sell to one of the big companies. Then he would be rich and his debts would disappear. He just hadn't found a way for it to make him any money yet. For now he wanted a mindless job with bonuses that would leave him free to daydream new twists for his game. He wasn't looking for a career and certainly not one that involved talking to people all day.
Jo gave up trying to get anything out of the trainees on the middle row and impatiently turned her attention to the back row.
'Well, what about you guys? I suppose you haven't managed to come up with anything either.'
Everyone on the row turned to look at Matt.
'Actually we have,' he said firmly, determined not to suffer any longer under her glare than he had to. 'Our product's the Viking Wine Chariot and we'll be setting our video in a stately home, yeah?'
'Oh. Yes. Great.' Jo was clearly surprised at such a concise answer.
'How wonderful,' twittered Marilyn, flick, flick. 'John will absolutely adore that. Maybe I can help. I know one of the volunteers at Higgleswick Hall and I might be able to arrange something for you. Just come to see me next week and we'll talk.' Flick, flick.
'Mm, yes. Great,' nodded Matt, thinking that he would rather do anything than have to put up with Marilyn and her hair-flicking all day.
'Okay. Great. That's it then,' said Jo looking at her watch. ' let's break there for lunch. Okay. And it's Friday so let's make it a long lunch. You can get some more planning done, allocate roles, etc, and if you get back here in two hours, Terence will be here to assess your scripts. Coming Marilyn?'
Jo grabbed her bag and linked Marilyn's arm, sweeping her towards the door.
'What about us? What do we do?' Joanne called out before they reached the door.
Jo turned and gave her a dismissive wave of her free hand.
'You're going to have to come to some agreement, aren't you? I hope you have something to show after lunch or it'll just look like you're not trying, won't it sweetie?'
Krystal exploded as the door shut behind them.
'What a selfish bitch! Hey, Joanne,' she called, 'I'll help you come up with something. How about an exploding bra that we get her to model? Or a burglar alarm that we can get her to trigger just by speaking? We've just got to take her down, she's such a bitch and just useless at training.'
Joanne gave Krystal a look of disgust.
'Killing doesn't get me a wage, Krystal,' she said. 'All we've got to do is get through this and then we can get to work. This "training" has got nothing to do with the job we'll be doing, you know. I just hope I'm not working for that woman once we're out on the phones. If I have to report to her every day I might just take you up on your offer! Give me Marilyn any day. At least her main fault is the hair flicking and I can choose not to watch that.'
'Can you?' Pat sounded amazed. 'I find myself hypnotised by it. It's like hiccups. I keep waiting for the next flick. You can almost time them, you know.'
'Roughly every ten seconds,' put in Don as he reached for his coat. 'C'mon, anyone for the canteen to do a bit of plotting?'
'But it's Friday! And we've got two hours! Can't we go to the bar?' Jamie looked crestfallen.
Mina looked worriedly from Matt to Jamie. Krystal put her arm around her shoulders.
'Yeah. Top idea,' she said. 'Don't worry, Mina. You can swop coats with me and no one will ever notice you.'
She offered her charity shop man's overcoat to Mina and held out her hand for Mina's sensible coat.
'And I could tie your hair up like mine and they'd never even look,' she added.
Mina took the coat but shook her head at the offer of a hairdo. Krystal's hair was roughly pulled into hair bobbles at all kinds of peculiar angles, although it didn't help that most of them looked as though they had been in place for so long that the hair was growing round them.
'Okay then,' said Matt. 'The bar it is then. Let's go.'

In : Serial novel 

Tags: dvds "mission statement" "call centres" 

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