Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ride Roundup

Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro gave an interview outlining his vision for the future of the chain's parks, which involves shifting the focus away from thrill rides. "We need to diversify. We have 17 roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain--that's too many. It's become like a drug." What is he, on crack? Shapiro's master plan for improving the parks? "You're going to see Bugs Bunny and a lot more Loony Tunes characters walking around... We're going to be moving more into name brands, from pizza to burgers to soda... I might try and bring in Papa John's pizza." Oy vey.

Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom (Orlando, FL) is previewing Expedition Everest, a steel indoor-outdoor coaster. The largest, most expensive attraction ever built at the Magic Kindgon, it also features the largest animatronic creature ever created for a Disney attraction: the giant Yeti stalking the riders.

Disneyland (Anaheim, CA) has confirmed their Pirates of the Carribbean attraction will be modified this spring to add movie characters from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Paramount's Great America (Santa Clara, CA) has begun construction on Survivor: The Ride. The "world's first reality coaster" is a Zamperla Disk'O with elaborate theming and a longer track.

A 13 year old boy was ejected from the Triple Hurricane coaster at Cypress Gardens (Cypress Gardens, FL) after standing up on a dare.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Quality customer service is our promise to you.

Good news, everybody! I'm only half as miserable at work as I was a week ago. I've mastered the common complaints and ticketing system. I've learned most of the important procedures and protocols. I've realized whether there are two callers waiting on hold or forty, my job doesn't change and it's for someone else to worry about. I got a desk fan so I can stay conscious in the sometimes sweltering heat of the office.

Most importantly, I learned how to work the system to give myself a break. You're allowed two minutes of wrap-up time between calls to document what you did. That time is monitored and a statistics spreadsheet is sent to you weekly, offending numbers highlighted in glaring yellow. But if you can document everything while the customer is still on the line, that's two minutes to get a coffee, check your email, read Boing Boing, whatever. I can't even explain how huge that is. Figuring it out made the job bearable for me.

Making the most of my wrap time sometimes means keeping a customer waiting a few more seconds for an answer. At first I struggled with this because, as fruity as it sounds, I really do care about the quality of service I provide. But management has created the perfect storm of bad service by with low pay, critical understaffing, and utter disregard for employee satisfaction. After a few weeks of the worst working conditions I've ever encountered at a call center, I can't be bothered to care anymore if some fuckwit on an assembly line making three times my pay or some suit at world headquarters making ten times my pay has to wait on the phone for thirty more seconds. In fact, if he's rude to me I relish making him wait.

On my other call center jobs, the call management system was a PC application. You could view your stats right on your monitor in real time, see how long you'd been on a call, how long since you hung up, etc. Our office has desk phones (with actual buttons we must push- how quaint is that?) so you never see those numbers except as weekly averages. I finally installed a stopwatch application on my PC (strictly forbidden, but whatever) so I could time my wrap-up, and that was the day the job stopped sucking quite so hard.

Our company is pretty quaint when it comes to communicating pretty much anything to the analysts too- we're on a no-need-to-know basis. I found out by accident today, when I went to check my company profile online, that the twenty-year-old Urkel lookalike they trotted by the cubicles for a cursory introduction last week is my new boss.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Is it okay if I put you on hold?

Unfortunately, I didn't get the job. That company's software uses SQL so they went with a candidate who had lots of SQL experience. It wouldn't be hard to learn, but at the moment I know nothing about SQL. Apparently I was their second pick. The VP told me if his request to hire another person gets approved he'll call me back. Meanwhile the search for a job with reasonable pay goes on.

I am adapting to the frenetic pace of my present job. I learned that due to layoffs and reorganization, a dwindling call center of thirty people is supporting the same volume of customers that over a hundred agents used to handle. No wonder I found it overwhelming at first; I'm doing the work of three people. Supposedly they are going to continue growing the staff, but the number of projects we support is growing much faster. Currently we support about 90,000 customers using hundreds of different applications.

The managers don't give a rat's ass how overtaxed everyone is. They're strictly focused on how closely we're meeting the service level agreement with the client, which means they only care that you answer as many calls as possible as quickly as possible. Statistics scroll by on overhead tickers in case you forgot about the pressure. The quality of service you provide to the customer is not even secondary, more like an afterthought. They monitor your calls, but your evaluation is based on your adherence to the agreed-upon script- i.e. did you thank the caller for holding? Whether the customer got the answer he was looking for or was treated respectfully barely factors in. Consequently, you hear a lot of people being incredibly sarcastic and rude with callers, other agents are always trying to dump calls off on you, and the resources often take forever to give you an answer your customer needs. It's your stats, not his, taking a dive while you and the caller are waiting for him to finish his videogame. And yes, I'm totally serious. As crazy busy as we are on the phones, the resources actually sit in plain view of us playing videogames.