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Fun at The Call Center

January 7, 2009
Many years ago, back when I was still Notsosmartmark, I worked in the call center at a financial institution that dealt with the transfer of stocks. This institution is still in business, but they sold this unit many years ago. This was a big break for me as it got me out of retail and for a while I was extremely happy to be there. I still feel to this day I owe the call center manager a lot for hiring me with no experience at the time. If not for her I may not have become Smartestmark. If not for her you might be reading this column from or

Most of the people working there were very nice, but it was a very stressful place to work. We would take an average of 100 calls a day and most of them would be from very unhappy shareholders. We would also answer correspondence.

We had a lot of great people. We had this sixty-year-old woman who used to work for an auto parts store. She still thought she worked there, as she would answer the phone with their name. We had this woman who pretty much never learned anything about stocks. She would tell people to fax in their certificates and we would issue new ones. One of my favorites was this tough little guy that would sing god bless America real loud every time a caller upset him and every caller upset him.

We had this instant-messenger type thing that we could communicate with other call center reps and often it was used to hit on other workers and often the messages would get sent to the wrong person. Occasionally even the boss. One click of the mouse and you were asking a 400 lb man out to dinner instead of a 25-year-old goddess.

It was a large building with different departments on different floors. All calls came into the call center and the other departments never had to talk to the customers directly. This made the other departments extremely lax, as they never had to hear directly about their mistakes.

A major shareholder had a certificate issued for about a million shares of stock. He instructed the certificate department to issues his shares in his name. No real names are being used in this column. He asked for John (No Middle Initial) Smith. Obviously he wanted his certificate to say John Smith. What he received was an actual certificate that said John No Middle Initial Smith. This was typical. Probably one in ten certificates left the building with spelling errors.

The Dividend Reimbursement team would often buy people the wrong stock or lose peoples checks. Sometimes they would buy stock days late at higher prices than they should have. We are talking about a lot of money here.

The Transfer Team would require what’s called a Medallion Guarantee in order to transfer stock. Now the funny thing is a Medallion Guarantee has to come from a bank that belongs to the Medallion Guarantee program. If the bank stamped your transfer form with a Medallion Guarantee it meant if there was any fraud involved that bank would be liable for any damages. So if someone who was transferring stock did not have a bank or their bank was not a member, it was like they were stuck in the Bermuda Triangle with a one-way phone line to the call center.

The worst part was, we were not allowed to talk to the other departments. So, many times if we could have called them or walked down a flight of stairs we could have got numerous things straightened out in minutes. Instead we had this thing called Problem Resolution. It was a small intranet type thing that we could write up the problem and it would sit in a queue waiting for a response from the department that messed up. The other departments were supposed to fix the problem and put the ticket back in the call center queue so we could call back the initial caller and tell them how or when their problem would be fixed.

Since we were never allowed in these other areas, most of us call center people imagined the people in the other departments were just partying all day long without any worries, while we were being abused for eight hours a day. It was like the Ten Commandments movie, the other departments were the royalty and we were the slaves being whipped and abused.

Now the managers could see how many problem resolution tickets were in each of the departments’ queues. So what do you think the other departments would do when they received a ticket. If your guess were taking care of the problems you would be wrong. They would put the tickets back in the call center queue with a note saying they would look into the problem, and then return to the party. That was it. That was the last we would here until we would it move it back into their queue a few days later asking for an update. When we did that they would scream bloody murder. The managers would see hundreds of tickets in the call center queue and think we weren’t doing our job, while the rest of the departments continued on with their non stop party. Due to the stress I eventually left and moved on, but I still have fond memories of that place. I am sure future columns will go into some other things that happened there. Come back soon.