Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Night @ the Call Center

No this is not a book review, but a personal experience, that too in a call center in the USA rather than in India. I spent some time at the call center to understand the business process better and in the process got an insight into the much more than business processes.

I was greeted by Yvonne, who was a very amiable and friendly lady, 62 years old, a hot shot COBOL programmer who worked in Bank of America in her hey days and could debug code by just looking at a dump. She was made redundant because technologies changed and jobs were outsourced, however to keep the home fires burning or may be just to occupy her time rather than just being forgotten, she chose this job of working nights as a supervisor at this call center. She showed me around, introduced me to people I should spend time with and offered me some soda and pretzels.

Next I sat with Nicole, who was an Australian who had shifted to USA fifteen years back. Initially for years she worked both shifts probably to make ends meet but now she works just nights and has been with the organization for a good 10 years. She showed me the screens of the application she used to enter data, how data got validated, posted etc. In the midst of all this we talked about Cricket, since she was Australian. I updated her about how well Australia was doing in Cricket. She and I agreed that Cricket was kind of boring if one did not understand the finer aspects of the game, she told me that she loved playing a girl’s version of cricket when she was at school which was far more energetic, fast and exciting as compared traditional men’s cricket. She also asked me that when the new IT systems were going online, she knew the new IT system would automate much of the work she did and it was to assess how much time she had.

My next session was with Ken, he has been working the graveyard shift for the last 10 years, but one does not really get used to such times, he said. He sleeps from 6 PM to 2 AM, when it’s dark outside and reports to work at 2:30 AM and works till 11 AM and has Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, when he catches up with friends etc. He has a very key role of collating and distributing the information before 5 AM every morning. Ken has two people assisting him, who are students and work nights to earn some extra bucks. He runs reports one by one, does a quick proof reading and sends it off to its location, some need to be formatted and emailed, some need to be hand faxed, some need to be printed and couriered while some are sent electronically by the existing system. He has trained several business analysts who came to him to understand the reporting and distribution section. The new system will have SQL Server Reporting Services which will have the intelligence built into it which will take away the human element from collation and distribution. With the new system in place, the customers will not hear Ken’s friendly voice telling them the top 10 figures, all they’ll see is a web page which is updated every 10 seconds.

I came away awed and humbled, awed because of the warmth and co-operation extended towards me despite being an ambassador of the IT solution which would do away with them and the stoic acceptance that they will eventually loose their jobs because the company wants to save on manpower costs by paying millions of dollars to consulting companies. Humbled because no matter how great technology is, people are special and important and you can’t have technology work without their contribution.


The Comic Project said...

You touched a chord there. Often when I do what I do, it pains me to know that someone is going to lose their jobs after I am through.I am happy you are being dealt with well...but you know what...knowing you..I am not surprised they are good with you. It is tough to be nasty with you..I have tried :-) Good luck chatterbai

Kausum said...

This blog do remind me of somethings, when I was in Canada. I was in telecom development domain, the hardest hit by the internet bubble burst.
This was '03 and the outsourcing boom just took of. However, for me and the team, we were working with them for a decade and it was always pleasant relationship. However, that year when we reached the labs, we met a lady, who's husband was in the same company and was recently fired. She always used to be afraid of us and the reason for the firing was attributed to outsourcing. Although, she conducted perfectly professional, yet at times we could see her being cold. However, later she saw that no one else was fired and the company was growing she softened her attitude, by a year we saw she was actually very happy of outsourcing ---> reason her husband got reemployed in the same company coz the company was now doing well.

After that, on my farewell, she actually said she started watching hindi movies(it comes on TV on sunday afternoons) and she thinks movies are quite colorful ...but she said the story is always about a poor girl falling for a rich guy and viceversa.

I, at that time, couldnt help imagine, such a change from hate to actually being interested in another country, such that she could actually understand the underlying themes of the movies. This was great.

ichatteralot said...

@TCP: Did you now? I cant seem to remember, but thanks, I am kinda floored!

@Kausum: Yes its true, outsourcing benefits everybody in the long run though there are some hard times to put up with in the beginning. But generaly I find the Americans to be more accepting and understanding of this fact rather than Europeans.