Customer Service Rep Bored With Routine
August 26, 2012 6:18 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to make my job as a customer service representative more enjoyable?

I work as a customer service representative for a claims manager company. I talk on the phone for the ENTIRE shift and I've been working at this company for two years which makes me feel like I've reached my cap for working here. I cringe every single time I hear the phone beep and dread going to work, but I like the people that I work with and I'm a social person so this type of job gives me what I need in that aspect. The job also has a few other perks like making more than minimum wage, being open 24/7 so I can work the shifts around my school schedule, and the friendships that I have made.

But, I can't get over how much I hate the process of taking claims for clients even if I enjoy helping them and conversing with them.

What I dislike is the routine process that's involved in collecting details during the claims intake process. It's always the same steps and same questions that I have to ask or the same questions that I have to answer.

I receive high quality assessments and do my job well, but lately I feel like my lack of enjoyment is affecting my job performance. I need to at least get through working here until August 2013 since that's when I'll be moving elsewhere. A job like this (a job that pays well and is in a prime location) is really hard to come by in the small city that I live in so quitting is not much of an option although I'm considering it...

But, I would ultimately like answers for how I can make my job more enjoyable so that I can get through this year.

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible to take a week or two off?

Sometimes taking a little time off can do wonders.
posted by it's a long way to south america at 6:44 PM on August 26, 2012

Do any of your friends have really shitty jobs? Because the things that helps me with this kind of thing is just thinking "Well, at least I'm not..." That should at least get you through August.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:45 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worked a customer service job a number of years ago and completely understand where you are at. It gets to the point where you know five seconds in what they want but you can't cut them off to tell them how to solve the problem because they won't feel like they got good service if they got cut off - argh!

It's kind of cynical but if it get's you through the next year, try these -

- Keep a tally of times you say THE EXACT SAME THING through the day. If you accumulate enough points, you get ___________ (whatever small thing makes you happy.)

- Again, cynical, but keep a stupid customer file (in your head) so you have stories to regale others with (when you have left that job.)
posted by eleslie at 6:47 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you allowed to get creative with the script? Sometimes flight attendants get to do a more creative or silly version of the safety spiel they're required to do during takeoff. You could think of a generically non-offensive but still mildly silly way to phrase your required questions, and that might make it more fun. People on the phone might enjoy it, too.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:48 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would it help to remember or think about the fact that even though you're doing/saying/asking the same thing a MILLION times a day, the person on the other end of the phone is likely doing this with your company for the very first time? You say that you enjoy helping and conversing with the customers, so I think the key to overcoming the boredom or the rote recital or whatever is to try to focus on that fact. It's not a script to the person on the other end of the phone, or a form, it's a likely unpleasant thing that they're dealing with and you have the opportunity to have the lead role in the story when they tell their friends and family "it was the shittiest thing that happened, but Anonymous was the bright spot".
posted by ersatzkat at 6:56 PM on August 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ask people questions about themselves, so that you really get to know them--what's the weather like that day where they are, have they ever been to where you are? anything that makes the caller seem more like an individual and less like a random number. I know my cell phone rep's name, what she likes to do in her spare time, how many kids she has--and she knows stuff about me, as I always ask for her, specifically, when I have something has to be fixed.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:22 PM on August 26, 2012

- Keep a tally of times you say THE EXACT SAME THING through the day. If you accumulate enough points, you get ___________ (whatever small thing makes you happy.)

I bet you could set up a bingo game for yourself with the same phrases you hear all the time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:28 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've worked at a number of computer-related customer service jobs, including the one I have now, for over a decade. What has helped is having more complex situations to handle.

I started off working for a state-wide dial-up ISP. Some of the challenges there involved customers who literally could not read, but knew the ABCs enough to navigate a keyboard, a client who's late husband had been the one on our books, and a major network failure the week before Xmas (I played cheerleader and reminded the rest of the team that the company was going to pay for the open bar at the annual party. And PAY they did, for the last time.)

Next, I helped people in a centrally-located computer lab at a university. Mostly basic stuff like how to print, how to use Office applications, how to set up their account, etc. I lasted there for almost 5 years because it was in person. I was an excellent "computer waitress" until the burnout kicked in. One really neat project I got to help with was assisting a professor getting her book formatted in Word to the standards of a European publishing company. It was interesting and challenging, I got a mention in the front of the book, and she took the two of us who helped her to a lovely lunch.

Now, I've spent a couple years working with faculty and staff in the arts and sciences college of the same university. Now THAT has been a learning curve. Viruses, data recovery, getting new machines ready... The big difference has been that I'm treated more like a professional. Sure it helps that the money is noticeably better, but that's not what gets me out of bed and to the office. I found that I really like solving puzzles for my job. I like the variety.

My point in telling you all this is, if you are really good at what you are doing, perhaps you can ask if there is a position slightly up the line that isn't all the same script all the time. Talk to your supervisors. My position couldn't be described as a manager or a captain, but more of a corporal, which suits me fine. It sounds like you would enjoy more challenges.

(A good bingo game doesn't hurt, either, regardless.)
posted by lilywing13 at 10:56 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worked phones for a dot com for 15 years and loved it. I worked phones for a public utility and lasted 2 years. I know of what you speak. What got me through the day the last year at the gas company was picturing myself stepping into a river of clients. Each was different in some way. I looked for the differences as a people watching exercise. Even if the script is the same, each answer from your client will be different and can be quite revealing. Let the conversation lead you slightly astray and then pull back into the schemata. You should, if your evaluations have been good so far, be allowed to do this. You will make it. Keep your future goal in mind. Enjoy your weekends and time off. Make sure you leave with no vacation hours left over. You don't need the money that bad.
posted by ptm at 10:56 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Remember: this job is only means to an end - you want to finish school, earn a degree and get a better job!
Check how much money you really need - I know people get used to money and then they get attached to money and it's hard to reduce hours/money - but you can try! Try to reduce your hours so you have
a) more time for school
b) more time for good things that you don't dread and that won't make you cringe!

You could see if there is a second (not-on-the-phone) job out there for you and work a few hours there plus a few hours on the phone (will change up your routine, you'll have new things to learn and hopefully feel better about both jobs).

Try to get your social time elsewhere (you list the friendships you have formed with your co-workers). Could you join a club at school or volunteer 2 hrs a week somewhere to be around people and have fun while doing something productive?

If you took Friday off - where could you go for a weekend trip? How far can you go if you took Friday and Monday off? Maybe you could arrange your schedule the way that you can take a small vacation every, or every other month - it is a huge help in terms of motivation and wellbeing.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:57 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've so been there.

At least we had a sales component to our job, so we could earn sales points, and that was challenging.

Once, my colleague and I were on the same page of the "script" and so we started making Flight Attendant hand signals while we were talking, cracking up our whole row, and each other.

Some folks did crosswords, word searches, etc. I became a shop steward, which gave me some breaks to deal with union stuff periodically.

Being a competant customer service person is a good thing in the world. You are making something that can be hard, scary and painful for people, easier. Remember that what you are doing is important.

It's not forever, it's a means to an end.

Hang in there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:02 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask for more responsibility; what is the worst that can happen? They say no?
posted by Bun Surnt at 11:21 AM on August 27, 2012

I started doing origami during the rote parts of calls when I worked in customer service. I usually stuck to one design (crane) because I knew it well enough to do it absent-mindedly. Plus I made a giant crane from a sheet of my month-at-a-glance calendar.
posted by anotherkate at 3:16 AM on August 28, 2012

Yeah, gamify-ing the process is your best bet, here.

When I was a teen, I worked for a couple of years at stores where facing the shelves was a good part of each day, an hour or two minimum. For those unfamiliar, "facing" was the term for pulling product from the back to the front, flush with the edge of the shelf, for every. single. product. in. the. store. Desperately mind-numbing without a doubt, and we coped by racing each other (then reviewing each others' facing to see if the winners cheated) and similar stuff. Sometimes you just need to take the mind-numbing work and turn it into a game.

Along the same lines, collecting shopping carts from the parking lot was desperately boring, but at least it had a physical component, so I avoided it during nice weather and volunteered to do it more often when the weather was really hot/freezing and snowing. That way, it was a genuine physical challenge, and when I was done I could feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It didn't hurt that this made me more popular with my coworkers, either, especially the girls (who often gave other guys a hard time about their I-don't-want-to-do-carts complaining on nice days, calling them out as wusses compared to me. For a teenage boy, what's more motivating than that?)

So find the game in it, and/or find the personal satisfaction in it. It could be bingo or sales targets, it could be something totally different, but there's always a way to make yourself engage with your tasks, so try everything until something sticks.
posted by davejay at 11:59 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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