Calling to the Beginnings

First of all, the company that I work for asks its employees to print this line on their personal websites. Since I do like to work for them, and don’t want to make the boss mad in any way, this is what they want me to say:

“The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the strategies or opinions of any other person or organization that I am affiliated with”

It wasn’t very funny or exciting to read, but at least I have now done my duty.

With that out of the way – I work at a customer support call center for a dental software company. Though I started in the trenches taking calls and answering technical support questions, I don’t get the opportunity to do that much any more. My job duties have shifted to more of an interal employee training role, which I have enjoyed very much. And then my job duties again shifted so that I additionally present webinar training to customers once or twice a week. And though that has been a stretch, I am enjoying that role now too. But in these new roles, I have always remained aware that the further distant I allow myself to go from my “roots” and “beginnings,” the more the memories and practical knowledge gained from experiences will fade away.

So when the other day there was a spike in call volume, and I happened to have some unstructured time, I jumped in and took a couple calls. Although I could handle the more advanced calls, I placed myself in the queue to receive the same level of calls that the newer employees are set to take – I wanted to experience what they are experiencing, and try to regain a perspective of hearing what they hear, searching the knowledge base tools as they do, and logging the call notes into the database in the same manor as they do.

The first call was from an office manager who had entered in a large insurance check that day, and the total amount of the check was not matching the amount showing on the end of day report. This stemmed from a fairly common situation where the insurance carrier had sent the office a check paying for several different patient’s claims, so the office personnel had to split the check up among the patients and designate which specific claims were being paid and by how much. She was having a difficult time tracking down where a mistake had been made in entering these amounts and on what patient(s) they had errored. I assisted her with exploring a couple of different reporting options until we found a way that sorted the patient names alphabetically, the same as what the insurance’s explaination of benefits listed. From there, she went on her way to hunt down the problem.

The second call was apparently misdirected by the operator, because the type of call belonged to a different technician level than the beginner line that I was answering. In this call, the doctor himself was on the phone (that always used to really intimidate me when the doctor personally would call). He had an ongoing (and yet unresolved) and apparently intermintant issue where his staff had been attempting to print patient’s periodontal examinations, but the print preview would show the charting measurements briefly, then those measurements would disappear, leaving a blank form. Printing would only print the blank form as well. There were previous calls made and they thought they had resolved it at one time by updating to the latest software patch, but the problem had returned. For a moment, I felt in over my head on this one, believing this was going to be a lengthy call and possibly need some research and follow-up attention. I could find no documentation as I searched the knowledge base, and the doctor had not either as he had searched the online version. We tried several things to pin point the problem, but it remained a universal problem – happening on all computers, any patient, with real data or sample data. I made some desperate grabs for ideas, and finally came across a knowledge base article that spoke of the perio charts printing blank (but did not mention the print preview symptoms). We tried the very simple solution there, and it turned out to be the answer. Both of us felt a little silly that we had hit all the big ideas and missed the very simple and easy idea. I edited the article to include additional keywords, so that someone else searching for the same issue, using similar search language as we had, would find this answer easier.

Point of it is, it was a great experience for me to get back into the “entry level” and take those couple of calls. I remembered the emotions that I had once felt as a new employee – anxiety, desperation, overwheling awash as I balanced the call handling with the call logging with the knowledgbase searching. I felt the satisfaction of resolving the issues! And I felt the sense of pride when I tried to go a little above the normal and offer something “extra” to both customers – in both cases I entered requests to the developers to add or change features that would have made the worl flow flow smoother for both of these callers. It is a concept known as the “three o’clock parade” concept, which I try to leave with each new employee.

By then, the call spike had subsided. I logged off my phone, now a half hour past the time I had intended to go home (another common feature of the call center that I had forgotten). I had enjoyed a good experience. One that I hope to do a little more often, to keep myself “in practice” and help me keep my skills sharp and empathy higher.

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