Saturday, September 03, 2005

"That's Just the Way It Is, Baby"

Life is a rollercoaster.

Of course, you can strip everything down to it's black and white. With just the linear, logical events of everday life. The white picket fence, cookie commercial, shiny life that we all shoot for. From youth we grow into adults and make our mark on the world.

Life is, at it's heart, black and white.

That is until emotion enters the fray. Emotions add irrationality, excessive valuations or de-valuations of circumstances and biased critiques perceptions of the world. Emotions add colors and grays to our world. Emotions cause us to to great things and they can be the cause of us doing the most stupid things. They give us pride, they give us prejudice.

They cause us to hold onto memories past and can prevent us from living our future. This emotion is called pain. It can pierce through you to the core and linger there for a long time. It skews all other emotions, adding another element of chaos to an already irrational set of circumstances.

"Memories of you and me
Tumble inside my head
The way that we used to be
Things that we said
No one has ever made me believe so strong
You left me to wonder
How did our love go wrong "
- "Angelia" by Richard Marx

Logic, as they say, doesn't make anything easier.

However, if my past has taught me anything it's to develop the little voice that says "suck it up, drive on, soldier." Life always goes on, whether you want it to or not. I have fought long and hard to make it where I am today. Stable, successful, and (hopefully) considered a decent person.

So, one must move on from yesterday in order to reach tomorrow. One of the key sayings when dealing with business strategy is to just "go forward." Stuff happens, but you just need to continue going forward.

And, thus, I guess in the end it all comes down to being able to wash the past away with the tides of time.

"The tides that once had carried you away, they bring you back today
The time has washed away my pain-I find that things have changed
And disappeared without a trace-You can't get back what you've erased"
-"That's Just the Way It Is, Baby" by The Rembrandts

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid

Anyone who has ever worked in the nursing profession will tell you that a good charge nurse staffs extra during a full moon. Any police officer, convenience store clerk, or even a fry cook at the local fast food joint will tell you that there is something different about the general public during a full moon.

Eariler this week a colleague of mine (Rick, the Wonderful Richard of PAR) mentioned that there was a new moon later this week. Today, tomorrow, I haven't kept track exactly. He proposed that the new moon would have similar, if not the same, effects as the full moon. I didn't necessarily believe him to the extent that I do at the end of my work shift tonight.

For those of you who have read earlier entries, you know what I do. I take escalated and advice calls from receivables management agents. The last time I heard, on average, about 25% is the average for escalated calls...and up to today, this week was pretty alright with escalated calls. People were civil, if not pleased with the resolutions I offered in most circumstances if I weren't able to de-escalate the situation first through the representative.

This was not the case today.

Today was the typical reason why my industry has a high turnover rate. I was called viscious, the "white man in control," and that what I had to offer was...well, we won't go there just yet. Some people are passive--they hint about you through thinly-disguised sarcasm and comments (is that how you treat your customers?). Other people are quick to allege that you are doing something illegal, taking away their right to do something, or what you do is, well, B.S.

People, when faced with most situations, like I have mentioned earlier, present the typical "fight or flight" reflex. If they don't get what they want, while asking in a civil or--God forbid--a nice manner, they will become mean about it.

"I made a payment arrangement for today, but I need another week: [insert rationale here]."

"I'm sorry, but I cannot offer you such an arrangement due to your previous payment history being poor, your credit class, and the fact that you are asking for an extension of an extension and this is something that we simply do not do."

"[Insert more reasoning here]"

"I'm sorry, unfortunately I'm not able to offer an extension at this time. Is here anything else I can address with you today?"

Customer then goes into a string of profanities and often will pull what they feel are "dealbreaker" cards: I will cancel my service, I will go with another company when my contract expires, and (in extreme circumstances) I will just just stop paying you guys altogether.

Let me tell you: We hate it when customers call us "you guys." We typically laugh at such "customer speak" or "customer logic" to keep up our sanity.

Enough work for now. I have had something burning in my head for the better part of the day.

How does one reconcile the past with the present? There was a time in my life where certain things brought certain joys to my life. For the first time in a long time, right now, I am stable. I am fair to happy. I have a good job where I am liked and even respected. I am professionally competent and technically proficient in my occupation.

However, upon learning some news about someone from my past today, I seemed to have lost something.

I have always cared for this person very much. Ever since the Wednesday evening that I met them. Over the course of some time we became close, but as I was young and stupid...I made mistakes and this person left my life. I tried to bring this person back into a closer role in my life with no avail. They moved on with their life in multiple ways. Today I realized that this person would forever be gone from any more of a role in my life than they are now. It left me feeling somewhat empty.

Fast forward to today. Why do I feel the way that I do? I search for some sort of closure on this, but my prayers go unanswered.

So, for all of these years when I feel that I have wanted to tell this certain person the thoughts that lie deep inside of me in places that I don't speak about at dinner parties, I haven't said anything. Over the years I have tempered out of me the habit of being passive with situations--letting things go without saying or doing something. This person tried desperately to make me into a different person. I attribute much of the betterments that I have self-initiated on myself up to today to what I figured was the intent that this person wanted as traits in another person. Maybe I haven't got them right on all accounts, but I saw a mold that would be better for me in the long-run, and I ran with it.

Hints and allegations may or may not get you somewhere in life...but I know for certain that the things that go left unsaid will certainly be able to undo those things that you care so much for.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

After S.J. introduced this blog to me I loved the idea. From there is started spreading like wildfire: I can already count at least 5 other people that are friends or friends of friends doing this or setting up the initial makings of a blog. These people are all from work; that being said, without further ado, let me introduce you to my world.

I am, officially, a Resolutions Support Consultant (Permanent). At least that's what goes on the resume. Unofficially I'm a subject matter expert, an analyst, and a quasi-supervisor taking escalated calls from customers in receivables management. For the uninitiated the RM department handles accounts with past due balances. We also handle issues related to security deposits, refunds, payment arrangements, payment options, bill interpretation and "basic" billing disputes. Between taking calls I am a powerhouse for creating job aids, software applications, reports, knowledge management tools, and any other need that the mangement team has to make the business go forward.

That's the syntax. It's an interesting workplace in which my colleagues and I are the elite. Selected from basic floor representatives, we have proven ourselves in one form or another: Everything from masters of "tone and demeanor" to collections masters. Dozens of calls are monitored-outside of normal quality monitors-to ensure that you meet certain requirements that leadership feels mesh with the current culture of the Resolutions Support Desk. Then, there is the written test to screen out those people who completely don't know what they're doing. It also separates the people who can bluff their way in as a subject matter expert from those that actually has the substance as such.

In this regard, we often compare ourselves to Army Special Forces.

All of us share certain personality traits: Our toughest critics are ourselves. We pick things apart to find what makes them tick. We can look at an account detail and, within moments, determine what is happening with it. We possess an assertive initiative with a flair for things obscure and an innate ability to recite rote policy and procedure. Generally, we are geeks.

Let me explain that one. There are nerds and geeks. When you think of a nerd the image from the popular 80's movie comes to mind. Super-intelligent people with a certain social ineptness. Geeks are all this with the social aptitude. I consider myself a geek. I consider it a compliment.

In this established world of policy and procedure, we must make order from chaos. Our wireless company has millions of customers. Eighty percent of these people have no problems and love our service. The remaining 20 percent do not have the same disposition, unfortunately.

Ever called about your cell phone bill and, for some reason, escalated the call on them by asking to speak with their supervisor? If you have ever done this, chances are that you have spoken to a person that works in my job. I am Matthew, and I am a Resolutions Consultant.

People are interesting creatures. If they get what they want, chances are they're "fight" will turn into "flight" and all will be well with the universe. However, if they do not get what they want, the "fight" generally kicks in. This reflex can range anywhere from a heavy sigh to a profuse chain of swear words that not even my father on-the-farm-after-getting-kicked-by-a-cow didn't teach me.

It doesn't end there. You see all things. If you're a student of human nature or just psychology in general you would love my job because-just as anyone who has worked in the customer service business will tell you-it's all about people.

I also hear this by customers on a regular basis.

Let's go through just a few of the funnies, ironies, or what-not I see on a daily basis. These are real-world examples with nothing made up, nothing changed. Most of the specifics have been withheld for several purposes, if only to keep the world from knowing the identities of the truly dim ones out there.

The owner of the "Super Happy Bunny Company," upon having problems with cross-talk issues (receiving other people's calls and having other people receive theirs), escalated to me over this (which is, in fact, a customer care issue). He was not happy. He didn't sound like a bunny, either.

People who think saying that "Okay, well, I'll just cancel my service" will have any effect on me whatsoever. During B-school I turned all of my emotions into one, multi-purpose emotion. Fear isn't one of those purposes.

One time, while taking normal collections calls as a representative "on the floor," a customer-an African-American customer-upon hearing what they did not want to hear called me the n-word. The great irony about this is what kind of person I am and my personality.

Let me explain.
I am a 26-year old conservative white male. My family finds their roots in Scandanavia, some of the British Isles, and Nova Scotia (look up Donald McKay in an encyclopedia sometime, he is related). I am the guy whose dress is conservative (I'm known for constantly wearing slacks and a tie at work. One time I wore jeans and a T-shirt on a bet and someone walked into a support column while their head was turned looking at me in awe) and has that wiser-than-his-age aura about him. I don't like the downfalls that society has taken, don't drink much, don't smoke at all, don't like bad drivers or the general amount of disrespect in the world.

Are you laughing about the n-word thing yet?

Yeah, if you aren't laughing about that you will be soon.

...Because my job is freakin' hillarious.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Okay, so I'm finally doing this.

After some time of watching this blogging phenomenon take off, I'm finally doing this.

What do I hope to accomplish?

Good question, he answers.

There is a course I took once in one of my military leadership courses that dictated, generally, the more that you reveal about yourself to the world, the more that you learn about yourself. Maybe the answers that I seek from the Great Beyond will come to me this way.

Yep. That's what my life is. A search for answers. Armed with my God-given gift to solve problems and "make things work" (something I have coined as my catch phrase as of late), I am determined to make something of myself while helping those around me succeed as well. The operational art of warfare, business strategy, and a firm basis in several other academic disciplines will be the tools on this journey. For humor I have the occasional (bad) joke or witty remark as well as my hillarious occupation.

Want to come along for the ride? It seems that you now have a front-row seat.

And, as always: Questions, comments, and bad jokes are always welcome.