I am not built for customer service

I work for a smaller department that’s part of a large bureaucracy. My department is connected to another department that offers courses that people in our field can take to get certified, advance their career, etc. Due to budget cuts and the fact that it’s a small department in a big bureaucracy, after that department’s secretary left for a new job I was asked to help answer phones for the second secretary when she has to run to lunch, doctor’s appointments, is out sick, that kind of thing, until they could hire a new secretary. As the new person of course I said yes.

There’s just one problem: I hate working the phones.

I am a terrible customer service person. No, scratch that, I’m actually quite good. I’m smart and professional and can think on my feet (even when I’m sitting in a chair with a headset strapped to my noggin). I’m polite, I’m light-hearted, I try to find out the answer for people, and always sound like I’m smiling.

But I hate it. I hate being stuck to the desk. I hate not knowing when a call’s going to come in. I hate having to be “on” all the time, faking that nicery and trying to politely cut people off to tell them they have the wrong number but I’d be happy to transfer them to the right number. I feel like I can’t really dive into any other projects while I’m working the phones, so my work gets delayed. I hate not knowing the answer or how to get the answer (which as a back-up and being new happens a lot). I hate people who don’t do any research for themselves and get testy with me when I direct them to a specific web page and encourage them to do some f*cking research about our course options! I hate when people call and ask, “which one of these five programs should I choose?” I don’t know, I’m not you! One or two I understand, but five?!? Or the question, “I want to advance my career with this course? What do I need to do?” Um, sign up! I usually cover it pretty well (I think), but there have definitely been a couple of calls or emails where I passed them on to other people because I didn’t know the answer, but ALSO just because I was tired of dealing with them.

An hour or so here and there isn’t so bad, but I had to cover for almost a full day yesterday, and it sucked! I am exhausted (like how I felt at the beginning of my pregnancy exhausted), and I hardly got any of my “real” work done. I also left a lot of emails for the secretary to answer because I didn’t feel like spending 20 minutes digging up an answer she could respond to in five. I now have a fight-or-flight response when I hear anybody’s phone go off in my own department.

I guess what I’m saying is I have a new found appreciation for people who work phones – secretaries, call centers, hotel front desk workers, ’cause I don’t think you could pay me enough to do that full time. I’m just hoping they hire that second secretary reaaalllly soon!


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