Having An Off Day

Friday, that is! I’m home for the day, which I scheduled off… God, about a year ago now, with the vague idea that I didn’t want to be at work on “Halloween Friday.” In years past, we used to make a much, MUCH bigger deal about decorating for Halloween and competing as teams and individuals for best concept, and in fact we used actually start building stuff or putting up decorations a week or more in advance. Not so much this year… a lot has happened, we’ve gone through a layoff cycle, we’re effectively between VPs until the new executive moves to the area, and the people that were the most competitive (and the most psychotic about crazy themes and wacky, elaborate costumes) have all retired, been fired, or de-hired.

Hmm. Possible corollary there.

Anyway, it’s been interesting at work the last few weeks, and looks to get more and more interesting in the weeks to come (in the Chinese proverb sense of the word).

There’s a lot I can’t say about some of the pressures and tensions that we’re under at work. I’ll see if I can do a little wire-walking, in the interests of documenting my current mind-set.

Where I work, metrics are hugely important. We’re measured on how long we talk on the phone, how long we work off the phone before becoming available again to take more calls, and how productive we are (total number of reservations logged).

I’ve been doing this, mostly on SABRE, American’s reservation system, for lo these 23 years. I’ve been with my current company for about half that time. Within the last couple of years, my company decided to mandate use of a different required tool (it’s kind of like a GUI) for making and modifying reservations, which is capable of handling most (but not all) of the tasks I need to do in a typical day that I now do with regular SABRE. We’re… pretty much required to use this tool as much as possible, and many of the quality metrics start off with “Did (did not) use required tool.” We’re coming up on the end of the year, and there are numeric goals we are supposed to hit, having to do with “call quality” and “technical quality.” It is not possible to make the minimum goal if the required tool is not used.

I’ll just say that my original distaste for this tool was entirely due to the poor quality of training we had the first time. An outside trainer was brought in, turned everybody in her classroom inside out and backwards for a week, and after 3 months, everyone had been trained… but almost no one was using the tool. The year after that, we all had to go through re-training. It was better, but only when it became a mandated part of the technical quality scores did most of the office resign themselves to using it. There were a few pockets of resistance, but I really started using it when I was assigned the new account – it was actually helpful since I didn’t really know the account that well and it added some of the required documentation. It’s been a bit bumpy in the year since my formal transfer to my current account, for various reasons. But I think I’m on the right track now.

I’m OK on “call quality.” I’m just under the wire on “technical quality,” but my “trendlines” are pretty good. I’d have been better off if I hadn’t stopped using the required tool as much the first half of this year out of peer pressure.

NEWSFLASH: It’s not that bad. It’s improved a lot. And it’s not going away, in spite of all the molly-coddling.

And then there’s various kinds of coaching. I absolutely hate, hate, hate having to trail off to a little cubicle in the back office to be coached. Even if my most recent score was above 90 (which is very good), I still hate it. It is as the tortures of the damned, to me. It makes my toes curl back on themselves with embarrassment to hear my voice talking to some traveler, knowing exactly where I messed up on the call with perfect hindsight. I will never stop hating it, because I see it as intrusive and slightly offensive. I try not to whine and grumble (but fail miserably), and lately I’ve adopted a rather faux-cheerful, yet tight-lipped aspect, because complaining about the tool’s shortcomings is useless (as is resistance). Fortunately, we are not required to listen to our own calls – it’s optional now. I always demur when offered a chance to listen, preferring to sit through the recap from the scoring PDF (that I’ve already read for myself).

It makes my skin crawl, and I don’t know exactly why.

Since I stopped complaining and learned to love the Bomb started using the required tool more consistently, my scores improved. In fact, I actually prefer to use it to start a new reservation now. It’s fine for that sort of thing. It’s just frustratingly slow off the mark and it takes a long time to resolve between screens, and I can’t really start to work until the fourth screen because I have some required marks to hit before getting there. With certain high-powered, VIP-type secretaries and travelers, I can sense their irritation and impatience while they wait for me to get where I can do something. Fortunately, now that I’ve used it more, I’ve learned to cover this part of the process with a bit of happytalk (which also hits some of the quality marks early in the call).

Probably the most irritating thing about having to use this tool, though, is that not everyone is using the damn tool. We’re also required to “import” everything we work on into the tool, if it wasn’t created there; this normally doesn’t add more than a few seconds to the process. But if the traveler was not profiled, oh! misery! Because the tool requires a faux profile be filled in, so that an “unprofiled” but otherwise perfectly formatted record can be imported.

And of course, there are those who will not use it at all, so every time I catch a call from someone booked “old skool” as an unprofiled traveler, my stats suffer because of the extra time that must be taken to do this “faux profile/import” process.

Yeah. This seems like a good place to stop, or I’ll have to set a password for this post…

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