Thursday, February 02, 2006

Good Night Cube

Every once in a while I run across a story of an Emergency/911 call center agent falling asleep on the job. There was one recently from Australia where the Emergency center agent (it was actually a supervisor) had admitted to having been out partying the night before, which caused the supervisor, according to the article, to pull up a La-Z-Boy and nod off during his shift. I read one about a 911 agent in Maryland who fell asleep while on a call with a distraught citizen who suspected a prowler had entered her house. Evidently you can hear the agent snoring on the tape of the call. When I read these stories I always chuckle knowingly to myself because being a call center rep and falling asleep at your cube go hand in hand: in three of the six centers in which I've worked, I have seen agents fall asleep quite a few times.

I must offer this confession as well: I fell asleep once - way back when I was an agent, mind you, not the starched, buttoned-down professional that I am now. I remember the incident as if it was yesterday: I had been out partying the night before, and while I was on the phone with a customer the next morning, I nodded off as she was reading her credit card number to me. During my brief nap I dreamed that I was out partying again and that I had quit my call center job. I was gently awakened by the customer yelling "Hello?? Hello?? Are you still there?? Hello??" I assured the customer that, unfortunately, I was "still there".

The real fun in an occurrence of this kind is catching the rep right in the middle of the nap - not to exact any any sort of Scrooge-like punishment for sleeping - but to get a look at the rep's expression of mortified embarrassment when they come-to and realize that their manager, supervisor, and peers are all enjoying the spectacle.

In one call center that I managed, the supervisors would come into my office and alert me that we had an offender: "Cogitating Manager we've got a Sleeper!!! Ted Burns is out cold at his cube - he's drooling! Come quick!!" I'd snap out of my ACD report-induced stupor and rush to the rep's cube and pull up a chair beside him. In low tones I would call his/her name until their bleary eyes would struggle open as they slowly became conscious of where they were, what they had been doing, and of all the people who had witnessed it!!

Most reps are truly penitent after being caught sleeping - they're apologetic and swear up and down that they won't do it again. But, I've had a few Sleepers who flat-out deny that they were sleeping at all - even with 4 or 5 witnesses, even though we all just saw the their woozy display of wiping the drool from their mouths with the latest memo and shutting their slack, sleep-limp jaw.

So when I happen across one of these stories of a 911 rep falling asleep, all I can think is that I wish the poor bastard well - they're the only call center reps who'll ever make the news by falling asleep at their cube.

And last, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote:

Oh sleep! It is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole.
Cogitating Call Center Manager writes:
Oh sleep! It is a gentle thing,
Beloved from cube to cube.
Bonne Nuit


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