The Storms of Life Blow On: Life as a Boost Mobile Call Center Agent

A few weeks ago I wrote about the storms of life and basically told of the hairy adventures of finding work.  Here it is about a month later now and here are some updates:

I finally began training for a position at ACS to do back-office work in a Sprint Call Center that they operate.  The training was not the best experience as there was a real lack of professionalism.  We had numerous interruptions by other trainers and, in some cases, even ad vulgar jokes told to the class when we really should have been learning the job.  I was in class of predominantly 19-24 year olds.  There were a couple of folks in their 30s and the instructor was in her 30s.  We got to hear much of her life story and had her favorite phrase “Love ya, Love your show” engrained into our minds.  But, ultimately, we finally did get out of the classroom and were able to work on real calls.  We had a lottery in the class for the departments we would go into, and I got real lucky as I would be going into an area where documentation was the work of the day.
In the midst of all this, there was a big hulabalooo as the call center had picked up a new contract doing Customer Care for Boost Mobile, a pay as you go spin off of Sprint/Nextel.  So there was a bidding war on jobs and many of the sprint folks were being herded into training for Boost.
On the last day of our Sprint Back Office training, the Asst. General Manager of the call center came in and told us that we too would be moving to Boost and would have another week of training, this time with a different trainer.
I did want to mention the training corps…a real band of gypsies…our first trainer was a former collections specialist and was really into letting us know her life story.  Then, the others included a self proclaimed Wickan who also is into dressing and performing as a drag queen (indeed, he told this when he introduced himself to the class), an American gal that has turned Islam and wears the head-covering and all (but is also loud, obnoxious and tells vulgar jokes in class–at least to ours), another gal who I didn’t get to know very well but was also loud (twice she came to our classroom, opened the door and screamed…just to scare us).  Finally, there was the older lady, who had been short and had hip problems so was on crutches.  Quite a lively bunch.
Anyway, back to the classes.  We were moved to Boost training the next Monday and our trainer had also changed.  We now had the sweet little lady on crutches.  She called herself an old lady, but actually I am a tad older than she is.  SHe also had a much more focused and professional demeanor than our other trainer and did not put up with the child-play antics of some of the students in the class.  On top of that, we had a week to get through a basically three-week training course and shse did the job.  By the end of the first week of March we were taking live Boost Mobile calls.

Boost Mobile is a pre-pay phone service, much like Cricket.  They have recently made a major putsch into the national market with some really catchy yet downright ridiculous commercials.  here are a couple of them:
All of these commercials, featuring the “Un-wronged” Theme, are there to focus on the new $50 Unlimited Plan which offers customers unlimited everything without hidden fees or contracts; Unlimited Walkie talkie, Cell Service, Long Distance, Texting, Web Access, Roaming, etc.  Actually quite a good deal.  Pay the fifty bucks and you got all this stuff for 30 days.
Prior to this they did have more of an “Urban Theme” in their commercials
With commericals like these one can imagine that a great deal of the customer base would be urban.  And indeed it is….

As we entered the Boost world, we were told immediately that there would be unlimited overtime for Boost agents as there was such a greeat need.  ACS was excited about the new venture and hoped to pick up a long term contract with Boost as a Customer Care Call Center.  Once on the floor and able to do it, I too tackled the unlimited overtime as the income was definitely needed.  The last three weeks I have worked between 60 and 62 hours per week.  Every morning in at 9 AM and working until 11 PM with just a couple of breaks and an hour lunch in the evening.
Main gist of the job?  A call comes in and I say “Thank you for calling Boost Mobile. This is David. How can I help you?”  From there who knows where the road might lead you.  There are all types of folks using Boost, but most definitely some real urban centers…the African-American neighborhoods of New York and Chicago are biggies.  The Cuban/Hispanic population in Miami.  Jamaicans in New York.  Truck drivers from the south. All kinds of accents and attitudes.  Many of the folks are decent, but there really is an “urban” angle to many of the subscribers. 
I work with a headset/mic combination with a Voice-Over-IP system.  My headset does have volume control, but between the ariance of cellular ervice and the variance of VOIP network stability, sometimes the calls come in blaring lourd with hip-hop music and gang talk on the other end while I try to get my “Thank You for Calling Boost Mobile”.  I would say that nearly 25% of the calls are expletive laced and many are without courtesy.  There is also an element out there that tries to squeeze every little “courtesy credit’ out of us with every excuse in the book.  It is amazing how much griping some folks do over $1.00 and losing phone service over it.
Obviously, 12 hours a day of this kind of barraging is not fun for the soul.  Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed a number of decent folks out there.  But, after taking nearly 1800 calls the last three weeks, I can also tell who the crooks are.  At least once an hour I ge a call from a customer that has “lost their phone” or their phone “was stolen”.  Then, we get the folks who call in to change their numbers every other week.  I have heard boyfriend/girlfriend fights over the phone and divorces, etc.  One lady called in and said her husband’s phone needed to be suspended.  It was smashed in the street.  She also asked to have her number and passcode changed.  She had obviously been the one to smash his phone.  She was angry…
Despite my travels all over the country,I have never had the opportunity to get such a diverse cultural experience.  In just a short three weeks I have learned a great deal about inner-city life just by listening to the background conversations.  I have learned of the guys running corner stores that sell Boost Cards (for adding funds to the phone) and then once the customer buys the cards and gets home, they find out that the cards are no good.  There are indeed a number of unscrupulous dealers out there.
Many folks are always changing SIM cards and not calling us. They complain of bad service, but are actually the result because our system doensn’t recognize their SIM cards.  
In any case, I can see that Boost Mobile is making a concerted effort to expand out away from the urban hip-hop environment into main stream America.  More and more I am hearing housewives and businessmen calling in.  Many older retired folks are getting in on the deals.  Ultimately, I think it is a good thing, but, once again, this has been an interesting experience indeed.

I must be honest.  I do not enjoy this job nor the hours.  But, as is my philosophy, I am working my best to do my best at the job I have.  I am excelling and doing well.  But, I really wonder if it is worth all the effort.  Last Friday we were all called into a meeting and were informed that Bosst Mobile would end their contract with ACS at the end of May.  Boost will be opening a 600 seat call center off-shore somewhere (never were told, but I assume it is in either the Philippines or India – will they ever have fun understanding ghetto-ized English or deep south drawls!!!)
So, once again I am looking at an uncertain future.  I must keepe up the pace so as to be at the top of the pack in the call center.  Job retention will be performance based, not seniority based.  It is a scary thought that on May 31 I could be out of work (and also out of insurance – my COBRA expires on May 31 as well).  I had looked forward to a $500/moth raise just due to the reduction of insurance costs as I would be eligible for ACS benefits on June 1.
Only time will tell…….

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

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