PA = Phone Answerer
I don’t do it at night (too often) because generally I can make more money as a driver during the same shift. This is a problem company-wide because everyone can see this and most would rather be driving than answering phones… therefore the office is more often than not short-staffed.
The daytime phone shifts are way different than the night shifts. They require exercising more knowledge of accounts, customer service, faxing, dealing with packages, etc. The time spent on the phone with customers is greater during the day because on average each call requires more WORK. I’m not saying night staff doesn’t have the same knowledge, just that USING that knowledge is not as frequent.
For example, one person will call from a health care provider and want to set up rides for 3 different individuals at 3 different times with return trips, and each of those rides might require a different vehicle (older people tend to like sedans more because they’re easier to get into, another person might be in a wheelchair and cannot transfer themselves so we have an accessible van for that…), and so this call might take 5-7 minutes or longer to take the orders, repeat them, correct errors on either end, etc.
On the other hand, night phone answering is a flood of non-stop callers and getting ANY of the small amount of information from them required to service the call (pick up, name, drop off, phone number, number of passengers AND THAT IS IT) is like juicing a brick. Daytime lines can get about 8-10 people on hold waiting for a phone answerer. Nighttime lines will get about 20-30 in the queue, but if they have their information ready and are sober enough to fork it over, their call is less than 30 seconds long. The challenge here is the mental toughness required to not go batshit from the monotony and frustration.
So one of the customers our office dealt with recently… I had the pleasure of answering her initial call. It basically went like this:
“How much is it from _____ to East Towne area?”
“The rate calculator I have here says it’ll be around $38.”
“Oh, okay, because I want a cheap hotel on that side of town, what is the cheapest hotel?”
“Well, there’s a couple… Econolodge might be the cheapest, but it’s not necessarily the safest place…”
“I don’t care about that. I’ll need those phone numbers.”
“… you’ll have to get those on your own, google should be able to provide you a good search result for hotels on the east side.”
“Oh. Well I have a bicycle and I’ll have some luggage. Should I call back for a ride when I’m ready?”
“Yea, that will be a good idea, and just to let you know, we have a $2 fee for bicycles.”
She calls back later and my phone answering coworker answers. She wants to know why she hasn’t gotten a cab yet. BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T ORDER ONE SHE SAID SHE WOULD CALL BACK FOR THAT.
She orders one from him, then about half an hour later calls again. I get this call, too.
“The driver says you have a fee for luggage?”
“What do you mean? We have a $2 fee for bicycles, I told you about that before.”
“He says he wants me to pay him to put my luggage in the car.”
“Well how much luggage do you have? Is it like a move-job? If you have a ton of stuff and he’s doing all the work, the driver gets to negotiate an additional fee with you.” (This actually happens a lot in town for students who are moving, have relatively little, and are only moving about 5 blocks, “fee”s tend to run on a time and heaviness basis. I’ve charged like $10 for mattress and lamps and boxes… it’s reasonable for the amount of help people get, but they always have the option to do it themselves while the meter runs.)
“But I’m doing all the work! I’m loading the van with my HANDICAPPED neighbor as I’m talking on the phone with you!”
“Then you don’t need to pay anything extra.”
“… pant pant pant.”
“Is there something else I can help you with?”
“I guess not, I was just checking to see if that was an actual fee.”
It turned out the driver was helping load, but considering how I was spoken to in the first phone call (“I’ll need those phone numbers.”), I could imagine her standing on the curb and telling him to start loading and upon seeing this, the driver probably clued her in to the “you are helping or will be paying me extra” fee.
Also, I dealt with a lady who ordered a cab and wanted to make a stop before the final destination… and instead of waiting for the cab, just started walking to the stop she wanted to make. IF YOU ORDER A TAXI YOU NEED TO WAIT FOR IT WHERE YOU SAID YOU WOULD BE UGH.
I would MUCH rather drive these people than answer their calls. That way I only have to deal with like, 20 of them TOPS spaced farther apart for my mental health instead of 150 phone calls of them in rapid fire. The office staff gets mad props. I also bring them food occasionally (as do many of our drivers) because they are awesome.