“I really felt I deserved more.”

19 November 2012: The report of Demetrius Henry is the first of a series of reports to be published on www.weexpectbetter.org. Demetrius worked for T-Mobile USA at two Tennessee call centers – at Chattanooga between September 2006 and November 2007, and in Nashville until he was fired in June 2012. He performed “basic” customer service - regular billing issues or phone upgrades.

Click here to read the introduction to the reports by Lothar Schröder, member of ver.di National Executive Board and employees representative on the supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat) of Deutschen Telekom.

Later Demetrius was promoted to “retention,” where he was asked to keep customers from canceling their rate plans. When he started, Demetrius was in the top 20% of the call center in his performance metrics.

“The emphasis on different metrics changed, as did some of the business practices, in summer 2011. The company changed how they were communicating with customers, so we would get more and more frustrated customers, and my metrics started to degrade. The company increased fees, they would not give people notice ahead of time and they made different changes on plans. For instance, the company ended the practice of providing a free hotspot Internet on cellphones. That put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.”

Like many other workers, Demetrius struggled with the unreasonably low call resolution time of 477 seconds. That’s slight less than 8 minutes to resolve a problem and retain an angry customer. “The process that led to my separation was call resolution time. I had to handle more and more situations, and my CRT started to increase. It was hard for me to get it down.”

Demetrius received a number of calls transferred from overseas call centers. They typically took longer to resolve, because by the time Demetrius received the call, the customer was already upset from the run-around between different call centers . “I would have to calm down the customer. They might have talked to an overseas representative first, and they felt like they were just reading from a script. And no matter what they said, they seemed to give the same answer. And then when they would try to get a supervisor, they would always say the same thing. And they would be put on hold for 10 to 20 minutes waiting for a supervisor. Eventually, that call would get transferred to us. For all my calls, the supervisor was in the Philippines.

Demetrius noticed a change when T-Mobile closed 7 call centers In June 2012. “At that point we were becoming a dump site – everything that could come to us came to us. Our volume shifted and everybody’s CRT went up. They were getting rid of both customer service representatives and coaches.”

About the day he was terminated, he recalls: “I came in to work one day in June 2012. While I was on my first call, I got a message saying I needed to go into coaching. My coach said we were going to HR. I thought it had to do with my request for bereavement time – my wife’s grandmother passed, and I had applied for some time off. I had never requested bereavement before, and I did not know that my wife’s grandmother was not included in my bereavement. But my coaches had said I could go out on bereavement without checking first with HR. And so I took that time off. My coach said that we were walking to HR to talk about my paid time off. That’s what he said to get me off the floor. And then once he got me back into HR, I go into the room and then the HR person came in and said, well, we’re going to terminate you because of metrics.

They did not give Demetrius the chance to write a decision time essay. “They said, ‘at this time that we’re going to terminate your employment due to you not meeting your metrics, specifically your CRT.’ They just gave me the paperwork to sign and they walked me out the front door, and then I had to walk around the building to the back parking lot to get my truck.

“I was not allowed to go back to my pod to clean it out. They boxed up my personal effects and I came back at another day and picked those up.

“I was shocked, especially given the way that the whole situation went about. I’m thinking I’m going in there to talk about one thing, and then they’re going to fire me. I really felt I deserved more than that. I deserved better.”