On the other end of the line

at work

Kim Allen, customer relations specialist, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., Baltimore

April 05, 2009|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $24/hour

Age: 44

Years on the job: 2 1/2

How she got started: : Kim Allen grew up traveling with her mother, who served in the Air Force. She said the experience of living in places like Japan, Germany and throughout the United States has helped with her career in customer service.

Allen has worked as a call center representative for the past several years. She was laid off from her most recent job at the call center of a local fitness center and applied to various companies, ultimately accepting BGE's offer.

She originally started working in a call center because she thought it would be interesting. "Once I got into that position, I found it was something I was good at and enjoyed," Allen said.

Typical day: : Most days Allen arrives for work about 7:30 a.m. and begins taking customer phone calls at 8 a.m. The inquiries differ, but many calls are related to billing. It's Allen's job to explain and help customers understand the various charges. She also takes calls about stopping, starting and transferring service. She schedules appointments, places orders and provides information for customers.

On a slow day, she takes about 80 calls, and on a busy day she takes more than 100. During storms, when power outages are common, she'll take more than 200 calls. The call lengths vary, with most averaging about three to five minutes. However, Allen said, she has stayed on with customers for more than 30 minutes.

During power outages, she tells customers what she knows about the outage and makes sure the dispatch office is aware of the outage locations.

When a storm approaches, employees are often asked to work overtime on little notice. She is also on call about every seven weeks in case extra help is needed, often because of storms or outages.

Allen works Monday through Friday and leaves for the day at 4:45 p.m.

Upset customers: : With the recent increases in utility charges, Allen has taken many calls from distressed customers wanting more information. She said it's her job to remain professional. "I try not to take it too personally. We know it's not us they're upset with," Allen said. "By staying focused and explaining the bill, they have a better understanding."

Calls for help: : For customers who can no longer afford to pay their BGE bill, Allen can give out contact information for agencies that might provide assistance.

The good: : Helping customers and the camaraderie with her co-workers.

The bad: : "Being informed on short notice that we'll have to work a little longer at any given time," Allen said.

Next step: : In about one year, Allen expects to start taking business classes as part of a company-sponsored program to get her bachelor's degree. She would eventually like to become a call center trainer for BGE.

Philosophy: : "Start the day on a positive note and attempt to help each customer to the best of my ability."

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