With thousands of anxious students expected to hit the phones on 13 August to call University clearing lines, what is it like to be on the other end of the phone helping students make a life-changing decision?
During my job interview for Alumni Assistant, I mentioned I had worked at the RAC call centre. I told the panel about the pressurised environment where you had to meet sales targets, minimise caller waiting times to reduce queues and meet customer satisfaction indicators.
This obviously struck a chord as when I was offered the job, I was also asked if I would like to help man the phones on the Clearing Hotline.
On the day you have to be prepared for callers to be upset and emotional, some even have their parents talking over them in the background, so you have to try your best to diffuse the tension. This is where the training kicks in. You know what information you need to assist students and all you want to do is help people make the best possible choices.
When you are talking, you are very conscious of the fact that you may be the first person that they have spoken to about Clearing and what kind of impression you are making. You want to elicit as much information as possible from them, without coming across as being impersonal.
I was scheduled for an afternoon shift, which I thought would be quieter as I assumed that students would have collected their results in the morning and hit the phones straight away. In reality I found that people needed a bit of time to think and plan what they needed to do, so the afternoon of results day was just as busy as the first few hours.
The calls that struck me the most were the students that were so passionate about their subject choice – so it gave me a massive buzz to be able to offer them places.
It’s not as tense as you might expect in the Clearing Hotline room. There is a determined focus and professionalism as 40 or so people are on the phones, with each school housing their own experts in separate rooms, so there is a buzz of activity throughout the building.
Jo Goldhawk is currently working for Birmingham City University as an Alumni Assistant.