The next job duty my superiors gave me was to prepare payments. I got more training from Lenny. When looking at the prepaid vendors, we had formulas that would keep our vendors at above 7 days of usage. All I had to do was copy and paste a new formula into the report. For our post paid vendors, the process was much more complicated. There was a report in the accounting system that I could download to see all of the unpaid bills. The report included finalized bills and pending bills. I had to make sure to delete all the pending bills and pay every approved bill that came due within 8 days. After completing the report, I’d send it to Lenny so that he could set up the payments and then my boss would release the payments from our bank. In a few weeks, they would put me in charge of setting up the payments. This was one of the biggest responsibilities because if our vendors did not get paid on time, they would shut off our service and this would limit our ability to sell to the end customer. After the payments got released, Lenny emailed me a list of email address for all the vendors. It was my task to send an email to all of the vendors stating that we sent them a payment for the most recent invoice and we would ask for them to confirm the receipt of our payment.
For a while, the month of June went okay. I carried out my tasks as usual. It wasn’t until July when things started to fall to pieces. It was the beginning of the month and I knew that the month of June would have to be closed but no one asked me to perform any closing tasks. I enjoyed the fourth of July holiday and worked the next day to complete recording sales. After about July 6th, they asked me how closing was coming along and I was just walled. Immediately, I went back to my list of closing tasks and I couldn’t remember how to reconcile any of the merchant MID. I sat there paralyzed in anguish and pain not knowing how to get anything completed. I tried to get in contact with Lenny but he was unreachable. I asked my boss for some help to remember how to do the tasks but he was too busy. I looked at my reconciliations without any clue in the world.
At our weekly meeting, my boss said that we had just set the longest month end close. I was the reason for all of it. Barbara came to me asking to resolve differences in the electronic payments for June. With every request, I had to go to Lenny for advice and support because I was completely clueless. After lengthy retraining, I was finally able to complete my tasks but I had to get Lenny to explain everything to me again. I decided to take better notes this time around. It took us half of the month of July just to close the month of June. By this point in time, I was so nervous that I had screwed everything up that I was expecting to be fired at any moment.
They didn’t fire me, but they did let go one of the customer service representatives. Apparently, he didn’t meet the standards of the customer service manager and he failed his probation period. My boss wasn’t pleased with my performance and he told me to ask him questions if I ever got confused. Communication was always a weakness of mine. After all of closing was done, I went home just to lay in bed.
That Sunday, I was sitting in church just feeling the misery of existence. I couldn’t stop thinking about work and I even dreaded going back to work when I was resting on the weekends. While sitting down, I noticed Mei Ling walk by. As miserable as I was feeling, I thought I would feel better just sitting next to her so I got up from the pew and sat in the pew next to her. We carried out a conversation over lunch.
She was very attractive and I had adored her for several years. But she always had a boyfriend at some point in time or another so I never really payed her too much attention. All I really wanted to do was talk with her. It was very rare that we would ever have a conversation for more than two minutes but it went to the point where everyone else at the table had left. It was just the two of us for about a half hour.
When I got back to work, I proceeded to record sales. Something was odd about the electronic payments though. It looked like more currencies were being added to one of our accounts. Over a few days, I saw no activity but after a week, I started seeing sales come in. I asked my boss if we had started accepting foreign currencies for the account and he said yes. He said an email was sent out two weeks prior. Apparently, I had missed it. During the first few months, I couldn’t manage my emails because my inbox would get flooded with mail that mostly was not applicable to me. Since I was part of different email groups, I would see myself copied to messages of invoices being approved, internal reports being updated, confirmations from vendors, and a plethora of other mail that usually was not addressed to me. Because of this flood of information, it was very common for emails to sit in my inbox for weeks without me opening them.
I looked at the sales data and had to figure out what to do. The first thing that needed to be done was to record the sales revenue for all the days as sales receipts. Since this was a new customer, I had to figure out how to add a new customer to the accounting system and make sure it was set up with the correct currency and bank. However, since the electronic payment system let us hold balances in foreign currencies, I also had to set up new accounts in the accounting system as “banks” for the new electronic payment accounts. After messaging Lenny and Barbara, I got some instructions and directions on how to set up the customers and accounts. After that part was complete, I had to figure out how to record the transfers. Unlike the other account where Barbara made the transfers manually, this account transferred foreign currency into USD automatically. I had to spend more time looking into the electronic payment reports to find the transfers for each individual day and then record them as journal entries in the accounting system. Identifying the problem and then finding the solution took multiple days before completion.
Unfortunately, I would come to realize that several things would just go wrong and I would unexpectedly have to find a way to fix things. In most cases, I just wouldn’t have a clue how to get anything done or where to start. Often times, I felt like the only way I was getting through life was being dragged behind a car with a rope around my neck.
In July, my boss gave me two projects to work on. We wanted to focus on efficiency and cut down on the time spent recording sales into the accounting software. Our accounting software had a feature that allowed transactions to be directly imported instead of created manually. My boss also told me that I could use macros to manipulate data easier. How I decided to create and learn the process was all up to me though.
The second project he put me in charge of was to manage and maintain the independent contractor program. I had a meeting with my boss and several meetings with the European staff on how to “streamline” the process and grow the program. My boss never gave me clear directions or even objectives for what he wanted. In the beginning, we wanted to make the process easier for new contractors to sign up. At the time, a new contractor would have to sign an agreement, submit identification, and submit a tax form before he or she would start selling for us. After approval of all the documents, our IT staff would set up a website and the contractor would be good to go. This method required multiple points of verification. I would have to check the tax form, customer service would have to verify the identification, and I would have to download and file the agreement before the contractor could be finalized. My boss wanted to get it to the point where all of that could be done in a few mouse clicks.
During the meetings, I never really knew what I was supposed to be doing or asking. I was always following the lead of my boss. IT would be doing the work of updating websites and the marketing guys would be making decisions on their own. Every meeting was full of consternation, disagreements, and back and forth. I remember spending hours just trying to figure out how to get a image of the contract to store online. We debated who should be verifying identification and tax forms. My boss asked me to create a checklist for how to verify a W-8 or W-9. It seems like nothing could be done properly. In order to get through these meetings, I’d just nod and agree with whatever my boss said.
Personally, I had an amount of disdain for the program. This was the program that required me to record 50 journal entries and 30 invoices at the end of every month end. About 50% of the contractors that try to enter the program do not complete the application stage and never sell for us. What made things worse was the fact that most of our contractors barely sold anything. There would be several instances where we had a contractor that only sold about $20 to $30 a month and I’d have to record journal entries to record commission of $1.50 for the month for the contractor. Out of our 50 contractors, 70% of the total sales came from our top five contractors. Part of me wished that we could just keep the top five and get rid of everyone else. Of course, the other agents were being kept because corporate strategy believed that those contractors would gradually increase their sales over time.
During July, we hired two new customer service representatives. Considering the one new hire in June, we had a total of 4 employees doing customer service, one staff accountant, and one CFO. We also had a woman from Europe that was training the customer service representatives. The office was starting to fill up.
When the two new hires arrived, I was able to talk to both of them briefly. We even had a special lunch to welcome both of them to the company. A girl named Kim was hired and she had this nervous reaction to always laugh at everything that was said to her regardless if it was funny or not. The girl had some difficulty training and stated that she was used to getting extensive training before even taking phone calls. By Friday of the first week, she disappeared without telling anyone. This caused some confusion for everyone as Lauren was training her and had to ask everyone in the office if we saw Kim. She even scoured the outside of the building and the bathrooms just to find her. Later in the month, we lost another customer service representative and were down to two again. In later months, we would have problems finding and retaining customer service employees.
I’m not sure if the problems we had were specific to our company. We didn’t offer overtime hours and the agents were only given a total of two 15 minute breaks. There was no allotted time for lunch so I think this really bothered our employees. Training was also an issue as most of the sessions were done over the phone and instructions were coming in from overseas. But in general, customer service agents tend to start out at around $10 to $12 an hour and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room or opportunities to advance in the career. One of the officers at our company first started out as a customer service agent however advancing that far in a career is rare. The furthest that most people would expect to advance would be customer service coordinator or supervisor. Even then, the pay increase that comes with the extra work is not very large.
While I listened to their conversations, I couldn’t help but to sympathize. I remembered having to do customer service, deal with angry customers, carry our unclear directions/orders, and be constantly interrupted while trying to get any work done.