Monday, October 13, 2014

More than just an operator on the other end at SLCC

In a large quiet room with high ceilings on Salt Lake Community College’s Taylorsville Redwood Campus, you can hear one voice rise above the rest from a row of cubicles in the Contact Center.

“What kind of information did you need?” Rebecca Ruffell asks the person on the phone in a voice she admits is louder than her colleagues. There is a pause on her end. “That is a funny question. Let me give you a number for that aviation area and they can help you with that.”

In a few seconds Ruffell tells the caller the official name of the department, SLCC’s International Aerospace/Aviation Education Center, and repeats the phone number before transferring the caller.

She also talks fast, which her coworkers will sometimes point out to a chagrined Ruffell. But her quicksilver tongue is gold when the volume of calls increases and she, along with her coworkers, need to process callers quickly and efficiently.

“I’ve slowed down a lot,” said Ruffell, who has been at the job over 13 years. “I hardly ever have anyone say anymore, ‘What are you speaking – English?’”

She can’t slow down too much, though, when expected to handle nearly 14,000 calls, as she had done in 2013.

Ruffell was compelled to apply for the Contact Center job after a rough start at her own college career.

“I did not get all of the information I needed to be a successful student,” she said. “I wanted to do this to be able to help students have an easier time going to school than I had.”

It also helped that she was able to place her 2-year-old daughter in SLCC’s Eccles Early Childhood Development Lab School on the same campus where she worked.

“She loved it,” Ruffell said. “She goes back still and talks to the teachers there.”

As you look around Ruffell’s workspace, you see photos of her daughter and fellow animal lover Aspen everywhere, even on her phone. Throughout Aspen’s childhood they have rescued and cared for countless animals, including rabbits, lizards, cats, dogs, rodents and even a floundering baby duck, which Ruffell resuscitated on the spot.

“I know, it’s awesome,” she said about reviving the duck. Their generosity was stretched a bit when rescuing a few pregnant rats turned into caring for 127 of them. “Yeah, I like animals.” But the rats had to go.

At one point in Ruffell’s adult life she thought about going into law enforcement. She liked the detective side of the industry. Now she has to dig and investigate to find the right answers for callers – and the payoffs are sometimes sweet.

One of the more memorable callers was when a woman named Martha called Ruffell and explained she was having a “heck” of a time getting started in a nursing program. It was Ruffell’s expertise in finding answers and the right people to contact that guided the woman through school.

“She would sometimes call once or twice a week,” Ruffell said. “She sent me an announcement when she graduated.” Martha also gave Ruffell a “monster” bag of M&Ms.

It’s often the case that Ruffell and her colleagues rely on each other for help in figuring out the right answers for callers.

“The people I work with are awesome,” Ruffell said. “One of the most ethical, responsible, reliable group of people. We just rely on each other so much, not just for information but also support.”

But calls like the next one are typically handled solo by Ruffell.

“Okay, well, have you applied for admission yet?” she asks the caller. “Have you looked at information about your program?”

Next she guides the caller through navigating the College’s web site. Ruffell talks about applying for financial aid and admission into the school, when school starts, how much the application fees cost and testing for placement into the right courses.

And like thousands of times before this call, Ruffell ends by saying, “Good luck. Bye.”