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10 Things I Learned Working In A Call Center That’s Made Me A Better Film Producer

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In college, I worked at a call center absorbing people’s worst moments and checking out mentally while wearing pajamas and hydrating a hangover. I was my best self, of course.

But today I was working on how to deliver bad news to one team while preparing to work on some communication errors with another team. And, yes, I’m in stretchy pants, because that’s how we all live on this side of 2020. And always hydrating because I’m perpetually parched.

What I learned about delivering bad news:

  1. Don’t rush bad news, if anything, slow it down so the listener can take time to absorb and process before you’re even down delivering.
  2. Repeat the important notes since the cortisol flood (stress hormone) makes it difficult for the listener to process information into the right part of their memory for recall.
  3. Don’t make it about me. I’m not processing this for the first time. I am a caring messenger allowing space for the listener to come on board, I’m there for them.
  4. Good ol’ classic: Compliment, notes, compliment! I start with what we have to look forward to, give the bad news, and then slowly come to the other side to say: “When you’re ready, we can start the conversation about what we can look forward to in next steps.”
  5. Schedule another call to work on next steps! This is by far the BEST tip from my call center days! Scheduling another call gives the listener time to process, ask questions, absorb, mourn, and reflect all on their own! Then, I am ready AND they are ready for the next steps convo later.

I worked in a call center helping people both find an approved auto shop for their car accident (moments after the accident) AND scheduling /taking them through an auto body shop survey after the work had been done. Sometimes I would work with a poor soul through the entire process, but most of the time I was working with one person for one leg of their journey. Communication is key.

What I learned about communicating:

  1. Repeat back what you hear in order to clarify if you’ve received their information correctly.
  2. Offer a chance for them to vent if they seem emotional or steaming up for a confrontation. I liked to say, “Wow, tell me everything, I wanna know where you’re coming from.” This was alsoooooo a way for me to press mute, take a swig, adjust and braid my hair, take a cat nap, or whatever else I was doing as an irresponsible young adult. BUT it also allowed for the emotions and pain and anger to subside so the REST of the phone call was smooth and informational. It felt good to get past the feelings to talk but I needed to make space for that.
  3. Absorbing without attacking or reacting is a gift to give the listener. Just absorb. Communication can be smoother in every situation with a little time, space, and an inner sponge to soak up the distractions.
  4. Write everything down even if you don’t have ANY intention of reading those notes again. The act of writing triggers a part of your brain to process the information differently. AND if you do refer back to notes, you can remember more just by seeing your handwriting and the moments you lived while writing it.
  5. Set aside pride and say, “I don’t understand, can we explain this a different way for me to grasp this concept?” and then the road to true communication is open. You’re humbling yourself, the other person can also feel welcome to say the same thing. Everyone can take a step back and try again.

So, if you ever need to call and vent, I am uniquely trained to listen. But I may be snacking in PJs and texting memes while I listen.

Producing movies involves hundreds of meetings, partners at all levels, taking and giving criticism, and bringing your passion to the work without letting passion come between you and your team. It’s a delicate balance, but working in a call center, food service, or in-person customer service makes the BEST candidates for this job. Those skills are invaluable and I pay attention to those who have it on their resume.

Jennica Schwartzman, Managing Partner at Purpose Pictures Productions, Co-Founder of Little Sister Entertainment, and a member of The Producers Guild of America, SAG/AFTRA, and Moms-In-Film LA, loves tackling a project from idea to distribution as a multi-hyphenate actress-writer-producer. Jennica has been published in the Producers Guild Magazine "Produced By," Legacy Arts Magazine, Paragon Road, Bustle, and she is a guest writer for the acclaimed entertainment industry websites MsInTheBiz.com, FilmmakingStuff.com, Artemis Motion Pictures' #WomenKickAss Forum, and WomenandHollywood.com. She has been invited to speak on film festival panels and is a workshop teacher for The International Family Film Festival's Road Scholars intergenerational filmmaking camp. Jennica has produced ten feature film releases. Jennica and her husband /producing partner /writing partner Ryan have two kiddos and reside in Hollywood.

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