The Day I Was An OnStar Advisor

Okay, if I must be honest I was actually SITTING NEXT TO an OnStar Advisor. (Two of them, actually.)

That said, I did have a moment in the sun as I provided a “major” assist during a call. I’ll get to that momentarily.

Disclosure: Last month I was a guest of OnStar when I visited their headquarters in Detroit. They provided my transportation, accommodations, and food while I learned all about the company. I was not required to write anything about it but chose to do so because the experience–and the company–was completely awesome.

OnStar Logo

I visited the OnStar Call Center that’s located outside of Detroit in Warren, Michigan along with a bunch of other excited bloggers. (There are also call centers in North Carolina, Canada, and the Philippines.) We were thrilled to “go behind the curtain” and when I found out that we would have the experience of sitting next to OnStar advisors and listening in on their calls with headphones for a while, I got a little giddy. I also wondered how many of the 185,000 customers OnStar speaks with on a daily basis would call during my visit.

If I remember correctly—because I had been taking notes on my phone at our other stops and had to put it away while at the call center—the Warren call center is the smallest of the four, yet there are still around 600 advisors who work there. Something I learned is that the advisors are grouped by specialty: there are the emergency advisors who are trained in Emergency Medical Dispatch, there are the advisors who answer calls requesting directions and other general information, and there are the “Welcome to OnStar” advisors, who spend their entire shifts on the phone with new users (or previous users who have bought a new vehicle and need to get it set up!).

We were divided into two groups. Half of us went to listen in on “Welcome to OnStar!” calls and the other half went to listen in on calls asking for directions and other information, and then we switched after about fifteen minutes so we could enjoy both experiences.

My first advisor—I can’t remember her name so I will just call her Kelly because that sounds like a name that someone very friendly and professional would have—was welcoming new customers to OnStar and I have to tell you that I was amazed at everything she was handling while on the calls. Kelly was clicking away on her computer in order to get the customers set up for automatic billing and asking questions about what options they wanted. Click, click, click…sometimes the screen didn’t even load all the way before she clicked to move on, and she was talking to the customer THE WHOLE TIME.

Once, Kelly accidentally disconnected from the customer before the call was finished and she felt HORRIBLE. His information was saved and he would have been able to call back and pick up where he left off but likely not with her. She looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh, I can’t stand when that happens. I feel so badly about it!” She really did, and it made me think about all the times I’ve been disconnected during a call with a service or utility company or something similar. I’m usually at home, flying into a mini rage about the disconnection and it has never once occurred to me that the person on the other end really does feel bad and sometimes they really do take it to heart. So there’s something I can work on. Thanks for that, Kelly!

Before I knew it, it was time to go spend time with another advisor. (Whew, time flies when you’re listening to OnStar calls!) I took a seat next to Carol, another friendly and professional advisor whose real name I don’t remember, (Sorry! My brain got stuffed with lots of information that day!!!) and she had enough time to say hello and shake my hand before her phone rang.

Carol *click click clicked* away just like Kelly did, only Carol was mostly typing in addresses and selecting routes for the customers who were calling. I loved watching the screen to see where the people were calling from (like, exactly where they were calling from!!), and I loved hearing all of the different regional accents. Carol was talking to people all over the country without getting up from her chair.

One call came through from Tinley Park, Illinois and I screamed “Hey! Chicago suburrrrrrbs!!! Woo hooooo!!!!”

In my head, but still.

The caller said, “I’m looking for the closest Portillo’s…”

More excited shrieking in my head. I KNOW PORTILLO’S.

Carol started typing in F-O-R-T and I knew that this was MY MOMENT. I had to interrupt her. I had to help her get it right the first time. I waved my hand in front of her face and when she looked at me I mouthed “P!!! P-O-R-T-I-L-L-O-S!”

She nodded and corrected what she was typing and—voilà!— she was able to direct her customer to the Portillo’s at 15900 S Harlem Avenue in Tinley Park.

I SAVED THE DAY. Well, sort of. I guess I SAVED THEIR LUNCH? Anyway. It was a thrill. I think I high-fived her.

Carol even took a call from someone who called because one of the lights on their instrument panel was on, and she was able to perform a diagnostic test on the vehicle WITHOUT LEAVING HER CHAIR. It’s this kind of technology that made me geek out all weekend long at OnStar.

By the way, the phones don’t stop ringing. I had about ten seconds in between calls to ask Carol if the constant calls made her days go by quickly and she said yes, usually her shifts fly by. And then she had to answer another call before elaborating on that. She clearly loves her job and if I could have sat there with her all day long, I totally would have.

Thank you so much to the folks at OnStar for allowing me to go behind the scenes. It was a fascinating experience I’ll never forget!!

By the way, If you missed yesterday’s post about how I played an accessory in a little Grand Theft Auto role play so we could learn how OnStar’s Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service works, you should check that out, too. CLICK HERE.


  • Connie Burke

    Scrawlsie saves the day!
    Which should surprise NO ONE – when you have that level of tech-geek passion. So glad you had an “A-ha” moment with Kelly, and that you totally got out of the weekend what we had evil-master-planned you would.
    Thanks for calling ConStar, my friend.

    • Melisa Wells

      You ARE evil, aren’t you? heh! It was a great time from start to finish and I’m thrilled that I was included.

      Thank YOU, ConStar!