Saturday, 10 December 2011

Funny Calls I got while at a Call Center

You get weird calls when you work at a call center.

There was this one lady caller who's name was 'By-the-way'. As in Mrs. By-the-way. Sounded ancient. And funny. And made me conscious of the ways I began my sentences.

The Greek last names were the worst. Too unpronounceable. The owners they belonged to were used to people struggling with their names, and so usually preempted our awkwardness by asking us to refer to them by their first names. We were grateful.

There was the customer named Daniel, not unusual in itself, but I had to transfer him to a clearings house agent, and that guy introduced himself as Daniel too. After a short pause, I stuck to transfer protocol. "Hi Daniel, this is Daniel from XYZ dept., and you won't believe this but I've got a customer named Daniel on the other line."

The weirdest call I got wasn't even from a customer, but a couple who lived on the floor above one of our bank branches. Apparently, it was past bedtime, and the bank's automatic doors weren't working properly, and would keep opening and closing. Apart from being a serious security risk, it kept the people upstairs awake. I asked them to call the police.

We'd get our share of drunk callers too. Imagine accepting a call, only to hear a man gargling on the other end of the line, and then asking if he sounded like Sonu Nigam. After he repeated this 3 times, I hung up. Not as bad as the situation one of my colleagues, and an aspiring trainer, found herself in, when she got a caller who identified himself as being drunk, and told her he was making love to the floor. The only silver lining with weird calls like these, is we were able to end them quickly, which made our average call times look good.

Of course, sometimes even good calls stretched longer than they should have. A friend and colleague, after tending to a caller, ending up at the receiving end of a member of the Watchtower Society, who probably sensed fresh meat. Experiences with other callers who lingered, were much more pleasant, and usually involved tourist recommendations and chats about the weather when they discovered we were Indians. 

And you got to really help people occasionally. I remember trying to help out this one guy who really seemed depressed, and towards the end of the call  he told me he'd have probably killed himself if I hadn't helped him. That one felt good. 

There was also this really sad lady caller who just wanted to talk to someone. I heard her out for over 10 minutes, way longer than the average call handling time we were supposed to stick to. But I didn't worry about my stats, they were already good, and 1 or 2 outliers a week wouldn't make a difference. Plus, it wouldn't have been proper to disconnect on the lady. We were only allowed to do so with abusive callers. I could of course have coaxed her into disconnecting, but I heard her out. She talked about life being both beautiful and futile. Call volumes dropped that afternoon. I learned later that a series of bombs went of in a few of that country's busiest train stations.

When you work a rush hour shift, one coinciding with your host country's busiest call volume timings, you're usually left with a hoarse voice by the end of the day. So it wasn't surprising then, when at the fag end of one such day, an elderly gentleman asked me if the person he was speaking to was a boy or girl.

Most callers were polite, and even more so when they were speaking to a manager. During night shifts, when we were the only team on the floor, and our Team Leader was taking a nap downstairs, I was glad to take escalated calls, posing as the TL. Irritated customers change their demeanor drastically when they think they're speaking to someone with authority.

Speaking about night shifts, the good thing about working for a UK process is that they're minimal, most of your work being scheduled from afternoon to dinnertime. Those of us who did spend the odd month working the graveyard shift, found that we had the floor to ourselves for the night. We were often the only team present, had only our fellow team mates for company, and could only take our scheduled team breaks in pairs.

The first 2 nights of the graveyard shift were the worst. Adjusting to the new shift and changing our body clocks usually meant falling asleep on the job and missing a few calls. But it was smooth sailing after that. You got hardly any calls during the early hours of the morning, and spent most of your time fooling around with your team mates, chatting, reading, or playing computer games.


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