Thursday, December 2, 2010

When I Think About You I Touch Myself....And Other Stories

Working in a call center is fairly monotonous, as you can imagine. I'm only trained to move people's accounts in and out and not in billing or anything so there are only about 5-6 processes I do per day in a fairly endless cycle. I've been surprised at how many Americans and Canadians I've spoken to in the few short months I've been on the phones. They are always brief, but welcomed connections. A chance to say to someone, "Australia, huh?!?" and either commiserate with each other about some of the hardships we've faced here or bond over similar backgrounds. I've gotten advice from a woman who has recently had her first child here, away from her family and also given advice to someone who had only been in Australia for a week about the mosquitos and where to source American products and Mexican food.

Some of my calls have left me mildly amused, others in total shock and embarassment at the end of them. The mildly amusing ones include how often I am asked whether I am Irish or Filipino! I must have the weirdest Californian accent ever! Other amusing ones are any time someone goes off on me or asks for a manager when I've done my job 100% correctly. I revel in these because they make for good stories on the weekend. I cringe when I make a mistake on the job and am quick to identify a mistake and rectify it for customers and 8-9 out of 10 customers are really understanding and the other 1-2 get grumpy. When I make a mistake a customer generally doesn't try and escalate the call by asking for a manager, it's when I've done my job correctly but they don't like company policy or the law that they flip out and ask for a manager. Just recently I had a man call who's name wasn't on the account number he had provided and he wanted to speak contracts. I advised him without the account holder's permission the call could not go forward. He melted down and went on a yelling rampage for a minute or two in which I zoned in and out and then he asked, "Did I understand?" He didn't like my response when I said, "No, sir, unfortunately I do not" and he then started screaming at me and asked for a manager. I went and found one and, poor thing, she had to put up with his tirade for awhile before the account holder miraculously appeared and we were able to get her permission for the man to speak on her behalf. At the end of the call, the man asked my manager if he could offer some feedback on me. She said, "Sure" out of courtesy and he proceeded to tell her all about me and how I should be fired. She said "Thanks for the feedback" and just laughed after the call had ended. I would've loved to have listened in to exactly what he had said to her about me! I could listen to customers yell all day about the company's policies or our prices or anything like that and walk away laughing as it really has nothing to do with me personally, but I do think it's a bit unfair when we are personally attacked. What is the saying about you should only ever fight with someone who is in an equal position to fight back?

The two main calls that have stood out to me as shocking so far have been shocking for two different reasons- one turned a bit sexual and the other, the person just sunk to the lowest level to play me to get our service. In the first situation, a young man called to advise that he and his wife were separating so he needed to take over on the account. I said I could do a straight move in for his account or he could get 8% off his account if he wanted to go on contract and I said he'd also get a free 12 week newspaper subscription with the contract in his area. After some minor banter/innocent flirting/questioning, I say "Oh, I just checked and if you aren't in to the newspaper you can get a 6 month subscription to Gardening Australia, Vogue Australia, or Fishing Australia." To which he replied, "You're making me happy in my 'no-no spot'" WTF!!!!!!!!!! I just kind of laughed and brushed it off. There is then a script I have to read, legally obligated by the government to do so and offer this product, and normally I just read the first two lines, ask the customer if they want to hear more, they say no, and we set up the rest of the account. After I ask this customer if he is interested he asks if there is a lot more of the script to read. I say yep and he says, "Ok, keep reading, I'm enjoying this" which sounds creepy but he didn't say it in a husky, panting voice so I just kept going. After reading the whole schpiel he declines the product and I finish the process and say, "Just before I call through to the contracts department is there anything else I can help you with?" To which he says, "Yeah, can I get your name, number, email, where you live?" At this point, I don't want to be rude but I'm VERY flustered and I VERY loudly say "Uhhhhhhh, sorry, I'm engaged!" I hear laughing behind me and I turn and everyone in my section is looking at me and going "What the heck?" so I put the guy on silent and say "Shut Up, I'm so embarassed!" and they laugh and tease me in the background. Finally, I'm off the phone with the guy and everyone teases me as I recap the call, no-no spots and all, to them.

The other shocking call I had was a woman who was trying to play the system and get reconnected with our service after being shut off by another provider for, what I am reasonably speculating was, non-payment. I got her process set up, but she flustered me by rushing me the whole time and I made a mistake and she was just on me from that point on to hurry, hurry, she was wasting all her cell phone minutes so I didn't do as extensive of a check on her as I should have. So after I had let her off the phone, I started doing a bit more of a search on her because the call just left me feeling like something was up. Sure enough, someone by her same name had been at the property as our last known account holder and had left an outstanding amount open when they left for the other company. I talked to a manager and she said I could call the lady up and advise her that until her old bill was paid up with us, we wouldn't be providing the service for her either. The lady, we'll call her Jane Smith, said "Well does that other Jane Smith have my same birthday?" And I said, "No, but Jane Smith isn't a super common name so it'd be a pretty big coincidence that there'd be another Jane Smith as the last account holder at that address. Do you have a daughter named Jane Smith?" She said No, we discussed something further and I advised her I'd check out that issue with my manager. When I got back to the phone, I said, "Fine, we're not going to pursue this further, we'll keep the account as is. Had I caught this earlier, we wouldn't have let you open an account, but my mistake so there you go." And the woman starts sobbing, "How could you do that? How could you bring up my dead son who died of SIDS when he was only 4 weeks old 2 years before you said I was at this address? Why would you do that?" *Silence* from me as this was now incredibly awkward. Her, immediately not crying anymore, "Are you there?" "Yes, ma'am." The tears start up again, "Why would you do that to me? Bring up my dead son?" "Ma'am, I'm sorry for your loss, but we both know I didn't do that." Her, snapping back out of it immediately, "Yeah, you're right" and that was pretty much the end of the call. It just seemed so low and sick to bring up a dead child as leverage on a call and to snap in and out of crying to see if her waterworks were having an effect on me! Ugh, people are gross sometimes!

As with any job, there are plenty of lows and some highs as well. Like I said earlier, at least most weeks ensure I've got great stories to share with MOTH and my family!


  1. Oh my gosh, can't decide if this makes me feel better or worse. It's all pretty funny, though I'm sure no fun to deal with in the moment.

    I went in for a final interview today! :-)

  2. I used to frequently get asked if I was Irish, both on the phone and in person. It doesn't help I have an Irish name! I actually started to hear the similarities between Irish and American accents, especially with watered down Irish accents. I worked with an Irish girl who was raised in Aus and she sounded American to me.
    I was ALSO asked if I was Chinese one time over the phone. And the same person then asked if I was Filipino after I was like wtf to the Chinese comment.


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