My sister has worked in various call centers for years. I don’t know how she stands it. I did call center work once, because I needed a night job so I could finish a few college classes. It is a job that requires you to be a terrific multi-tasker and quite a talker because it involves keeping up with ever-changing rules and scripts, going through several computer screens to accomplish one simple freaking task, and typing notes about the call, all while making conversation with the clients, who are many times just plain pissy.
So yesterday morning, she started off a conversation with me saying that on her job, selling/setting up media/communications packages, she would rather receive calls from someone with an Indian, Arabic, or Asian name because they are the nicest folks — even if she messes up. “It can go either way with anyone else,” she said.
She went on to explain that she received a phone call from a guy with an Indian or Arabic sounding name. “I can’t remember what it was — Abdul or something, but don’t ask me the last name,” she said, “I usually just say it really fast so they can’t tell if I mess up the pronunciation.”
I said, “Apu Nahasapeemapetilon?” Thinking of the Kwick-E-Mart guy from The Simpsons. She said, chuckling, “Yea. Something like that.”
She said most of the call went per usual standards until she got to the set up service screen, where you set an actual appointment.
My sister: Okay, ‘Apu,’ I can schedule your service for Monday, but the only appointment I have is between 8-9 a.m. Do you work?
Apu: Yes, but that time will be okay because I own my own business.
My sister [while continuing to set up the service call on the computer screen]: Oh I love men who own their own business.
Hearing this, the entire group of five people sitting around her, broke out into hysterical laughter. The laughing triggered her to realize how it may have sounded, but all while not skipping a beat on setting up the service, she said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. That may have sounded odd. I meant that I love when people have their own businesses because they are more flexible on service times.”
Apu: I knew what you meant. Hahaha. [Pause] I own a Quizznos.
My sister: Oh, I like Quizznos! Don’t they have a prime rib sandwich now?
I laughed so hard.
Yet, I am impressed with her quickness and ability to get back on track with the call without getting flustered, not only due to her flub but also with the ruckus going on behind her.
After all was said and done, she was just happy with this call – like she expected she would be after seeing his name — because more than half the other calls she experiences are not so friendly. Usually people are yelling out of frustration. Or calling from a cell phone that continually cuts out half the words and getting mad when they’re asked to repeat themselves. Or worse yet – speaking of multi-taskers: Calling from the toilet while taking an explosive shit to discuss a charge they don’t like on their bill or calling to order the Erotica channel while having sex, either with themselves or someone else.
So Apu made her day. Maybe she made his too.
If you have any call center stories, share them. Make me laugh today.