One of my friends here works in a call center. A lot of the students we know do as well. It’s a stressful job. In fact, I’ve decided it’s kind of my worst nightmare job. If someone sat me down in front of a phone and told me that I would be answering back-to-back customer service calls in SPANISH I would run. Answering customer service calls in my native language would be no picnic, I’m sure. In Spanish? Just fire me now because I’m not going to be a service to anyone.
So, the job sucks, I have been told. It’s stressful. The shifts are either start or end at abysmal hours. The pay is…eh. Still, for my friend Ivonne, she of the flawless English, soothing voice, and financially struggling family, it’s not a terrible option.
I was grilling her this morning about the ins and outs of answering calls, because I think it’s so interesting. She works on a hotel reservation account. She told me about the scripts they use, about the times when English words eluded her in moments of nervousness, and about the notes she has to type up before the next caller pops into her headset. Mostly though, she enjoys the work. It’s not hard to imagine why. She’s just the sort of capable, kind person I’d want sorting out my hotel reservation.
The other day, she accidentally forgot to hit the hold button after she hit the mute button while she worked on a woman’s issue. This meant that as Ivonne looked up room fares she heard the woman talking to someone else in the room.
“I think I got an Indian,” the woman on the other line said. Ivonne recounted the story simply, and without anger or mockery. “So for the whole call I was very polite. I told her, ‘I want to help you with this,’ and ‘I’m working on your issue and it will be just another moment,'” Ivonne told me. I shook my head in disbelief. Towards the end of the call, Ivonne overheard the woman telling the other person that the Indian girl was actually really helpful.
I swallowed hard, pushing down all the angry, sarcastic comments I wanted to offer in support. Ivonne had done the kind thing, and I would try to follow her example. Instead, I’ll use my teeny, tiny platform here and say: be nice. Be nice to people on the phone who are doing their best to help you. You have no idea what their story is. Most likely, their doing the best they possibly can with the opportunities presented to them. I don’t care what your political views on customer service outsourcing are, there is a human on the other end of the line who could likely use some kindness and respect.
Also, she’s SALVADORAN.