“There are two moments in life where you are totally alone. One is when you are dead. And the other is when you are going to give a speech”
That’s only one of Wilde’s immortal quotations. A great philosopher, thinker, writer, and declaimer that he is, certainly he is the best person to create a perfect metaphor on the scenarios of solitude.
Bur if only Oscar Wilde had been a Customer Service Representative (or a Call Center Agent, as the greater proportion of the society would generically call it), he would not go as far as giving a speech, or for Pete’s sake – being dead – just to describe what “being alone” really means. Having the first call is more than enough.
It was nine o’clock in the morning. While the sun is shining benevolently on the urban paradise known as Makati, giving the atmosphere of hope to its inhabitants, I am sitting inside the air-conditioned 8th floor room of our building, having cold hell. After a month of grammar drills, customer service preparations, communication enhancement exercises, and product knowledge trainings, I have come to this singular moment that will determine whether I am cut for the job or just a desperate piece of hopeless crap trying to fit myself in. The first call.
No, it’s not the usual, scripted, by-the-book, mock calls that we used to have where we talk to our trainers who will twist their accent just to give the feel that you are talking to a foreign customers, or the QA’s trying to be irate just to give the impression of the real thing. This time, it’s a real foreigner, from a foreign land, with a foreign culture, barrelling me with an equally foreign problem that only God knows whether I have the capacity to address or not.
Even Melory, though the top agent that she is, couldn’t even give me the presence of help. It’s either she didn’t give the help that I needed or she only distracted me (Women!). I wore the headset; she pushed the “Auto-In” button on the phone, and I heard a beeping sound, which means a call is coming.
Back in the olden times, a loud trumpet sound roaring through a kingdom means that a furious, revolting, and raging enemy is coming to raise hell, crush its mettle, and take glory from it. The beeping sound is not very different. It means that a furious, revolting, and raging customer is calling to raise hell, crush your mettle, and take (money) credits from you.
After that sound, I know, I am alone. I don’t have anyone. It’s just me and this customer. No one else. I am alone. There is no turning back. Great men from history never turn their backs. So I am.
“THANK YOU FOR CALLING. THIS IS RYAN. I CAN’T HELP YOU TODAY. DROP THE CALL NOW. LEAVE ME ALONE. I WANT TO GO HOME. I DON’T KNOW YOU! LEAVE ME ALONE!!"
Honestly, I want to go with my spiel like this. But I know I can’t. It doesn’t only sound stupid; it looks so obscene as well. So I went on with my usual, energetic, and rattling spiel:
“THANK YOU FOR CALLING. THIS IS RYAN. HOW MAY I HELP YOU TODAY?”
I waited for the customer at the end of the line to speak, everything is scary. Then it answered. It sounds like an otherworldly language from an unknown land. Only to find out it’s English. I can’t understand anything. She started talking about some numbers and words, but my hands won’t move to type the keys. Time stopped. Everything went dark. From that moment I have only one dismal conclusion: I’m going to mess this call. Shit happens.
“The customer wants to check her account, get her phone number.”
No it wasn’t my customer. The voice isn’t from my headset. It came from someone physically there for me. It was Melory, sitting beside me, listening to the call, and ready to give a helping hand. Her round eyes behind her eye glasses seem to say “What the hell are you worrying about? The top agent’s here. I am here” And from that moment I instantly knew. Hope has come. (Ahh! Women!!!)
It turned out that I was talking to an agent also, asking information about a customer. Melory supplied what I am going to ask, and what I am going to say, with me articulating it with the smoothest American accent my tongue can produce. A puppeteer and her puppet on its work. Inch by inch we carried out.
“There’s always the first time.”
She said after the call.
“My first call was also rattling.”
But deep inside I know I’m not rattled. I’m terrorized.
My first call wasn’t something to be proud of. It almost became a mess. Thanks to Melory. I thought I would be a smooth flow of conversation between two people from different land, but from the sound of it, it more sounds like a hostage negotiation. Full of misstatements and misunderstandings. But that will not me prevent me from going on, especially there are people like her who will always give that “What the hell are you worrying about? I am here.” feeling, until come that day when I will no longer need it. Until come that day when it’s my turn to give that kind of help to other agents who needs to survive their first call.