Quality Control

And I thought sales was hard. Working in customer service is a whole ‘nother animal. Not to make light of the work done by those  who need to sell to make a living, but who knew that trying to answer a couple of questions and directing some calls could jeopardize one’s chances of getting into heaven.

In the last job that I held for a significant number of years, I did a bit of both – well, more of the customer service aspect and less of the buy-this-it’s-really-the-best-thing-out-there type of selling. Even if the sell is not that “hard”, some prospects seem to delight in tactics that range from delays to disingenuousness all on their way to denying you the business. But that was in another life. And I’m starting to feel a le-e-tle less bitter.

Anyway, having moved on from that and into a job that requires answering calls at various intervals during the day, I find that I have to ask myself at least one of these questions every time I have to answer the phone.

Why don’t some people listen to my opening salutation?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control”, I’d definitely not bother informing the person about the name of the place they’ve called because they’re going to ask me to repeat myself and I’ll just have to say it again anyway.

Why do some people assume that I can answer every question?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control”, I wouldn’t bother to (gently) interrupt the spiel that they’ve plunged headlong into, but – while inspecting my nails – let them go all the way through it, then transfer the call so that they have to go through it all over again.

Why don’t some people listen to what I said when they called me the first time?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control“, I’d simply ask for their email addresses so they can read what I said, because there are just so many times that I care to repeat myself.

Why do some people feel the need to tell me how to do my job?
If I wasn’t so concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control”, I’d ask some callers to send an application directly to me and assure them that I’d put it exactly where it needed to go.

Why do some people think that asking for my supervisor is playing their trump card?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control”, I’d wish them luck and let them know that I’m quite happy to foist them off on pass them on, seeing as how it frees me up – to answer someone else’s call, that is.

Why do some people think that a description of the person they want to speak to is infinitely better than giving me a name?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control, I’d ask them if they seriously think that telling me about the woman on the 2nd floor who sits at the desk on the right side, or the fair woman with the short hair is sufficient information for me to accurately direct their call.

Why do some people give me more information than is really required?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control”, I’d tell them that I’m quite happy to assist them but – T.M.I…really don’t need to know the reason why they’re making the request.

Why do some people assume that I really have nothing else to do?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control”, I’d put the person on “mute”, walk leisurely to the restroom and come back just in time to hear the point they’ve been getting to since I first answered the call.

Why don’t I listen to my own self before I answer the phone?
If I wasn’t concerned about the existence of call monitoring for the purpose of “quality control”, I would listen to my intuition when it tells me to let someone else take the call, because the person who’s going to send me to eternal damnation could be waiting – on the other side of the line.

“Well, that was unexpected.”

To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.
– Oscar Wilde

It’s said that we should learn to expect the unexpected. While most of us don’t really need it to happen everyday, it can make life a little more interesting when it does. A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with someone that didn’t go quite like I thought it would. It started out well and ended well enough, but it did so with a surprising request. After I left the room, I thought about the encounter and the unanticipated entreaty, and said to myself – (because, yes, I do talk to myself), “Well that was unexpected.”

I have to hand it to the individual though. She began by complimenting me on some achievements that I thought were pretty average, and then she expressed dismay at the fact that I wasn’t doing anymore, that which she thought I was pretty good at doing. I began to feel as if I owed her some sort of explanation and before I knew it, she had me monologuing and giving my side of the “that’s-why-I-don’t-do-that-stuff-no-mo'” story. Later reflection revealed the compliments as the ego-stroking tactic she employed prior to her going in for the kill.

As I said, the request (which in fact came about halfway through the meeting), took me by surprise. She then spent a good portion of the remaining time warming to her theme. I was a little thrown, so my responses were made up of a significant amount of head nods, and numerous choruses of yes’s and okay’s. Somewhere between that time and the one where I exited the room, I managed to tell her that I would try to help with her request but I wasn’t making any promises – because didn’t I just get through explaining that I didn’t do that anymore?

Of course, not all things unexpected are quite so dramatic. A few months ago – around Valentine’s Day to be more precise – the good folks at work decided that we should express our love and appreciation to our internal customers – more readily known as our co-workers. Each of us received three hearts to give to the person who (I suppose), made our personal workdays better. On the heart we were to write the person’s name accompanied by the appreciable trait, and then place it on a board that had been festooned with red and pink crepe paper. It was placed in a public area the better to display to the customers (I imagine), the camaraderie that existed among us.

It started to feel a little bit grade-school for me when I realized that some people were keeping a tally of who had the most hearts on the board. Nonetheless, I decided to be a good sport about it and get in the game. I reached for my three hearts and thought seriously about who I was going to give them to. There wasn’t anybody who was unhelpful, so I thought about the last three people who assisted me with something that was outside of my purview. And I crafted what I thought were three nice little notes and stuck them on the board. I have to say that all those hearts in one place really looked quite attractive – and since I was there, I looked at what others had written.

Several hours later, the hearts were stripped from the board and distributed to their new owners. Then followed the announcement of the “winner” of a contest that I didn’t realize we were having. The majority of people went with the usual “thank you for your help” and “thanks for making my day better”. Some thanked my more gregarious co-workers for providing them with daily laughs and for making the day go faster. I received exactly three hearts – some people got as many as eight or nine. None of my hearts said anything about my sense of humour, but coming completely out of left field was someone thanking me for “being stylish”. And I said to myself – “Well that was unexpected”. I’m not exactly sure how that helped the person get through her day, and I could ask all kinds of questions about the message the comment sent – but nah – I’ll just take it.

Hide & Seek

I know I’m not alone when I say that I remember faces a lot better than I do names. Unfortunately though, I sometimes don’t remember where I know the faces from – but I believe I’ve mentioned that dilemma already. Anyway, I was looking through my university yearbook last weekend as I was moving it from one location to another, and boy, was that a trip back in time.

It’s a pretty heavy book, and the first thing that struck me when I opened the cover was how terrible the pictures were. Most were fuzzy and dull, some were even overexposed (eh?) – and I knew there was no way they’d be able to get away with that kind of product today – not when there are so many of us with a camera and a phone, who think we know ’bout background and framing. The front pages were filled with ‘candid’ shots of school life ranging from sports (never went to one game); homecoming (never saw the king or queen – if they had them); sororities (never went near any of those); Student Union (didn’t even know where that was); Caribbean association (only went to one meeting), choir and band – where I found myself quite easily in the pictures since I was the only one representing for the sistahs.

As is customary, the individual photos of all the persons who graduated that year were situated in the back, and my daughter and I had a blast pointing out who had tried too hard for picture day, who hadn’t tried hard enough, who looked like they chose the right major as a student and who looked like they could actually have been the teacher of the class. I’m not ashamed to say that in preparation for my picture, I sprayed my hair to within an inch of it’s life – the better to ‘stand up’ to scrutiny. And as we were flipping through, I couldn’t help wondering what the people who graduated with me are doing now.

As I said, I’m not big on remembering names, but there was one person in my class who I remembered, even though she wasn’t someone who I’d hung out with. The professors took roll call before each lecture, and each time, I got a kick out of hearing her quintessential surname of Greek origin. The other reason I remember her is because she was part of a group of four girls who were always together – but sometime during my second year at school, one of the quartet died in a car accident involving a fourteen wheeler. I’d heard that Nancy – the one whose name I remembered – helped, on the day of the funeral, to apply her friend’s make-up one last time.

I found Nancy’s picture among the others at the rear of the book, along with that of a friend who would sometimes give me a ride home in a huge old-model American car that swallowed us whole when we rode in it. I searched and have since found her on a professional networking platform, working in a field different from the one she studied when I knew her, but from her other educational pursuits listed, it was clear that she’d had a change of heart. I’ll see if we make a connection.

So, since I was on a roll, I decided to check on some other alumni from that year to see what they’d been up to – based on either their hairstyle or their smile (kidding). I actually chose the ones who looked familiar, or the ones whose names sounded like they could have made it into Hollywood films. One History major is now a freelance producer and editor of commercials; a Biology major went into politics, an Accounting major is now a “platform product manager” for a company concerned with AI and cyber security and one who majored in Government and Politics is now a managing director at a well-known bank in the U.S. One Communications major appeared to be doing nothing at all.

But for as many people that I found, there was a larger number of them that I didn’t – Nancy being among them. I zigzagged across several social media platforms, but I realized that there would be some that I might not find because they might now be using different names, they might be among the last holdouts to join social media – or maybe they’d literally given up the ghost. I’d almost abandoned the idea of finding Nancy – and then by deciding to go the more traditional route (read: Google), I struck gold. And then I realized why I couldn’t find her. That memorable last name? She’d dropped it completely. What can I say? Maybe she didn’t like it all that much.