A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi
“Assalamu Alaikum. XYZ call center how may I help you.”
It was just another day at work for Taqi. He had just signed in for his 3 to 11 evening shift at the inbound customer support call center for the local electricity supplier, and was answering his first call. The opening greeting was worth ten points, and he had to sound fresh and pleasant while delivering it to the customer.
“You know what?” The customer was angry and started yelling from the get go. “You guys should just say how may I screw you instead of how may I help you.”
“Sir we try to help each and every single one of our customers, but some things are just out of our control.” Taqi had been working there for about six months now, he had learned all the tricks of the trade, and knew how to handle angry customers.
The CRM at the call center did not have the customer’s phone number in the data bank, so he couldn't find the customer’s address. Judging by the area code, he placed the customer in region 4, and judging by the customer’s anger, he placed him in the area where there was no electricity for the last 4 hours.
“May I know which area you are speaking from?” Although he had already placed the customer in an area but he had to hear it from him. After all, it was a recorded call and he didn't want to go off script. Points were being awarded and quality was being assured; he had to aim for the extra incentives.
“Why? That computer of yours isn't telling you anything?” He was amazed how people just overestimated the power of computers.
“Sir, your number is not stored in our database. If you could kindly tell me your area, I could provide you with the latest information and updates.”
“Screw your updates; there is no electricity here for the last four hours. I don’t need excuses, I need electricity.”
“Sir, the only area in Karachi without power for the last four hours is FB Area Block 6. Is that where you are speaking from?”
“Why are you asking me if you already know?”
By this time, 40 seconds had already passed. Taqi had to finish this call within one minute; negative points were awarded for each second after that. He decided to take the familiar route; he would just shower the bastard with information and wouldn't give him a chance to speak.
“Sir, the main cable supplying electricity to FB Area Block 6 was damaged a few hours ago. Repairs are in progress as we speak. We are also trying to route electricity to your area through our overhead network. Your electricity will be temporarily restored within half an hour, but the main cable will be fixed in about eight hours.” He rushed through it in one breath, but waited for the customer to respond.
“I am not speaking from block 6 you moron.” The clock was ticking, the floor supervisor was already signaling him to wrap it up, and the minute was almost up. Nothing had been achieved so far.
“Then which area are you speaking from?” He had received worst calls than this, he had been cussed at, threatened, and once a few angry customers had paid the call center a visit, but for some reason, this to him was the worst customer he had ever dealt with. And the call was not over yet.
“I am speaking from block 4, and my meters have burnt out. I registered a complaint early this morning, and you guys haven’t sent the repair team yet.”
“Sir could you please tell me your complaint number?”
Now this was another problem. Taqi looked at the complaint numbers in the CRM, and only 1500 complaints had been issued so far. It appeared as if the morning shift had been slow. He checked for complaint number 497, it belonged to someone else. He checked for 4974 for the day before, and it wasn't there.
“When was this complaint number issued to you?” He knew this would piss the customer off even more, but there was no other choice.
“What the hell do you people do all day? Someone issued this number to me five minutes ago.” There were serious contradictions in the customer’s statement. If the complaint number was issued 5 minutes ago, he couldn't possibly have registered the complaint in the morning.
Meanwhile, the clock was ticking.
The floor supervisor had already left his chair, and was now standing right next to Taqi, listening in on the conversation. This was a pretty good sign that Taqi was in trouble and had to finish this quickly.
“Sir how about I send a reminder to your area support center asking them to hurry up? Could you please tell me your name and address?” He put his hands on the keyboard, ready to file a new complaint, while trying to save face for his fellow call center agents who handed out fake complaint numbers.
“Now I have to go through the whole process again?” It sounded as if the customer was about to burst in tears.
“Sir I apologize for the inconvenience, and assure you that we will do everything in our power to get your connection fixed, just kindly tell me your name and address so I can send them a new complaint.”
Two minutes were up, and the floor supervisor simply ended the call with the push of a button.
“Sir, he was about to give me his details.” Taqi protested.
“Next time, just give him another fake complaint number. And for God’s sake keep your average down to 50 seconds.”
Taqi looked around in disappointment as the supervisor walked away. The person to his right was lying about a blackout; the person to his left was dropping calls in mid sentence just to make it look like there was a problem with the line. Most were assigning fake complaint numbers and giving false information to the customers.
The next caller in line had already been routed to him, but he decided not to answer that call. He minimized the CRM and opened a new Word document. He had a resignation to write.