Friday, November 21, 2003

I Can Talk About It Now

Deal with the Devil
Resolved as I was to end my financial agony some months ago, I took the advice of a friend and applied for work at a call center. I had lurid visions of handing King Herod my head on a silver platter, after belly-dancing in a skimpy little... never mind. The gentle readers who know me personally will recall that I have an almost visceral aversion to advertising, telemarketing, law and industries of similarly evil repute.

I had told my interviewer, Aleth*, that I was tired of being stepped on, sold things I didn't need, and being made to wait my turn which--of course-- never came. As telemarketers were reputed to be the pushiest, most annoying pri�ks in the universe, I felt it was high time to learn assertiveness from the best. Aleth was amused, said someone from Human Resources would contact me if I passed her company's exams. I passed (as could any UP kickout) and Human Resources did call-- half a year later.

In the months before the fateful HR call, I had indentured myself as itinerant art teacher to Kids @ Play, sent e-resum�s to companies in Singapore, applied for jobs at PHILPOST (philatelic designer), PAGCOR (vault clerk) and Children's Hour ("rustle-me-up-a-presentation" guy). I worked part time ghost writing for my mother, as butler and research assistant for my girlfriend. I was also making calling cards, certifcates and resum�s for the interested, at cost. I became, in short, the busiest bum on God's green earth. When the first call came, I wasn't there to answer it: on 1st training day, I was in Los Banos, taking a friend to the nearest hospital, admonishing him to ease up on the coffee.

Answering "The Call"
A second summons from HR was made. Thankfully I was there to receive it. PAGCOR and PHILPOST were also making come-hither noises, though. Then I, who had complained of being unemployable, was suddenly caught between three prospective bosses who wanted me. How was one to make further overtures to all three companies (so I could get the best deal) without having to agonize through schedule conflicts? There was only one of me to go around.

Fending off PAGCOR and PHILPOST, I proceeded to (corporation I will not name) to at least get away with (assertiveness) telesales training. Thus for the better part of two weeks and a half, I was sequestered in the high-rise bunkers of "little Makati," a.k.a. "Eastwood City" in Libis, Quezon City.

What Salome Learned After the Dance
Salome learned that freshly lopped-off human heads, especially if they belonged to holy men, are icky things that inspire the most godawful feelings of revulsion and remorse in someoneone who's been coached to ask for them from the local tyrant.

Meantime, Dex learned from trainer Apple** that conducting business on the telephone in itself, like most things, was not all bad. On the salesperson end, it saved the company money in clothing allowances and travel expenses for otherwise roving salespeople. It saved you time (as you didn't have to travel) and kept you in a warm (or cool, depending on your preference) safe place while you went about making your sale. A good telesales call is always convenient and pain-free.

On the customer end, it meant a convenient, rapid-response service that allowed a product manufacturer to meet the customer's needs and attend to his concerns at any time. The customer saved money and time because he generally didn't have to travel to ask questions, lodge a complaint, or offer recommendations. Company reps could be contacted and talked to after dialing some seven numbers.

Sadly, though, like so many human endeavors, the disparity between telebusiness-on-paper and telebusiness-in-the-real-world --nervous customer care specialists and dog-tired customers-- is glaring. According to Apple's almighty training manual-slash-powerpoint presentation, companies lose millions of customers because of lousy telephone service, every year.

Assuming my information is correct, U.S. lawmakers are currently debating legislation that bans telecenters from making outgoing business calls. The situation must really stink if Americans are threatening to bludgeon their own free-speech principles.

You may have run into the fellows who (aside from its detractors like me) give telesales a bad name--

  • the brusque and persistent salesperson

  • the inept and/or uncaring customer service rep

  • the slow-witted and slow-speaking

  • the fast-talking shoot-from-the-lip

  • "Mr. Spin"

  • the breather

  • the interrogation and psy-ops guy fresh from a stint in Iraq

  • the prank caller

These ...people, when they're out on "the floor" making calls, forget the one thing that makes phone service the convenient and painless exercise it was meant to be. And that's--

(to be concluded)

*"Aleth" -not her real name
**"Apple" -not the name she uses

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