Be careful how you treat the next call centre operator you talk to, it might get rough.
Four New Zealand Telecom call centre operators based in the Philippines were fired recently for sending customers offensive text messages. What is most startling about the five inboxes being soiled by the “F*** you, customer” text message is not that it happened, but rather that we haven’t heard of many more such cases. “Who Wants to be a Call Centre Operator?” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and that is very much the reality for the millions of people around the world trapped behind a desk, in front of a computer monitor and shackled by telephone headpiece to mindnumbingly repetitive tasks. Who’d want to do it? But many do, and some with a bit more resentment than others. The NZ Telecom customers should be grateful, in a manner of speaking – sure, they’d been offended, but they simply had to delete the message and port to another network. Unlike the unfortunate George Bates of Bristol, England, who found himself the subject of a disturbingly malicious reaction in 2008, when he gave a bank call centre operator a low service rating. Not only were his bank accounts frozen by the vengeful call centre operator, but his identity was changed to that of a 33-year-old Ugandan divorcee. After much trauma and inconvenience, he was eventually reimbursed and renamed by the bank, but the tale does point to the lengths that vindictive staff with the wrong levels of authority aspire to. There was little news on how the bank dealt with the responsible person, although one can only imagine with the full might of the law – or even just its own corporate policies. As happened to the infamous Word Perfect helpdesk operator who lost his job after, in many people’s opinion, making the correct diagnosis of the customer’s problem – that of stupidity. The story goes that the customer called in for help when “all of a sudden the words went away” while working on a document. After following the routine checks on the presence of flashing indicator lights, and that all the correct cables were plugged in, it emerged that a power outage was the reason for the problem – and not forgetting the completely dark room the customer was sitting in. The rest of the transcript from the conversation goes as follows: Operator: Aha, okay, we’ve got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in? Caller: Well, yes, I keep them in the closet. Operator: Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from. Caller: Really? Is it that bad? Operator: Yes, I’m afraid it is. Caller: Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them? Operator: Tell them you’re too f***ing stupid to own a computer!!!!! Dislike them or loathe them, it’s perfectly acceptable to feel a little pity for the millions who have to endure monotony, abuse and stupidity … day after day. So, next time you find yourself on the line to a call centre, have a little patience – it may well save you Mr Bates’ fate.