Just Call Me Mr. Sunshine

The image I have of myself is not one of doom and gloom, but I don’t think of myself as a cheerleader, either. However, today I found out that my colleagues at the day job see me quite differently.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while,” said CP, the trainee who’s been shadowing me a great deal in the last two weeks, “but Full Moon Marg and AnShe told me that you’re their pick-me-upper. They just love hearing from you after a bad call or during a bad day.”

Truth be told, I do love to laugh, and a benign form of levity in a job where you’re constantly dealing directly with clients is to make wise cracks about said clients. Anyone who has worked in a call centre will tell you the same. In our case, where calls to clients are outgoing and can last up to 3 hours so that we can provide product training, we end up sharing the tales about people who make us wonder how those people could ever have landed the position they hold. During one call I was leading today and that CP was monitoring, we had a spectacularly dim fellow at the end of the line — the kind who doesn’t know the difference between a colon and a semicolon …and that was just the tip of the iceberg. So at one point during the call, I zapped an e-mail to CP in which I wrote only, “I wonder whose son he is to have gotten the job he has.”

My day job has reaffirmed in my mind how the average user’s level of computer skills is much lower than what I once imagined it to be. But what frightens me is that applications that could seriously affect some individuals are being placed in the hands of people who have no idea what they’re doing: These people simply dust off a checklist from a beaten up folder once a month and follow what it says. It’s as though they don’t quite make the connection, in some instances, between the fact they’re withdrawing money from individuals’ accounts and how pissed off they’d be if another company made a mistake if it withdrew too much money from their own account. Beyond that, however, what gets to me are those who huff and puff about being knowledgeable about computers and mindful of security and best practices, but think I’m some kind of computer genius for helping them “fix” their computer woes by instructing them to empty their browser cache (without actually calling it browser cache).

I do know that I’m patient beyond most clients’ expectations and that I’m good at training over the phone. At the end of one call that lasted an hour longer than I expected due to sundry complications, I asked my customary “Are there any other questions before I leave?” and the client gushed, “I was so worried about this training and thought for sure I’d have a ton of questions, but you covered everything so well!” I thanked her for the compliment and joked, “So I guess there are still remnants of my past life as a teacher.” To which she said, “Oh well, that explains it!”

The result of doing three, four, and even sometimes five training calls a day is that I’m beyond drained at the end of the day. And to preserve my sanity, I tell my colleagues about the unbelievably stupid things I’ve heard in the course of client calls, repeating verbatim what was said with the same inflection, and that causes my colleagues to crack up. But I think what contributes to the humour is that I’m a newcomer to the world of financial services and my take is still that of a geek and outsider.

And meanwhile, somehow, the world keeps turning and it’s not on the verge of collapsing even though there’s the potential for so many screw-ups in the hands of so many people.