It’s been a long time since I have worked in a call centre, and it was calls like these which made me swear I would never go back.
Seven years ago, when I was 20, I got a job in a call centre. It was a civil servant job for the big government department who deals with issuing welfare payments. Most calls were fairly straight forward, like adding a new child to a claim, telling us their income had increased, that they’d got a job etc. However, there was at least one call a day which just made the rest of your day miserable. This one sticks in my head the most.
The beep sounded in my headset to indicate another caller (I still have nightmares about hat sound).
Before I could even finish my greeting, the woman started screaming like a banshee that we were stealing her money. I managed to calm her down, talked her through security and accessed her claim. Right away I could see why her money had stopped. They money was a child welfare payment, and her child had now turned 20.
Me: I believe I have found the issue. It appears that your son has now turned 20, and as he is no longer a child, you no longer qualify for this benefit. You would have been sent an award notice informing you of this a few weeks ago.
Banshee Lady: No. you CANNOT do this. That is MY money!
Me: Ma’am, the money you received was a welfare payment. You must have a child of qualifying age to qualify for the benefit.
BL: I HAVE A CHILD AND YOU ARE STOPPING HIS MONEY.
Me: A child must be under 20 for you to qualify for this benefit.
BL: HE IS MY CHILD
Me: I am not disputing the fact he is your child, but he is not A child for the purposes of receiving this payment. He is now an adult.
BL: I cannot believe you would do this. You want me to die. I am going to go and hang myself and it will be personally your fault. I will do it with you on the phone.
i hear her stamping across the floor and some muffled noises. I start to genuinely panic that she is going to go through with it
Me: Maam, please, I am sorry that this has happened, please do not take any drastic measures.
I flag a supervisor who subsequently takes over the call
I never found out what happened but I do believe the supervisor flagged the issue as potential suicide and her information was passed to a team who could check on her.
I get that it can be awful and horrific if your payments reduce, and I don’t pretend to understand how difficult and scary it can be. But that call scarred me for a very long time and I felt extremely guilty over something outwith my control.