Years ago, I worked for a large, very conservative insurance company in their call center where we set up new claims. We were usually people’s first point of contact after a car crash & other types of claims. 75% of the calls were auto related, and we asked for VINs as part of our script.
VINs, as you know, can be tricky because the letters are ransom, so we either used the NATO alphabet (alpha, bravo, Charlie, etc) or a made-up version of that (Apple, boy, cat, etc)
Because we were allowed to goof off (quietly) between calls, we decided to make our own “car crash” version of the NATO one slow evening.
Then we decided to award a prize to whoever was brave enough to use it with a caller. The prize? A random collection of snacks donated from people’s desks.
So keeping in mind that our callers were often mad, frustrated, worried, irritated, and otherwise trying to be pleasant but they’ve just been rear-ended, or a tree fell onto their roof and it’s raining, we printed out our new alphabet and nervously waited for someone’s phone to ring.
Turns out my phone was next in the queue, and it rang just as I got my list. An auto claim for shopping cart vs car. The guy was in a neutral mood – whew. My co-workers got quiet as I got to the point in my script where I asked for the VIN.
Me = “Ok sir, to avoid confusion, I’m going to read back that VIN using words for letters.”
He was very familiar with the NATO alphabet. Good.
Me = “Hassle Annoyed 4 3 5 Door-ding 2 Sorry Repair 3 7 5 Vroom-vroom 9 4 4 8. Did I read that back correctly, sir?”
The guy was silent for a second then laughed and laughed. His day started out crappy and then his car door got a nasty scratch & dent in the worst, most car-damaging parking lot in the country,* turning his crappy day to absolute shit.
Until I read back the VIN. Glad I could help you end your day on a more positive note, sir.
The snacks I won were excellent. And this call was not randomly selected for QA or I would’ve lost points for “using non-standard language.” Whew!
- The worst, most car-damaging parking lot in the country is at the world’s largest discount retailer (with HQ in Bentonville, Arkansas). We set up more auto claims for damage that took place there than any other single type of location.