Hi everyone! My first post here in TFCC. Awesome place by the way. Reading through some of the posts and comments was quite cathartic for someone who’s been in this industry for close to 10 years now. J
So it’s about an incident that happened roughly 5 or so years ago when I was helping our new people and the clash of cultures that sometimes could occur in calls we took in. My call center does tech support for a major WA-based software company and at the time I was qualified to be the subject matter expert who was tasked with backing up newbies to our company when they took in calls.
One night one of those newbies got a call from a man in the U.S. with Pakistani-origins who was calling us for help with activating a product he had bought from us. This was quite a routine call actually because all you needed to do as the newbie would be to give out to the customer a randomly generated bunch of numbers and letters. Since it’s over the phone we spell it out using NATO phonetic alphabet.
And here’s how the interaction went:
(Code to be spelled out is 4INV-4FUP-S3VC)
Newbie: Here’s the first set of codes, sir. The number 4. I as in India. N as in…..
Man: What the duck! Stop! Stop! Stop!
Newbie: I’m sorry, sir, what seems to be the problem?
Man: Stop using that name!
Newbie: I’m using phonetics to make things easier for you to type in the code, sir.
Man: Just don’t use that name! Argh!
Newbie: Alright I’ll use the name of U.S. states instead. Ready?
Newbie: Here’s the first set of codes, sir. The number 4. I as in Indiana. N as in…..
Man: Stop! Stop! Stop! Did I not tell you not to use that name! Give me your supervisor! Now!
At this point newbie ask customer to stay on hold for a few minutes while she gets him one. Newbie talks to me and explains to me what transpired. I realize what was triggering the man’s adverse reaction and advised her to go back to the customer instead of getting a manager which shocked her because customer had asked for one. I instruct the newbie to tell the customer that’s she’ll try to spell the code one more time but not use the word “India” and to the newbie’s surprise then the customer agrees to proceed! The call that almost turned into a nightmare ended up into a good call! The customer actually wanted to to talk to newbies supervisor to praise her for her patience with him and to give her a raise.
The look of surprise of the newbies face was priceless. In training she’d been given a crash course on American culture and the do’s and don’ts when interacting with our customers. But she had no idea about this particular customer’s culture instead she just thought she was another American.
As it turns out when I took over the call to hear the customer’s praise for the agent, my suspicions about his origins was proven correct when he admitted that he was actually a Pakistani who recently immigrated to the U.S. a few months after the Kargil War ended. He adds that to this day he still hold some animosity to India that even hearing those five letters spoken as a word set him off. He actually apologized to me for how he acted with my newbie and hoped to do better next time.