I used to work in a call centre for a cosmetics company. We fielded all sorts of inquiries, from damaged order complaints to product questions to intense discussions about the causes we supported. There was one customer who would call up every so often and say she was interested in placing an order. I’d ask her what she would like, and she’d say, “I’m not sure, tell me what you have!” It would turn into a long conversation, sometimes as much as three quarters of an hour, during which we’d discuss her hair and her skin and what her favourite smells were and what she liked to do to pamper herself. She’d inevitably end up spending several hundred dollars on a variety of products, none of which she had decided on in advance of calling. I often wondered why she preferred having everything pitched to her like that rather than browsing our online catalogue at her own pace before calling to place her order, but it sure beat getting yelled at by Susan from Louisiana who ordered bath melts in July with ground shipping and thought they’d arrive in solid form, so I never complained.
One day she mentioned that her son had bought her one of our products but she wasn’t sure what it was – it could have been a soap, or a massage bar, but since it was just in a plain paper bag she couldn’t tell how she was meant to use it. I asked her to describe it to me, and she told me the shape of it, and the smell, and then I asked her what colour it was and she said, “pink, maybe? I think it’s pink.” And that’s when it clicked.
She was blind.
She called us to have these long conversations about our products because we could give her information about them that she couldn’t otherwise access. Running our website through text-to-speech would give her a salesy product description and a list of ingredients, but that was about it – and without already knowing what she was searching for, our catalogue section was just an endless list of completely unhelpful product titles. So, instead, she called.
I had the good fortune to pick up her calls on about three or four occasions during my time at that job, and even this many years after leaving they’re still the ones I remember best. It was an opportunity to go above and beyond to help a customer, and it made my day as much as it made hers.
Wherever you are, Brenda, I hope your skin is hydrated and your hair smells like peppermint.