A while ago, I had to take phone calls for a new product that the company was working on. The customers would purchase the card and then call in to register the information. It’s bad enough that I can barely understand them because of their accent but they make it ever heard by saying things differently. Having been living in Canada for the past twenty years, I’m use to hear things said a certain way. When I hear it said a different way, I stop and scratch my head.
Most of the callers had a really thick accent. The phone that I was talking on didn’t have a button that allowed me to adjust the volume so I had to cover the other ear with my free hand. That didn’t help much because phone’s ear piece was very uncomfortable to use. I ended up switching from ear to ear during every call. I was on the phone for about half an hour and already my ears were starting to burn. It’s too bad the phone didn’t have a speaker phone option. That would have made things a bit easier.
When the customers call in to give their information, I have to enter that information into the computers. The phone is hurting my ear now so I have to tilt my head so I can press the phone against my shoulder because I need my hands had to do the typing. The other ear is free and there’s outside noise coming that ear and thick, hard to understand accent coming in the other ear. I tried my best to take down the information but the customer wasn’t helping.
First, I would ask for a number that is located at the back of the card. They would have to scratch that gray coloured material off in order to read it. After they give me that number, I look it up in the Excel file to see if there is a match. If there isn’t a match, I become suspicious of a fraud attempt but that’s unlikely. That number has a matching Agent ID number which I need because I have to set up the account that particular agent. Then comes the part where I take down their information.
Some of the callers immediately assume that I speak Urdu because at the beginning of the call they would say, “Assalam Alaikum!” But I had initially started the call by saying “Hello” in English. The next thing they do is speak to me in Urdu so I have to inform them that I don’t speak Urdu. I don’t know where they got that impression from. If I spoke the language, I would have greeted them in Urdu and not in English. Language barriers are always fun.
I’ll ask the customer for their names first and address after. I always end up asking for their names three or four times because I don’t hear right the first time. The second time, I’m concentrating on their first name. The third time, I’m listening in for their last time. And the last time, I just ask them to spell it out. I’ll get some customers that will give me their name once and I’ll say it back to them, totally wrong. They would correct me and then say nothing else. If I got it totally wrong, not just wrong but totally wrong the first time, I don’t think I’m going to be able to spell it the second time. I have to ask them for the spelling because they won’t take the initiative to give me the proper spelling.
Next, I ask them for their address. This part is even worse since it’s a mix of words and numbers. Sometimes I can’t tell when one ends and the next starts. I’m use to hearing the address given out so that the unit number comes first, followed by the street name and finally an apartment number if one is required. These callers don’t do that. I’ll hear two, sometimes three sets or numbers before a word. I’m assuming those numbers are the unit number and the word is the street name. It’ll be something like this:
Me: Okay, may I get your billing address please?
Caller: Yeah, it’s 2345 Eglington Avenue.
Me: Okay, 2345 Eglington Avenue.
Caller: No, no. It is 23 45 Eglington Avenue.
Me: Yes, that is what I have down.
Caller: Okay. 45 Eglington Avenue. Apt. #23. You get my point?
Me: Not really, but I’ll make those changes now.
I had a problem hearing the street name too because of the way that customer said “Eglington.” I say “Eglington” normally with no emphasis on any of the syllables. This caller would say it “egLINGton” with an emphasis on “Ling” as to make it sound like two words. If I didn’t know any better, I would have assumed that he lived on “Egg Lington” avenue instead of “Eglington.” I would have said it back to him the way he said it to me and it would sound correct.
But it doesn’t stop there. Next, I get the city. This product was only available to the Greater Toronto Area but now it has expanded to cover Canada. But when it was just for the GTA, I would get mixed information. When I asked one caller what city he lived in, he gave me two cities.
Me: Okay and what city is that address in?
Caller: Etobicoke Toronto.
Me: Etobicoke, Ontario?
Caller: No, Etobicoke Toronto.
Me: Okay, I’ll put down Etobicoke. And what province?
Me: Okay, Etobicoke, Ontario. Fantastic!
Now comes the fun part where I get to decipher their phone numbers. I’m expecting the caller to give me the area code followed by the exchange and then the extension. If you’re not familiar with the parts of the phone number then you won’t know what I’ve just said. The first three digits is the area code, everyone knows that. The next three digits are called the exchange. The last four are called the extension. This week alone, I’ve heard people say a lot of different variations of phone numbers. I always thought that there was a standard way of saying it but I guess there isn’t. You can say it whichever way you want. Let’s say that the number was 905-541-5690. Here’s the different ways you can say this number. Pay attention to the commas because that’s where the caller pauses.
Customer #1: nine oh five, five forty one, fifty six ninety.
Customer #2: nine oh five, five four one, five six ninety.
Customer #3: nine oh five, five hundred forty one, fifty six nine oh.
Customer #4: nine oh five, five four, one five six, nine oh.
Customer #5: nine oh five five, four one five six nine, oh.
After hearing the customers say these numbers, sometimes I end up typing more than ten digits. Phone numbers are given out so that it up breaks up into a recognizable pattern, nine oh five, five four one, five six nine oh. If you start out by saying each digit individually then you continue saying them individually. Customer #3 might as well say, “Nine billion, fifty five million, four hundred fifteen thousand, six hundred ninety.” It’s a good thing he didn’t because he would have lost me at nine billion.