- The Whitlams - You Sound Like Louis Burdett
Several years ago, I was happy with my life. It was simple, but I quite liked it. I was glad to celebrate my birthday at bars on King Street with colleagues I considered friends. Now those colleagues are gone - as are their desks - and the bar has become a strip joint. Perhaps in an effort to regain the simpler times of call centre work, I agreed to participate in a charitable endeavour - taking calls collecting money as a part of a radiothon.
I'd been looking forward to a simple day of talking on the phone, but at the last moment, I noticed my name removed from the list of participants, and I was advised that rather than taking phone calls, I would be required to train staff for the role - exactly what I had hoped to avoid. So yesterday I attended a session with representatives from the charity in question.
The charity is discretely Christian on paper, and devotes most of the money they collect to financing surgeries to remove cataracts from the eyes of the poor the world over. The initial meeting with their representatives was overpopulated - they seemed to have sent not less than seven people to discuss the project for only an hour. The system to be used was a simple one to train, and the information provided on the organisation answered sufficiently to be deemed thorough without overlong. The scripting provided raised other concerns, making several references to God, most prominently concluding a donation transaction with the phrase, 'God bless you for your generosity.'
The team went through their intended session with the first group of volunteers, and, unsurprisingly, a question was asked of the 'Title' field. As well as the usual 'Mr.,' 'Mrs.,' 'Ms.,' and the like, there was also an option for 'Mr. & Mrs.' As if on cue, a participant asked, 'What if the couple aren't a Mr. and Mrs.?'
The facilitator agreed enthusiastically, noting that 'Some couples actually are something other than just "Mr. and Mrs." Sometimes you'll see couples who are known as "Doctor and Mrs.," "The Reverend and Mrs.," or "Seargent and Mrs.," and so on...'
She demonstrated how one could replace the stock 'Mr. and Mrs.' option with alternative couples, such as those listed. A further question arose, beyond the one I was thinking of about women with positions earning titles other than Mrs., of how one would proceed with a couple made up of a configuration other than man and woman. The facilitator didn't seem to understand. I vowed to address to inevitable question during my own session in a different fashion.
The question had not been fully addressed, but moved on from, when the 'God bless you...' scripting was raised. A couple of people raised that they weren't completely comfortable with this, which the facilitator acknowledged that she could understand this view. 'But just give it a try,' she stated. 'As you can see here,' she indicated the screen showing her presentation. 'It is listed as scripting, so you should read it as is, regardless of your view.'
I didn't think that forcing the quoting of that exact phrase was neccesary or grateful for the organisation, though did not vocally disagree, noting once again, that my training session would not focus on this slide (and, when it happened, I showed the slide in the presentation for mere seconds, without actually making mention of it.)
When it came to actually taking the calls, the day had been broken up into two batches. There was expected to be a morning rush, from 6am to 10am, when the company would be helping the charity, and another from 2pm to 8pm. Hilarity had ensued when the company requested volunteers for the two periods, and less people than anticipated (i.e., promised to the charity by the company) agreed to participate. I enjoyed watching the frantic scramble to employ temporary staff to take these calls for the evening session.
In the morning, it was, in fact, very busy. The calls came without break, and those taking calls - I managed to sneak onto the phones for a while as people needed breaks from the incessant demand - were surprised at the generosity of radio listeners. The same demand had been suggested for the evening shift, so, as well as the temporary staff who I would train in the hour before they started at 2pm, a further call was put to this company's staff to volunteer, and a few did, even returning from the 6am start to put in an extra-long shift that surely breaches workplace health and safety conventions.
After all of the needless panic in the lead up to the afternoon calls, I was delighted to witness a stark contrast to the peak of the morning's calls. It was several hours before any calls came to the temporary staff at all. When they did, there was a brief rush (evidently stemming from an announcement on air on the radio station) where they took donations and then... back to nothing. With people become restless, I prepared some of the activities used as state-change exercises in training to keep them occupied. Before long, though, a colleague who had also agreed to be involved, and who was liasing with the charity client, decided that enough was enough. He contacted a representative from the charity to propose ending the day due to lack of interest.
All the while, the organiser of the endeavour from this company was conspicuously absent, though was seen by me to be touting the exercise as an enormous success amongst various company executives.