Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Call Center Chaos

Asking me what it’s like to work Telis is the equivalent of asking someone how it feels to get a bikini wax. While they are searching for a tasteful way to tell you about the excruciating pain of feeling like someone set you on fire and then told you they had to do it again to even things out (“On a scale from 1-10, with childbirth being a 10…”) there is simply no way to convey what Telis workers go through. Many of our calls are straightforward, pleasant transactions with nice people who are happy to have a live person on the line and are easy to help. There are the people who want answers to crossword puzzles, need you to settle a bet between them and their spouse, want an audio edition of an older popular title...

And then there are the other calls.

Everyone gets the other calls. People who are upset that we don’t do court appointed community service, provide fax machines, proctor tests or give foot rubs.

I made the following other call up.

(In other words, don't write me letters.)

It’s completely fabricated, melding several common Telis situations, yet it so matches the calls we routinely get so much, a co-worker didn’t know the difference. When I showed it to him he said, “I got that person on Saturday. They must have called back.”

No, they didn't.

If only it were one person...

Here it goes:

Me: “Good (morning/afternoon/evening), Sacramento Public Library, may I help you?”
Them: “Yeah, what are your hours today?”
Me: “Which particular library branch do you need the hours for?”
Them: “Your branch.”
Me: “This is telephone reference. We answer all calls for all branches in the Sacramento Public Library System. I need a name of the branch you’re looking for.”
Them: “I need the hours for the Sacramento Public Library.”
Me: “That’s the name of our system, not a library branch. I need the name of an individual library.”
Them: “I need the one on the corner.”
Me: “Which corner would that be?”
Them: “Your corner.”
Me: “What’s the name of the street?”
Them: “I don’t know. I think there’s a McDonald’s and then you turn the corner and go down a few blocks and it’s right there.”
Me: “Sir, there are about 60 McDonald’s in Sacramento County. I need a more exact location. What part of town are you talking about?”
Them: “You know the one I’m talking about.”
Me: “Actually I don’t. Can you remember the street name at all? Is it by a mall or in a high school?”
Them: “Never mind…Know what, I’ll just go to something downtown.”
Me: “There are three downtown branches, Central, McKinley, and McClatchy. However, all of them are closed on Mondays.”
Them: “Closed on Mondays? That’s ridiculous. I went to the big one a few months ago and it was open on a Monday. When did it start closing on Mondays?”
Me: “Central Library hasn’t been open on Mondays for about 5 or 6 years.”
Them: “Oh. Well, I need this book like now.”
Me: “If you give me the title of the book I can look it up, see where it’s located, and have it sent over to the library of your choosing.”
Them: “That will work. I have the ISBN.”
Me: “Hmm…I’m not seeing this. Is this a textbook?”
Them: “Yes. I need it for class.”
Me: “While we have the occasional textbook in our system, we do not purchase them.”
Them: “Why not? I need it.”
Me: "We do not carry it. What’s the name of the book?”
Them: “Calculus and Analytical Geometry, 9th edition.”
Me: “We don’t have the 9th edition. The only one I see is the 6th.”
Them: “Well how do you expect me to get the 9th edition?”
Me: “Usually your campus textbook store will carry the item if it was assigned by your professor.”
Them: “You want me to buy the book? Do you know how much that would cost me? It’s $160!”
Me: “Amazon has a used copy available for $8.29.”
Them: “I’m not buying it. Where’s the old edition at?”
Me: “Okay, the computer shows the book you want is at the Norman R. Siefkin Library in Folsom.”
Them: “Never heard of it. What town is that in?”
Me: “Folsom.”
Them: “So it’s not the one on Folsom?”
Me: “No, the one on Folsom Blvd is Rancho Cordova, which is closed for renovations. Norman R. Siefkin is in Folsom. But I can have it sent over to one of the open Sacramento Public Library branches if you give me your library card number.”
Them: “Can I have it sent to the one on Folsom?”
Me: “No, Rancho Cordova Library is closed for renovations.”
Them: “But I was just there are few days ago and it was open.”
Me: “It’s been closed for several months; however, I can have it sent to a nearby branch such as Arden or Arcade.”
Them: “Have it sent to Arcade.”
Me: “Yes, if I can please have your library card number I can have it sent over.”
Them: “I don’t have my library card on me. Can you look it up by name?”
Me: “Sure. What’s your name?”
Them: “J. Williams. J is my first initial.”
Me: “I’m going to need more information.”
Them: “The last guy looked it up by my name.”
Me: “Sir, there are over 509 entries for J. Williams in this system. May I please have your phone number starting with area code?”
Them: “I don’t like to give out my phone number.”
Me: “Sir, your phone number was entered into the system when you applied for a card.”
Them: “How about I give you my social?”
Me: “Uh, we don’t use social security numbers. What’s your phone number starting with area code?”
Them: “000-867-5309.”
Me: “I don’t see that number in the system.”
Them: “Try 000-634-5789.”
Me: “The record is pulling up…Mr. Williams, it says here you owe us $465.”
Them: “For what?”
Me: “Apparently you have 15 items you never returned, plus a collection agency fee of $10 added onto that amount, plus late fees for 12 other items---”
Them: “You have to understand, my stepfather’s half-sister’s cousin was in the hospital and my hamster died, so I wasn’t able to get to the library.”
Me: “According to our records the items were due 9 months ago.”
Them: “I’ve been busy. But if you’ll let me check out this one book I promise to bring the others back.”
Me: “Your account fines have to be under $5 for you to check anything out.”
Them: “Maybe we can work out a deal.”
Me: “A deal?”
Them: “You know, I only pay part of that amount.”
Me: “But you still have our materials.”
Them: “Yeah, they’re around here somewhere.”
Me: “You may speak with an individual branch about making a deal on the late fines, but we need our materials back before we start any type of negotiations.”
Them: “I’ll return the things if you waive the fines.”
Me: “That’s not how things work. We also need to see what condition the items are in.”
Them: “Look, I was using them for school.”
Me: “You were using Scarface, 300, The Complete 5th Season of the-X Files, The Godfather DVD Collection, Alien vs. Predator, Cosmo Kama Sutra, Purple Panties, Sublime, Icky Thump, Zodiac, The DaVinci Code, Enter the Matrix Official Strategy Guide, Twilight, The Essential Bob Dylan and The Joy of Sex for school?”
Them: “Yes.”
Me: “Really?”
Them: “Yes.”
Me: “I don’t know what school you attend, but the semester we’re discussing should have ended in four months, meaning you could have returned them five months ago. We would like our things back.”
Them: “I don’t have time to bring them back. And it’s your fault for not reminding me when the books were due.”
Me: “My fault?”
Them: “Yeah, you should have sent me an e-mail.”
Me: “Sir, when you signed up for a card you acknowledged you understood the checkout period was 21 days. When you checked something out you received a receipt listing the item due dates. Receiving an e-mail is a courtesy, and when you didn’t return the materials on time, you received several notices before we billed you for the items.”
Them: “Oh. Then I want to use my wife’s card. Can you look up her card number?”
Me: “According to this there are no cards linked with your account.”
Them: “What does that mean?”
Me: “It means we cannot give you information on anyone else’s account, nor may you use their card.”
Them: “But she’s my wife!”
Me: “Is she home? If I can speak with her and her account is in good standing she may check this item out.”
Them: “She’s not here. How about I use my kids’ cards?”
Me: “Sir your account is not connected with their accounts either.”
Them: “But they’re my kids! You’re telling me I can’t check out things on the account I signed for?”
Me: “You signed them up for their own accounts for their use. If you return our materials in good shape and speak with staff there they can work out a payment plan and get you this book as soon as possible.”
Them: “I don’t want a payment plan.”
Me: “I have to take the next call. If you have any other questions---”
Them: “You’re hanging up on me?”
Me: “Your time is up and there are people waiting in the queue for us to answer their calls.” Them: “I want to speak to a branch. What’s Arcade’s phone number?”
Me: “Those numbers are not available to the public. We take all calls for all branches, including Arcade.”
Them: “You won’t give me their number?”
Me: “No, sir. We transfer calls on a need basis if we cannot answer the questions here.”
Them: “I have a question.”
Me: “What is your question, sir?”
Them: “My question is for them.”
Me: “We have to take your question before transferring calls to them to make sure it is not something we can answer.”
Them: “Do you know who pays your salary?”
Me: “I’m hanging up now.”

To be continued...

BTW, I saw this video and had to add it. I enforce a strict dress code policy in Kids' Place and have kicked teens out who repeatedly wear sagging clothes. Now I think I'm just going to yell, "Pants on the ground! Pants on the ground!" while security drags them away.


  1. I have to say that, having spent endless hours in TELIS myself, your mashup of "those other calls" is frighteningly ingenious!

  2. You really should warn people - the snorting on the reference desk is gonna get me in trouble.