I used to work in VConnect. And when I told anyone the name of where I worked, the reactions I got were invariably the same. A furrow between the brows, a narrowing of the eyes, and the question “What is VConnect?” Some others asked, “What telecom company is that?” One other person even asked, in exasperation, “So that’s the new name Airtel has changed to?”
The answer is no. Airtel is still Airtel, and it isn’t a new telecom company. Oh what the heck! I may not work there anymore, but let me just do free advertizing for them. After all, it is important for an appreciation of my gist that you understand what VConnect is about. It’s more or less an online yellow pages. An internet address book for Nigerian establishments, if you may. You looking for some place to shop, you’re new in town and looking for a hotel to crash in, you’re casing your new neighbourhood for a school to take your children to, or you’re trying to locate the address to that spa place someone once told you about – you just log onto VConnect.com, type in what you’re looking for and Voila! There it is.
Now, you open up the website and you see all the pretty web designs and go clickity-click on the tabs and find all the things you’re looking for, and somehow you think it all came together by magic.
I could fly into an indignant oration, telling you about all the people that contribute to the upkeep of what you, the site visitor, would be enjoying. But I’m anxious to get to the punch line of my gist. I will however tell you about the department where I worked. You see, I worked as a Call Centre Operative. No, it’s not the MTN-phone-centre-ish kind, where you call and a courteous female answers, “Hello, my name is Jumoke. How may I help you – yada yada yada…” My job was to call out, not receive calls. You see, VConnect has field agents who comb all the states of Nigeria for new establishments springing up here and there, and they get the data – which comprise of the name of the business and number of the business owner – and input them into the database. Then I and a team of other call centre operatives in turn call these numbers to verify the information the field agents have inputted, also asking questions about some other details required to create a profile for that business on the site. So you’ll find us calling all sorts – banks, hospitals, supermarkets, hair salons, cyber cafes, business centres, retail shops – you get the picture.
And these people – these business owners – are often times not the very easiest people to deal with. I’m telling ya. With this job, I realized that there are a million different temperaments in this world, and most of them are not pretty. You should probably know that, as a call centre operative, we are required to be polite, soft spoken, full of courteous words, smiling as we talk and, in other words, swallowing every bullshit dished out to us by the customer we’re talking to. And that is tougher than expecting a dumb blonde to solve a tricky Maths problem. It’s a frequent battle to rein in your temper when you’re talking to an irascible customer, knowing full well that every call you make is being taped and monitored by the snoop department.
And so, for comic relief, I did my best to jot down some of the very memorable conversations I had, ones which I remembered at the end of the day and couldn’t help but laugh over. Those conversations are what I’m about to entertain you with.
Me̥ on the phone at work: So madam, what’s your business about?
Customer: How is it consining to you?
Me: Ma, it’s so we can update our database –
Customer: How is it consining to you?!
Me: Ma, your registration has to be comple –
Customer (now enraged): HOW IS IT CONSINING TO YOU!
Me: Madam – (dial tone) Hello? Hello?
And then another day…
Me: Good morning
Customer: Good morning, who am I speaking to?
Me: My name is Walter, and I’m calling from VConnect. Am I through to Sugar Connection?
Customer: Yes. Are you a customer?
Me: No sir. I’m calling to verify the details –
Customer: Because we provide the sweetest sugar mummies in Abuja.
Me (flushing): No, sir. I just want –
Customer: So if you want a sugar mommy, just email us your details
Me: Sir, you don’t understand –
Customer: Your age, marital status, occupation, what you’re into and the kind of sugar mommy you’re looking for…
Me (exasperated): I’m not calling –
Customer: We deliver in under 24 hours.
Me: Sir – (dial tone)
Yet, another day…
Me: So, sir, what are your operation hours?
Me: Your working hours, sir…
Customer: Oh, I work 24/7
Me: No, sir, I meant when you are open for business…
Customer (pompously): That is what I told you nah. I work 24 hours.
Me: Sir, I’m talking about when you’re available to customers…
Customer: See problem oh. I’ve told you. 24 hours, everyday.
Me (heavy sigh of exasperation): Okay, sir, when do you open your shop?
Customer: By 8 in the morning
Me: And when do you close your shop?
Customer: By 6 in the evening
Me: Do you work on Sundays?
Customer (indignant): Haba! No, nah! I’m a Christian! I go to church on Sundays…
24/7, ei? Some Nigerians and English sef… *shaking head*
And just when I thought I’d seen it all…
Me: Good morning, sir, my name is –
Customer: I bind you, in Jesus name! I cast and bind you into hell. No weapon fashioned against me will prosper! Holy Ghooooost Faya! I bind –
Me: (stunned) Sir, just a second –
Customer (furious): Get thee behind me, you agent of the darkness! I bind you! If you have come for me, tell them it’s not my time! In Jesus name, I bind and cast you to hell!
Me: Sir, I’m not the devil –
Customer: The Bible said the devil is a liar! You are a liar! And I bind and cast you! Perish in hell! You will not get me! If they sent you, tell them I’m covered by the blood of Jesus!
Me (exasperated): Sir, I’m just calling from VConnect –
Customer: You are calling from hell! Otherwise why is your number zero-seven-zero, zero, zero, zero, zero…full of zeroes. I bind you –
Me (chuckling): Sir, that is just –
Customer (further incensed): You, devil, you are laughing at me! My Jesus will protect me from your demonic attack! I bind you! I cast you! No weapon fashioned against me shall –
And I hung up the call. Imagine the nonsense! I hope VConnect has religious insurance, because someone binding me to hell is not my idea of a day’s job.
And that is the definition of my job – well, the job I once had. There are lots of other episodes, but my lawyer just told me that I could get sued for revealing too much to ya’ll my beautiful readers. So I suppose that’s it for now.