First night, first impressions…

Traveled to the worksite for the first time tonight. My first thought as the cab driver turned down the narrow dirt road leading to the call center was “Oh, so this is what it feels like just before you get beheaded by the Taliban.” It’s the middle of the night, and I’m being driven down an unlit and badly potholed road to a nondescript building with a lot of young men milling around in the street outside. The driver drops me off without any info as to where I’m supposed to go. I squeeze through a gate and walk toward what looks like a guard outbuilding. I mention my company name, and the name of the person I’m supposed to meet, and I see a spark of recognition in the guard’s face. A few minutes later my contact emerges from another building nearby.

The building is like every call center I’ve been to. Lots of charts and stats on every surface. Motivational posters. Incentive billboards emphasizing concepts like teamwork and integrity. I go to the call floor and it’s like any other cube farm. I’ve heard tales of a Dickensian nightmare, and it’s not quite that bad. The only thing that I can say in criticism is that the management often have a barking tone when addressing subordinates. When it’s time to get on the phones, everyone knows it. They are told specifically to get on the phones, right now. Do not stop off for a break. Get on the phone. Now. Sign in. Take calls.

I haven’t had dinner so they ask if I’d like pizza. Like you have to ask. They order up a non-veg, which I guess is the Indian way of saying “SUPER SUPREME”. It’s from Dominoes. I can’t choke down Dominoes stateside if you put a bootheel to the back of my neck. This pizza is freaking awesome. It’s spicy, piled with fantastic ingredients and the crust is actually a perfect blend of crispy and chewy. I’ve never had a Dominoes pizza in the states that’s worthy of the dried cheese in this one’s leftover box. It’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it was a pleasant surprise. I eat about half of it (it was a small personal pizza) before the manager asks, “Do you like Indian food?”  I say “Um, hell yes I do!” So he agrees with a big smile to order a bunch of Indian for the next few days. I emphasize that I love spicy food and that I’m pretty adventurous. The gauntlet has been thrown. No Delhi belly symptoms so far, fingers crossed.

On to the training room. Morale is low. It’s a tough job. It was tough when I did it years ago, and I didn’t have to contend with cultural and language issues. I answer a lot of questions, crack a few jokes. I try to give the company a human face. I tell them I’m there to make their jobs easier. I ask them what they need. I give them answers when I can, and promise to find answers when I don’t know. I struggle to keep up with all the feedback they’re giving. I conduct two sessions. Both have the same issues, complaints and concerns. This is good. At least there’s consensus. They’re engaged, and all the agents nod when one of them brings up an issue.

Tomorrow I’ll bring more structure to the discussion. I’m starting to formulate some plans to take back home. Many of these things were suggestions before. I’m going to make them non-optional. They’re on the opposite side of the world doing a thankless job in the middle of the night. The least I can do is give them the tools they’re asking for.

We talk a little about audio and I find the audio geek in the room. There’s always one. He’s very excited about the audio products and wants to learn more. Unfortunately time is up and I have a cab waiting. I’ll have to make some time to talk shop with him in the next few days.

The drive back to the hotel is uneventful. The hotel is gated at night with an artfully disguised plate-steel welded aperture. We pull the cab forward and stop while the guard inspects the trunk with a flashlight. They’re taking security seriously. I go through the metal detector and pat-down again on the way back into the hotel. Handlebar moustache guy welcomes me again. Everyone in the hotel is extremely polite, down to the last person buffing the floors. I feel for my kidneys. Yep, still there.


1 Response to “First night, first impressions…”

  1. 1 Dad
    February 10, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Chad…enjoying your writings…very interesting. I’m keeping up every day…. Funny thing is that you are talking about the things that would have interested me as well. My mind may be a bit smaller and slower, but I think we are generally on the same track. Gee…I hope that doesn’t depress you too much. Well, you just keep yourself safe and do your best in a pretty impossible situation. I hope you enjoy it a little bit and that you learn something you can carry forward and make use of in your life someday.

    Love ya….Dad

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