*This post is from a chapter in my upcoming book “Less Talk, More Action! Lessons Learned from My Awesome – Yet Imperfect – Life” – I hope you enjoy it! David
As I’ve been diligently working on my book the past four months something has become abundantly clear to me, and it’s this: That a major key to success is that we treat all people – regardless of who they are – with kindness and respect at all times. That’s a no-brainer, right?
Or is it? Let’s test this theory out:
It’s 6 p.m. on a Friday after work and we’ve just settled into a our well-worn corner of the couch. We’ve got dinner on our lap, a cold beer in one hand, the remote in the other, and we are all poised to pick up where we left of on that Netflix series we turned off at 12:15 am last night shortly after we realized that today was actually a workday…
“Oh well”, we muse, “Who cares? It’s the weekend now!” we proudly announce to ourselves.
Suddenly, the phone rings – and not wanting to miss an important call, we unload dinner off our lap, put down the remote and reach over and answer the phone, only to hear an thinly veiled Indian accent say something like “Hello? Is this Mr. Ronald Smith?”
In this instant we realize we’ve got a telemarketer on the line, and that they’ve just interrupted the start of our perfect Friday evening! And because of this insidious intrusion into our sacred space, we’re going to make sure they know EXACTLY how we feel about this major injustice they’ve perpetrated upon our otherwise perfect night. And so feeling powerful and justified in our anger, we rage away on them… sound familiar?
Yes, let’s talk about how we – Westerners – treat THOSE guys – telemarketers.
For many folks, these unsolicited calls are viewed as free passes to hurl abuse at some faceless stranger who – despite their best efforts to conceal their accent – we know is calling from a different time zone, and from a country far, far away.
But does the bad timing of their calls or the mere fact they are trying to sell something give any of us the right to be rude to them? Yell at them? Hang up on them? Berate and swear at them? Say stupid things to them like “Tell you what; you give me your number and I’ll call you at dinner tomorrow to see how you like it”? I don’t think so.
But yet, so many (okay, most) people do this, and you know why? It’s because they are ignorant to the realities of what life is like for people on the other end of the phone. They only see life through their own lens, and it’s completely distorted from reality. I’ll go as far as to say that if these same people were spoken to in this way at their own jobs they’d majorly lose their shit; how’s that for hypocrisy?
If these roles were reversed, most westerners wouldn’t last an hour taking the shit and abuse they are so keen to dish out to the individuals working in overseas call centers; not one hour! But because they were lucky enough to be born here and not there, they will never know this. Instead, many wield an air of superiority thinking this kind of verbal abuse towards another person is okay.
News Flash: It’s not.
Fact: In poorer countries like India, telemarketing (BPO) it is considered a premium job to have. This is because employment opportunities, standard of living etc. are nothing like what they are in our world. In fact, in 2014, 58% of the total population lived on less than $3.10 per day.
In other words, one day’s wages wouldn’t buy us a Big Mac or cup of coffee.
And because labor is so cheap western companies set up call centers in large cities like Delhi and Bombay, where thousands of nationals trek to from all over (including remote mountain villages and tiny coastal fishing towns) to try and get work at a BPO. Sources say over a million people per year apply for this kind of work, so as you can imagine, the competition for these jobs is fierce and the expectations high.
Applicants are usually high achieving college graduates who, if accepted, never even get the opportunity to use their hard-earned academic knowledge; not one bit.
No, instead – using flashcards and accent tapes – successful candidates are given up to three weeks of “culture training” to help them sound more relatable to Americans, Australians and Canadians while on the phone. This idea alone embarrasses me.
They also endure extensive product training to memorize the various features and benefits of whatever product they’ll be hawking at the time.
Successful candidates often have to pay for this training, something that leaves the more naïve and vulnerable of them open to being taken advantage by hucksters. In the end, most applicants don’t get hired, and many returning home even deeper in debt.
For those who do get the call-center jobs, it’s hardly a life of luxury – not by a long shot. Accommodations are often single rooms in threadbare hostels, and are shared amongst several people who (due to time differences) work different shifts around the clock.
Most people eat as little as possible so they can send money home to support family members; another cultural difference most westerners don’t care to understand.
Then there’s the job itself: The hours are ridiculously long, and spent in rooms that are usually just sweatshops pumping in round the clock air conditioning to stifle the heat and keep callers sounding alert.
Worse still is the pay: At the high end, BPO callers earn 20,000 rupees per month, or approximately $2 per hour, or $5,000 per year – but only if they last that long, which few do. In a country where per-capita income is about $900 per year, a BPO salary qualifies as middle-class. How does this stack up compared to the countries they are calling?
As of this writing (according to the Internet) middle class incomes are:
• Canada – $44,700 to $89,401
• America – $25,00 to $ 75,000
• Australia can’t seem to make up its mind what middle class is; no surprise there.
My point is this: Look where we live. Look where we work. Look at what we earn, and the lifestyles provided for us by those high wages. Yet most of us would consider a call-center job – the same middle class position staffed by bright college graduates in India – on the same level as a counter person at a fast food restaurant. (Not that there is anything wrong with that work; these people are also doing the best they can)
And there in lies the problem; when telemarketers call at dinner time, many folks don’t care who they are, what they’re lives are like, nor do they feel they need to– and that’s okay. Living a white-bread existence means most of us have never been exposed to the country, culture, or even a fraction of the hardships these callers face each day, so we can’t relate.
And while I haven’t lived it either, I have seen it firsthand – and it’s harsh.
Which is why I believe that just because telemarketers call at inconvenient times, it doesn’t give anyone the right to (a) act superior towards them, or (b) be rude and berate them for just trying to make a living the best way they can, and in the situation they are in.
To do so is a very ugly trait, one that demonstrates an absolute ignorance of what’s going on in the world and worse; it’s totally void of the kindness, love and compassion that we all should show towards other people, regardless of who they are or what time they call our homes trying to do their jobs. As mentioned earlier, most people are simply doing the best they can; both here, and abroad.
Now to be clear, what I’m NOT saying is that when we need to spend hours on the phone with telemarketers; nor am I saying we need to get into full-blown conversations whenever we order a Big Mac meal – not at all.
What I am saying is that we can always choose kindness, love and compassion in our communication when dealing with people, whether it’s declining an offer for upgraded service plans or if we got pickles on our burgers after we asked not to – That’s all.
When it comes to dealing with people – all people – we need to treat them the same way we want to be treated ourselves; just like our parents taught us all those years ago. This means choosing kindness, love and compassion over rudeness, sarcasm and bullying, each and every time.
Because when we do choose these, EVERYONE – including us – reap the benefits.
So, to answer to the question “Why We Should Always Be Nice To Telemarketers”, it’s because they are people – plain and simple. What else do we need than that?
Here are three great ways to begin:
- Be patient with all people, no matter how inconvenient their actions may appear at the time
- Understand that we don’t know their storiesRather than judging, take time to learn about people’s circumstances
- Create personal success by always choosing kindness, love and compassion