Sunday, January 21, 2007

Scary Secretary

To: Useless Secretary at Photo Centre HQ
CC: All other secretaries in Oman
From: A potential customer

Dear unknown female-who-occasionally-answers-the-phone-except-when-no-one-answers-it,

Allow me to introduce myself, My name is Suburban and we've spoken on the phone three times a day for the last three weeks. I am hoping that eventually our little conversations will result in my being able to speak to someone from your audio visual rental department, as I hope to spend close to USD 10,000 on renting your fine equipment. Alas, my efforts are fruitless, as each and every time I call you inform me that whomever it is that handles these things "is not on his seat". Perhaps you should glue or staple him to it.

Being a receptionist, I assume you have access to paper and pens and could perhaps take a message, that you might later pass on to the person concerned. On the occasions you have deemed to take my message, it appears not to have gone through to the mystery AV man. Maybe you lost it, maybe you are too busy, maybe the concerned individual doesn't' actually work for Photocentre. I wouldn't have a clue, because you, in your depressed and dim-witted voice usually hang up on me before I can enquire.

Kindly find below the transcript of one recent call, and then my suggested script for a fantasy call where the receptionist might have a clue.

Actual call
Secretary: Allo?
Suburban: Is this Photo centre?
Secretary: Mmmm?
Suburban: I would like to speak to someone regarding A/V rental for an upcoming event
Secretary: What?
Suburban: I would like to rent speakers and sound equipment in march. Do you know who I could speak to?
Secretary: Yes
Suburban: Could I speak to them?
Secretary: He is Not on his seat
Suburban: Could you take a message?
Secretary: Maybe you call in one hour.
Suburban: You Can't take a message?
Secretary: Your name? Wait, Hang on.... (rummaging, clunks) OK your name?
Suburban: My name is Suburban, my number is 9923-4567
Secretary:OK, but he is not on his seat
Suburban: Maybe you could give the message to him when he is on his seat?
Secretary: (click, Buzzzzz)

Now, the fantasy conversation:

Secretary: Good afternoon, Photo Centre. This is Salma, how can I help you?
Suburban: I would like to speak to someone regarding A/V rental for an upcoming event
Secretary: I'm afraid Bob isn't available at the moment, would you like his Voice mail or may I take a message?
Suburban: That would be great thanks, My name is Suburban, my number is 9923-4567
Secretary: OK, let me repeat that- Suburban, number is 9923-4567, regarding AV equipment.
Suburban: Right.
Secretary: Great, I'll be sure he gets it. Would you like his mobile number?
Suburban: No thanks, I'm sure you'll pass the message to him, then he can call when he is in the office and can concentrate.
Secretary: ANything else I can help you with?
Suburban: No Thanks Salma, you've been great. Take care now.
Secretary:My pleasure Suburban, and thanks for calling.

See the difference? Print this off and practice it, and share it with all your secretary friends. Thankfully, I don't have to speak to you anymore, because I finally found the number for a colleague who put me in touch with MR. AV. It's been a pleasure to hear your dour and disappointed voice each day because it reminds me that somewhere there is someone unhappier and more useless than I could ever, ever, become.

Kindest Regards,

Suburban Muscat

I hate to pick on Photo Centre exclusively, as it's just as hard to get anyone to put you in touch with anyone who could actually help you. Just one of more than ten examples from the last three weeks- Suburban fans: Try the following homework assignment in your free time.

Assignment 1:
  1. Look up the number for the Crowne Plaza in the 2005 phone book
  2. Dial it, it's a fax machine
  3. Check on the Crowne Plaza international website. The number is wrong, but being local you'll figure it out.
  4. call the Crowne Plaza and ask to speak to banqueting, if you're lucky they'll connect you by the third try.
  5. the phone will ring through, eventually to a voicemail box, informing you that the user at extension xxx does not have a voice mail box.
  6. Get disconnected

This kind of pathetic disorganisation is rampant in business here. When I call a company as a customer, my first interaction with them is a reflection of the overall business's competency. YOUR RECEPTIONIST CREATES THE FIRST IMPRESSION A POTENTIAL CUSTOMER GETS. It shouldn't be so difficult to leave a message, or have receptionists who can direct you to the individual you need to speak with via email, voice mail, or good old fashioned paper and pencil.

End of Diatribe. I should really do some tangible work now. More from here in a few days.


Anonymous said...

Hey Suburban!

(have to repost this as last one didn’t make it through the website – I hate having to recreate a comment..)
Nice story. You capture the absurdity very well. As with many businesses in Oman, these sort of positions are seen as ‘not very skilled’ so the local Omani sponsor fills them with miscellaneous female relatives that have never had a real job anyhow, and correspondingly pays them nothing either. And how often does the MD call his own company?

But your tale is funny. What Oman needs is an edgy stand-up comedy club! You’d be a potential star. ‘Course, the really funny local comics [eg: “A funny thing happened while I was speaking with Allah this morning…”] would get taken out after the performance by some fundo, but that would just add to the tension. Oman needs a greater ability to laugh at itself.

And Oman is just filled with this sort of 121 live comedy performances by people who just don’t know how comic/ironic they are. From Lasmi on Oman FM mangling the English language, to the School Bus full of kids with no seat belts overtaking at lightspeed/cornering on two wheels with a ‘How’s my driving?’ sticker on the back. Or the ever popular ‘dash of death’ as someone in a dress and sandals attempts to sprint between 100km/hr cars on the motorway! A potential new event for the next Asian Games? THAT’S how Oman could win some medals!

Keep keeping it real Sub’. JP

Suburban said...

Thanks for the kind Comments JP, They are motivating and much appreciated. Do you have a Blog?

I'm laughing aloud over the “A funny thing happened while I was speaking with Allah this morning..." We could start a new sport, Extreme comedy. "coming at you from Riyadh, Baghdad, And Karachi, with a special sattelite telecast from Kabul, It's Extreme comedy Hour!" (Cut to pictures of comedians in flack jackets looking nervous)

I have an upcoming post in the works regarding Laksmi and the rest of the Oman FM crew. I sometimes fantasise about sending them fake press release filled with the words they can't pronounce. Just imagining it kills me.

Thanks again mate, and take care. -S

Anonymous said...

Great idea Suburban!

Perfect for Al Jazeera English if being at the cutting edge is really where they want to be - I presume that sort of thing would be OK in Qatar? There are a few Muslim stand-ups in the UK who probably need airtime. And the current establishment reaction to the terrorism must be creating opportunity for humour!


Anonymous said...

Good Jokes for the Oman Comedy Club

"I have to keep killing religious fanatics. God told me to."

"LOOK, relax, I'm a Muslim, but I'm an American Muslim. In fact, I consider myself a very patriotic Muslim, which means I would die for this country by blowing myself up inside of a Dunkin' Donuts."
"I have a cousin called Mohammed. When he’s in the UK he shortens his name to 'Don't shoot'"

"I'm a female Iranian stand-up - You might find it difficult to tell the difference between Iran and Iraq, We're the ones with weapons of mass destruction.

"My name is Shazia Mirza. At least that's what it says on my pilot's licence."