Friday, 4 November 2011

How the call centre man got his name

After a couple of weeks confined to the office sorting out all sorts of material for inclusion in our new walking pages, which are being updated throughout the winter, I have got used to the fact that many of the operatives who work in Indian based call centres call themselves by an English name when quite clearly they are not English.

I am also reliably informed that in order to help them better communicate with the people they are supposed to be selling to, call centre workers are shown English television programmes such as Eastenders. Not only do they watch, but they are encouraged to adopt the christian names of characters. Very often, if seems, a group of workers will be formed into a team, and everyone in that team will adopt the name of a character from the same television programme.

Clearly this may cause them more problems than they might think. If a guy calling himself "Alfie" rings you from Mumbai to try to persuade you to change power supplier he is hardly likely to inspire confidence, especially if a day earlier a woman called "Kat" also rang from the same company.

This week we have had three calls into our office from the same telesales team in India trying to persuade us to change our mobile phone contract. Nothing wrong in that, I suppose, and the people who rang were perfectly nice, hard working individuals. But I cannot help but feel that they may stand a better chance of success if they just introduced themselves by their own name. There is, after all, absolutely nothing wrong with being called Amir or Mallika, so why hide their own name in favour of John or Jenny. I for one would be far more likely to respond to someone calling themselves by their own name, or at least one that sounds like it could be their own name, rather than something that I am fairly certain has been adopted for the purpose of trying to gain my confidence, but which is quite clearly false.

The three calls to our office this week, all selling the same product,  are a good case in point. On Monday we were called by John, on Wednesday it was Virgil, and today we were called by a chap calling himself Parker. I could not resist engaging him in conversation with regard to his name and after a short while did indeed ascertain that he and the other members of his team have adopted names used by characters in "Thunderbirds". Which means that in all probability there is a guy  ringing people up to sell them a new mobile phone contract who is quite happy to tell you that his name is Brains and he can save you money on your mobile phone calls.

Any women on the team may also be in for a hard time when they introduce themselves. Penelope may well get away with it, but I for one cannot wait for the day when the person on the other end of the phone announces, "hello there, my name is Grandma."

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

It didn't turn out too bad after all!

OK, my aforementioned video complete with voice over has been on You Tube a while. Just in case you missed it, here it is.

All in all I am quite pleased with the outcome. OK, so it is a long way off being a Hollywood blockbuster. The camera shakes have not gone away and I have learned one very important lesson about that:- just because you use a tripod it does not mean that the camera will always be steady. Even so, practice makes perfect.

As for the dreaded voice over, well actually I am quite pleased with it. I only use basic equipment, so no audio compression or anything like that, but even so it has not come out too bad. As one reviewer has already told me, it is the words and how much enthusiasm you put into speaking them that is the most important thing.

So the decision has been made. It is out with the captions and in future all our videos will have a voice over, unless I decide that a bit of Mozart or the like is more appropriate.

I am just starting to look at Octobers calendar and work out which walks are worthy of being turned into a video. I don't have the time or resources to do it for each one, so a careful choice will need to be made. Up to press it is going to be Grasmere and three others, two short, and one longer.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Why do we hate the sound of our own voice?!!!!

I've just finished doing something that I have never done before. Recording a voice over for a video. You would think that would be an easy job, after all, all I had to do was talk for 6 and a half minutes. OK, so it is reading a script and I did get told off for not following the script and also for not putting enough emphasis into my voice, but even so it should have been a doddle.

Which begs a couple of questions:

1   Why did it take 1 hour and 45 minutes? It is not as though I am recording an album. Our recording equipment is basic to say the least, but the microphone works fine, the sound is being recorded digitally, so no hiss or anything like that. The thing was, try as I might I just could not seem to get the words out properly.

2   Why did doing it make me nervous? I've done public speaking. I've got up and made speeches and not had so much as a hint of nervousness. Never a stumble, totally flawless. And yet sit down in a room with headphones on and no one else there, and as soon as the little red light comes on I feel like a condemned man being led from his cell to the gallows. It is the last place I want to be, the butterflies in my stomach have turned to frogs, very active frogs, and I cannot hold the script without shaking. As for getting my words wrong, well we won't even go there!!!!

The answer to these questions is, I think, very simple. I hate the sound of my own voice. And the fact that it is being recorded, with every stutter and mistake being saved for posterity, just makes matters worse. I am not alone. I know lots of people who hate the sound of their own voice. Which is a tad irrational if you think about it. After all, we spend hours talking to others without thinking about how our own voices sound. Never once when holding a conversation with someone have I thought "I hope my voice sounds OK". I've adjusted the volume, or maybe put a bit of emphasis into what I was saying, or even added an accent for effect, but the overall general sound of my voice has never been a consideration for me.

The answer, I'm told, is to relax, be natural, forget that the voice is being recorded and just be yourself. I was told by my wife, she who guides me in all things and is seldom wrong, to think about it rather like I might think about going on a date. Don't be nervous, be natural, be yourself. That's all well and good, but it is 37 years since I last went on a date, and then I was too frightened to speak. Not that I told her that. I think she just thought I was a bit shy, although she's long since discovered that is not the case.

So I tried today, I really tried, to do a good job. The result I find slightly comical. My voice has a slightly over the top edge to it. In fact it sounds a bit false, like one of those fifties travel programs. Anyway,  judge for yourself, because the video is now on You Tube, and I've embedded it below. And depending upon the reaction I'll decide whether to do any more with voiceover, or stick to putting captions on the bottom of the footage.

Monday, 12 September 2011

I got Wainwright lost!!!!!

The Belsfield Hotel overlooks Bowness Bay, and is a place that looms large in my life. I met my wife in the Belsfield Hotel, whilst working there in the early seventies. I worked there for four years and during that time met a number of celebrities, including one Alfred Wainwright. Yes, that's right, THE Alfred Wainwright. Not only did I meet him, I managed to get him lost.

I don't know the exact date but it was sometime in the mid seventies. He was guest of honour at a Country Landowners Association luncheon, in fact, the CLA were presenting him with an award for his services to the countryside. As he approached the dining room he asked the head waiter what time the room was booked until. The head waiter, a very likeable Mancunian by the name of Brian, had never been asked a question like that before. He'd sometimes been asked what time a function was due to end, or what time the meal would be served, but never how long the room was booked.

Brian's answer was that the room was available all afternoon if they wanted it, to which AW replied, "I hope it doesn't go on that long, I was banking on an hour and a half at the most." And then he made his entrance. Brian turned to me and said "keep an eye on him, and make sure he's OK, I don't want him running off before the do ends."

To be honest AW was not as we had been led to believe. Once in the room he was quite open, chatting and laughing with his hosts, and he accepted his award with grace and made a short but amusing acceptance speech.

At the buffet table he was quite blunt, enquiring about whether the food had been "mucked about with" and opting for the Quiche Lorraine when told it contained nothing but eggs, milk, bacon and cheese. And after the buffet he actually came over and told us that he enjoyed it.

Towards the end of the function he came up to me and asked directions to the lavatory. Anyone who knows the layout of the Belsfield Hotel will be aware that from the dining room you head to the lounge, turn right, go straight past reception then on to the end and turn right again just before the stairs. The loos are on the left. So those were the directions I gave him.

A couple of minutes later I was in the kitchen when the housekeeper appeared,, followed by AW!. She guided him through the maze of chefs, out of the door that leads to the managers office, (or at least it did then, I am told that the kitchen layout changed in the eighties) and on to the toilets. Then she returned to speak to me.

AW had been on a bit of an adventure. He managed to get past reception, but instead of turning right and then left at the end of the corridor, he turned left, and then right. He then walked through a door to find himself in a conference room full of salespeople. The MD of the company running the conference was just giving his keynote speech and was no doubt surprised to find AW wandering in on proceedings.

One of the delegates put him right, but still AW did not reach the loos. He actually walked straight past them, through a door outside the managers office and ended up at the counter of the linen room, whereupon he was rescued by the housekeeper.

Needless to say, I got all the blame. AW chastised me for giving him the wrong directions, and then criticised the hotel for not having proper signs on the doors.

Anyway, if you pop into the Belsfield for one of their excellent meals, or book a break there, and go to the loo, remember that you are following in the footsteps of AW himself. Just try not to get lost!