Conference Call

Recently my wife started doing customer service consulting work at a major airline. Naturally she has quickly had to pick up the company’s approach to it: good and bad. Yesterday, she shared with me some “highlights” from a Friday phone-in, in which staff from locations around the world addressed operational problems over the previous 24 hours and how they were/are handled.

That staff is understandably a varied, international bunch. A “Giuseppe” called in from Italy. “He sounded like you would expect,” she said.

A South African in Cape Town spoke a million miles an hour, she noted. Over what was at times also a poor phone connection, she said she had some trouble understanding him. “I had to keep asking him to repeat himself.”

And there was a guy in Mumbai (Bombay). “They handle mostly email and web inquiries there,” she told me.

It’s actually fascinating, she says. In just a few days so far, she’s learned a great deal about the internals of how an airline functions in customer service terms.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a business man sitting in an airplane.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a business man sitting in an airplane.

One example: there’s a cabin service trolley in the office. On it, new food is “tested” to see how it will fit inside a trolley in terms of storage before cabin crew have to deal with it face to face with passengers in a cramped aisle at 35,000 feet. (“No, no, that chocolate bar is the wrong dimensions.”)

She joked she’s also even picked up the company codeword for when the French go on strike French airspace is temporarily disrupted.

That was because, during that conference call, she said, a Valérie at the Paris office informed them about French airport issues. I realized immediately my wife had held that one back until the very end of her summation. The reason was obvious: she wanted to have some fun at my expense.

The Seine, Paris, France. [Photo by me, 1994.]
The Seine, Paris, France. [Photo by me, 1994.]

She relayed to me how at one point Valérie explained (and you must say this in a French accent), “The president and the prime minister, ah, they won’t speak to the unions.”

“Usually,” I replied, trying to be serious and not admit I had caught her tweak at me, “when it comes down to the unions vs. a prime minister in France, the prime minister loses.”

Smiling, she added in her normal voice, “Oh, yes, and Valérie sounds exactly like you’d like her.”

“Okay, okay,” I laughed.

In case you don’t know, a “Valérie” is a pretty important character in my first three novels.

Oui,” she added with a flair, moving on in her verbal impersonation of the airline’s Valérie, “they are blockading of Nantes, but it is not a problem, I’m sure. The emergency flights, they can still land….”

Smart aleck. I receive that sort of kidding treatment from her from time to time. But that’s what you get – and probably deserve – for letting your spouse read your books. 😉

Hope you’re having a good weekend, wherever you are in the world, and especially if you have to fly. 🙂