Manoj counted the Transportation forms he had collected from the trainees. There were fifty-five of them. That was the number given by the recruiting centre at Madivala. It meant that everyone who was to join today has turned up. It is rare. Usually some decide not to join.
“Everyone has come. We can start.” Manoj whispered to Kris.
Kris nodded and looked at the clock. The time was 10:15, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.
Kris picked up the collar-mike from the table, clipped the microphone on his shirt-front and fastened its battery-operated transmitter to his belt, and switched it on. Meanwhile Manoj opened the cupboard, switched on the receiver and amplifier and nodded to Kris.
“Good Morning.” Kris listened. The volume was perfect. The light chatter in the room died down and heads turned toward him.
“Good Morning and Welcome to FirstGlobal,” Kris said in a clear voice.
The response was feeble and scattered.
“Many of you didn’t have your breakfast. Am I right?”
Some groaned ‘yes’.
“I will take a few minutes only and then you can have your breakfast. Can you wait that long?”
“Yes, sir.” This time the response was lively. The thought that the breakfast was close at hand did the trick.
“Let me introduce us both.” Pointing to Manoj, Kris said, “This is Manoj from HR.” Manoj waved his hand and said “Hi!”
“I’m Kris, from the Training Department. Here, in this part of the world, we are all on first names. Your President is Manish Mathur and you will call him ‘Manish. ‘Sir’, ‘Ma’am’, ‘Mister’, ‘Miss’, these are all prohibited. So, I am Kris to you, and he is Manoj. Got it?”
‘Yes, Kris.” There were a few ‘yes-sirs’ also. It was natural on first days. People just out of college are more used to sirs and ma’ams, and need time to switch to first names.
“Once again, hearty welcome to FirstGlobal. This is one company you will never regret joining. Going forward, some of you might move on. Can’t help it, this is the BPO sector; people keep jumping from one company to another. But if ever you do, you will still have fond memories about FirstGlobal, I guarantee it.”
Companies in the BPO sector have a very high rate of attrition. Nearly half the staff quit every year. FirstGlobal was not an exception. Still, FirstGlobal had been voted the ‘Most Liked Employer’ in the two preceding years.
“Any idea what your job is going to be?”
“Customer service.” The answer came from several corners.
“That’s right. You are all going to serve customers. The Americans, the British, the Australians. They are all going to be your customers. Your trainers will tell you in detail how to serve them. One basic thing to remember always is to be polite to your customers. As politeness is the way of life here, you need to be polite to everyone here: your colleagues, your trainers, even to your subordinates. As a matter of fact, you will never find a superior yelling at you. No, never. Relieved?”
Some of them grinned. People hated being yelled at. It is certainly a relief to know that your superior will not yell at you. Rarely, though, the politeness would get mistaken for softness and indulgence. FirstGlobal would never compromise on certain principles. Anyone who transgressed those principles would be out of the company before he even realized what had hit him.
Now is not the time to intimidate them with all that. They have just joined the company. They will have to learn it the hard way.
“Now, the first step to being polite to someone is to greet him, or her,” Kris continued. “Say ‘Good Morning, Manish, ‘Good Afternoon, Kris’, and so on. Or say ‘Hello’. Or ‘Hi’, at least. All right?”
“All right, Kris.” There was unanimous assent.
“Now, coming back to your breakfast, it’s available in the cafeteria. The cafeteria is on this same floor, at its southern end. You can easily find it out. A word of caution: the security guard will not permit you to enter the cafeteria, if you are not wearing the ID. Do not be sore at the security guard. He has strict instructions and the company expects him to be rather merciless in enforcing the rules. Please do cooperate with the security guards.”
Complaints about security guards’ rude behaviour were frequent. What the complainants usually didn’t know was that every security guard and the entry point he guarded were all under 24 hour-surveillance and the video recordings were preserved for six months. Every complaint would trigger a review of the surveillance records. Often, the complaints turned out to be baseless.
“Is there anyone who is not wearing the ID?”
Most of them raised their IDs for a display. ID was the first thing each trainee got as soon as he or she reported at the Recruiting Centre at Madiwala and well before getting transported to the main centre at Whitefield.
“There are two counters serving breakfast.” Kris resumed. “One of them is vegetarian while the other is non-veg. Another counter serves juice and fruits, exclusively. There is also a Coffee Day stall that sells sweets and pastry. You will have to pay for whatever you buy. But, how will you make the payment?”
“Food coupons…?” someone suggested. A few of them had already heard of food coupons.
“Yes. Food coupons will be given to you tomorrow. Until then, you need to pay in cash. All the counters will accept both food coupons and cash. Questions?
There was none. He continued. “There are a few machines in the cafeteria; you can get tea and coffee from them, free of cost. Just place a cup under its tap and jab the button, down comes teeming hot coffee or tea. At the extreme end of the cafeteria, there is a counter that gives you milk, badam-milk, boost and horlicks. Free of cost, again. You can have it any number of times.”
People grinned happily. But the fact was, very few people used to visit that counter. Boost, horlicks, and milk were not the favourite drinks of the youth even when offered freely. Most of them preferred the costly Coke and Pepsi.
(The story continues to the next part)
The story and its characters are all purely imaginary.
‘BPO’ stands for Business Process Outsourcing.
The old name of ‘Bengaluru’ was ‘Bangalore’.
In the story, ‘FirstGlobal’, an imaginary BPO, is situated at Bengaluru.
“Kris” can be the short for ‘Krishnan’, a common male name in South India.