UCU one-person call center opportunity to ‘witness for Christ’
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2018/11/ucu-one-person-call-center-opportunity-to-witness-for-christ/
By Patty Huston-Holm
Nestled among a sloping-down building bustling with students seeking financial information, an attached, sloping up classroom and, to the right, the large, open-air worship center is the Uganda Christian University (UCU) call center.
Arthur: “Uganda Christian University. Good morning. How may I help you?”
Female caller: “I would like to inquire…” She ran out of Airtel airtime. He tried to call her back, but the message said “caller busy.”
Good customer service
“They are surprised when I call them back,” Arthur, a UCU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, said. “But I try to do that. It’s good customer service.”
Often, Arthur’s voice is the first one that people hear at UCU. Sometimes, especially in the case of international callers, his is the only one they ever hear. Recognizing that people outside of Africa are from different time zones, he provides them his cell number in case they want to call back. He may take calls late into the night.
Since March 31, 2016, Arthur has been the call center. Before that, calls went to the Vice Chancellor’s office. Arthur recalls that first day of walking into his sparsely furnished office on the main/Mukono campus. He got some help to carry in a desk and chair. He got a computer and phone. The small musical keyboard next to the phone today is his – for stress-relief tapping when call center hours go late into the night.
Arthur describes himself as musician (gospel, jazz, blues singer and instrumentalist), communicator (member of UCU Communications and Marketing Department), information technician (program developer and documenter) and Christian. The book, “Confessions of a happy Christian,” by Zig Ziglar, is on his desk.
Humility, calmness, patience
“Arthur’s personality is a perfect match for his role. He is humble with a very calm demeanor, which suits his position given the different personalities of callers,” said Michael Mubangizi, manager for the Communications and Marketing Department and Arthur’s supervisor.
“People have a negative opinion of a call center,” Arthur said. “I see it as an opportunity to serve and be a witness for Christ.”
The job requires patience, especially when the caller is angry. It requires deep listening, including with a person on the line who is depressed and might need a scripture, a prayer or referral to counseling. It requires organization to track calls and find information for callers. It involves discernment, including figuring out “con artists” and unidentified members of the media looking to trip up somebody to get story information.
“I’ve fallen victim,” Arthur said, recalling a time when being scammed by a caller who said he was looking to award internships to UCU students. “I put him in contact with a friend. She said he wanted money from her for uniforms. This mistake cost my friend 100,000 shillings ($27).”
The center’s most frequent calls go from Arthur to “extensions 880 and 218,” admissions reception and the business program area, respectively. The busiest times are September, when the largest number of undergraduate students are admitted; February/March, when most law program admissions occur and S6 (high school graduation) marks come in; May, when creditor calls are frequent; and graduation weeks, when there are questions about fee deadlines, certificates, locations, dates and times. In 2018, there have been a lot of questions about the new UCU School of Medicine.
Arthur starts each call in English. He responds in English, Luganda, or Lumasaba, depending on the customer language origin. He can generally figure out languages he doesn’t know.
The loneliness of the job fits Arthur’s part-introvert, part-extrovert personality with the extrovert part satisfied when he exits his office to meet some of the callers on the Mukono campus and helps them find locations. He taps into his musician talent by changing his telephone response tones.
“Today, I’m speaking low,” he said. “Commanding my voice makes me a better singer.”
Arthur realizes his job isn’t for everyone. When he’s on leave, he understands that those filling in relish his return.
“You have to be really patient, handle yourself well, not lose your cool,” he said. “I find it rewarding, and a way to serve God.”
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