The Customer Service Survey

Call Center as Art

by Peter Leppik on Mon, 2008-07-28 01:00

"Call Cutta in a Box" bills itself as a play where the "audience" of one interacts with a call center agent in India. Performance Art might be a better term than "play," but it sounds intriguing. Instead of going to a theater, you go to a nondescript office where the phone is ringing as you arrive. On the other end is an actual call center agent on the other side of the world with an eerie connection to the room you're in:

She says she almost forgot to ask if I wanted some tea. She says whenever you are in someone's home in India you are offered either coffee or tea, and she would like to make me tea. It seems rude to say no. I hear a small click and a red light alerts me to an instant hot-water-heater on a tray with a mug, some sugar and condensed milk, and teabags. Sunayana says to pay attention to when the water boils and then to pour the tea.

It sounds like a fascinating experience, and a way to build bridges to the often-maligned people who are often the face of large companies today. It's easy to forget (when angry about the customer service treatment you're getting) that the voice on the other end of the phone is a person, too, who also has hopes and dreams, professional pride, and a family to feed--and who is most likely working under unreasonable demands.

There's also a blog written by some of the call center agents taking part in the project, and the website of the artists organizing it. No shows are currently planned in the United States, but if it ever comes to Minneapolis I'll be there.

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