Praying in the Call Center
I told you last time about my experiences praying about my work as a student and then as a professor. However, in the fall of 2000 I suddenly needed a day job. During the previous two school years I had been teaching full time at Xavier University in Cincinnati, but I was there only as a Visiting Assistant Professor, replacing tenured professors who were on sabbatical; my contract ran out and I was unable to secure an appointment at any other school for the fall season. Because my wife didn’t have a full-time job and our daughter was only a year old, I sought any kind of employment that would allow me to get insurance for my family. I had been a manager in a call center before graduate school, so that’s the kind of job I tried to obtain. After months of searching, I was offered an entry-level position in customer service at the call center of a local bank.
I knew nothing about banking. I had always left the financial side of things to my wife, who’s an accountant. But now I was forced to learn. Although we were given rigorous training over the course of a few weeks, I still felt I knew very little by the time I started taking customer calls. So here’s what I did: I kept up a running dialogue with God throughout the day. “Lord, I can’t remember which screen shows me pending debits”…. “What’s it called when an account’s inactive and we have to send the funds to the state? Oh yeah, escheatment. Thanks”…. “Lord, I don’t even understand this customer’s question. Can you help me?”
This was an extreme case, of course, because I had never felt so helpless in any job I had ever had. My ongoing dialogue with God was just my way of getting through the day. But it had an unexpected outcome. Although this was a living nightmare for me—ending up in a call center instead of at a university—it turned out to be an adventure. I soon realized that being a CSR (a customer service rep) gave me lots of opportunities to minister to people in concrete ways.
I spoke with a young man who was dazed from the recent death of his wife. He, too, had left the banking to his wife, and now, for his children’s sake, he had to learn how to manage his finances. I was able to assist him.
I spoke with an elderly man whose son had stolen his debit card and was using it at a casino. Even though I offered to put a block on the card, the old man hesitated. He told me about his rocky relationship with his son, and he said the money didn’t matter. He wondered whether he would ever be able to repair the relationship. I asked him, gently, whether he’d be serving that purpose by letting his son continue to steal from him.
I spoke with lots of people who were angry and frustrated about charges on their accounts. In some cases I discovered bank errors and corrected them. In other cases, I was able to educate the customers and show them how to avoid those errors in the future.
But through all of these discussions, I kept up that running dialogue: “Lord, what shall I say to this person? How can I help them?”
Before I had been there an entire twelve months, my department named me “CSR of the Year.” Other awards followed. I was asked to mentor new employees and to serve on a committee to improve quality in the call center. And after I had been there only a year and a half, I was promoted to the Resource Center, a special team that CSRs called when they had questions or needed advice. I had started out totally lost, but God had helped me to learn the job well enough to teach others. But I never stopped having that dialogue with God, even when I was a member of the Resource Center. And every day was an adventure.
Do you maintain a running dialogue with God about your job as you’re performing it? If not, I invite you to try it… and watch what happens.