Early on a dark, rainy and thundery Saturday spring Midwestern morning recently, in-between doing the rote calling that comes with doing a company’s “telephone bank” and divesting that company of every single valuable name and associated direct-dial extension it had to those names contained within that bank vault I was reading an Economist article entitled, “Eton And The Making Of A Modern Elite.”
The article described the changing historical pedigrees in the school’s population and the paradox that, despite this, Eton continues to afford the global elite an expensive option to give its offspring a leg up in life. I, like the recent parent who also learned this, was surprised to learn that the commonest name at the school is Patel.
Which got me to thinking about my own work in the area of names sourcing.
Twenty-some odd years ago when I got into this game most every company in America that you called into – sans* it being located in Texas or California – contained nearly – uniformly – very American sounding names.
Names like Judy, Mary, Michael and Chris.
Sanders, Martin, Adams and Smith
Nowadays, wherever you go in America, phone banks are likely to be peppered with names that, even a decade ago weren’t terribly common in the interior of this country.
Names like Ahmed, Shreya, Rahul and Priya.
Patel, Anand, Bashir, Chowdury
The in-particular phone bank I was working on that morning, and like most any phone bank I work on in industries outside of the tech industry/outside of geographic areas with large immigrant populations, kept me amused as I called in, time after time after time, extension after extension after extension, listening to and recording in my document name after name after name and the associated message/information recorded on the person’s Voice Mail – interpreting those names and spellings and messages out of all the various tones and paces and expressions left by the owners of those extensions.
It’s kind of a game – getting it all exactly right and then looking at the whole and extrapolating the messages contained in the whole of the information – that’s another story but for this article my point is in the actual names – one by one and their extensions/and how they can change suddenly and surprise you.
This particular phone bank was in horse-country Virginia and contained a lot of fine, old traditional English-sounding Christian names straight out of the Protestant Reformation. Names like:
2037 Sarah Brady
2038 Marshall Reese Maintenance
2039 Judy Johnson New Products Procurement cell: 714 277 9818
2041 Michael Morris
2043 Campbell Harris
2044 Marsha Hamilton
2046 Sheryl Reilly cell: 804 984 1892
2048 Laura Lovelace
2049 Suman Sikanalla
2050 no answer
2056 Dennis Barrett
2057 Jimmy Moi
2059 Derrick Choe
2060 Amy Bryant Customer Services
2061 Chuck Frye
2063 VM: NA
2067 Ann Hoshack
2069 Laura Boyd
What’s interesting in a phone bank like this is while you’re calling through, and your phone is set to dial the first nine numbers automatically:
1 – area code – prefix – first two numbers of the internal extension
(you do this so you don’t have to dial them each and every time for blocks of 100 in a company’s directory) and your job is to dial the last two numbers of the extension you never know what the ringing number is going to reveal until it answers.
Sometimes it’s just the name of the person. But oh! Sometimes – what a name! To one set of ears it can sound like one thing and to another set of ears – quite something else!
Sometimes it reveals additional information and some of it can be very interesting and sometimes even surprising.
Like in the above example, you’re going along in your phone bank and enjoying the easy and rhythmic sounding … Michael Morris and Campbell Harris and Marsha Hamilton and Sheryl Reilly who is so thoughtful and helpful as to also leave her cell on her VoiceMail for her callers: cell: 804 984 1892 and the erotic sounding Laura Lovelace and just when your mind is drifting off on that – BAM! You get hit with SUMAN SIKANELLA
“What did you say?” you sit up and dial back in to make sure you heard it right the first time and sure enough that’s what it sounded like so try as you might you type it out, best as you can to spell it as you heard it so the customer can pronounce it when he calls the person the next day or the next week or whenever it is he gets around to calling these people he is paying to have direct dialed and attached to a phone extension so he doesn’t have to call himself through a company’s internal dial system and hit the oh-so-many extensions within it that will be unoccupied (notice the skips in the directory?) or which may not have a VoiceMail set up on them (notice the “no answer” in the directory?)
“SUMAN SIKANELLA who are you, really?” you wonder to yourself as you hit enter in your document and the button on your phone to auto-dial the nine numbers for you to pick up the next name in the directory. “Did you go to Eton? How did you get to America? Where did you come from and where are you going?”
Where are we all going?
I’m presenting at the Recruiting Trends & TalentTech Conference 2017 in West Palm Beach, FL on Nov 28-30 alongside the very talented Josh Brecheisen, Owner and Founder of JoshBLife and creator of Talk Track Angles – a creative and fun approach to phone sourcing and we’ll be presenting alongside one another. It’ll be sure to be fun. Won’t you join us?
For all your phone sourcing needs, call us – 513 646 7306