Smilin’ & Dialin’

It has over thirty computers, comfy chairs,  a bathroom, a water cooler, and a fully equipped kitchen for all your primal needs. There is a projector to view your favorite motion pictures from your Netflix account on the big screen and from Sunday through Thursday from 3-9 there are always people there looking to hang out. The real kicker is the fact that when you do decide to come to chill, you get paid to do so. You may be currently wondering, how does a place this amazing exist outside of an electronic music festival or something? Well this location is actually located right on our campus, here, at Washington University in St. Louis. It is called the Call Center, found in the Alumni House.

Working at the Call Center has been a unique experience. Most people assume the call center requires you to be constantly hitting punching numbers on a phone, but actually, you don’t even need to dial; the computer runs a program that dials the numbers for you. While the goal is to call alumni and get them to donate back to the university, there is ample time to just sit there and play cards with your friends, maybe watch the Olympics on the projector, perhaps even read a book and do your school work. For example, sometimes I might be talking to my friend when suddenly, I hear a “hello” ring through my headset into my ears. I jolt up, turn my face towards the computer away from my friend and begin the conversation. Similar to a fine art, getting alum to donate requires patience and a delicate balance. You can’t be too aggressive or you will hear a click on the other end. However, if you are too passive then you will never get a donation. Thus engaging with alumni through more than just small talk and relating to their thoughts and struggles are both essential rapport building techniques that are necessary before you go in for the strike, to ask them for that sweet cash. While there is a lot of sitting involved, talking to alums on the phone is always exciting.

However, more rewarding than getting alums to make contributions that help Wash U to keep building and progressing is the relationships you build on the phone. When you do engage with someone who is a part of the Wash U family and have a great conversation, exchanging names and stories, it is a genuinely good feeling. It is a roller coaster of a ride, from the people who abruptly hang up telling you to never call again, to the individuals who have stayed connected with Washington University many years after graduating and love to give back. Through the highs and lows, working at the call center has been an overall pleasant time.