Bourree Lam: How did you get this job and how long have you been doing it?
Letisha Ghanbari: I've been with OnStar for just under nine years. I've been with the emergency team for just a little over five years. I actually fell into the emergency team by accident. I was in sales before, and there was a supervisor who came down and scouted me out. It’s been a snowball process since then.
Lam: Are all the calls that come in emergencies?
Ghanbari: There’s a mix. Some of them hit the button by mistake. Some of them are having life-or-death emergencies. And some of them literally just want someone to talk to. Or it’s roadside assistance.
Lam: Who are the people who just want someone to talk to?
Ghanbari: It’s a smaller percentage. Usually, if those calls come in then there’s a bigger underlying problem that we have to pick up on. Sometimes, you'll have somebody who is in a situation where they need roadside assistance. They'll call in and they're just kind of talking to you, not understanding that what they need someone to come out there and change the tires, because they don't always know what services are included.
Lam: What do you do to prepare for work?
Ghanbari: We’ve had a lot of training. Here at OnStar, they do a lot of medical training and protocol training. We do have some customer service that we come in with. So it’s a mix of everything. We follow specific processes, but certain calls fit inside the box, and certain calls fit outside. It's a lot of problem solving, customer service, and process. Somewhere in the middle is exactly what you need to answer the call. We figure it out on a call-to-call basis.
Lam: Are the people calling emotionally distressed? And how do you handle that?
Ghanbari: The higher the stress level, the easier the calls to be honest—because they need you. It's a lot easier to calm somebody down when they know you know what to do, than it is to try to figure out what the issue is first and then have to figure it out. So I find that the more stressful calls are the easier ones to take.
For myself, the more panicked the person is, because I do speak very quickly normally, I tend to slow down because I know that they need me to get them through this. If they're in a crisis situation or a real emergency situation, they’re more susceptible to listen. If someone doesn’t know what to do, then they’re more accepting and more willing to take what you have to say to heart and actually follow your instructions. Whereas, if they half believe you, then they'll think they know it all and kind of go with it.
Lam: You received the Dispatcher of the Year award for your work in helping to deliver two babies. Were those calls stressful?
Ghanbari: Yes! The call always comes in a little stressed when it’s a baby call. There is nothing calm about having a baby. Especially once the mother realizes that this is not a false alarm, that it’s actually time. And then they realize that they’re not going to make it to the hospital, and that they’re in a car. Then, it’s more reassuring to say “Don’t worry, we’re going to get you through this, we know what to do, we have training for this, and we’re going to walk you through it.” Once they have your trust—and they know that you do know what you’re doing and that you can help them do this—then they’re calm and they get through it.