As Scania Assistance turns 20, we speak to operator Anja Hjälm, a lady of many stories who just loves her job.
Anja Hjälm is a Scania Assistance operator based at the Södertälje Assistance Centre. Hjälm has been with Scania Assistance for 19 years, nearly as long as the 20 years it has been in existence. In that time, she has dealt with thousands of calls from customers and drivers whose vehicles have broken down, and connected them with a service workshop in the Scania network.
You might think that the fun wears off after a while, but for Hjälm it is more than just a job.
“It’s my calling to help people…and sick vehicles too!” she says. “I have seen and heard a lot but I really enjoy it. The job can be stressful, but nothing is a big deal for me.”
It’s not only breakdown assistance advice…
Before coming to Scania Assistance Hjälm was an ambulance driver in Södertälje and Stockholm for 19 years, so one can understand that this is someone who wants and knows how to help, and who can cope with most things the job throws at her.
Which is just as well…
“I’ve had drivers that know me and my previous background calling me up to ask for advice when they are not feeling well. I ask them a couple of very quick questions to check whether it’s anything serious and if so I always advise them to call an ambulance right away.
“We also used to get calls for a hospital in Helsingborg as one of our numbers is very similar to theirs. I kept trying to tell people they needed to call a different number but some would insist I helped them so I ended up transferring them through.”
Helping drivers in six different languages
Hjälm lives near Södertälje with her husband Stefan, who now works for the Scania Transport Laboratory, and internal Scania customer, but was previously a workshop technician who she first ‘met’ over the phone in 2006, when referring a call to his workshop. She grew up in a ‘Finland-Svensk’ family, so her background gave her Swedish and Finnish language skills, but she does this interview in English from start to finish, and can also access Danish, Norwegian and a little Estonian when she needs to. She’s even spoken a bit of Russian.
“Occasionally we get calls from Russian drivers and I can tell them in Russian that I don’t really speak their language. But then they start speaking more and more Russian to me! That’s the point when I ask them to wait while I transfer them through to our Moscow assistance centre.”
Humour helps Anja deal with stressful situations
Regardless of the different languages and the various cultural differences, Hjälm’s approach to the job is the same: she listens carefully and uses humour to defuse what can be stressful situations.
“About 99% of the time when people call they are very stressed. Sometimes they have time-sensitive, costly loads such as fresh fish or animals, so they need the vehicle’s problem fixed as quickly as possible. First of all, I listen to how the person is when they call. Very quickly I can turn it to the positive, usually by showing empathy with them and making some gentle jokes about the problem.”
Having worked for so long at Scania Assistance, Hjälm is on first name terms with many workshop technicians. When she calls at whatever hour of the day or night she is on duty our operator simply says, “Hej, it’s me” and the technician on the other end of the phone knows who it is. When Hjälm and her husband go on holiday they travel in a motor home, and they have been known to drop in to a workshop she hasn’t visited, so more and more people in the service network can now put a face to her familiar voice.
“Wonderful colleagues” the main reason Hjälm stays
After Scania Assistance’s milestone this year, it’ll be Hjälm’s turn to celebrate 20 years with the service next year — “They’d better give me a cake,” she jokes.
But even though the job is changing so rapidly as services and products become ever-more hi-tech, and other responsibilities such as insurance, Scania Emergency Call Centre and global contracts add to the workload, she can’t see herself working anywhere else.
“My colleagues are wonderful, and they are the main reason why I’m still here. We are like one big family. And besides, I like learning new things. I like being the person who knew how to work the fax machine all those years ago and now knows how to work with the latest software; it’s fun.”
So, if your truck, bus or engine ever breaks down and you end up speaking to Hjälm or one of her colleagues then don’t worry, you’re in very good hands.