Monday, May 5, 2014

I have been working in call centers for almost a decade. For ten years, I have been lacking sleep everyday, depended on a fast food diet, and learned to love coffee so much I could not live without it. 

Being relatively "new" in the employment sector, call center workers have been the subject of discrimination by other members of the workforce. Taking into consideration my tenure in this industry, I can confidently state the common misconceptions of working in a call center.

Call Center workers have lots of money. 
FALSE. Call center agents' basic salary ranges from 15K-20K/month. That's the gross rate. Take from that amount the mandatory government deductions - withholding tax, SSS, Philhealth, Pag-Ibig. A per minute rate of tardiness is also deducted from the gross salary. For those getting 20K/month, the average take home pay per month would be more or less 13K-15K. If the company pays twice a month, then that equates to 6K-7K per pay out. For a single mom with 4 children all in school, that amount would not suffice.

Call centers are the dumping grounds of college drop outs.
FALSE.  There are centers who are "equal opportunity" employers, meaning they do not discriminate against an applicant's educational attainment. High school graduates are even welcome to apply. However, not every Maria, Pedro or Juan can make it through the rigorous examinations. Although there is no particular skill set required, call centers choose those who have impeccable English communication skills, a bubbly personality, a team player, an effective multi-tasker and with a high degree of resistance to stress. 

Call center workers are substandard employees.
FALSE. We often hear the phrase "sa call center lang pala nagtatrabaho" (Oh, she just works in a call center) This annoys me so much, every time I hear someone say it. It is not easy to leave home in the wee hours of the morning, to be the target of robbers, of hoodlums and other ill-doers. It is not easy to stay awake the whole night and try to sleep at noon time. It is not pleasant to be screamed at, cursed, and receive derogatory remarks from someone halfway around the globe. We are put through so much stress everyday but we just take everything with a grain of salt and move on. We work from log in to log out, our breaks are scheduled and timed. And this is what others call substandard?

Call center workers drink like there is no tomorrow.
FALSE. Whoever thought of this should think twice (or more). Seeing a group of agents having after-shift FBs (few beers) is not drinking like there is no tomorrow. They could probably be celebrating someone's birthday, or meeting the team goal for the week, or just wanting to relax after a stressful week. If having a few beers with close friends is an eyesore, what can you say about the shirtless, unemployed big bellied bullies drowning themselves in gin on the sidewalks? Please do not be too quick to judge.

Its an easy job.
FALSE.  Working for a sales account demands that you need to close a certain number of sales PER DAY. Agents have to convince a customer to purchase over the phone. That is NOT easy - to sell something to someone in another country. If agents are not able to meet their sales target for the day, they may be at risk of losing their job. Customer service agents have to be extremely patient and resistant to stress. They have to provide resolution to the customer's issue during the call - and make sure that the customer will not call back with the same issue. Then they have to be within the acceptable range of the call handling time. Some centers require issue resolution in 3 minutes. Financial and credit card collection accounts are even more stressful. 

I work for the Quality Assurance team and it is NOT an easy job. Finding calls, evaluating, preparing reports, calibrations, coaching. The life of the account we support depends on us. It is our task to weed out the non performers and recommend the best improvement plan for them. 

Just like any other job, the key to success is to love what you do. Call centers are not places where people do nothing. We generate revenue to keep this country afloat, we put a lot of sacrifice for our families, to the point of putting our health and safety on the line. 

We deserve more than the senseless phrase - "Sa call center lang pala nagtatrabaho."

Me and my fellow Quality Coaches

Midnight coffee, Birthday pizzas,
Accentuated English, Dashing clothes,
Irate customers, Mood music in cabs,
So much money,but so little time.
Late night parties and sunrise beer.
Crush on Team Leads, The fight for appraisals,
Die hard friendships and tears for love.
Nothing missing, Just everything!
People call it Call centers.
WE CALL IT LIFE.

20 comments:

  1. My brother also works as call center agent. I think it's a pretty decent job and I can see his sacrifice. The schedule alone is sooo hard na

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    1. My work schedule is 2am to 11am. I have forgotten what it feels like to be stuck in traffic. :)

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  2. Call centers are life savers and problem solvers. Hubby was talking to one yesterday and he could tell that she was a Filipina so he asked her "Are you a Filipino?" and then she said yes then they had a short conversation, my husband told her he is married to one hehehe.

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    1. Wow. One call center I worked for strictly prohibited agents from disclosing their location or race or ethnicity. That's nice that that agent was able to at least "relax" during the call.

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  3. I admire filipino call center reps especially...l spoke to quite a few of them when I have technical issues with our cable and phone lines....like chubskulit said: they're life savers and problem solvers....:)

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    1. Honestly, it is actually their job to provide real time resolution to the issue, with the requirement that the same customer will not call back with the same issue for a period of one week. Tough training and intense coaching does that. :)

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  4. there was time in my life...actually until now that I wish to apply for a call center job. I have high regards to those who works in BPO. Hello! hindi kaya madali mag nosebleed! hehehe..kudos sa inyo mommy!

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    1. When I was holding the position of Quality Coach for a Sales account, I always reminded the agents to watch more English shows on tv. This helps them get rid of the Filipinoisms. Think in English, say it in English. That's the simple trick to it.

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  5. I hate it when I called a company and the person in the other line has a different English. I mean my English is not perfect but I hate talking to people like Indians or Pakistani or something :-) I know it is my Kababayan the way their English sounds like and makes me giggle:-)

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    1. Can't get rid of the Asian accent, huh? Haha.

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  6. If I were in Philippines right now, the call center industry would have been my work place as well! I know it is not an easy job and not everybody can get in to such position so yeah, there are misconceptions from many that need to be addressed. You just did. Filipinos are known to be one of the best call center agents in the world and for that, cheers! :)

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    1. Oh yes. We have taken over India as the go-to place for outsourcing. :)

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  7. It is not an easy job and it's why, some of them resigns or take an AWOL just to escape the madness. But I salute some of those who endured the sleepless nights, take all the criticisms and cursing and just finish their job. :)

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    1. Agree! Just like I said, "take everything with a grain of salt and move on."

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  8. Filipino call center agents, the best in the world. Thank you for putting light to these so-called misconceptions. My say, call center agents are jolly people.

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    1. That's true, Papaleng. We try to find humor in everything. Its a drag to think that we're up and awake while the majority of the population is at home and sleeping. We share funny experiences during a call, a calibration session, or even during breaks. In this industry, a smile, a hearty laugh, or a tap on the shoulder really goes a long way.

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  9. I have friends who are call centre agents, and yes, back in the days, I admire them, I wanted to be like them, dress like them, earn like them, drink Starbucks coffee and so on and so forth... but it never happened, I moved from the city to the countryside and now... to another country... I haven't talked to an agent yet here though, and would really love to be able to one of these days. Thanks for shedding light on these misconceptions!

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    1. I did the opposite. My working in a call center was a fall back after coming home from working abroad. Although I do not plan to stay for another decade in this industry, I am planning on brushing up on my Mandarin. I can speak it but I want to learn to read and write it. Call centers pay a handsome sum of money for bilinguals. Wish me luck! Haha.

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  10. Thanks for the information appreciated been reading for awhile, and just wanted to let you know I continue to enjoy your writing.
    Contactcentersolutions.com

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  11. As someone from the other end of the line, i feel guilty afterwards whenever i lose my cool at a helpless agent... I dont think i could survive getting that treatment on a regular basis... And yes the take home pay isnt as nice as it was years ago.

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