Showing posts with label Call Center Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Call Center Life. Show all posts

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Call Centers 101

The Call Center industry in the Philippines has shown enormous growth in the past decade. Fresh graduates of any course are eligible to apply and have a high chance of eventually getting hired. There are some centers that are "equal opportunity employers," meaning they hire undergraduates or middle aged people as long as they have exemplary English communication skills coupled with a great personality. The job offer usually consists of an above average salary, performance based incentives, and comprehensive HMO benefits, making it very difficult for an entry level applicant to resist.

Before you submit your resume, there are some things you need to consider if you are thinking about building a career in the Call Center Industry. Here are some of the few:

First, you need to have really good written and spoken English communication skills. You have to make English your native language while in the workplace. The very first rule you would have to take to heart is "EOP," or English Only Policy. Speaking in the vernacular may get you into trouble.  

Second, you have to learn to work around the Circadian rhythm, meaning you have to learn to stay awake at night to take calls or respond to email. You will have to give up your late night parties and find some time to sleep in the mornings. Your reward: A night differential pay that ranges from 10-20% of your hourly rate.

You may want to take into consideration getting as much sleep as you can during the day, because the third requirement is that you have to have good health. Getting sick is not an option in this industry because an unplanned absence will hurt the business. In the same light, tardiness is not acceptable.

Me and my sarong at work
The fourth thing to consider is the ability to blend in with the culture, with employees' ages ranging from 18 or 19 to mid-50s. You learn to tolerate the rowdiness and happy go lucky attitude of the young ones, and have patience with the meticulousness of the older group.

Fifth, you have to learn to spend 9 hours of your day in freezing temperatures of centralized air conditioning, so invest in two or three good jackets to keep you warm. Kindly refer to the third requirement discussed above - you are not allowed to get sick. You can go see a doctor if ever you catch cold. However, it has been an outstanding joke in call centers that "if you are well enough to see a doctor, then you are well enough to go to work." Your reward: Monetization of your sick leave days at the end of the year.

Sixth, you have to understand that security measures have been put in place to protect sensitive customer information therefore cellphones are not allowed in the work place. Keep your smartphones in your lockers or deposit them with the guard on duty. Other centers allow Team Leads to collect the agents' cellphones for safekeeping. Inform your family and friends that you can only reply to their messages during your breaks. It is wise to give them the land line number of your office, in case an emergency comes up and that they need to speak with you ASAP.

The seventh thing to consider is you may be required to do overtime whenever the need arises, so it would be best to educate your family that you may miss certain school activities or family gatherings from time to time. Your reward: Recognition for your dedication to work and overtime pay

Vendo coffee at P10 per cup
Eighth factor to reckon with is that you will literally learn to love coffee. This brown liquid will eventually replace your blood, making it earn the title "The lifeline of call center workers." Your reward: Unbelievably alert at 2am.

Commuting to work at ungodly hours is the ninth thing call center workers have to deal with. You are lucky if you were given a shift corresponding to the opening of business hours in the US. However, there are "closer shifts" which start at 2am-3am. Taking a cab everyday will drain your finances, so taxis are not an everyday luxury. Take public transportation. Carefully map out your route, and take the well-lighted path if you need to walk. Keep in mind that you will be the target of robbers, so always have some kind of simple weapon (like a pen or a long umbrella) with you or enroll in a martial arts class. Your reward: You learn to be streetwise.

Lastly, succeeding in a call center environment is not an easy task as others perceive it to be, because there is a high demand for dedication, however, at the end of the day, you will still be earning more than an average employee will. Watch out for the brown nosers and their cohorts. These people initiate the ugly, ugly practice of office politics. If you can sway to their music, then good for you. Give yourself a pat on the back. Your reward: Possible promotion

Me and my fellow Quality Coaches

Call centers are a way of life. You gain deep friendships. You don't care if the top seller in the group has a college diploma or not. You get to speak with people halfway around the globe and learn about other cultures. You will understand that in order for you to be more fluent in English, it is important to think in English too. Your daily sustenance will consist of junk food from 24 hour fast food chains - burgers, pizzas, and microwave dinners.

So, if you think you are up to it, come and join the bandwagon for a ride you'd treasure your entire life.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Call Center Funnies 2

My job as a Quality Assurance Analyst entails listening to agents' calls, checking adherence to policy and providing feedback on their performance. Here are some of the unforgettable funny calls I have listened to..

Agent : "Hi. My name is -----. Can I speak to the person whom I can sleep with?"

Customer : Whaaaaaat???
(I called the agent in for immediate coaching...)

Agent: "For future orders, please call"
Me (on live barge): "Arrrrggghh!! Its supposed to be DASH ONE, not DOT COM! Its 1-800-SPRINT-1"
(me collapsing in my chair, whipping my headset off)

Coaching session for an agent who did poorly on a call:
Me to agent: "Sit down and listen to your call."
(after 20 minutes or so...)
Me: "So, after listening to your call, what can you say?"
Agent: "Boss, I sound like a matinee idol"
Me: "OMG!! One more day of this and I am resigning!"

Agent: "Hi, my name is Susan. I'm looking for John Smith?
Customer: "I'm sorry, John passed away last week. This is his wife, how can I help you?"
Agent: "Yes!, I'm calling in behalf of -----, and we would like to inform your late husband that he is already eligible for a free phone on a new two year contract"
(Now this IS selling.. UNBELIEVABLE)

Customer: "My dog swallowed my charger.."
Agent: "Oh my, now you have an ELECTRIFYING dog!"
(me collapsing again)

Scenario: Customer Authentication
Agent: "What is the make and model of your first car?"
Customer: "Its a FORD"
Agent: "Ma'am, I said FIRST, not FOURTH"
(Active Listening score: FAIL)

Scenario: Some folks in the US refer to the walkie-talkie function of their cellphones as "Chirp-chirp." Here is a funny situation where the agent was not aware of what the term "chirp" meant:
Customer: "I need a phone with a CHIRP CHIRP"
Agent: "I'm sorry, I did not quite get that. Is it a phone with a CHIP you're interested in?"
Customer: "No, I want a CHIRP-CHIRP. Don't you understand? A CHIRP-CHIRP!!!"
Agent: "I apologize Sir. We only sell phones here. We do not sell BIRDS."
(at this time I seriously considered finding a different job)

Scenario: Billing Dispute
Customer: "Why is my bill so high? I only use less than 200 minutes and you are billing me over $100???"
Agent: "I am sorry to hear that. Let me go ahead and check your usage records..."
Customer: "Okay"
Agent: "I see that your bill amount resulted from data usage. You have been using the internet service on your smartphone"
Customer: "Ohhh... I guess my phone isn't that smart."

Scenario: Selling mobile internet devices/pocket wifi
Agent: "Good day, my name is -----, calling on behalf of ------. I am glad to inform you that we have new devices capable of providing you internet connectivity on the go. This would enable you to receive and send email, browse facebook and other social media sites on your laptop or tablet anywhere you are."
Customer: "I already have internet service at home. I have cable internet! What is the difference anyway?"
Agent:  "Ma'am, our device is WIRELESS, and what you have is CABLE internet.. like, your internet is connected though CABLES, right? When you pull the cable, then you don't have internet. Therefore, the device I am selling you is better, CORRECT?"
Customer: click! dial tone..
(Stating the obvious...)

Customer: "Before I talk to you about your rate plans, I first want to know how big are your boobs and butt..."
Agent: "BIGGER THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE. Now, going back to the rate plans, Sir...."
(Good job!!!)

Customer: "I know my cellphone service outsources its customer service to other countries. What country are you from? I do not want to speak with anybody with skin color darker than mine!!!"
(clap! clap!)

Part 3 soon to come... :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

In search of the Perfect Call Center


I came home after two years working abroad. I was the typical OFW. Tired, thankful to be home and loaded with cash.

Or so I thought. After a few months, my savings were at a critical level. My children are growing. One in college, two in high school. It is no joke to be a solo parent responsible to raise 3 kids. 

One lazy afternoon my sister went into my room and asked me, "Are you just going to bum around for the rest of your life?" I replied, "I still have money. I just want to relax."

My sister was working as an assistant bank manager where I deposited the money I earned from working abroad. She was always the "life planning" guru of the family. Forever forecasting future financial events. In a stern voice she said, "Your money is not going to get you through one year of bumming around. I think you should pick yourself up and find a job." I said, "Alright, alright. Tomorrow. Let me sleep, okay?"

That night, I was up thinking of what to do. I understood what my sister said. I did have to find work AGAIN. I could not go back to my usual job in the government. I resigned my post. The plantilla item that I used to hold has been assigned to someone else. No regrets. It doesn't pay much anyway. I got out of bed and prepared a resume. 

Over breakfast the following morning, my sister said that there was a call center near the bank where she works. She suggested that I go there. What the heck did I know about working in a call center? I was an undergraduate Medical student. I did have a good command of the English language but what use would a Medical student be in a call center? Oh well.. it wouldn't hurt to try. 

And so I went. I took the exams, went through a series of interviews. I was asked to return at 1am for the job offer. Hmmm... nice. The pay was almost twice of what I was earning in the goverment. Without hesitation, I signed the contract. 

NCO Sprint Outbound Sales Wave 1
May 2006. My very first call center was NCO. I was an outbound telesales agent for a pioneer account. What did I know about selling? Nothing. But I did learn. The culture was fun. The commute to work was even better. No traffic at all. I made good friends, most were also "call center virgins" like me. I guess we were successful because the company hired more and more people and the account grew. I enjoyed this new job, I enjoyed the pay even better. 

In the Quality Hub
A few months later, I got promoted to Quality Coach. Nice. No more scheduled breaks. Haha. Monitoring calls for adherence to policies was the perfect job for me. I loved the coaching sessions. I had this drive to make the agents move up the ranks too. I made them realize that in order for them to do that, they should first show compliance to the metrics set by the account. 

I was doing this for a few years and I was now ready for a new position. I applied for the post of Team Manager. I had the right qualifications. I had the level of confidence. I had the determination to take the next step forward. However, as in all organizations, there is always this someone who was born with overflowing envy. She did everything behind my back to disqualify me for the post. When I learned about this, I was so upset that I submitted a resignation. I never reported for work the following day. I did not deserve this. So many years of hard work, only to be maligned by one person. 

In the Shared Services Room (VQA cave)
2010. StarTek Ltd. handed me a job offer for Virtual Quality Assurance Specialist. My career went from good to great. I loved the salary rate. I liked the new post. No agent contact. We were providing support to on shore sites - Mansfield OH, Decatur IL, Jonesboro AR, Cornwall Canada. I found out that two of my former workmates in NCO were also there. Sweet! 

VQA Team for Consumer Services
But then, after another few years, I felt that this was not the center for me. Their indifference to employees' plight was too much for me. We were shuffled around between two sites - Makati and Ortigas. We were "not allowed" to get sick because it was tagged as "unplanned" absence. I wish I learned how to "plan" sickness. In addition to that, the management put a "ceiling cap" on salary appraisals. Once you get to the upper limit of your salary bracket, you are no longer qualified for appraisals, even if you are consistently hitting your goals and getting "5" ratings every time. I could not be doing the same thing over and over again for years and years and not getting any appraisals. Not with the rising cost of education, food, and basic necessities. I opted out. 

I bummed around for 4 months, in search for the "perfect" call center.

And then comes GL Advisor. I got the post of Lender Relations Liaison. Definitely not a call center. This was back office financial support for professionals with Federal Student Loans. The salary offer was unbelievable! My bi-monthly rate was equivalent to a whole month salary when I was working as an outbound sales rep! Even if I knew I was not very good in Math, I took the job. I won't be doing the financial planning anyway. My task was to pinpoint the customer's private loans and submit them for consolidation into the Federal Loan system. 

We were housed in the newest high rise in Makati Business District. Way up the 22nd floor. Floor to ceiling glass windows, mobile laptops, secure environment, a guaranteed fat wallet once every two weeks. Nice, nice, nice.

Reality bites. Management sucks. No set rules. Organizational planning was as stinky as a septic tank. We found out that the company was not even registered as an entity licensed to operate business. We have been paying the mandatory government deductions, only to find out that it was going nowhere. And then the owners of the company sent out "feelers" that we have completed all the backlogs in their head office in Waltham, MA. It seemed evident that they would be releasing some of the employees. They started out with increasing the daily work quota. Those that were not able to comply were given "release" papers the following day. What asses. Me and my friends started applying to different companies. Better to leave than to be "released." I left the company on the first day of January, 2013. The last I heard was that the company released more than 30 employees and then moved down to the "cheaper" floors of the building. Good thing my friends were able to get out and find other jobs before the mass lay off.

I got a job at Transcom as a Quality Assurance Representative. Didn't like it a bit. I stayed there for two months and left. 

Group Lunch at the Pantry
Fast forward to Concentrix Eastwood. I have been here for almost 5 months and so far, I am loving it. My job is still with Quality Assurance. I handle on-shore sites, just like what I did with StarTek. These people I work with now are so cool. So down to earth, unassuming, real folks. Everyday is "pigging out" day. We all love eating, and no one cares how "fluffy" you are. There are many activities that make you relax and eating out. (Eating again! haha). There are no "level up" boundaries, no titles, nothing. Everyone goes for first name basis, regardless of the fact that you are speaking with the General Manager. 
Team Breakfast at Somethin' Fishy

The pay is what I would call "average." I guess it is fair enough, because in this company, they compensate you for your hard work. There are financial rewards for achieving certain metrics. In the many years of working in the BPO industry, I have found out that happiness is not having much much money. It is in being in an environment where you can feel "at home away from home." It is in having fun while working. It is in feeling your worth as a member of the support team. 

Would this be the place I would share my talents with until retirement? I hope so.
One happy work family

I know of one truth though. The Perfect Call Center is a myth.

It is finding a Call Center and making everything perfect.


Sharing a video I made for my NCO Sprint Quality Team circa 2009

Monday, July 15, 2013

Call Center Funnies

Today I share with the world some of the funniest experiences I have had from working in call centers. This is going to be a good laugh. So, brace yourselves, world. Here they are:

Agent (selling a shared minute plan): "I see you have a lot of minutes left over every month. If you sign up with our new Family Share plan, these minutes may be used by a family member"
Customer: "I don't want that plan, it is more expensive than what I have right now"
Agent (tired and sleepy): "Please Sir, why don't you share your minutes with...the Lord?" (falls asleep on the call)
Customer: "What???!!!!"

Agent: "So, to recap Ma'am. You ordered a Motorola, flip, brown..."
Customer: "Brown? I thought you said I would get a black one"
Agent: "Sorry, Ma'am, the black ones are out of stock"
Customer: "I don't want no brown phone! I wanna black phone! A black phone!!!!"
Agent (afraid to lose his sale just because of the handset color): "Ma'am, please listen to me. This phone is so brown that it is almost black"

Agent: (after reading a 3 minute long script) "Do you agree to these terms and conditions?"
Customer: "Can you repeat that please? I was talking to my wife."
Agent: "Sir naman eh..."

Customer: "What's your name again?"
Agent: "My name is Aris, Sir."
Customer: "How do you spell that?"
Agent: "Its A for Aris, R for ris, I for is, and S for sssss. Aris."

Agent: "Good morning, Mr. Demon"
Customer: "My name's Damon, not demon!"
Agent: "I am sorry, Mr. Demon"
Customer: "Its Damon, man! D-A-M-O-N, not DEMON"
Agent: "Can I just call you Mon?"

Agent: "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
Customer: "No, thank you."
Agent: "Alright, Sir. You may now hang yourself"

"Please hold on to me, Sir"
"Thank you for holding me, Sir"
"Can I hold you for 2 minutes, Ma'am?"
"Thank you for the long and winding hold, Sir. I appreciate that"
"I will be on the line, I will just be dead air, okay? alright?"

"This is a flip top phone and you can fold and flip it anyway you want!"

"I am giving you a features and a benefits and you still don't want it?"

"I will waive the CHIPPING (shipping) fee for you"
"This is a free phone I will send you. Don't say no."

"So your address is 1** ******* Ave, Pittsburg, PA. So, we will be using FedEx to send your phone to PANAMA"

"Sir, to verify your state, it is LA, right? So that is the state of Los Angeles, correct?"

Agent: "What is your SEEP (zip) code?"
Customer: "My what???"
Agent: "Your SEEP code, like SEEP, you know, SEEPER. The one in front of your pants"


Agent: "I'm sorry, I did not quite get that. Could you please spell the city for me, please?"
Customer: "T-H-E  C-I-T-Y"
Agent: "Huh?"


More to come.. (much, much, more.) :)