Call Center or Business Process Outsourcing is one of the booming and most promising industry in the corporate world in the Philippines. Contact centers are teeming the capital region and other places in the country offering thousands of jobs. It cannot be denied that it’s a major economy booster and plays a vital role in the country's economy. It had mushroomed in a span of few years and are now almost everywhere. It cannot be stopped (Well as far as foreign companies are willing to outsource with us and as long as we can speak English).
It’s in the year 2013 when I became part of this industry. Before, I had a little idea of what a call center is. To say the least, I actually thought that call center agents only sell credit cards. I had several thoughts about this industry. Later on I had found out that some are true but some are misconceptions. I asked my colleagues in the BPO about their misconceptions and also asked some non-BPO friends to share what they think about working in a call center is and the industry itself. Below are the common misconceptions they have. I also gave each misconceptions a rating from 1-5, 5 being the highest to state the level of its falsehood.
It's a job for the uneducated and the brain dead
It's a job for the uneducated and the brain dead
First, we need to know what are the parameters used for them to say Call Center is for the “uneducated”. This industry accepts High School graduate, those who have at least 2 years in college, and some really requires College degree. If high school is not “pinag-aralan”, then what it is called?
Many will be called but few will be chosen. The interviews here are nerve-wracking. But that’s just the first stage. I remember when I applied for my second BPO when I cannot find pleasure signing my job offer because I know I still have to pass rigorous assessments like the Communications Training, the Product/Process Training and the Nesting. Then there’s probationary period of 6 months where in you need to pass certain scorecards.
In every call, one must know how to do multitasking. You talk to a caller in a most friendly manner then you must be able to answer all their questions and provide resolution to their queries and concerns during that call. We do it quick and efficient for we have to hit our Average Handle Time target and we don’t want our caller to send us back bad surveys. Then you call this a job for the uneducated? You think again!
It’s a NO-CHOICE job
When my friends are applying for a job, I would tell them to try to apply in a Call Center. Then they will say “Pag di ako natanggap sa mga inaplayan ko, mag-aaply ako jan.”(If I will not be hired to those where I applied for, I will apply there.” It is as if Call Center is their last choice. I cannot blame them if they want to pursue the job based on their courses in college. And yes there is no BS in Call Center in college so I bet no one ever dreamed of being in this industry while they are studying still. I am a graduate of Computer Science and I didn’t pursue jobs related to it for some reasons. The Call Center industry is so diverse and is open to all people who had finished different courses. Some are registered nurses, some are licensed teachers, and like me, some are IT graduates. We are all here not really because we can't find a job commensurate to our college degree, but most of us had preferred to earn more. This is not a so-so job. This is not for the sub standards. Well if this is your last resort, make sure you can do the things I’ve written in number 1.
It’s an easy job
FALSEHOOD LEVEL: 5
This is a BIG NO. If others are thinking that just taking in calls is easy, then they might want to try to be an agent for at least a month and get back to me on that. Our job is to take calls and provide solutions to each call. A quarter of that calls have undesirable customers who will scream at you and you have to pacify them and remain calm no matter what. Our schedules are rotating from late in the evening to the wee hours of the morning. And it’s hard to sleep in the morning and there were days we’ll go to work sleepless. Every day we prayed to God to spare us from bad creatures of the night like robbers and hold-uppers. Lastly, there are no such things as bad weather and holidays in this industry. You still think this job is easy? Call Center agents are flexible, quick thinkers and problem solvers.
You should have that “accent”
FALSEHOOD LEVEL: 3
On trainings, we are taught to have neutral accent, an accent that can be understood universally. Most callers over the phone know that they are not talking to someone in their own country so you really don’t have to sound like them. Although we Filipinos can mimic their accents, it is really not required but if you can handle it then that’s good for you. For as long as callers can understand you and you can keep the conversation going and you are able to provide solutions to their concerns, then callers will not care about your accent at all. But there are some customers, for some reasons, who don’t feel comfortable speaking to other nationality. Don’t fret. It’s normal. Go ahead and transfer them.
Others say “cen-ter”, we say it “cenner”! (Haha)
Call Center agents are vicious
There are a lot of agents who smoke. When I asked them why (since I’m not smoking), they say it’s their way of coping with the stress. On drinking, I believe they are already a drinker before they joined BPO (like me). Because of the nature of the job and the extra hundreds in their pockets, they tend to drink more than others. I have heard some are into drugs but for me it’s an isolated case and is also happening to different sectors. I had never seen anyone doing this thing in my almost 3 years of being an agent. Trust me. You can definitely survive in the call center even if you’re not a smoker, drinker or whatsoever. It’s not true that once you’ve become an agent, you will learn to have all these vices.
It pays huge salary
We may be speaking in English but our pockets don’t speak dollars. We’re above the minimum wage and this industry pays better. Salary can range from 15-20K, plus a meal and transportation allowance that starts at 2K, then a night differential that starts at 20% if you’re shift falls under 10PM-6AM. Then deduct the withholding taxes, mandatory deductions like SSS, PhilHealth, PAG-IBIG (which is of course applies to every job). You’re net pay per 2 weeks will play around 10K. Then it also depends on the nature of the account that you will be handling. If it’s a Sales account, an incentive will likely be given to you provided you hit the sales target. For technical account, there may be a so-called technical allowance. And for pure customer service accounts, there may be incentives if you have good surveys from your customers of if you have perfect attendance, no tardiness and the like. It’s the discretion of the company or the management if they will be giving those extras.
Call Center agents are liberated and promiscuous
Don't stereotype! There are some maybe but I can say most of them are not. Due to popularity, call center agents seemed to be in the spotlight and people tend to judge us as a whole in every facet. Promiscuity can happen to different sectors of the corporate world and it's not right to generalize us just because you saw one or two. There is no study that proves this allegation so we can shrug this off at this time.
Most Call Center agents have HIV
This, for me, is the most embarrassing misconception anyone can throw mud at a call center agent. In three years as an agent, I have not met any agent who is infected. There may be few out there but the prevalence is still low but alarming to say the least.There is a study from the UP Population Institute entitled “Lifestyle and Reproductive Health Issues of Young Professionals in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu” shedding some light on this matter. Whilst the government is doing all their efforts to address this issue, we agents should be wary about this and should park at our own risk.
Being a call center agent is fun. Other than coming to work late in the evening or going back home in the wee hours of the morning, it is just like any other job that requires physical and mental prowess. There's more to being a call center agent other than the fact that they do wear thick jackets and have always a tumbler on hand. I hope this blog had enlightened all our minds. -Jon-