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February 2, 2013

So You Really Wanted To Work In A Call Center?

calls in queue Photo courtesy of Call Center Comics.

I have given 12 things to expect from working in a call center. If those reasons didn't stopped you from applying for that call center post, then probably the following reasons will:

  1. You live on a day-to-day basis – When an agent is on training, he can be eliminated (terminated) if he didn't pass the Berlitz, which is a major thing in an ISP account. Then an agent is subjected to a training bay also known as nesting. If he didn't pass that, he can go on an extended nesting or be eliminated. After that comes the Quality Assurance (QA) certification. At the agent's 5th month he'll be evaluated again. If he misses out some points (on some metrics) on a 5-point system, he can get terminated. He'll then sign a Non-Regularization Document and then he'll have to process his Clearance. Even if a call center agent do get regularized, he can still easily be terminated by chatting non-business related topics, accessing his Facebook (or Twitter) account or surfing YouTube. The worst case I experienced was with AT&T Convergys. We are around 20 in our wave (batch), 1 was eliminated during language training and only 2 agents got regularized (not including me).

  2. Maximum tax deductions – I envy the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), specially those who work in countries that doesn't have Income Tax. A call center agent can get a basic salary of 14 to 18 thousand Philippine Pesos but we also get the maximum tax deductions. In Sufferland for example, my average monthly tax deductions is P5,000. I also envy our Senators who gets millions as additional funds. This is the reason why any news of graft and corruption in the government is bad news fro any high-taxed call center agent.

  3. You have a chance to use your life insurance – At least, call center agents have something in common with the police, fire fighters, soldiers and security guards. Call center agents have a high chance to get mugged (hold-up) and get murdered because most agents work at night. A call center agent probably knows other call center agents who got mugged or murdered. I have call center friends who got mugged but thankfully, I never had a wavemate who got murdered.

  4. Call Center Agents are susceptible to certain illnesses – If a sales lady is susceptible to varicose veins, a call center agent is susceptible to migraine, sore throat, stress, high blood, back pain, cough, colds, and flu. The lower the Average Handing Time (AHT), the higher chance of being sick. My previous account in Sufferland (US accounting software) had the highest AHT that I've experienced – 30 minutes. Most accounts that I have as a Technical Support Representative (TSR) are Internet Service Providers (ISP) and these accounts usually have 18 minutes AHT. I never handles any Customer Service Representative (CSR) accounts yet for a Telephone Company (Telco) which I heard have an AHT of 3-6 minutes. That's around 50+ calls a days which is certainly a pain in the neck!

  5. No reason to be absent – It became a highly-debated issue, during the Habagat incident, regarding the Emergency Leaves (EL). Even though the Philippine President declared that there's no work even in private corporations, there are rumors that Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) still require their agents to come to work. Yes, even if it's flooding! The only accepted reasons for an agent to be absent is either being sick (requires a Medical Certificate) or involved in an accident (vehicular or being mugged), which requires Police Report. This also depends on the Team Leader (TL) whether he'll accept other reasons aside from these two.

  6. No retirement plans – I haven't encountered a call center that has a retirement plan. I envy those who are working for pharmaceutical companies. Some other regular private companies offer travel packages. Such thing is non-existent in call center companies like Alorica Philippines, Sykes Asia, Convergys, Teleperformance, Sufferland and Transcom Asia. In those call center companies, I never encountered any summer company outing. There are some funds for Team Buildings (TB) but that's rare. Usually Team Buildings are financed by the agents themselves. I can only remember Sykes Asia and Sufferland as the only ones that gave budget for our Team Buildings.

  7. No career path – Call Centers often advertise heavily on having career paths for agents. That there is career growth in the call center. They would often tell the stories of some of their agents who got promoted fast. What they failed to mention is the figures. How many agents from a certain wave got promoted against the attrition rate? How many got regularized? How many got passed the 1 year period? In our wave at Alorica Philippines, we're around 20 agents and only 1 got promoted to a Team Lead post after 3-4 years. In Sykes Asia, none became a TL. Same goes with Convergys and Teleperformance. In Sufferland, we're almost 30 in our wave and only 1 got promoted as Team Leader. Here at Transcom Asia, we haven't reached our 6th month and 4 out of 18 agents is no longer with us. Call Centers are very poor when it comes to Statistics. In fact, I never heard any study at all regarding attrition rates. Of course, call centers would never conduct such a study although it's common knowledge that there’s no such thing as security of tenure in call centers, in most cases.

  8. Lack of chitchats and camaraderie – This can be attributed to the EOP, shifting schedules, different Rest Days (RD), large number of agents in an account, different teams, no permanent station, etc. In fact, in every wave that I became part of, I only became close friends with 1-2 people. I hardly know my former wavemates! Well, probably, it's also because I'm not the friendly type of agent. I envy other workers in other industries. At least they have a regular lunch and work buddy! In the 6 call centers that I have worked for so far, only 1 asked me to be the Ninong of his child. It's simply because we never knew each other that well. My motto actually became “savor the friendship as long ast it last”. You never know when each of your will be terminated. Pretty pessimist? Well, I based it on experience.

  9. It's a daily routine – No matter how much call centers tell that each customer is different, at the end of the day, what you did is exactly the same as yesterday. In fact, you could go on a vacation for a week and when you come back, nothing is change. You can take call ASAP. We have this thing called Top Call Drivers and our calls would basically revolves around these issues. Right now, my Top Call Drivers are computers not booting into Windows, monitors that have no display and printers that are not printing. There are some agents who can take calls half-asleep! The lower the AHT, the higher chance of having routine calls. I envy the teachers when it comes to this. At least they have a different topic each day! With a call center agent, each day is like a template.

So that's 21 reasons you should consider before applying for a call center position. Before a construction job (assistant to the Site Engineer) and being a call center agent, the latter is definitely way harder! It's not easy to be a call center agent.

The next time you meet a call center agent, don't think of him as someone who simply can speak English fluently. It's hard enough to pass that Initial Interview and it's definitely harder to stay alive in this cutthroat industry.

With all these setbacks in working in a call center, are you sure that you really wanted to be one of us?

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