How to Survive Working at a Call Center

Who's on the other end of the line? Sign up today for a call center job!
Who's on the other end of the line? Sign up today for a call center job!

Call Center Job

You may be working at a call center or thinking of getting a job at one. Why, there are many call centers around the nation and it's easy to get employed, without any education! Big call centers hire all the time. So how to survive at that job and what to expect? Read the hub.

The reason call centers exist is because there are customers who have a question, a problem. So you deal with problems and your job is to resolve them in a timely manner utilizing resources and your own analysis of the situation. That's all. This understanding will make it easier for you to approach the call center specifics. So expect people to complain, not understand the simplest things and sometimes be very angry at you. If you have patience, discipline and naturally good spirit, you will succeed.

Below I compiled the pro et contra of working at a call center.

Pro

1. It's an easy job. You just answer the phone in a nice tone and use a simple computer program. It's all about how quickly you navigate between screens and departments to get the information needed. Anyone off the street can do it, no education required.

2. You sit in a cubicle in a nice warm building (a lot of call centers are located in skysrapers with breathtaking vistas). And you have your own little space. So unlike other no-experience jobs like McDonalds and Wal-Mart, you don't have be on your feet moving boring boxes and moping the floor.

3. You can work overtime if you want: more money in your pocket. And sometimes you would get VTO (voluntary time-off) that occurs when call volume is too low and you are asked if you want to go home. Most workers die to hear that magical abbreviation, mind you.

4. When you're done with calls, your working day is over, there's nothing else left to do. Go straight to wherever you need! That means you have a lot of time on your hands outside your work. Combine it with your college, or write a book in leisure time. I, myself, went to stores, bars, movies and the beach. An evening shift meant I could come to work at 2 pm! A lot of college kids work at call centers. But if you're retired and want extra money, it's also a good option.

5. It's not all just taking calls. There are trainings, team meetings, joint lunches and - most importantly - new friendships. With 200-600 people working together, you surely would get a bunch of great friends.

6. You have a unique chance to talk to thousands of your compatriots and help them. Different characters, voices, tempers, situations... It also builds up your character. You can a write a book out of it, on a par with 'Coffee, Tea, or Me?', why not.

7. Although you have to vigorously follow the rules and policies, keep it as a game, a game of characters and you are the winner when you'll find a resolution that will leave both your customer and your company happy! There's a different approach summarized by the following quote: "You really work for your manager first and foremost, not for your customer..." I think there's some truth to it and in the end the results should be the same.

Contra

1. You deal with approximately ten thousand people per year over the phone. That's quite a number, isn't it? Because people call with questions, they might be already frustrated and they will be a challenge. Some cutomers will ruin your day. So the main theme of this passage is this: this job is very stressful. On the other hand it depends on your own character. If you have a good patience and a genuine desire to help, you should not be overstressed.

2. If you are a customer service representative at a call center, you are the last piece of the machinery, that is, you'll feel all the pressure from everybody, customers, supervisors, high management, HR. Some supervisors may be a pain in the ass; they would constantly monitor what you are doing and won't hesitate to fire you. But there are also devil-may-care supervisors who could be really fun to be around. One tip: don't argue with your supervisor. It's easier to get you fired, than anyone in the management. If it's a matter of opinion, keep it to yourself. If it's an ethic issue, address it to HR. Again, if you perofrm your work diligently, you should not worry.

3. And yet more stress: besides handling customers' issues, you also have to meet various goals, set by the management, that dilligently monitores your stats on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Some goals seem so unrealistic that you feel hopeless. You have to resolve a customer's call within a certain time period (from 6 to 10 minutes); you are not allowed to transfer customers to different departments without a solid reason; you are not allowed to put customers on hold, etc. For all these failures you get penalized and have a stressful talk with your supervisor.

4. As with any place with a great number of employees, you may be a subject of rumors and slander. You would be judged by others how you talk on the phone with customers, how you dress, how you smell, what you eat at the break room, who you hang out with... You may be fooling around in company of your new friends but you'll never know who also may hear your jokes. Be careful what you say, especially when it comes to your or someone else's personal life.

5. Last but not the least: the pay. Of course, it's not high! But not a minimum wage either that you get at retail stores and fast food places. Call centers invest a lot of money and time to train people, so despite the high turnover, they try to be competitive and keep their employees.

If you have any questions about how call centers work, ask me.

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Comments 57 comments

justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

This is a great explanation of something I know very little about. Good work man! Peace!! Tom


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

Thanks, Tom!


Rob Hanlon profile image

Rob Hanlon 5 years ago from Epicentre of everywhere

Good one, moncrieff.


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

Rob Hanlon, thank you.


jblogys 5 years ago

Really good hub! My son just got a job at a call center. I'll have to see how he likes it and let you know.


Lizzletwizzle profile image

Lizzletwizzle 5 years ago from Western New York

Cool topic to write a hub about Moncrieff! I like the jobs that you can leave your work at work!


Your Friend, Hope 5 years ago

Very true information. I currently work in a call center and your hub is very accurate. Nice work!


Lene Lynn 5 years ago

It's a good article. I have worked in MANY call centers throughout my career. I can honestly say I would NEVER do it again! I won't even go into my stories about them, it's not worth the time I would take to explain it! Thanks for writing about it, though!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

I enjoyed reading your hub about working in a call center. I retired from human resources management at a very large service company for which call centers were vital, so I know the importance of a good customer service center. I'm always very alert to the type of customer service I receive, either on the phone or face-to-face.

I hope it's okay for me to do this, but I want to praise an online company that currently has the best customer service phone representatives I ever encounter these days: NETFLIX. Those people are GREAT! They have super attitudes, and their words and actions are geared toward making the customer satisfied. They all act as though they read your hub and took your advice about patience and attitude. Thanks for sharing this info....JAYE


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

@jblogys, thank you and all the best to your son's new work.

@Lizzletwizzle, yep, unless you're a manager, there's nothing else left to do at the end of the day. Thank you.

@Your Friend, Hope, I'm glad it came out accurate. It came from my observations. Thanks.

@Lene Lynn, thank you for your input! Well, I guess the "contra" part of the job overweighted the "pro" one. Truth to say, I could have written a longer hub on the subject and insert a lot of stories... Maybe I will write a couple of supplementary hubs.

@JayeWisdom, thank you so much for your kind words! It's great that Netflix has a good customer service and - let's admit it - Netflix does sound like fun to work for. All companies should follow their example.


Betsy 5 years ago

Thank you so much. I didn't know too much of this area and talk to many representatives daily. This will surely influence the way I speak with them on a daily basis. Bravo!


Sosha 5 years ago

I worked at a call center where we represented a number of companies, took orders, handled certain complaints and referred callers to a proper connection.

I didn't find a lot of time for socializing, breaks were short and you had to make choices at times to eat dinner or go to the ladies' room.

I found that if you remember that there are real people at the other end with real concerns, no matter how crazy they seemed, if you had empathy and some compassion for them you found the words and the way to care for them.

The hardest and meanest was the call minutes average, if your call average was over four minutes you were spending too much time on calls. That pressure was what caused the most stress for me. But - I was there to represent our companies and to help the customers and I did my best and yes, I would work there again if we move back there.


Jack 5 years ago

Great post! Working at call center is so challenging, but it fits you, you will have fun.


Mamelody profile image

Mamelody 5 years ago

ahh reminds me of my call center days... excellent hub my friend, keep 'em coming.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 5 years ago from Illinois

Not sure I would want to work at a call center but I thought your hub was interesting. And I LOVE the picture you have accompanying it. Very cool!


barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 5 years ago from Queensland Australia

I worked at a call centre for three months and agree with the comments of sosha that was my experience along with a apin in the ass supervisor


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

@Betsy, glad it was helpful, thank you!

@Sosha, I understand about the breaks, they are short indeed, and yet it always amazed me that somehow some people found time to socialize... On the other hand, many people just came in, got on the phones and that's about it. The call everage - 4 minutes? That's insane. I know some companies have 5 and 8 minute per call policies and if you go over, your manager will be after you and that does bring a stress and it does affect the way you commmunicate with a customer. Great to hear that you were taking care of business!

@Mamelody, thank you for your kind words.

@Danette Watt, thank you! Although anybody can work at a call center, it's definitely not for everybody.

@barryrutherford, sorry to hear your supervisor was bringing more stress to your work. Sadly I know a lot of cases when supervisors were the reason of a worker's bad mood. Thanks for your input.


Emac2011 5 years ago

This was a very helpful article I had no idea this when on!


papatrimble profile image

papatrimble 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

You hit it right on the head with call center work! Keep up the good writing, great hub!


tinisha12 profile image

tinisha12 5 years ago from Denver, Colorado

Oh my...I remember the days. I have worked at several call centers over the years. It sucks for lack of better words. I've worked at large call centers and small. Depending on the call center, you can make some good money. The biggest con in my opinion is sitting on your butt, taking call after call after call, for a full day, with only a 30min lunch and 2- 15 min breaks, and in addition to that this is where you can really get micromanaged. Your performance is always being watched. Whew...I don't miss it at all. On the bright side if there is one, working in a call center is great as a part-time gig if you are a student or just need some extra cash. Great article!


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

@papatrimble, thanks for reading!

@tinisha12, imagine a person working in the same call center for the past 10 years, taking call after call? I know a few people who have been doing for that long. I agree with you about being microwatched; therefore a great management team is a key to overall positive atmosphere at such a place. There must be something to make you want to come to work besides earning a buck... be it your friends, nice enviroement or something else... Thanks for your input!!


thejovial profile image

thejovial 5 years ago from United States

Great description on this occupation. Nice poster too. Is that Marilyn Monroe?


Sandra Hopkins 5 years ago

Your absolutely right about your PROS AND CONS! I'm in a call center industry before and I would say inspite of all the negative feedbacks I kept on hearing from some of my friends, I love the environment. The challenge, the pressure, the expectation that you get from your superiors, the motivation, the headaches, the patience. Everything! It's a matter of dedication, if you love to help and resolving anyone's issue then being in a call center might be suitable for you. :)) Great post!


onrea profile image

onrea 5 years ago from Rochester, NY

Yep this is 100% on point. I work at one now and it's 100% as you explained lol. Nice job!!!


Zach 5 years ago

Dealing with over 10,000 people a year. No thanks, I won't quit my day job :)


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

@thejovial, thank you. You know, I think it is her.

@Sandra Hopkins, those are all great words. Thank you for your input and your dedication!

@onrea, great to see I got it right, ha. Thanks!

@Zach, as long as you're fine with what you do, that's all right.


awcase profile image

awcase 5 years ago

Your hub caught my eye as I was logging in. Interested from beginning to end. Well done!!!! This hub is excellent.


yankeeintexas profile image

yankeeintexas 5 years ago from Lubbock, Texas

My father in-law worked at the AT&T call center in Lubbock, TX for years before he got fired. During his entire employment he was considered a great employee, and won many awards. When he reached his five year make the company started being hard on him. Soon my father in-law found the reason why they were be harsh to him, he was about to qualify for extra benefits that AT&T did not want to pay out. Finally, one day he got the flu and they fired him. It seems to me that call centers don't like loyalty, and longevity!


DREAM ON profile image

DREAM ON 5 years ago

my wife works in a call center and I hear everything that you have described in your hub to a T....Great Hub she works for the cable company and it's amazing how important one channel can be to a person ...


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

@awcase, thanks for reading! Cheers.

@yankeeintexas, you're right about the longevity: it's very rare for someone to work ten or even five years for many reasons... Sadly, some companies are tight and use petty reasons to terminate workers. It's sad how things turned out for your faither-in-law. Thanks for your input!

@DREAM ON, thank you! People calling about issues with their TV channels on that cable? That's interesting. All the best to you and your wife!


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 5 years ago from Texas

Great job Moncrieff you described the call center job perfectly, unfortunately, I don't think I could do that job for a long time. Thanks for sharing. Cheers.


lindatymensky profile image

lindatymensky 5 years ago

My sister, an intelligent woman, worked at a call center for a major cell phone company for 11 years. It almost killed her. (Really. She is on permanent disability.) The pressure from irate customers and devilish inhouse supervisors always looking at the bottom line was just too much for her. She is a diabetic and passed out at her desk constantly. 100s of times she called me crying. Thanks for this piece. I'm following you. Linda


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

lindatymensky, I perfectly understand your sister, for I had experience of working for a cell phone company, both as a representative and as a supervisor. Some stories were really tough. I'm planning to write a hub about such cases. Thank for your input, Linda.


Mike Marks profile image

Mike Marks 5 years ago

I'm still not clear on 1) are we helping folks with tech problems, or personal life problems, or both and everything inbetween... 2)how do I locate such jobs? I am about to move to a new city, newark De., leaving my little town in nc where there is no work (ok, there's some minimum wage work...) two weeks before my house is foreclosed on... meanwhile, I been trying to scratch out a living selling paintings I do cheaply (wanna buy a cheap painting... check http://www.acryllicpainting.com) but I need to find something immediately when I hit Deleware (arriving with very little cash). Is call centers a good option? If you could guide me with more specifics I'd appreciate it... I'm a former trained actor with a good voice, a good ear, and a fairly good knowledge base...


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

@Mike Marks, call centers serve various companies, so you may help with technical problems for a TV cable, or billing issues for a cell phone company, or provide explanation of insurance policies... It's a great option if you need an immediate job. First you'll spend a several months at training (paid) before hitting the call floor. That will give you time to look for another job, if you want to. Most call center services do not list themselves as "call center", so to find them, you need to locate a customer service company that is in the call center industry. Here's the list of the biggest call center services I found on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_call_centre_c... Check the area you're moving in if they have any of those. Cheers.


Mike Marks profile image

Mike Marks 5 years ago

thanks... I'll follow up on your info... last night I attended an unemployment/underemployment support group and brought up the subject of call centers if see if folks there had any info... I was wondering about opportunities where one can 'truly' help people... one 'underemployed' fellow there, I felt bad for him while also admiring him, he lost his ten-year computer analysis job and now is currently dressed as the Statue of Liberty at minimum wage to lead folks into a taxprepare center


Nicole Smith 5 years ago

Being an agent is one of the stressful jobs ever. I am planning to be one, I know it's pretty easy but pretty hard as well. I, myself, don't know if I can stand the stress it'll give me. But thanks for sharing this, at least it has changed my perspective about it.


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

@Ladyjane1, I think you could be a great agent because you really CARE! Thanks for stopping by.

@Nicole Smith, it is as stressful as you allow it to happen. As long as you clearly set yourself what you can and what you cannot do for a customer, just do the best in what you can do. All the best with your new job!


bj 5 years ago

whoever wrote this obviously doesn't know anything about working at a call center in the collections dept during these economic times. the job is by no means easy. you must use multiple software that don't work properly about 1/4 of the time; the stats you have to achieve change constantly and you are penalized in your stats by transferring calls to the correct depts even though it is not a function you can perform; customers scream and curse at you at least 3/4ths of the day; and the company sets totally unrealistic goals for their employees. i've worked in a call center for 11+ years and when i tell someone where i work they get this look of horror on their face and ask me how i've survived for so long. working in a call center right now you should get hazard pay for the abuse you take. people seem to think that even when they don't pay their cell phone bills for months and have multiple nsf checks or rejected credit card payments, you should still leave their cell phones on just because they want them. wake up america, we lived without cell phones for years. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE A CELL PHONE if you can't pay your other bills. get a Magic Jack and stop overstepping your budget!


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 5 years ago from New York, NY Author

bj, I agree completely with your entire statement. It's the specifics of the job - people call and curse, cuz they have problems, of course! And you cannot tell them, hey, it's your responsibility, buster, so you must pay! And I perfectly understand about transferring calls and being penalized for that and about insane stats to meet. But hey you've survived working there for 11 years )) So it's achievable. Thank you so much for your input and have yourself a glorious day!


MangBerto08 profile image

MangBerto08 5 years ago from Philippines

Nice topic! Im new by the way and my first hub is also about call centers. It's nice to see that there are a lot of hubs about call centers here in the Philippines.

Good Job!


princesswithapen profile image

princesswithapen 4 years ago

Besides the irate customers, working in a call center is a fun job. Having worked in retail and customer service previously, I can definitely relate to your line "..you are the last piece of the machinery.." Nice hub and an enjoyable read!

Princesswithapen


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 4 years ago from New York, NY Author

@MangBerto08 & @ambrking, thank you for your kind words and for stopping by!

@princesswithapen, thank you, glad it's relatable! Thanks for your input!


Akshay 4 years ago

i am 21 years old (graduate). looking for a job.

Q - how long can we work in a call centre? i mean.. do they fire us when we are in 40s.? because of rough voice. i want to choose a right career. plz help.

do we get jobs in a call center if we are 40 or above years old?


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 4 years ago from New York, NY Author

Akshay, the longest term I've seen being on the phone at a call center was 13 years (wow, that's tough, I know!). Call centers practically have 0 age discrimination. In fact, most call center agents are either very young kids, straight from high school (some are college students) or people in their 50s and 60s (who either had lost their previous jobs or work while retired to get an extra buck). Cheers.


Denissa 4 years ago

I've signed a contract with Vodafone last week for a call center position and i will start my training next week.I'm very excited but in the same time a bit scared.I have worked in Vodafone before in a face to face customer service role and it was fun.I know they will invest a lot in my training,and i will learn from the best,so if it will not gonna work i will have the privilege that i've gained great experience and i will find always another opportunity.

Thanks for your input!


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 4 years ago from New York, NY Author

Denissa, I think face-to-face customer service is much more challenging, so if you've nailed it down well, there should be no worries. Good luck and all the best! Thanks for reading!


Swati 4 years ago

Well summarised!:)Cheers!!!


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 4 years ago from New York, NY Author

Thank you, Swati!


LuisZ 4 years ago

Hi i want to say that i have worked in various call centers. From mega-corporations to mid-size to small less than 50 employee companies. First of all while the article was pretty much accurate. Been in the Biz (unfortunately) for over 16+ years meeting 100s of co-workers, I can say generally working in a call center sucks big time. I also still working in a call center. Most (about 85%) are extremely high turnover jobs. There's a reason for this and its because these jobs are generally bad and stressful. In most call centers you are basically there to get fired in one way or another. Basically there are 99 ways to die(to get fired) in your typical call center. From the super strict call out/attendance policy. Not taking enough calls, taking too many calls. Putting too many customers on hold or long hold times, too many transferring of calls. Talk time too long, too many dropped calls. Been a minute late from breaks and lunches. Yes a minute. Getting up too much from your desk. I once got fired for using bathroom too many times. There are many more reasons. Last but not least call monitoring. This is a biggie forget to use a customers surname twice in a call for example, tone in voice etc. I would whole heartily recommend most people not to get into this line of work if at all possible. Ive speak from years of experience and this is just not my personal opinion, but the opinion of most co-workers Ive talk to in this line of work (numbering in the 100s). Basically without trying to offend anyone this is a job for people that cant get hired anywhere else or the jobs no one else wants. The article briefly touched on this. For college kids or other adults that are about to retire or are retired. Your best (not a guarantee) is to find a smaller company to work for. Avoid the big corporations. The smaller places are usually less stringent, have less rules and are more fair. With the bigger corporations you are simply a# to them they are quick to fire you and replace you. In fact it happens so much you become desensitized to the whole process. Another option is (and you will have a difficult time of this) is to get in customer service ( to get your foot in door) and hopefully transfer out to another department. Unfortunately you will have a whole bunch of competition both internally and externally. However, this isn't to say is impossible. My advice if you haven't met this goal in 2 years you might consider trying some where else. Good luck..


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 4 years ago from New York, NY Author

LuisZ, you made excellent points that I cannot agree more with. Thank you for your awesome and honest input!

Looks like I'm back in business, and I have extra thoughts on the whole call center machine that I will share soon.


frontrowgal 4 years ago

thanks for your points..am currently leading a team for inbound call cntre....ver y difficult when ppl mix work with their personnel affairs


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 4 years ago from New York, NY Author

frontrowgal, only a strict discipline would ensure that there would be no room for such a mix. Thank you for your comment!


Hina 4 years ago

I am a 44 year old mom and got a job in a leading bank's contact center. I am trying to learn but its pace and the product knowledge is making it hard for me to retain most of the things. I wish I find something else soon. I was quite happy in giving therapeutic massages and was also making decent money but everyone tells me how great it is to be hired in such a big organization but only I know how I despise it every morning. I love the training environment and have made amazing friends in first week though everyone is younger than me but very helpful and nice. I want to sound positive so I survive atleast few months till I get something but honestly I Hate it! Yes I said it:D


moncrieff profile image

moncrieff 4 years ago from New York, NY Author

Hina, I know what you're saying. Fast pace and constant product updates do bring a stress. So it's really odd: on one hand, it's a very simple job; on the other hand, it may be nerve wrecking. We are all different, we like different things, we have different characters, etc. I wish you to find a better job where you would feel you are 'in' and feel secure. Thank you for the comment!


staci 3 years ago

Working in a call center, and I have worked in MANY will leave you feeling uninspired and demeaned. It is a lack luster way to live and for the the most part everyone is stressed beyond words and for no good reasons! Gossip, slander, pettiness, unreasonablness, infantilness, inseniblities run ramped! for me it was like being in Hell. seriously! and, the "teams" and supervisors are constantly being re-arranged. God for bid you get a string of insecure supervisors in a row you will be

left feeling like on the side of the road of life. Suggestion


tt 3 years ago

I know how stressful working at a call center can be. When we got the Verizon account, I missed the Funai account, and would have been perfectly happy with a $1 an hour less in pay. Verizon was tight assed in their metrics and would not give any reasonable wiggle room. It didn't matter that my friend or I was meeting more of the metrics, they want the improvement to be their way only. None of us are rehire but any type of cell phone company account is going to be tough. You get surveyed and get penalized for failing them, and then the transfer rate is limited. Most non cell phone accounts allow a little over the call times and don't have stressful transfer rate limits. I once failed a survey when I didn't want to transfer, and referred him to the store from where the computer was bought. You get penalized for going to break late too, (failing the adherence metric)but there is usually no such metric on a non cell phone account.

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