We Run a Tight Ship in Here

I'm sure many call center workers in the Philippines have wondered what it would be like if all companies are run as tightly as call centers are run. It is an undeniable fact that this industry keeps the economy afloat this past decade or so. It is really fortunate that the culture and the level of education in the Philippines predisposes many of us to call center work. Where else can you get paid upwards to 20,000 pesos a month for fielding customer calls, chats, and emails? Sure its not rocket science but is it really that easy? Anyone says it is has probably not gone to work at a call center ever.

Let's look at the qualifications. At the very least, you have to have a good command of the English language. You must also be computer literate. These are the two minimum requirements and course some college education is preferred. The screening process involves a number of hurdles you need to clear. There's the initial interview, a battery of written or online tests for intelligence, analytical skills, typing speed, some even ask you to write a 500-word essay! I used to do the final interview for my program and my favorite opener is a variation on a question that would elicit a descriptive answer: "How did you get here from your house?" or "Describe the Waiting Area". Seemingly innocuous questions right? Some interviewers would go as far as to ask the candidate how they would describe the sky to someone who was born blind...

Once you get accepted for training that is when the fun starts. First timers might undergo language, speech, and grammar training. There's culture training too for some. Then you move on to product and tools training. Before you get to your first live call, chat or email you have to be certified through a series of simulated contacts. Then you get introduced to the metrics or your personal goals. You learn about attendance, productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction. You have six months to show you can cope before you get tenure, otherwise you will be let go or your probationary contract will be terminated.

The biggest buzzword you will ever hear in a call center is performance management. This involves coaching and mentoring, quality assurance, assessments, retraining, up-training, cross training. With the amount of time and energy spent at improving the quality of service, you will surely have a roster of good performers and high achievers. They may have started out with good English and computer literacy but they are honed to become able professionals who can juggle multiple tasks simultaneously.

Out there, call center agents get subjected to a lot of stereotyping. Many will try to downplay their capabilities. They will be the butt of jokes and will be lumped together as a group of no-good losers who cannot get a "real job" that matches their real skills or their education. People think call center agents have loose morals, or that they are only interested in gadgets, and they only take pictures of the restaurants they've been to and the food they ate.

People resent their high salaries. They somehow feel that call center agents do not deserve the money they get paid, that they have no right to earn twice what a bank teller makes. These haters should first try getting hired in a call center before they pass judgement. They should also try to hold down a call center job for a year or so, walk in the shoes of call center agents. Then they would realize that these agents rightly deserve the high pay they get and more. That sometimes the maximum limit of their health insurance barely covers the diseases they will get from working on the graveyard shift. The job may look glamorous, but it is not an accurate assessment. The job is hard and it is not for everybody. So the next time you feel like turning your nose down on a call center agent, think of how the local economy would be like if we didn't have them.

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