What it is like Working in a Call Center (Understanding the Culture of the BPO Industry)

This article has been written not only because it was suggested but because I miss the days being a customer service advocate in the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry and the culture that is adhered to it. This for me is a means of educating people about the nature of the job and the expectations if you are just new to the industry since a lot are belittling the work that generates countless of jobs to our thriving Philippine economy.

Since its humble start way back 1999 when Cyber City opened the very first outsourcing facility at the former USAF base in Clark, the rest is history. For more than a decade now, the Philippines has established a highly-competitive reputation globally due to exemplar customer service, a large pool of challenge-driven employees with outstanding English communication skills and knowledge, reasonably priced yet quality real estate acquisition for the rise of telecommunication infrastructure and centers, and still continuously growing buyer trends on outsourcing to handle both inbound or outbound and other BPO services.

BPO Industry (Business Process Outsourcing) had been for countless times recognized for its significant contribution towards the growth of the Philippine economy. According to Business Mirror as of May, 2014 “BPO contributed $13.3 billion to the national economy by the end of 2013, an increase of 15 percent compared to its contribution at the end of 2012 with 1.3 million direct jobs.”

Okay, enough of the numbers and the economic impact. Let me focus on the attention this time to the millions of faceless warriors who plays the MOST VITAL ROLE towards the success of this respected industry. They are the front liners armed with a headset and a monitor who braved out even the storm just to take in calls and deliver an outstanding customer service.


Working in a Call Center



What You Need to Know about the Call Center Culture


Call Center Agents Being Perfectionists

Nobody is perfect, yes! No questions asked but NOT if you are an agent. Call center representatives, believe it or not are always measured by their performances every single day. Yep! And that comprises of daily CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) surveys, Average Handling Time, QA (Quality Assurance) Analysis and even Loss Hours (Attendance and Schedule Adherence). There are even times that an agent will receive a real-time survey completed by a client that same day he handled the call.

It’s not true that agents are just taking in calls. Agents are doing their best for every single call in the best way they can, as if it will be surveyed. That’s how intense the work is. It’s just a Pass or Fail scoring measure. Clients may rate an agent 5 being the perfect score for outstanding customer service experience and lower score than 5 is already a failed survey subject to a review to verify the missed opportunities.

Aside from the daily performance review, there is also the monthly and quarterly review so you would know your quality score and your team’s standing; not to mention the annual review for performance appraisal. Once you failed a quarter, you will automatically either be sent to a boot camp or training to be able to work with your performance. If you still fail, you are subject to either dismissal or attrition.

Because of that, call center agents in return have set a high standard when it comes to receiving the same customer service outside work as they provide in the office. You will expect that they are not hesitant to ask for a supervisor once they receive a poor customer service. Why? Because that’s the nature of their job being reciprocated in the first place.

That’s why a lot of people misunderstand us them arrogant and boastful; not knowing that it was the culture of the work, especially the expectations and the demands of the job that molded them into this swarm of people who are perfectionists when it comes to the type of customer service they get everywhere they go.


Call Center Agents are from Different Walks of Life

One thing that I am proud of the BPO companies is that,  the industry is never bias. It is open to ALL. There are no age limitations, no religious affiliations and requirements, and definitely no discrimination when it comes to hiring talented people even with personal defects.

Contrary to popular belief, a lot of call center agents aren’t really just from elite family born on a silver platter or dropouts from college who cannot find a decent office job or are just open for people who can speak in English. A lot them are graduates of a 4-year course from reputable schools, some even graduated as Cum Laude, with honors and are even board passers.

The population consists of students who work at night and go to school in the morning. Some are taking their Masters degrees. There are also breadwinners working hard to support their family or mothers who would like to help their husbands in generating additional income. Others were even in a higher management positions from other commercial and industrial companies yet opted to work in the BPO industry because the job is fast-pace, not boring, always challenging and because it offers a competitive pay, string of benefits and incentives and a high-rate of promotions.

Mind you that there were OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), lawyers, and other professionals who tried to work in the customer service industry yet they have to quit working early because they can’t keep up with the high- end demands of the job, failing their quality performance scores.  

Call center is the melting pot of different personalities who were grouped together, working not just for their own performances but also for the team. It is a great place to meet different people from different walks of life, varying attitude, aspirations and motivations to get them going.


Call Center Agents and Their Lifestyle

Most agents you see on the floor own the latest gadgets, can afford to eat out on different known restaurants in the metro, can finance their braces even if their teeth doesn’t really need to be fixed, are renting condos and apartments, can have their cars through car loans, frequent the malls for a shopping spree, visit salons, massage centers and spas every week, and even travel within and outside the Philippines because of the competitive salary they get from their hard work and dedication.

Even though callers can’t see the customer service representative taking the call, most agents are dressed to kill. Yes, they walk nonchalantly around the floor flashing their Zara, Guess, Forever 21 ensembles and they are always on the lookout for the latest trends. They can afford to buy original Ray-Ban eyeglasses and signature bags. It is a glamorous world to some, especially for those people who are so into fashion and dressing up.

There is a great financial impact to the family of those working in this industry. You would see that they can send their kids to school, have a family bonding through out of town trips, dining outs and some wisely take advantage of the earnings they get by putting up a business for a passive income.

If you are new to the industry, you should expect that there is always an unplanned team breakfast especially if your teammates are stressed out from work. Some will organize a drinking session on their rest days or do bar hopping with their peers and often have team building sessions at nearby resorts and amusement rides as a means of coping with the stress.


Call Center Agents and the Way They Talk

Some of the centers are liberal when it comes to the English Only Policy. But others strictly comply with it that even the security guards are required to speak in English within the company premise. A lot of agents start with a neutral accent and because of the daily exposure of talking and communicating with foreign customers via phone, they eventually adapt the accent of a native speaker.

If you are just a first-timer, the trainer will require you to talk in English whenever you go out with your peers. I remember when I just started, it was a bit awkward to talk in English outside the company and I feel like the infamous line of Cherry Gill " a second-rate trying hard copycat" who still has the accent of our own native dialect. It was a great challenge to drop the native accent.

Adapting the foreign accept does't happen overnight. It took me years of taking in calls, watching and mimicking the accents of those characters in the movies I had watched, all those "in-front- of-the-mirror-me-watching-myself- speak" and the recorded voice messages that I have to play over and over to criticize my way of talking , all of the effort paved way! Eventually, I adapted the accent and is flattered when people notice and admire it.

Because of this English Only Policy (EOP), agents tend to still talk in English even if are already outside the company premise. Sometimes, out of the blue while in a public place, the words and sentences will come out naturally. It's uncontrollable. Somebody even shared her story that while sleeping, she was still delivering her spiel and her husband needs to wake her up. Yes, that’s true, even in her sleep she still talks in English.

And people who aren’t familiar, do not understand that. They think that agents are arrogant, culturally ashamed of our own language when in fact that isn’t true. When you work for so long in the call center, sometimes it is easier to explain things out in English than in our own language. I don't know but that was what I've observed right now that I was already out of the industry.


Call Center Agents and the Health Challenges

When you work in the call center, expect that most of your shifts will be aligned with the time zone of your customers located at the other side of the world. So that means that your body clock needs to be adjusted, directly affecting your sleep hours. Going against the nature definitely has a long-lasting health impact; not to mention the dose of caffeine to be induced every day just to remain awake the whole shift.

Since customer service representatives are the front liners, they are exposed to all types of customers, listening to the curses, rants and profanities, the shouts and the complaints-apart from the scores that they have to take good care of every day, causing a great amount of stress and emotional trauma; hence, directly impacting the health of an agent.

Many started smoking when they worked in the call center. Others indulge themselves with a glass or two of alcohol in order to sleep which is being addressed by the clinic because of the health hazards it gives to the agents. And because of sitting for at least 6-7 hours a day taking in calls, and all of those impromptu team breakfasts, dining outs and fast-food takeouts, some ballooned as they go along,  gaining extra weight which is very hard to loose.

There is also a concern that has been long raised wherein during the inclement weather; some centers are still asking their agents to go to work. A lot of the agents; therefore, will brave the storm just to go to work, wading the flood water and being stricken by the rain; thus, making them susceptible to illnesses. And since it is a closed environment, colds, coughs, sore eyes and other highly-contagious diseases can be transmitted like wildfire.

A lot of people I know said that they were not anemic, do not have a high blood pressure, back pain, insomnia, asthma attacks, even vertigo and migraines prior to working as an agent.


Understanding the Culture of the BPO Industry


Credit: Interaksyon 5


Scenarios only Call Center Agents Relate with


1. When all your fellow passengers in a jeep or a FX are disheveled, haggard-looking and you are the only one looking fresh with a matching wet hair on your way to work.

2. When you feel sorry for yourself going to work while the rest are celebrating Christmas, New Year and other non-working Philippine holidays with their families.

3. When you came late because your schedule changed without prior notice.

4. When suddenly, you feel like Dracula, awake at night and asleep at daytime. And you are still awake at night during your rest days.

5. When you talk about PTO (paid time off), queuing or q-ing (the queue of incoming calls at work), NCNS (no call no show when absent), auto-in, CSAT and more while other people stare at you as if an antenna just sprouted out of your forehead.

6. You turn into an anemic, caffeine-infused employee because of sleep-deprivation.

7. The outage or downtime spiel is the best opening spiel ever created and you deliver it in a melodramatic way.

8. When your name was called out because you are spending a little longer placing your customer on hold.

9. When you placed the customer on hold because you and your seatmate are asking each other’s lunch break.

10. Where you go to work with just a one-way fare money hoping that the pay out will be released the moment your shift ends.

11. When you feel rich for three days and the rest of the days you are broke.

12. You are in the best mood every Friday even without sleep.

13. Where you share gossips and quick chats in the locker room during your break.

14. Your workstation looks like a mini-7 11 complete with a bag of chips, a bar of chocolate, a mug of espresso, not to mention the can of Red Bull.     

15. The mute and hold button are your life-savers.

16. You hear some banging of the mouse and keyboards flying on different directions as someone tries his best to remain calm and composed.

17. The free coffee in the vendo machine always runs out of sugar.

18. You know the underlying meaning of “ninja moves,” hadouken, and BDO motto’s “we find ways.”

19. When you started praying your hardest for your vacation leave, extended lunch break, extended break and early logouts to be approved. And how you go  #beastmode when they weren't approved.

20. "Honda dot” means logging and clocking out on time, trying so hard to end the call without extending and then you flee as if you just tasted your freedom for the first time.


I do hope that this article shed some light about what it really is like when you hit the production floor. Every work I believe has their unique demands and level of skills, dedication and  hard work depending on what type of industry you are in. So whether you are from a call center or working elsewhere, I think it is wrong to judge the type of work that one does especially if you don’t have any idea about the nature of it. It’s best to respect each other’s work and rather perform it with diligence and purpose.
Share on Google Plus
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment

0 comments :

Post a Comment