‘Call Center’

By Raoul Simon Suarez

“Maano ka da ya sa call center man? Graduado ka ma-call center ka lang ya? Waay-waay na ya.”

Before you start underestimating people from this industry, let me tell you a few things. Just a few things. There is nothing wrong with working in a Call Center. It’s a decent job and it pays well. The BPO industry has been around for quite a while and has given employment opportunities to a whole lot of people. Sure, most of the time you don’t get to apply what you learned in school. Most of the time, you do not get to practice your chosen degree. Most of the time, you get to work with people who have not earned their degree, or are still working to earn one. If you think it is easy, and if you think it is a cheap way to work, you are wrong. It is an honest way to make money. The pay is good. The benefits are good. The industry also teaches you a couple of things about life and its essentials.

“English-english kag computer-computer lang na da ya. Sabat-sabat tawag. Pindot-pindot. Patawhay klase ubra ah.”

This industry is not purely all about possessing a good command of the English language. The people who work here are not being paid to blab nonsense. Having an American accent is also not enough. Sure, it would make you sound nice, but the people you deal with will not always think you are awesome. Why? Mainly because they speak, and are exposed to the English language, better than you do; and they do it most if not all their lives. As long as you solve their problems, and you solve it fast, they will be happy enough to let you keep your job. If you played Super Mario, then you will understand that this industry is “one miss and you die.” You are required to give clear cut solutions; to resolve the issue without a need for a callback. Your command of the English language and your knack for sweet talk should be coupled with a whole lot of knowledge. Product Knowledge to be exact. You have to know your product like the back of your hand. You will be required to have substance and not just be a parrot with an American or neutralized accent. You will get paid for it. And you will get paid well.

“Mabasa-basa ka lang na da ya sang mga script-script kag ayos na na dayon. Indi na kinahanglan magsagi gamit utok ah.”

This industry is not for people with comprehension problems. Critical thinking and analytical skills are also needed here. Yes, you will need it here. And if you don’t know how it works, you better catch up fast. You will encounter new problems that you will need to solve within a very strict time limit. Every. Single. Day. And most of the answers can’t be found in the textbooks you have read in school. You will be working with the state-of-the-art tools that are sometimes coupled with slow internet speeds (it happens) and you have to make it work if you want to keep your job. You will learn how to actively listen and come up with the best solution to the problem in the shortest possible time. Because you are paid by the minute. You will get paid for it. And you will get paid well.

“Hapos lang na ang ubra da ya. Sulod-sulod sa opisina lang na da ya kag magbaton-baton lang na da ya sweldo. Wala ka gid da may matun-an nga makabulig sa imo ah.”

This industry is not for the lazy and for those who lack discipline. You need to manage your time and set your priorities. You will work seven and a half hours or up to eight hours a day, and you will be required to make it all count. If your shift starts at 8:00 PM, you come in thirty minutes before that or earlier. You usually get to leave thirty minutes after your shift ends. You can’t be late. Not even for a minute. This also applies during breaks and lunches. There is no fifteen-minute grace period like what it used to be when you were still in school. Your absences should be justified because lame excuses get the stick. Your mother can’t write a note for you telling your supervisor to excuse her child because you got sick with the flu – which means you have to present a medical certificate to prove you are ill. You need to go and see a company accredited doctor. There are other ways too – you met an accident that got you paralyzed from the waist down, your car exploded and you happened to be inside it, your plane got hijacked and crashed, the boat you were in sank and you drowned, or you are already dead. Even these require proof or you will be tagged AWOL (Absent Without Leave) or AWOP (Absent Without Pay). This is where you will learn to appreciate and maximize two fifteen-minute coffee breaks, an hour of lunch, and two days off. You will appreciate slack time that gives you even just minute away from the phone because no one is calling (in the Call Center it is called “Avail” – short for Available) because you will not always get to have it. You will get paid for it. And you will get paid well.

“Mga tikalon lang na da ya gaubra sa call center. Mga dropout man lang na da sa eskwelahan ang ara da. Hapos lang na da magsulod.”

This industry is not for the impatient and the proud. Most of the workers never start at the top. Nobody really joins in with an entitlement. Not even if you have multiple diplomas, especially if you lack experience. You will start at the bottom and you will need to work your way up. Your diploma means nothing here most of the time. It can get you an entry level job and that’s it; unless you are lucky enough to land a support position that requires urgent hiring and you are somewhat qualified. The customers you talk to also do not care who you are. You are just a voice on the phone, a string of words in a chat box, a couple of sentences in an e-mail. The customers do not care if you have a Masters degree or if you are working on your PhD. All they need is a solution and they want it as soon as possible. Your ego is not something that you should hold on to when you are working in this industry. You will learn how to be humble and set your pride aside. Before you lead, you will be taught how to serve.  You will get paid for it. And you will get paid well.

“Ngaa gahambal sila ni ya nga stressful kuno sa mga call center? Hapos-hapos lang ubra na da nila may mga pa-stressful kag toxic pa sila nga nasagad wakal. Mga damo arte bla.”

This industry is not for the weak, the sickly, and the emotionally soft. You have to stay healthy. You will work at night in very cold temperatures and go home during the day wherein the blazing heat of the morning or afternoon sun is going to hurt you. Way back when the work-from-home and online schooling setup was not even the norm, workers will sometimes go home and not be able to kiss their children goodbye as they leave for school because they won’t be there when their parents arrive. You will sleep while everybody is working and work while everybody else is asleep. You will be listening to people rant. You will listen to them curse and swear because they are very upset. You will listen to it every single day at work. They will yell at you louder than your mother; and it isn’t even your fault but you will need to apologize for the inconvenience. You will be taught how to handle difficult people and how to control your temper – and this does not apply to just plain customers. You will also need to deal with your higher-ups and adapt to their style of leadership. You will also have to deal with their mood swings. You will become a lightning rod in a world where sunny days are rare, and thunderstorms are the norm. A lot of things, that you have grown accustomed to, will change. Your eating habits will change. Your drinking habits will change. Your sleeping habits will change. Your mating habits will change. You will be forced to change it. Most of the work schedules are not permanent. The demands of the business are also dynamic and can progress faster than what’s normal. You will be forced to adapt. You will get paid for it. And you will get paid well.

“Dasig lang na da ya ang promotion kay indi man gid grabe ubra. Basic kaayo nga skills lang ang kinahanglan ah. Job job lang na ya ang call center, wala nay a gina-career.”

This is sort of work is not for everyone and it surely is not for people who lack the necessary skill sets. No. It’s not easy to pass the exams and the interviews. Yes, the screening process is a pain. Here, you are just a statistic until you make a name for yourself and start rising up in the ranks. And even after you do, you will still be dispensable. And the truth is that, in this life, we are all dispensable. One way or the other. We all are. Every single work day you have to make sure you’re not the first person who gets cut off. You will need to become better everyday or be left behind, and eventually find yourself lining up again in different government agencies so you can come up with requirements for a new job. You can get promoted, sure, but without knowledge on how to do reports, managing data, mentoring, coaching, and other required management skills, you are not going to last long. You will need to reinvent yourself. You will need to be better than what you were yesterday. You will get paid for it. And you will get paid well.

Before you comment and run your mouth that the Call Center or the BPO industry isn’t for you because it will just be a waste of what you learned in school, ask yourself if you really learned something in school or if you just wasted your parent’s hard-earned money because you failed to  do your research by making unfounded assumptions and spewing out your baseless opinions. Go. Look in the mirror. Before you belittle the call center employee, ask yourself if you can fare better, survive, and excel in this sort of work – maybe you will not even make it past the interview. You are always welcome give it a try. While you are at it, you might as well go and check the contents of your wallet and the digits in your online bank account; add in your health care insurance coverage too. Because maybe that nineteen-year-old kid who works the night shift, who sends two siblings to school while also finishing a degree, and who is being taxed a hefty amount so you can enjoy the roadworks and the bike lanes, is getting it good and earning more than you ever will.