Call Centers: Do You Think You Got What It Takes?

Updated on September 29, 2018
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I worked for several BPO companies in the Philippines, and was tenured and offered a promotion.

Is the call center life for you? Well if you want to find out, then you’re reading the right article. So what does it take to be part of this growing and stable business community? Well, hopefully I could break down the important dos and don’ts when starting a life as a call center agent.

I’ve worked for several BPO companies in a variety of accounts over the years, tenured in one of the companies and was even offered a promotion once; I then found my true love in writing, but that’s enough about me. What I want to share is what to expect if you have plans in taking a call center life as a temporary job, or as your stable source of income. I am not going to talk about how fantastic the life of an agent is; there are BPOs that advertise themselves that do that for you. What I will talk about is how you can prepare yourself, if you want to take this world on. If not, then this kind of life is simply not for you.

How Does the Call Center Business Work?

Call centers deal with calls, but it’s a little more complex than that. BPOs in general deal with different means of communication, like e-mails, chats, calls and video-calls. How do they make money? Many businesses, like Wal-Mart, Time Warner, or Sprint , have customers who have queries or requests or are just unsatisfied with the service. The BPO deals with those customers’ calls so that the company doesn’t have to and can stick to doing what it does best. So you, as the agent, are the center of it all and take the calls that no one would; you are the source of income for your company. You’re even more important than you think.

The Interview

Let’s get one thing out of the way : the interview. This honestly is not as scary as others may think. What they're looking for is a person who either has good communication skills already or is trainable. As long as you’re confidently answering their questions, you should be fine. If you can’t answer their questions right away, it’s okay to say that you don’t know, as long as you can confidently reply “I don’t know right now, but I’ll definitely look into that” or something along those lines.

Is it Morning Yet?

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room now, and that’s the schedule. Many think of call center agents as night owls, vampires and the “bayaning puyat." It’s true that most agents have night schedules and that’s due to time zones. Since BPOs are usually catering to international clients, you would be talking to people at the other side of the world, whose time is much different from your own. And more often than not this dime difference greatly affects your personal health.

Let me say it in all capitals: SLEEP. You might take it for granted now, but once you start working on graveyard shifts, this will change. You’ll be yearning just to feel satisfied when you wake up. You’ll start to hit the snooze button too many times; you’ll be craving for just five more minutes of shut-eye. That’s because it is so hard to get a good amount of sleep in the middle of a hot, humid day, which is typical in our country.

So here are some tips.

  1. You should find a way to cool off. You’ll find yourself sleeping better in a cool place. Invest a little in some air conditioning, it’s important.
  2. Block as much light as possible. You have to trick yourself into thinking that it’s still dark. I own a really good set of curtains; when I close them, they make my room almost pitch dark. Then I can sleep like a baby.
  3. Iron. If you're still unused to graveyard work, try some iron supplements; they work wonders for many.

You have to take care of your health take care of when working in the world of call centers. You are expected to take those calls in a daily basis, and your TL will not take “overslept” as a good-enough excuse, so you have to take care of yourself.

Do You Talk the Talk?

Now, let’s start with, what some told me, as the most intimidating part of a call center life and that’s ones communication skills.

Most Filipinos weren’t born with English as a primary language, that’s a given. Unless you’re thinking of applying to a local or national call center, your language skills are important in whether the company would decide to take you or not. But you don’t need to be a Shakespearean poet to pass, if you can hold a five-minute conversation in full basic English, then you should be fine.

It depends on the company’s client if they are looking for a formal or a conversational way of speaking. Filipinos they are often better at formal English, since it has more of a structure to it; conversational English has an abstract rhythm, and is less concrete. What I recommend to beginners is continual practice. Do you know of a Hollywood film that you want to watch or even re-watch? Well, invite your friend that is also interested in applying in a call center over. Then pick up the character’s mannerisms in speaking, the subtle nuances in tones. Have an English conversation with your friend after the movie, talk about the characters, the plots and all that stuff. These are some of the many ways to practice.

I have seen many, in the call center world, try to have spiels and scripts in their head then blurt them out when the right question is asked. I personally don’t agree with this method. When the time comes that they are asked something that they never prepared for, they begin to ramble and slip on their own tongue.

I suggest indulging yourself in a natural conversation, it feels less forced and you can easily find the right words on the spot when you’re in a tricky situation.

Is It Worth It?

The salary really does depend on the company you’re working for, or the client you are working with. The pay, in general, is not that bad. The majority of the call centers you can find nowadays pay a range between P15,000 to P25,000. There are those that pay more but are pretty hard to get into, especially if you’re a beginner. In my experience, you can't feed a large family with your income, but you can start to fend for yourself if this is your first job.

If you want to take this seriously as a career, then I suggest working hard for the promotions because that’s where all the money is. It will take a huge toll on your health, but give yourself a few months to adjust to the living conditions and you’ll be fine. Being crammed in a closed, air-conditioned room in the middle of the night and getting very little sleep does open you to many diseases. So be careful.

Now it is obvious that this job takes a lot of your time, so if you think you can take this job only as a side-line then you thought wrong. I cannot stress enough how important it is get yourself enough rest. If you are a full-timer at another job, or a full–time student that needs the money, there should be other jobs for you. There are some jobs out there that pay just as much for less time, like freelancing or part-time accounts.

What I want to point out is, don’t kill yourselves for a few pesos. It’s not worth it. But if you you want to make this a sole means to a livelihood, then go ahead, be my guest.

There is more to say about my time in call centers (so much more), but these are the main physical hurdles you have to leap over in order to successfully retain yourself in this job. Of course everything I said above doesn’t apply to all call centers, like those that have morning schedules or those that are for local clients, but this does give you an insight into what you need to brace yourself for if wanting to take on the work of the Bayaning Puyat: “Para sa Ekonomiya!”


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