I am not a hypocrite. Well, not all the time. To err is human. But I did for exactly 365 days take up work with headset on my head receiving calls to earn a few bucks. Yes. I did the call center gig. Among other reasons, the primary raison d'être was the bubble had to burst. Because, no matter how desperate you are, or how jaded you are, a call center ‘job’ will not live up to what you want in life. Call center gigs is not something to be proud of.
BPOs outsourced their customer relations strategies for just one reason alone: money. Because labor is cheap in Manila. And to earn a measly $300 a month as an agent saves a bundle for the overseas companies. This is one view.
From the employees view, they think they are working for an international company, where skills and communication are king. And to work in the commercial business district and calling your half a cubicle your ‘office’ makes you feel like you are on the prow of the Titanic. In a way you are. Tragic ending and all. Let me give you the reasons…
- You work with scripts. Set phrases and words that are supposed to be posted on a notepad on your desktop. And they are strictly the only words anyone is allowed to use. Quality analysts, team leaders and coaches listen in on your calls to make sure that you don’t get creative. This script is ingrained in the first two weeks, where each and every agent is taught how to speak English like an American. With the twang and drawl.
- Your ‘office’ is half a cubicle, which holds a desktop computer, a phone interface and headset. As an agent, you are not allowed to make that office your own. No family pictures. No personal effects. That is where you will be stuck in for 8 hours a day. Watching a computer screen endlessly, accumulating carpal tunnel syndrome and dealing with the frigid air-conditioning because the PCs are more important. So very loud woolen blankets with prints of Winnie the pooh and bright patterns are part of the uniform
- Your work is determined my numbers on a spreadsheet. You are graded and judged by both the customers and the internal Quality Analysts. These stats determine how aligned your mindset is with the company, in a more robotic drone kind of way.
- It’s like college all over again. The freshman year. Aforementioned stats are summarized by teams and posted on walls as an arts and crafts projects. Bulletin boards are plastered with cardboard, Styrofoam strings, markers and everything else except cheerleaders pom-poms. You have coaching, team huddles and Team leader and agent conferences. In the center I worked for, you basically have no uniform, pretending to have the Google culture.
- Incentives are incredible. Where else can you get a small can of Pringles and a bottle of iced tea as a prize for getting a perfect score in one customer survey (which is subjective, no matter how you see it)
- The extent of your customer relations is through phone. Never face-to-face. So being a jerk will not incur reprimands because the customer on the other end can’t do anything about it. Connecting with the customer is simply a digital voice that works a script to empathize and acknowledge
- You work with people from all walks of life. Gay, straight, corporate, hippie, yuppie, dirty old men, cougars. I even came across hookers, former doctors and nurses, singers and transvestites. Because of statistics, equality rules. And you meet hundreds of them throughout the tenure, since turnover is high
- Unlimited amounts of coffee. In the form of premixes. Convenient. Don’t have to deal with brewing another pot or waiting in line for a latte. Just bottomless dredges provided by Nescafe.
- It’s easy work. You sit on your butt for hours, in an air-conditioned room, play with your computer, take a few phone calls, and you get a pay check. No brain needed. Just scripts. And the tools that help make those scripts happen to get that perfect customer survey so you can enjoy this time a bag of chips and some Oreos.
- Office romances and politics are nil, so there is no chance of making a mess in your own backyard. Like I said, interpersonal relationships are by phone. As a trainee all you and your team member will be asking is ‘how are your calls?’
Call center work is really a stop-gap when you are in between legitimate jobs. It also is a dead-end. If you decide to make a career out of it, think about these things: If someone asks you what work you do, can you honestly be proud enough to say you work in call center? What happens after a few years of call center work? Do you advance? What skill can you get from taking phone calls that could land you a real, if not better, job? And last, but not the least, did you really work hard through college just to answer phone calls for a living?
I think not.