Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Being a Call Center Agent

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What are the odds that you have never heard of the call center industry? Pretty nil, right? Almost everyone now knows about call centers - but not everyone knows just how hard it is to be a call center agent (count me in! but that was when i am not yet one).

Being a call center agent is no walk in the park, I assure you. In my almost two years as a call center agent working in Cebu - Philippines, I have encountered people from all walks of life, foreign and native, of every stripe imaginable. And it has not been easy. Let me explain.

When I first applied at the call center recruitment center, I quickly found that it is actually a cattle call rather than a simple recruitment process. Applicants are a dime a dozen so it is pretty hard to stand out in that crowd.

You have to take a common IQ exam which weeds out the have-brains from the have-little-brains. Then there is the endless waiting period – waiting to know the results of your exam and waiting to be called for an interview. There is not even the levity of piped-in music from hidden speakers to alleviate the boredom. So you pass the time getting to know your fellow applicants.

Inside the call center, life is about dealing with pressure. You have to learn to deal with callers or prospects who will curse at you when you cannot address their concern. You have to meet your sales quota for the day or risk not getting paid or even being booted out of the company for good. And you have to learn to get along with your fellow agents.

Call center agents come in all shapes and sizes and every background imaginable. You have your fellow schoolmates and your former activists, your die-hard neighborhood "tambay" and people who will become your drinking buddies. You have some who will insist on speaking English even when they are not on call. Some do this because it enhances their English skills which are not so good, according to them. Others do it just to show off how American or British their accent has become. It is not easy getting along with call center agents simply because many lack sleep, are bored with their jobs, are frustrated with the customers and prospects, or want to kill their supervisor over the latest performance evaluation.

Like many call center agents, I never dreamed that I would become a call center agent. This is not what I am trained for, for how many years in college. I would much rather be doing something else, actually. But until something comes along that is just as lucrative (I mean, you cannot beat the pay, man!) then I guess I will be staying. It certainly beats being jobless. Which is the whole point of being a call center agent actually.