Why is it Hard to be Working as a Call Center Agent?
I thought that I will never EVER be a call center agent because of my bachelor’s degree.
Let’s admit it, when you are a fresh graduate, you can be so idealistic after graduation (including myself).
We have this picture in our head that we will be employed in a company that we really want to be part of and that we will be practicing what we learned from college.
You find yourself attending company interviews left and right.
Then, going home hoping that you land the job.
Days and weeks passed but you haven’t heard any update from your dream company.
Few more weeks waiting and here you are – jobless.
Sounds familiar? You are not alone.
How I became a Call Center Agent
Please allow me to go back in time and tell you a very short story.
This will just be less than 5 minutes, I promise! 🙂
I took a 5 year course in college and graduated in 2010. Gosh, I feel old. 😀
I can still remember – it was March when the school ended.
The following month, we had our graduation ceremony.
While some of my batch mates already had job offers even before our graduation rites, it took me weeks before I landed my first job.
Between the dates that I graduated and got employed, I received several rejections from top companies I wanted to work for.
What made me sad even more was that I did not even pass some of the initial interviews! 🙁
I realized back then what I lacked – good English communication skills.
During interviews, I would know the answer to questions but because I was not proficient in English, they weren’t able to comprehend well what I wanted to say.
I was also so nervous that I had a lot of fillers (the “Uhmmmm”) or long pauses during interviews.
With this in mind, I decided to take a 2 week course from a call center company.
They still conducted an interview as part of the hiring process.
Though, it seems that it was only to assess our English skills for the training program.
Fresh graduates like me at that time were called “Call Center Virgins.”
I managed to pass the initial interview.
Aside from the training, they also provided 500 pesos allowance per day. Sweet!
After the training, together with some of my college batch mates, an interview invite soon came from a giant tech company.
The tech company that invited us was part of my “target list” of companies to apply – so I was really happy when it came.
Just for fun, can you guess it?
The computer company is popularly known with its three letter acronym name that starts with a vowel… you should know it by now. 😀
I could say that it was an advantage that I already went through several interviews before as it helped me become more familiar with the questions being asked.
Add the English knowledge I gain from the short training, I was able to land the job!
The job title of the post was “Technical Support Representative.”
And that is the END of the short story. 🙂
Now let me share some information about the call center industry.
Top Common Misconceptions or Assumptions to Call Center Agents
There are some misconceptions or assumptions to call center agents.
These are what I personally know, hear and read. If I missed anything, feel free to leave a comment below so that I can add them to this list:
- You can easily pass both written and oral exams.
- Being a call center agent is a no-brainer job.
- There is no career growth in the call center industry.
- Taking calls is so simple and easy.
- Call center agents are prone to die younger (because of smoking, less sleep, unprotected sex, etc).
- Call centers agents are immortal.
- Call center agents are like ‘OFW’ that can produce money anytime.
How to Apply as a Call Center Agent?
There a lot of ways to apply as a call center agent:
Apply via Employee Referral
Based on my experience, I was referred by an existing employee in the company.
Most companies use this strategy as good employees will have a high probability of also referring good ones.
To sweeten it up, they offer referral incentives (mostly cash) for the employee who will refer a candidate and successfully be hired.
Apply via Third Party Referral Agents
You might already encountered them while walking near call center establishments.
They are those people that will ask you: “Ma’am/Sir – nag aaply?” or “Ma’am/Sir may opening back office, may signing bonus.”
Sometimes, those “referral agents” are not employed by the company but just random people that want to earn extra cash through a companies’ referral program.
Apply via the Jobstreet Website
Jobstreet [https://www.jobstreet.com.ph] is one of the widely known job portal in the Philippines.
If you are looking for a job, you should definitely have a profile there as most companies post job vacancies there.
Apply via Social Media
You can also check the company’s social media accounts as some of them post job vacancies through facebook, twitter or linkedin.
Apply via Job Fair
Call center companies also participate in Job Fairs.
Most of them are conducted in malls or large venues like SMX or Mega Trade Hall in SM Mega Mall.
Apply via Walk-in
Call center companies entertain walk-ins.
Though, it would be safer to go through the other channels first as not to waste your time going to the company and finding out they do not accommodate walk-ins.
How is the Call Center Application Hiring Process?
Call center hiring process varies per company.
Though, typically you will go through some computer typing skills assessment first.
This test aims to know how fast and accurate you type using a computer’s keyboard.
Then, you need to pass a written exam before you can proceed to the interviews.
The initial interview can be through phone or in person.
Mostly it is conducted by the Human Resource person of the company.
If you pass the initial interview, the next interviewers could be your hiring manager or direct supervisor.
The interview can also be in a form of a group panel where some members of the hiring manager’s team are also present.
Most of the questions asked at this stage can be technical in nature or specific to the post that you are applying.
Perks and Facilities
If you are new to the call center industry or a fresh graduate, it will sure delight you to know that some companies offer free coffee and milo via their vendo machine.
This was the case on my end. 😀
There was also free iced tea and sometimes (on occasions) free meals.
Some amenities are also offered to employees such as sleeping quarters, shower room, play area, videoke room and the companies own gym facility.
What I really like is that the toilet each has their own bidet which is vital for “those” emergency situations. 😀
I consider the onboarding training as one of the happiest days as a call center agent.
You will just sit there, listen and participate while getting paid.
The training could take a week to a month depending on your account’s personnel needs.
They often say that only 10% of the learnings come from training.
Despite this, make sure that you pay close attention to the information being taught to you as you will need those once you get to the real action – the call taking.
What happens after the Onboarding Training?
Once you “graduate” from the onboarding training, you will now be part of the account’s workforce.
You will now start to hear the *toot* sound from your phone or AVAYA.
Consider yourself lucky if the account that you will be assigned to is not “queuing” – which means it does not have high volume of inbound call traffic.
Of course, not all learnings are taught during the onboarding training.
After some time getting immersed on the floor, you will start to learn some “best practices” or “expert moves” from those co-workers that they labeled as “veterans.”
First Call Received Moment
My first call did not run smoothly.
I was surprised that you have to act fast.
You first need to get the customer’s information and confirm if the caller exist in your tool.
Then, you ask what the customer’s concern is.
Whatever happens, do not forget to properly document it – this is very important.
They have a saying that “if it is not documented, it did not happen.”
Always remember that. It will save you from a lot of headaches.
What was noticeable during my first call was my accent.
I was asked if I was a Malaysian or from what part of the world I originate.
My diction was also very Filipino – pronouncing the A, E, I, O, U in our own unique way.
Another key trait that you must have is the ability to multi-task.
You need to speak to the customer and document the issue while also looking for the solution to their concern.
Building rapport, empathizing and sympathizing are also important so that the caller’s experience will be smoother.
During that time, I still had to learn a lot in this area.
I know what you have in your mind… did I resolve the issue on my first call? Unfortunately, not.
The Call Center Team
The call center team is one of the things that you will cherish in the industry.
You get to meet different types of people and make new friends either just for the short time or for keeps.
Your workplace is also where you meet your new crush, develop love teams and even have a girlfriend or boyfriend.
Of course, you’ll also encounter people that can share same interest as yours: drinking buddies, online gamers, kpop fans and a lot more.
Meet your boss or supervisor: he or she will be the one to ensure that operations is running smoothly.
He would host meetings or do coaching one on one sessions with you.
Another person that can do coaching sessions with you is the QA staff.
The QA (Quality Assurance) or sometimes also the soft skills trainers would be responsible in ensuring that top notch call quality is met.
They will coach you if you lack certain aspects pertaining to how you handled your call such as wrong pronunciation, diction, if you forgot to follow the required call flow, resolution steps and many more.
Let us not forget the call center trainer that we mostly meet during the onboarding training.
From my personal experience, they are one of the coolest people you will meet in the floor.
Aside from imparting knowledge, there are times that they will share some incidents that happened during the actual work that you will be able to learn from them.
It could be a serious or funny incident which at the same time serves as a warning or reminder of what should be done once you graduate and start taking calls.
Another key person on the call center team is the floor walker or Subject Matter Expert (SME).
They are those that can go around the floor that you can approach if you need help during your call.
Other People that you will meet
Aside from your team mates and bosses, you will meet a lot more people in the office.
Most call centers have strict house rules that you need to follow.
It is the guards that sometimes enforce these rules.
They check if you are following the prescribed dress code, inspect your bag and see to it that you are always wearing your ID.
Pantries also have concessionaires from which you can buy food from.
These are the key people that you will soon need to be in good vibes especially if you do not have packed lunch or “baon” and you would buy your lunch at the pantry.
If you are in good terms, you will be able to reserve your preferred food for lunch or dinner.
The Experience: What is it like to be a Call Center Agent?
Being a call center agent is a mix of stressful experience and funny memorable moments.
I may not be able to share everything here, please leave us a comment below and will try to add it in this post J
Shifting Schedule and Rest Days
Call center agents rarely have regular schedules.
Most of the time, the operating hours of a call center’s account or client is 24×7 which means you will need to have schedules during the day, noon and at night in order to effectively support them.
Normally schedules changes by month or every after two weeks.
Your schedule is not the only one that is shifting, you have to also deal with changing rest days.
Your rest days won’t always be fix during Saturdays or Sundays.
It will also be rotated among you.
Be ready to be on Night Shift
Since schedules are rotating, be ready to be placed on a night shift.
Being awake at night and sleeping at day is very stressful.
There are times that you cannot sleep since the nature of our body is to sleep at night.
It can be hard to adjust especially if your home environment is so active and lively.
Split offs and Working during Holidays and on your Rest Day
As I’ve told you earlier, rest days are not fixed.
It can change based on the account’s needs.
Another important thing to note about rest days is that it does not mean that it will be two consecutive days.
This scenario is called “split-offs.”
Most call center companies use this technique in order to meet business needs.
Moreover, call center agents are expected to work during the holidays including Christmas and New Year.
Imagine that you are in the office while your family at home is celebrating the holiday. 🙂
It can be sad for both the agent and the family left at home but that is one of the things that you need to consider if you want to be a call center agent.
Call Center Agents are “Immortal”
There are a lot of memes that circulated online calling call center agents as “immortal.”
It means that regardless of how heavy the rain is, it would still be business as usual for your account or client.
In that sense, you are still required to brave the rain and go to the office.
Skills that you will Learn
Of course, as a call center agent, your main task is to take calls.
Calls are often in the English language.
So naturally, you will become more fluent in the English language as a call center agent. J
They say that something you heard or learned will make you aware or knowledgeable about it while practicing what you learned will make you an expert.
One will really improve as you practice it more.
Sshhh Moments: Common Call Center Agents Stories
The Hadouken Moves
Should I really share it here? I don’t know. Hahaha
Hadouken moves or whatever they call it now is something you will hear from seasoned call center agents…
It is really a term from a video game: Street Fighter. It is a skill name by several characters there.
So, what is this term for call center agents?
Hadouken is the act of manually lowering your place back to the bottom of the call queue list by changing your AVAYA phone state.
While on shift, call center agents should always be readily available if new customer calls go into the queue.
Hence, they need to be in “auto-in” mode on their AVAYA phones.
Agents are queued and then rotated back after each call.
The hadouken trick lets you go back to the bottom of the queue without taking any calls.
This can be done by changing your AVAYA phone state without any valid reason to do so.
AVAYA phone states can be in the following options with their corresponding usage:
- AUX 2: Break
- AUX 4: Meeting
- AUX 6: Training
- AUX 9: Outbound call
- ACW: After call work
Take note that each company might configure their phone state differently. I’ve listed our phone states just to give you a rough idea.
Of course, this is strictly prohibited in the workplace and may cause you your job.
Although, some agents get away with doing it.
The Hopper Stories
You might encounter colleagues that has already transferred from several call center companies in the country.
Along with it is the numerous reasons why they did hop from one company to another.
Be ready to be entertained. 😀
The “Junior” or “Mumu” Story
This is one of the classic scary stories in workplaces.
Since call center agents work 24×7, there are times that only few of you or you’ll be the only one on shift.
During those times, you can hear stories from agents encountering scary moments such as seeing someone laying around in the sleeping room even though no other person is on shift or hearing the sound of the keyboard typing even if no one else is around.
The Creative Minds when “Sick Leave” Happens
People can get very creative when it comes to sick leaves.
You will be hearing different types of excuses.
I won’t elaborate them here as you might get an idea and use them (hahaha!) but most of “sick leaves” scenarios happen during holidays, Fridays, pay days or during rainy days where roads are flooded.
Friday or Pay day is Gimik Day
It is true that being a call center agent is very rewarding when it comes to compensation but it is also equally true that the work can be very stressful.
Imagine always absorbing other people’s problems in every call – that can really be stressful.
So most of the time, every Fridays or every pay day, agents would go out, loosen up and enjoy their hard earned money just to relieve the stress of the work somehow.
This can be a routine for some agents especially those that are still young and single.
The GF/BF per Company
Another common story that you will hear or probably encounter are those individuals that move from one relationship to another in every call center company that they’ve been.
Since most of the time, call center schedules are different from the normal working hours, it could be hard to maintain a good relationship with those that are not in the same call center industry.
I’m not saying that this is not doable but it entails great effort on both parties to make it work.
Of course, office third party affairs can also happen.
Just to share, I heard it only while I am still an agent – this may be true or maybe not.
I can hear them say “Kapag may alak may balak”.
Some senior agents would warn newbie call center agents about drinking sessions and that they should only “drink within their means.”
As I have said earlier – you will meet some drinking buddies.
During those drinking moments, intimacy situations sometimes develop due to being intoxicated that they tend to “forget” that they are currently in a relationship with others.
You have been made aware. Take care of yourself. 🙂
Lesson Learned: What I Know Now about Call Center Agents
I do not know if it is the same for all other past or present call center agents, but for me, it was the hardest profession I ever had.
My eye opening experience back then made me respect the call center agents and the industry itself.
You might not understand the feeling when the dreaded *toot* or *beep* sound comes from your AVAYA.
In days that you are not feeling well and still opt to go to work, you will still need to have a pleasant tone of voice when answering calls as you need to deliver top quality caller experience to every customer.
What is worst is when you have irate callers who would easily judge you and say that ‘you are just a call center agent’.
Being a call center agent requires the ability to quickly think and address the concern swiftly while on the call.
You need to think and act fast in order to provide excellent resolution to the caller in the shortest time possible.
You should also know how to multi task as you need to document what happened in the call.
On top of this, it is also important that you have a good or high emotional intelligence so as to provide exceptional customer satisfaction.
Overall, being a call center agent could be stressful and rewarding at the same time.
You can use your call center experience as a stepping stone for your own personal and career development.
It helped me big time in improving my communication skills and being able to relate and understand people more.