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Philippine Call Center Blog

Life as a Call Center Agent 03

You have to learn the rules of the game. And you have to play better than everyone else.” For a start, I don’t have any philosophical quotes to give. But what I just gave was a simple statement which I’ve always believed to be meaningful and can be related to my experience as a call center agent. In a call center life your world is different, you go to work in a different time frame, you work while others fall deeply into sleep, you sleep when everyone else is working. It’s not an easy life… that’s why you have to condition your mind and body from all the changes of what we call “the call center life”.

When I graduated from college I always told myself to practice the profession that I graduated from. Few years back call center companies had boomed and became very popular as for people who are in great need of money. I remember before in my freshmen years I had a classmate, she was very daring and confident just by judging on how she speaks. I thought of her as someone very influential and maybe someday can become one of the famous speakers of our school but then the second semester came she didn’t enrolled back unlike the rest of us. I heard she got a job as a Philippine call center agent and had a starting salary of 10,000 pesos. I said to my self “wow, that’s big money” well perhaps someone who never experienced working would think the same as me. And then I asked myself. Is that job really worth giving up your education so you could be earning that kind of salary? I was intrigued by people’s amazement about me getting a call center job and thought to myself… I could do the same in the future. But when I graduated, I got very fond of my major. I have gained so much in my four years of studying and learning on how to become a dignified teacher.

When I had my first Job as an ESL teacher I met some people who came from contact center companies, they’re stories about stress, sleepless nights, insomnia, coffee addiction and of course the powerful influence of smoking scared me. They say your life becomes boring and meaningless as the days go by, reiterating the same script everyday and you also get shouted at by irate customers, calling you names which you don’t even know what they are talking about. Attacking and hurting you emotionally and mentally. I was blown out of the water. Whew! I never thought it would be that alarming. And so I thought, I would never imagine myself working for a call center company.

Three years later here I am in working at a inbound call center in Cebu.It’s very funny though because of all the stories that I have heard is not exactly how scary I imagined it to be. Somehow here at this call center I found new friends and a new life. All through the months that I’ve worked here, I find my new job experience an enjoyable one.I learned how to be at your best especially when you’re working for a client. The kind of job that I started is a personal virtual assistant. What makes this one different from other call center is that most of the agents work from Tuesdays to Saturdays only and get to spend the weekend with their families. We get to work for professionals in the U.S which is rewarding because these people are willing to train and help you do your job well. I’ve been very lucky so far because I’ve been working for my client since I started here.

At first I was a little worried about my computer skills but thanks to my client and my on the job training I was motivated to push through and learn. Never once did my client reprimanded or make me feel that she was not happy with the work I was doing for her.

The owners at my business process outsourcing company care a lot for their agents, our minds and feelings means a lot to them. As much as possible they want their agents to be dedicated and happy with their job and so far in my years of working for foreigners they are the only ones who care more for their workers. I am truly happy for what the company has achieved after eight shaky months. We have earned our way to the top and are becoming a great call center company. There might have been some moments which were very difficult, some agents left while other new agents are always joining. New rules, old problems but finally we know this company has more to offer for all people… clients, and Filipinos out there who need work.

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Definitions of Call Center and Contact Center

A call center or contact center is basically any office that a company uses to make or accept phone calls. Usually a call center is set up in order to maximize efficiency so call centers are can be very big with large numbers of agents. Some call centers employ hundreds of agents and are open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Contact centers are increasingly popular for today’s businesses where centralized customer service and support functions can be managed under one roof.

Call centers offer many advantages to companies. By centralizing their customer support functions or outbound calling, call centers can take advantage of economies of scale. Having all of their phone agents in one place allows business to centralize training and supervision. With the rise of advanced telecommunications technology, call centers can be located anywhere. This allows companies to take advantage of time zones and cheaper labor rates in different states and countries.

Call centers are usually divided into two main function areas. Outbound: employing agents who make telephone calls out to potential customers or people being surveyed. An example of an outbound call center would be a telemarketing campaign that sells magazine subscriptions or weekly delivery of your local paper. Many non-profit organizations use outbound call centers to solicit donations. Inbound: employing agents who accept phone calls. Examples of inbound call center would be a skateboard company who takes sales orders over the phone and offers customer service to those who have questions about the product they purchased. Banks and credit card companies employ huge numbers of inbound call center agents around the world.

Many call centers use a number of different technologies to help improve performance and customer experience. Inbound call centers often use automatic call distribution, this technology assigns calls to representatives on the order they are received. Other call centers utilize call monitoring, in which customer calls are randomly monitored by staff to ensure that phone representatives meet customer needs. Outbound call centers have their own technology. Predictive dialers make automatic phone calls from a call list and give the agent a live call only when a customer answers the phone.

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Why Should I Outsource my Business Processes to the Philippines

There are many answers to the question of why you would want to outsource to the Philippines.Some are more obvious than others.Probably the most basic reason is that the labor rates for talent in the Philippines are much less than the salaries in the U.S.   And you will still be hiring a college educated English speaking person with similar skill sets.The Philippines is the third-largest English-speaking country in the world, has an excellent educational system, and produces more than 400,000 college graduates each year.

Not all functions in an office can be outsourced but when you think about it so many functions can be handled by an outsourced employee. Virtual assistants are becoming very popular these days because businesses see the cost savings of employing an offshore employee. You no longer need to set up a computer and deal with all the paperwork that comes with hiring someone in the U.S. A well established call center in the Philippines can have your virtual assistant set up in a matter of days.

The cost saving are even greater when you look at a function such as outbound telemarketing. Let’s say your business is looking to generate leads for a sales campaign. For the price of 1 outbound telemarketer in the US you could employ 4 outbound telemarketers in the Philippines. Also your Filipino employees are going to be college educated and probably have a good attitude about the work they are doing. A career as a call center agent in the Philippines is highly sought after and well respected. Many call centers offer opportunities for job advancement and salary that don’t exist in other areas of the Philippine economy.

Filipinos have a well-deserved reputation as hard workers and excellent employees with a positive attitude toward relationship building and customer focus. Call center agents in the Philippines exemplify this reputation. Their success as outbound telemarketers, virtual assistants and inbound customer service reps can help small and medium businesses grow.

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Life as a Philippines Call Center Agent #02

I woke up and just when I was still half awake, and all wrapped up with my blanket, “where am i?

“oh… thank God I’m at home…is it late in the afternoon?” I asked myself, my eyes were still closed. Then I suddenly gasped, and all of the sweet, cozy feeling of having to sleep more went away,

“I’m at work!” I confirmed. “it’s my one hour break! And I’m just in the sleeping lounge.” I said disappointingly to myself. And at times I would ask, “It’s Wednesday today, isn’t it?”.

“No, it’s Thursday here and it’s Wednesday there in the US” my colleague replied. “Ohhhh yeahhh..gosshhh…days seem to run so fast.

It’s like today, it’s Monday and then, the next thing you’ll know, it’s way past the middle of the week.”

But this is just a common situation you know even to people who are not staying up the whole night working in Philippines call centers, it just happens so often. We get disoriented with time and because we work for clients in an opposite time zone, we get it all really mixed up. Well, maybe for a time before having to adjust.

Anyway, this is my second job working in a call center. The first was not really that good. I was a customer service rep. I handled complicated accounts of customers like billing, hours of usage, verifications,

What affected me most was the customers. Some were so mean and irate and some were kind and polite. Well, I tell you, most of them are irate but I can’t blame them because most of the time, they have a point and that they’re not mad at you but they’re mad at what they got with the services, the company and especially, when they’re charged more than what they expect.

Then there were the supervisors who kept pushing you all the time, yelling at you, even in the middle of a call that makes a really “perfect” day at work. It gave me a terrible headache every day. And literally every day, just minutes before the start of my shift, I would pass by the clinic and ask for a hot water bag, a pain reliever, and Salonpas, a muscle pain reliever wherein you’ll just stick it on the part where your muscles feel sore but they don’t help that much. It was really awful to have felt that way.

Even if the pay was quite good…it just can’t help the headaches. So, I quit. I only worked there for 3 months. Then now, my 2nd call center, I’m going to be on my 6th month this month of March. It’s an achievement on my part that at last, I was able to stay this long. I can hardly believe it really. With this kind of lifestyle? You go to work at 11 in the evening and go home at 8 in the morning. And when I get home, and in my bed, I hear the cars passing by, honking their horns all day and the heat rising up especially on mid day to 38 degrees Celsius or 105.4 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m like toasted inside my room. Like a turkey in the oven even if the electric fan is already on number 3.

So, how am I supposed to get a good sleep with that? And if I really get so sleepy, I would get a wet towel and lie on it or cover myself with it on the bed. It’s cooler and I can sleep at least without having to sweat that much. It would be really lucky for me to be able to sleep 8 hours straight during the day but that’s totally impossible. How I wish that would happen every day you know. So, after almost six months, I’m already used to having only 4-5 hours of sleep and some naps and eat once or twice because I would rather get some sleep than eat. Sometimes I would drag myself to work especially when it’s night time already and it’s when I get to sleep better because it’s dark, quiet and cool.

I wanted to sleep more on my cozy bed with my cozy blanket and pillow but I needed to get up to go to work. But every time I get to work, I sit on my station, I’m just comfortable and happy. I guess I’ve found a place. Maybe working in a call center is not really bad at all. With little work experience and being a fresh graduate, I would not get a salary as big as this but since it’s an offshore call center, it gives me good pay, incentives, good health and insurance benefits. So, it puts good food in the refrigerator…. things that you can’t buy or can’t do when you’re working on a day-time job. Yes, that’s life in a call center.

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Life as a Call Center Agent 01

Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is a life not worth living.” My life is a series of exams. Each day begins with a clean slate. I have a plan, but I don’t know the outcome. In reality, I’m writing with a pen so I can’t erase my answers but I can correct them. Whatever I do or say will affect the final score called success. I have to answer three questions: who am I, what am I doing, and where am I heading. I don’t know when the result will be and if it shall be given today, did I answer these queries well? If I fail, do I have one more chance to pass?

A year ago, I lost three things consecutively – my ESL job, my facial spa business and my father. At a certain point, I felt melancholic, discouraged and uninspired. Not knowing where to go nor what to do, my best friend named JK contacted me and offered me an opportunity to regain myself back. I waited patiently for the opportunity for a month. While sending off my brother to the airport, I received a message to report for an interview at one of the inbound call centers. I applied, and got hired but it wasn’t an ordinary employment. I’m the only employee who started working part time in the company, working 4 hours a day and got paid half initially.

In a call center, life is a continuing process of acquiring new skills and maintaining a positive attitude. When my cousin came along to help strategically manage the company, modifications had to be made to enable the company to grow. I felt threatened because I’ve been working for some time without a client. Yet, it was another challenge to prove my credibility. Some of us went through SALES 101 training. The training made me realize that in any transaction, I have to inspire, motivate, persuade and negotiate to close a sale. SALES 101 brought me a different perspective and transformed me to be confident, assertive and assumptive. I am proud working in a Philippines call center because I’m surrounded by indefatigable managers and versatile workers ready to adapt changes. Life in a call center is surprising, too. I would never know who’s going to pick up the other line. When the phone starts dialing, I asked myself whether I will make a lead or talk to an irate customer.

Mere acquaintances became good friends. We have lunch together, sit near each other and yet chat online to share a little secrecy. Some of my good friends left to look for a greener pasture while I opted to stay waiting for the next payday. Working in a call center is like conquering time and space. I increase my purchasing power but I live in a different dimension. I wake up when my kids go to bed. I work while the rest of the world has fallen into a deep slumber. I’m earning enough revenue to pay off my bills and save some into my bank yet has to sacrificed the sweetness of sleeping beside my significant partner in life under the dark velvet sky. However, along with this sacrifice is the realization of how colorful life in a call center could be. I could be laughing out loud with green-minded friends or working with a boss who sees things in black and white. I could be making a lead, waiting for a probable client or anxiously waiting to see the company grow. It dawned on me also that what comes around, goes around. I might have lost three things last year but I was given another present to cherish. In these times of economic adversity, I’m so blessed that I have a call center job.

My life in a call center is a test of trust and faith. It’s a test that confirms trust in my ability and faith towards the strategic plan of our managers. I have integrity to the management to lead the company to the right track. Now, I have the answers to the three queries I mentioned above. I am a Virtual Assistant striving to satisfy my client simultaneously working to improve the quality of my life. I could foresee where I am headed to. Someday, I would succeed with what I am currently doing in. If at certain times, I might have failed to write something on my clean slate, I know I have another day to do it again perfectly. I’m not afraid to fail anymore. If anyone wants to find out why I dare to be different, well I belong to the right company. Are you living an unexamined life? Tell me and I’ll show you the difference in Executive Boutique where you can find the executives making lives worth living.

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Is Cebu the next Manila?

Ever since the beginning of the call center industry in the Philippines,  when people think of a Philippine call center they think of Manila. It probably stems from the fact that many people outside the Philippines haven’t heard of any other cities and Manila was the birthplace of business process outsourcing in the Philippines. The cost saving companies can capture by moving their telemarketing and inbound customer support to this thriving metropolis is now well known.

What about the rest of the country?

It wasn’t often we heard about Cebu, the second largest city and major shipping port.But as Bod Dylan said the times they are a changing.

Many U.S. companies who are looking to outsource are now seeing the benefits of moving their BPO programs to Cebu instead of Manila.The island boasts a population of about 3.5 and most speak English very well.Cebu graduates 20,000 students annually from its universities and offers a strong, educated labor pool.

Cebu is exploding with job growth in the call center industry because of their strong English skills and high productivity. Job creation has been very strong in the outsourced customer service field. But call center agents are also finding work in sales lead generation, as virtual personal assistants and surveys.

Cebu has become a destination for educated job seekers from all over the Visayas, which are the southernmost islands in the Philippines.The call center industry in Cebu is also being helped by the islands infrastructure which rivals Manila in its high speed data connections to the rest of the world.

Cebu is not in an earthquake zone or typhoon belt, and there are no volcanoes on the island. Cebu has beautiful beaches, rich coral reefs and has become a destination for international travelers. Business leaders in the U.S. who are looking to outsource to the Philippines are smart to look to Cebu not just for its call center expertise but also for the beauty of the Philippines second largest city.

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March 12, 2009: New York Business Trade Show

Executive Boutique
Executive Boutique

Executive Boutique Call Center was a big hit when it exhibited at one of New York’s largest business trade show events outside of New York City on March 12, 2009. The event was sponsored by the Business Counsel of Westchester County, which has over 1200 businesses as members ranging in size from Fortune 500 companies to small family owned businesses.

Mark Shapiro, Director of Business Development for Executive Boutique (pictured above) presented at the show and focused his discussions on how small and medium businesses can take advantage of the outsourced customer service and lead generation services offered by Executive Boutique Call Center.  “Small firms in the US often need more help with these tasks but are not sure of the steps they need to take to outsource to an offshore location like the Philippines,” Shapiro said.   He also pointed out that using the flexibility and cost savings of a Philippines call center can give a company a great advantage over their competition.

Shapiro reported that the attendees he spoke with were most interested in affordable customer support along with sales and telemarketing services and he is looking forward to working with many of the businesses he met with at the show.

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Will Philippine Outsourcing change with the Obama Presidency?

Philippine Outsourcing
Philippine Outsourcing
© W.Scott / Dollar Photo Club

In keeping with the tradition of  incoming U.S. presidents, Barak Obama has made much talk about the outsourcing of business processes to other countries like the Philippines and Indian.  The average American is probably happy to hear that President Obama wants to protect US jobs from the world of outsourcing.  But business leaders may not agree with this.  It is hard to deny the economic advantages of using offshore firms to do work for US companies.

Firms who focus on telemarketing, lead generation and inbound customer support find it more and more challenging to handle these business processes at home.  Obama’s threat to eliminate tax breaks will probably not cause the great pull-back from offshore outsourcing that is talked about.

Obama has promised to end tax breaks to companies who send work to offshore BPO companies.  The new president is pushing a populist campaign promise to force American companies to keep jobs in the US, saying to US Congress: “We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.”

The experts say this is all part of the usual rhetoric as there is really no direct tax incentive awarded to US companies who transfer jobs to other countries.  The US tax code does have a provision that allows American companies to defer income tax payments on offshore profits until they are repatriated back home, and this is one code that Mr. Obama does want to eliminate.

The Philippines does not seem worried.  Their call center and business process outsourcing are as strong as ever, and government officials are predicting a 30 to 40 percent increase this year in outsourcing.  Philippine call centers that specialize in customer service and outbound telemarketing have historically had high growth rates and this trend should continue.  As one business leader puts it “Tax breaks can’t substitute for the realities of economics”

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