Ever since the boom of off-shore jobs, the Philippines was one of the countries that jumped right into the bandwagon to support the large-scale companies all over the globe. The brunt of the jobs you’re seeing now is the BPO scene. Yes, companies who want to work smart will run a BPO campaign on their company to have a specific workload outsourced to other countries. This is basically a way to keep the balance between employment vs. yearly company expenses.

Night shift jobs were rare before the BPO industry came along. In Pinas today, every time you see a group of young people hanging out in a parking lot or a designated smoking area, you will always assume, “Ahhh… sa Call Center yan nagtratrabaho.” (Those guys work in a Call Center). I personally didn’t get offended when I was working in the BPO industry. I was one of those employees who would try to find the easiest way to do things to save time so that I could take my breaks on time and when I am lucky, I get to leave on time.

I am not sure why the majority of people who are working in the call center industry are offended when they are classified as someone who works in a call center or feels stereotyped by them. Perhaps the degrading tone is not helping, but here’s the harsh reality of things. The fact is, unlike other desk jobs in the Philippines, jumping into a Call Center is probably easier to most, especially if you have a great handle of the English language. These words came from someone who hasn’t worked in the BPO industry:

  • “Madali lang naman makapasok sa Call Center” (It is easy to get accepted in a call center.)

The misconception of this famous line comes focuses on the word, MADALI or EASY. It is far from being EASY. The normal Pinoy always compares the word EASY to FAST/QUICK. And from here you should know where I am going with this. It is not easy to get in the industry, but the process in getting there is fast. This is one of those jobs that will squeeze in all the needed job requirements and tests in 10 hours straight. In short, ONE DAY PROCESSING. Not many jobs in the Philippines do this. I will say again, “Getting in is not easy but the process is fast.”

  • “Hindi mo kailangan ng Diploma para makapag trabaho dyan.” (You don’t need a diploma to get the job.)

This rings true. You have to admit that the core requirement on passing that dreaded call center interview is that you have to speak English well. The typical call center guy or gal will take this as a negative note. You will undoubtedly get an earful of those forced English accents from these guys. But try to move away from the window a little bit and take a look at the picture as a whole. This is the best thing that has ever happened to the Pinoy work force. With that primary requirement to get a decent job, it means that a lot of people who don’t have  the financial means to graduate from school can earn decent money.

  • Sa Call Center lang yan nagtratrabaho. (He/She is JUST working in a call Center.)

Now this is where I draw the line… When someone tells you that you’re  JUST a kind of worker, and you’re working JUST that kind of job, then that my friends is just plain rude. I was a call center agent from 2002 till 2015. I have 12 years of BPO experience and I believe that I have experience as to what is happening inside that circle that some people try to disparage. Let’s break down the normal routine for a Call Center Agent:

Day in and day out you have to sit down for 8 hours to answer calls. In those 8 hours, you have one and half hour’s worth of break time (Divided into three = a 1-hour lunch + 2 15-minute breaks). You can take the breaks on time but that’s not how it happens in most cases. The majority of the 8-hour is shift answering calls where agents get to respond to ‘Long Calls’ which can take at least half an hour to complete. The longest call I have experienced is 2 hours and 32 minutes. Now, imagine hitting that jackpot call 2 minutes before your lunch break or worse… before your clock out time. You have sit there and do your job until your client/customer says, “All good” or “Thank you” or the dreaded, “LET ME TALK TO YOUR MANAGER”.

The Drama… it is REAL.

Let’s look at the job itself. Call center agents especially in the Philippines don’t get to answer normal inquiry calls all the time. We get to have a little slice of heaven and hell. For example, I had a shift once which I was able to answer 20 or so calls in a day. This is a normal number for a technical support account. On the flip side, I have this one office mate who had to take 4 calls in one shift. Do the math, 4 calls which means each of the call he answered for the day lasted at least 2 hours! Can you handle that? I even had a friend who had to call me in the middle of the night and say, “Hindi ko na kaya, friend!” (I can’t do this anymore, friend!) and she was crying!

Now given those three lines which technically encompass all of the bad things we hear about with call center agents, and if you still haven’t got any idea how it is on the inside and still talk smack, why don’t you try to dive into the pool and see how cold or hot it can be. Who knows, the ever nattering eyes of other people might be the reason why Call Center agents in the Philippines are depressed. Or as my call center agent friends say, “Suot mo kaya sapatos ko! Tingnan natin kung makalakad ka ng maayos.” (Try to wear my shoes! Let’s see how well you can walk in ‘em).