My uncertain life as a call center agent
It seems crazy that I start my day when others end theirs. I head for work in the dead of night and return in broad daylight, somewhat threatened by the thought of being victimized by criminals who prey on the helpless.
I have been living this kind of routine for months now, adapting to business hours on the other side of the world despite the lack of sleep and other drawbacks. I have set foot in the BPO industry knowing that I will encounter nerve-racking situations and diverse people along the way.
Having finished a two-year nondegree program, I have never sought employment in companies outside the BPO industry. Apart from the considerable profitability it promises, recruitment in the industry is fast, unlike the tedious hiring process in others.
I was hired on the day I applied to what had turned out to be my first job. It felt surreal as I signed several papers, but it was just the beginning.
I was then beset with misgivings; I even doubted if I could survive. Some had warned me that working in this industry was physically exhausting, mentally challenging and, at times, even emotionally damaging. One has to have enough competence to meet the standards of work performance, and the forbearance to cope with irate customers.
A typical day at work revolves around taking calls — and taking calls. While I have encountered calls that were pleasant, those that made me realize how inept I could be have also been frequent. One time, I was called an idiot; it was pretty strange that I took it lightly.
I have struggled to fully understand the main issues of callers. I have been reprimanded over a number of open cases that I failed to resolve within an hour. The most horrible time was when the operations manager approached me because of two consecutive negative responses I incurred. I could only ask myself if I really fit this job.
These days, more often than not, I lag behind almost everyone. Because of my struggles, I feel like I am a source of distress to the team and the site in general. Many have pointed fingers at me. Discouraged, I have thought about quitting several times, thinking that my work only makes the team and the site suffer.
But a part of me wants to keep the fire burning. I think of the privilege of working, and how it would be dumb to give it up that easily. Nothing could be more commendable than fighting until the very end.
A reality in the BPO industry is that those considered poor performers like me constantly face the threat of being sacked. If you aren’t good enough, then you’re out regardless of how determined you are. In fact, during our training, a colleague was made to go home in the middle of our shift at 2 a.m. after being told by the trainer that she failed.
I am constantly waging the battle that I have started, and my future in the BPO industry remains uncertain. If it is really my fate to lose my job or fail to be regularized, so be it. There are some things that aren’t meant to be, and since we live in a world of countless possibilities, who knows, perhaps my failures can be supplanted by successes far greater than I can imagine.
Working in the BPO industry is not easy as it appears. The industry is unfairly seen as a hub for those who haven’t been able to establish a significant career. But many are barely aware of what we go through to survive in this field.
We have to pass a rigorous set of interviews and exams, and, at work, spend our day resolving the issues of so many different individuals from all over the world.
This is highly demanding work. We act spirited in the face of weariness, endure the demands and complexities of our job, and stomach all kinds of meanness from customers in order to provide excellent customer service.
I may not have what it takes to stay long in this industry, but I am proud to be working in a sector that builds character—that ultimately fosters physical, mental and emotional strength in its workers.
Ian Carlo L. Aragon, 20, a native of Cabuyao, Laguna, is a customer service representative.
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