Call Center Agent Primer

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You are either a fresh graduate, or you are a seasoned BPO employee looking for options. Either way, you came to the right place. This primer will help you make decisions in your BPO professional life.

Choose Your BPO Wisely!

In choosing a BPO, there are only two factors that need to be considered:

  • Location Location Location. Consider where you live at the moment, versus the address of the call center you want to work for. Any applicant should bear in mind: (a) the distance that needs to be travelled to get to work, (b) the cost of commuting. If it will take you three hours travel time (considering the horrendous traffic of Metro Manila) and 33% of your salary just to reach your BPO, then please reconsider things. Essentially, if you live in Quezon City, do not get a job in Muntinlupa – you will have a very bad time, we promise you.
  • Your Dream Job. There are contact centers in the country that everyone seems to want to work for, these select few represent the best of the best,  BPO’s where you can set roots for a long term career. Because really – at some point you will need to stop switching jobs.

Time to Apply!

The good thing is this: it’s quite easy to apply for the call center of your choice. A simple email will do, and you will be quite surprised at how fast the BPO’s HR will respond. They will usually get back to you within a few days, some on the same day that you send out your resume.

So with this, you will need to prepare a very professional resume, as this document will represent your foot in the door.

  • For BPO Veterans – list down all the accounts that you have worked under, and the roles that you have served. Any awards earned should also be included (i.e. “best agent of the month”).
  • For Fresh graduates – list down all your academic accomplishments, if you participated in extracurricular activities (memberships in clubs, or if you’re an energizer bunny, positions in clubs) list them down as well. If you have written for the school paper, you get plus points. If you were a total wall flower at school, then just layout your resume as is – as long as you can speak straight and good English, then you should be ok.

Your Best Foot Forward!

Time to do your best! When you send your resume, the following events below will happen next:

  1. The Call. HR will give you a call, but mind you, it’s not just to schedule a walk in interview. The main purpose of the call is to gauge if you can carry an English conversation confidently, and with correct grammar. If you don’t impress the recruiter, then kiss your application good bye. (Some BPO’s will also require applicants to take an online exam that will measure your listening and data entry skills – watch out for this curveball as well).
  2. The Face to Face. Please don’t show up wearing a shirt advocating your favorite death metal band, nor should you come in in your shortest miniskirt. Dress professionally. Leather shoes, a nice pair of jeans, and a polo shirt will do fine for the men. For women, a nice skirt with a crisp button up polo will do fine as well. Yes, BPO’s have a very relaxed dress code, but in your interview, try to dress… normal: leave your nose ring at home for the time being. You want to get hired, not express your individuality. Secondly, talk clearly and use correct grammar. You don’t need fancy words, all you need to do is carry a normal English conversation.
  3. The Test. Some of the bigger call centers have gotten rid of this pen and paper step, but the smaller ones will still administer a basic English and/or logic exam. No need to worry, you can ace these. Also, some BPO’s will have a typing test (IKR – but better to be ready as well).
  4. Processing. Once the BPO decides that you are worth the hire, they will start processing you. Please have handy the following documents: (a) NSO Birth Certificate, (b) College Diploma and Transcript of Records (TOR), (c) SSS Number, (d) TIN Number, (e) Pagibig Number, (f) NBI clearance, (g) Clearance from previous company (if applicable), (h) BIR documents from previous company (Form 2316, transfer of RDO), (i) if you’re female and married – you will need to provide a marriage certificate as well (as proof that you can use a new surname), (j) If the account is sensitive, or if it requires a lot of security, then additional documents will be required: Police Clearance and/or Barangay Clearance

Note that some BPO’s are so fast in hiring new employees, that the whole four step process above can happen in a single day – this means that you may start training 24 hours later, so be ready for anything.

Money Money Money!

Probably the biggest reason why an agent will transfer to another call center: the pay.

Some BPO’s will offer a starting salary of P12,000.00/month, but the bigger ones can go as high as P18,000.00/month. As a rule, the more experience you have, the better starting pay you will get.

Agent Training DayTraining Day!

Hired agents will then be assigned to an account. It can either be a bank (or insurance), a hotel, or maybe even support for a mobile application (like Uber, Pokemon GO, or Waze) – there are so many possibilities.

Here are the steps that new CSR’s will go through during the training stage:

  1. The Anti Culture Shock Sessions – if your account is based out of Great Britain, then the BPO will teach you about UK culture. You will get to know slang words, taboos or topics that need to be avoided, bad words, and pronunciation nuances – maybe even some current events. The key thing is once you get calls, you will need to sounds like a local… of Britain.
  2. Know Thy Product – if you will be tasked to provide support for waterbeds, then you will need to know all there is to know about waterbeds. You will get reading materials; attend live training sessions, if your client has 20 bed models you will be expected to know each and every one, by heart. Be wary – at the end of the product training, there will be an exam, or maybe even live practical tests. Don’t worry though, you will be allowed to “barge” into a live call – which is technically listening in on a conversation between a customer and a tenured agent – this so you will hear how the experts roll.
  3. Time to Fly! They call it “Nesting” – here you will face live clients. You will mess up if you’re a first timer but don’t worry you’ll get better as the days/nights go by.

BPO call centerReady for Battle!

Below are the possible roles that you may serve in your new job:

  • Email Support – You will be tasked to reply to emails sent by clients. (MORE TEXT NEEDED)
  • Chat Support – Bit rare these days, but chat support basically involves an agent chatting with customers to resolve problems. In some cases, chat is used by an account to allow people with disabilities (mental, auditory, speech) access to support.
  • Voice Inbound – One of the most prevalent types of BPO services that the Philippines can offer. Calls from all over the world are routed to the Philippines for customer handling, and you – dear agent, will be the front liner. The consensus is that our spoken English is so neutral, that most citizens of English speaking countries are hard put to identify our accent (This is our edge over India).
  • Voice Outbound – More challenging, as this will involve agents calling up potential clients to sell products or services, and more often than not, there is a quota involved. Some outbound accounts are so nasty/toxic that agents are only known to last 2-4 weeks.
  • Transcription – The key skill needed in this role is accuracy of hearing, and speed of typing. You will essentially transcribe voice recordings to text. There are a lot of uses for this service in the business and medical world.
  • Back Office – This role is a bit more complex, and will require some specialized skills. In a back office, an entire business department in another country will be carried out by another team here in the Philippines. For example – the accounting or the human resource team of a big conglomerate in the U.S. can be handled locally instead of on site – all for the reason of corporate savings.

For email, chat, voice inbound/outbound – BPO’s will often implement template responses. Meaning, someone somewhere has already thought of all the possible issues that a customer can call about, and your job, as an agent, is to simply provide the canned response/spiel.

Also, there is a delicate balance of getting the right AHT (average handling time) vs. providing quality service. A BPO will always want that its agents handle calls, etc. in the fastest possible time to save on costs, and to shorten the line of the call queue. But there is also a goal of ensuring that the customer comes out of the experience happy – he/she should not feel rushed while talking to an agent. It’s a riddle really.

The Future: BPO Roles You Can Choose From!

After a year or two, new opportunities may present themselves to you, the question is, which path to follow:

  • The Team Leader, known popularly as TL – is probably the most iconic of all BPO positions. The Team Leader is responsible for managing a team of agents, making sure that their performance is up to par. The TL is also in charge of communicating the thoughts of his people back to the management, and conversely, he/she also cascades developments in the account/BPO back to his team. Think of the TL as a platoon leader. Oh and the TL is the one that gets stressed when agents suddenly go absent, or go on AWOL.
  • The Account Manager – Responsibilities mainly cover the business side of things; he/she looks at the budget, and the overall performance of the account. A Manager coordinates with HR (for the hiring process and manpower requirements) and in some cases, the IT department. There are instances in a BPO where TL’s will report to managers. Think of the manager as a battalion commander.
  • Operations Manager – This guy is all about resource planning. He deals in estimates: how many agents are needed to support an account on any given night (soldiers vs. workload), how many agents are most likely to call in sick in a month, how many agents will leave the call center in a year. The operations manager is also given the role of bridging the account manager with the IT department. In an army, you can call this guy the logistics officer, and more often than not, this dude will be good in math – statistics mainly.
  • Trainers – These guys are teachers at heart. They take a syllabus, or the reference materials of a new account, and they hold classes for new agents, getting the fresh recruits up to speed. Some trainers focus on teaching English (grammar) and/or diction as some accounts have high language proficiency requirements (mostly banks). Picture Trainers as army drill sergeants.
  • The Coach, aka the SME (subject matter expert) – this guy is the certified nerd of the team. He/she knows every nook and cranny of the account, and there is no problem that he/she cannot solve, or provide background info on. Consider the SME as your Navy Seals – the Special Forces of your team.
  • Quality Specialists – Those who take this position are depicted as the bad guys, and they are more commonly known as QA’a (Quality Assurance). They data mine, they sort through calls, they investigate, they look at the process of things. They ensure that standards are met. QA’a are the MP’s (Military Police) of a BPO.

Know When to Jump Ship!

Yes, at some point, with your new job, one of two things will happen:

  • SCENARIO 1: You will be happy socially, and professionally. You will get surrounded by likeminded people who are good to work with – those whom you can genuinely call your friends.
  • SCENARIO 2: The only permanent thing in this world is change, so your account may get dissolved, and you get transferred to somewhere else, so now you have a new set of BPO employees to deal with who may be much different from your old team. This or professionally, you aim for a position that gets awarded to another, less talented person (don’t get mad, politics will always exist an all BPO’s). The bottom line is, if you no longer feel happy with your coworkers, or if you feel that you are no longer growing professionally, then it’s time to press the eject button.

If you find yourself arriving late to work, or you are no longer having fun – then it’s time to pack up your things and go on a new adventure. pushAUX.com

Some Useful Links!

wiki: How to Be a Call Center Agent – CLICK THIS!

6 Misconceptions About Working at a Call Center – CLICK THIS!

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