Arguing with Myself: Demolishing Stigmata Against Call Center Agents

The people who know me really know that I swore to myself that I would never work in a call center; however, I get the wrong reaction all the time. Many people think that I look down on the profession, but I don’t—really, I don’t. The main reason why I swore not to work in a call center is the fact that I am not good at handling irate people and I do not like working graveyard shifts.

I have a lot of friends who work in call centers, and I admire them for that—for working graveyard shifts and being patient enough to handle irate people. What saddens me is that these friends of mine and every other call center agents have been stigmatized with several things. There have been massive misconceptions about working in a call center, and these misconceptions have become widespread through online social media and even through word of mouth. And with this blog, I aim to destroy these social stigmata placed upon call centers agents (because why not?).

It is a job for stupid people and rejects.

What most people only know is that call center agents either take or make calls—a thing that anyone can do. What they fail to realize that these agents take or make calls on a systematic procedure. Well, I cannot actually give specifics since I am not a call center agent; at the same time, I am a global communications trainer for call center agents, and from what I teach my trainees, their job is not just to say hello, have a little funny chat, then, say good-bye to their customers.

To quote another writer, Griffin Dangazo, who addressed this issue: “They [the general people] have no idea how emotionally exhausting it is when your caller bombards you with insults and profanity or when you are faced with issues that are ridiculously simple it’s inexplicable why they even bothered to call or an issue that’s so hard that your knowledge base has no idea about it and your floor support instinctively switched to defensive mode giving you BS spiels to tell your caller just to prevent Sup Call. A call might ensue a complicated argument; a pleasant interaction or simply a call for help and help given but on top of these, we also need to ensure that we are meeting our metrics like customer satisfaction, first call resolution, average handling time and many more. Hence, only a person with no brain can call it a no-brainer job.” They go on extensive training from answering the call, making the call, logging the incident on file, empathizing with the caller, and much more. Anyone stupid cannot handle all these trainings.

Another thing that people point out is the fact that call center agents are rejects from their “original professions.” They are nursing graduates, education graduates, HRM graduates, etc. These people did not make it to the profession they studied for, so they went on being call center agents. Now, let me ask this question: “Is there a degree specifically designed to teach people to become call center agents?” NO. There isn’t. They are not rejects; they are more of overruns because of the rapid rate of unemployment in the country. We have more nurses and teachers than what the government and the private sectors could employ. Besides, there are a lot of nurses working as editors, baristas, ESL teachers, and many other professions.

Call center agents are promiscuous and unfaithful.

This is, perhaps, the worst stigma given to them. For one thing, (sexual) promiscuity and unfaithfulness is not linked to one’s profession, but to one’s morals. There are unfaithful teachers, restaurant managers, students, construction workers, and the list can go on. And hell, I am a writer, and I can be promiscuous if I want to. Promiscuity and unfaithfulness are rampant these days, especially since the Philippine show business has decided to romanticize and sensationalize these matters. Point is, there might be some promiscuous and unfaithful call center agents, but being a call center agent does not automatically make you promiscuous and unfaithful.

Call center agents are rich.

Yes, they get paid quite a lot (quite higher than most jobs, to be exact), but that does not mean they are rich. If they were, why are they still working for someone else instead of having their own personal businesses?

There are a lot of people who keep asking their call center agents friends for “free treats” or other financial favors. Look, just because they are paid a bit higher than most people are does not mean they have a lot of money to spare. They also have bills and other necessities and financial responsibilities. Perhaps one of the very reason they entered the industry is they needed that amount of a salary. At the end of the day, no matter how small or big your monthly salary is, it is all up to how you manage your finances.

Call center agents are arrogant douchebags and assholes.

Again, whatever your profession is, you can be an arrogant douchebag and asshole. I have a lot of call center agent friends who are actually great people. Granted, there are some who are arrogant douchebags and assholes, but again, it isn’t automatic that you become of these people when you work in a call center. You can be an arrogant douchebag and asshole no matter what your profession is.

Call center agents are social climbers.

A social climber is someone who seeks social prominence, for example by obsequious behavior. The term is sometimes used as synonymous with parvenu, and may be used as an insult, suggesting a poor work ethic or disloyalty to roots. Call center agents are often stigmatized as social climbers because: 1.) they have better gadgets than most people, 2.) they tend to speak English most of the time even in “inappropriate” places like public transport, 3.) they “tend” to show off their means and other bragging rights via social media, and the list can go on.

I cannot say much about the other things, but what is wrong with bragging what you have when you actually worked hard for it? Call center agents work their asses out to reach quota/goals to receive incentives/bonuses—hell, they even need to work on holidays like Christmas, Valentines, and even their birthdays or that of their families’ or even during storms and typhoons—so if they brag about having something new or being someplace else, what of it? They deserve something to reward themselves.

And as for speaking in English: they work in an environment EOP (English-only policy), thus, they are somehow “conditioned” to do so. For some, it has become a habit while others find it hard to switch from English to their mother tongue in a blink of an eye especially when they are surrounded with people with whom they converse with in English at work. Yes, perhaps it might look a little “douche-ish” when they speak in English on a public transport, but then again, what of it? No one’s getting hurt when they do, right?

Why the stigma though?

I could list a lot more of stigmata that these call center agents have been given, but I think I only need to address those that aren’t true as I have seen first hand from my friends. Come to think of it, a lot of people are not willing to work in call centers because they are afraid that they’ll be stigmatized with these, but what they fail to see is the great employment opportunity for them: leave credits, bonus, high salary, health insurance for themselves and their dependents. There is nothing wrong with being a registered nurse working as a call center agent or being simply a call center agent itself whatever your educational or former professional background is.

So instead of discriminating the industry and the people who work in it, why should not we, instead, be grateful for what it generates: more jobs for Filipinos and the opportunity to support their families. Perhaps, it all boils down the “traditional” thing that we Filipinos have—crab mentality. I think it’s high time we removed that mentality from our lives and move forward.

And for all those call center agents out there, perhaps these stigmata won’t fade really soon and there could be nothing you can do to stop other people from spreading these, but there is one thing you all can do—prove them wrong.

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