an open letter to mr. jun capulot

Mr. Capulot.

During your broadcast on July 31st where you were supposed to comment and give light to the current situation of a BPO company in Iloilo whose some employees were tested positive for COVID-19, you veered to a topic that steered controversy by giving uncalled for comments. You labelled the call center industry as a place for people who are lazy enough to use their brain cells. To quote, you said: “Ano ang trabaho sang call center? Gusto niyo i-describe ko pa? Ang trabaho sa call center, trabaho ina sang mga tamaran na mga tawo. Sa mga tamaran mag gamit sang ila mga brain cells! (What’s the work of a call center [agent]? Do you want me to describe it? The work at call centers is the work of lazy people. Lazy people who refuse to use their brain cells!)” You mentioned that your friend shared to you how things are done on the production floor—that people only repeatedly press buttons to activate automated voice responses whenever the customers call, that these people do not actually talk to customers. You went on and on, further discriminating the industry and the people who work in it.

I have never been a call center agent. At the same time, for almost six years now, I have been a trainer for upcoming call center agents in our company, and I can say that none of what you said about these people is even nowhere near the truth. These people are not lazy nor do they refuse to use their brain cells. These people are some of the most passionate, empowered, resourceful, flexible, optimistic, results-oriented, and motivated people I have ever met. Let me tell you why.

These people go through rigorous screening process to be part of a batch (referred to as wave by other centers). In our company alone, these people go through several interviews and assessments where their listening and reading comprehension are assessed. Their foundational communication skills are also gauged—these include their grammar, pronunciation, and ability to fully verbalize themselves in a clear, coherent, relevant, and complete manner. Some people do not even make the cut during the initial and final interviews and assessments.

Once they make the cut to be part of the batch, they go through training. In our company, they start with communications training. They are honed to identify the customers concerns by listening actively, using their tools, and asking effective and relevant questions. Part of their training also involves presenting the resolution (the answer to the customer’s questions) completely and accurately, all the while making sure it is relevant to the concern and coherent enough to be easily understood. This phase of the training can go up to four weeks, with several assessments in the form of call simulation and extemporaneous speaking exercises. After which, they are given feedback and coaching sessions to ensure they know what they did well and what they can do differently.

After passing this phase, they go to product specific training where they learn about the products or services (or sometimes both) offered by our clients to our customers. This training can also go up to four weeks with recurring assessments and feedback and coaching session. They then enter the nesting stage where they start taking live calls with actual customers, and they are then given feedback and coaching session as well so they can better their performance.

On the production floor, these people do not just press buttons to activate an automated voice response to the customers. The agents use multiple tools—their knowledge base, the customer’s account log, previous communication logs, and many others—while actually talking to the customer, asking questions to uncover the customer’s needs, and guiding the customers step by step through the process to resolve their problems. All these require them use all the brain cells they can salvage and muster. None of these can be done by someone who refuses to use their brain cells.

Labelling call center agents as lazy people, people lazy enough to use their brain cells isn’t only borderline ignorant but apparent discrimination and profession shaming. As a professional broadcast journalist and news anchor, you of all people should know that one ought not to comment about a topic that one has no first-hand knowledge about. And as public figure revered by many listeners, your influence and comment only reinforced the stigma that call center employees face.

I hope that moving forward, you will be more responsible in your commentaries and actually do research on topics you want to talk about to ensure that the information you send out to the public is accurate and fair. I hope that you do not mix your bias and ignorance with the job you are supposed to do because when you do so, you no longer become a news anchor, but a preacher who spreads your own ideals. We have too many of those now, too many that we do not need more, and what we need is a responsible broadcast journalist. I hope you can become one.

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