Archive for the ‘CallCenter Advices’ Category

Call Center Stress Days

November 4, 2008

Thousands of us call center peeps have been working our behinds off for almost everyday or should I say every night?) and it does seem like there’s really no difference between days and even sometimes you couldn’t even tell what day it is anymore. There is. Let me cite you a few examples that will tell you if you’re gonna have the “time of your life” tonight and it might well be the perfect day to feel sick and go absent. LOL. Of course, this is only for fun and I don’t encourage people feigning sickness to avoid work. Some of you may even know a few of these already.

1. Based on experience and workforce trending, our Thursday and Fridays here are the busiest. Number of calls are peaking and you should notice that almost everybody in your team is scheduled to work those days. This observation is almost a fact of life and with almost every other industry. Don’t expect you can go on a leave on these days.

2. If come to work, sit down and the calls are already coming out of your wazoo, it’s going to be a long day even on weekends.
3. If you work dayshift call center here for a U.S. time zone account, be happy its probably going to be one of your perks. Trust me.

4. For me the perfect shift to have is something that starts early evening here because calls aren’t qeueing much, you get enough calls mid-shift and relax slightly by the end. That is if you’ve got a normal inbound account. If you have a predictive dialing outbound account, forget it!

5. Generally, most calls ramp up during the -ber months because a huge amount of transactions are completed during holiday season. Don’t expect you’ll get a fair chance to go on leave during these times.

So there. Call center newbies, learn these. Vets, you probably know these already.

Call Center Protocol: Pretending You’re Somewhere Else

May 13, 2008

In the outsourced call center world, occasionally and due to client protocols we are not allowed to say were we are actually located. This creates a lot of problems for call center agents especially if you’re accent tells the obvious. Here’s another interesting story by a Sprint customer who probably spoke with one of us here in the Philippines. To this day, I still don’t understand why clients are prohibiting such things as letting their customers know they’re being taken care of by a competent person from here in our country. If we’re given the right tools, training, motivation and empowerment, this story right down here could have easily ended as a sale on the first call and where we are or who we are won’t really matter. ( ***You can click on any of the images to see the full story***)
The customer Ms. Debbie Levitt was asking the right question in the red highlight above. I also need to ask if we are to pretend that we are from somewhere else, a non-native English speaking country, why are we not given the right tools to sell this person a phone at the advertised rate. I really believe we are just as competent as the person in NM who sold her the phone but why are we not able to sell this person what she wants on the first call?

Personally, I don’t think it’s our fault. If the first person, who presumably is Filipino, had been empowered with the right tools and clients support and sold her the phone she wanted, I don’t think it would have mattered if we were taking calls in Mars. Small things like accents and locations really become a significant part of the ordeal when customers are not been dealt well and patiently.

Going the extra mile for each customer even if it eats up your average handle time is number one in my book! I’m sure your manager would agree.

Sears Philippines Call Center Complaint

May 8, 2008

I found this article written by a frustrated customer via my Google mail which I had alert for the keywords “Philippines Call Center.” This I did so that I can keep up with what’s going on with the call center industry in the Philippines. Click on the image, if you have trouble reading the text.

The customer, a lady who had a problem with her Kenmore refrigerator happened to reach a call center in the Philippines servicing Kenmore appliances and was extremely disappointed on how she was dealt with.
Notable in this woman’s complain was how the agents argued with her about her warranty. The agents claim she only had 1 year when in fact she had 5. On her third try to speak with an agent, the customer service rep verified with the marketing department that indeed had a longer warranty.

Common mistake? Yes. Avoidable? Definitely. It took three people just to clarify the situation which was just half the battle for the customer.

Lesson to be taken: Study the situation first and reasonably argue as a last resort.

I wonder which call center takes calls for Sears here in the Philippines… hmmm… Telus? Convergys? ACS?

Call Center Management Training Courses

May 8, 2008

In the world of call centers or BPO’s, more and more companies are looking for leaders with not just your typical English proficiency and appropriate motivation. These days, in order for you to increase your “rep” or your chances of promotion/getting hired you need to have at least acquired a few skills or certifications which can greatly highlight your marketability.

Companies often look for some degree of advanced training and practice among employees and applicants. Often when recruiters scour resume databases, they look for certain “plus” in the trainings and skills section one a potential candidates resume. If the find a qualified candidate that does have some special skills and knowledge, they definitely won’t be shy in offering a substantial job offer with nice perks to boot!

Companies will be competing for your services if you have the following skills or certifications:

1. Six Sigma Certified – There’s a lot of talk about Six Sigma in the call center world these days but common call center employees if not most of them does not understand the concept. In one sentence, Six Sigma is simply the practice of measuring quality that strives for near perfection. While most large call centers are integrating Six Sigma in their processes, it is NOT a catch-all end-all solution to perfection. It is just simply process analysis. The bigger task at hand is how you can use the data out of Six Sigma to improve your process.

Six Sigma originated from the Motorola company which reaped huge success for its manufacturing department. Largely due to this success, many manufacturing companies around the world have also adopted this business management strategy. Although Six Sigma has mainly been used by manufacturing companies particularly in their assembly lines, some innovative Indians came up with the idea to use and tailor it for their outsourcing processes. It also became a huge success ergo big call center companies in the Philippines in the past years have also been embracing this process improvement methodology.

Six Sigma certified professionals are highly sought in the call center world these days. Different levels of certifications may equal different levels of salary grade. Much like a Karate proficiency level, 6 Sigma certification is also by belts: Yellow, Brown, Green, Black or Double Black belts are a few of them. The double black belt or sometimes called master black belt certified person can earn an average of 200,000 pesos a month in the Philippines. Most of Six Sigma training is company sponsored and they usually come with a “training bond.”

2. CIAC Certification – This can also be somewhat “a feather in your cap” if you happen to have the money to get it. CIAC Certification is the only industry-sanctioned contact center management certification program. As a CIAC-Certified professional, you will be recognized for your mastery of call center management skills and knowledge. ICMI provides the training and prep for certification. There’s only a few people in the call center industry in the Philippines who have CIAC-certified bragging rights and most of them are call center consultants. Some are reportedly earning at least 100,000 pesos excluding consultation work.

3. Project Management Certification- This one is often highly-sought by outsourcing companies for mid to top level management positions because of a Project Manager’s ability and experience to manage an account (project) on time and more importantly within the budget. The most recognized institution handling certification for project management is the Project Management Institute. Being certified as a Project Management Professional means you have to continually comply with PMI’s Continuous Certification Requirements or else you can’t claim you are a certified Project Management Professional. This certification transcends the outsourcing industry. You can work at different industries where they require this type of experience and certification such as Real Estate project development and contract-type of projects.

4. ISO certification – ISO certification encompasses several different industries but the one that applies to call center professionals is the ISO 9001:2000. It is a quality management systems standard that provides a tried and tested framework for taking a systematic approach to managing the organization’s processes so that they consistently turn out product that satisfies customers’ expectations. As an alternative to Six Sigma, some reputable outsourcing companies have turned to ISO standards a quality management tool for their processes. If you have this one and Six sigma, you’re probably earning a quarter of a million per month.

5. Knowledge Management Certification – This one is my “dark horse”! There’s a sector of the outsourcing industry called Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). In my personal opinion, KPO is the Summa Cum Laude of outsourcing. Check out wikipedia’s definition of Knowledge Process Outsourcing.

The reason that I say Knowledge Management Certification is my dark horse is because KPO hasn’t really dawned yet in the Philippines. KPO companies often hired only super highly educated people with tons of certifications. Expect KPO companies to only hire people with MBA degrees or some weird post graduate title. KPO employees are often highly regarding because of their brains, analysis skills and experience. So good these employees are that they are able and permitted to make mid level management decisions for their clients.

If you happen to be Knowledge Process Management certified person in the Philippines, you will be the future industry leader with almost limitless potential.

Call Center Labor Unions Pros & Cons

May 1, 2008

I think slowly the Philippines Outsourcing industry is waking up to the realities of labor unions in our country. The Philippines’ sunshine industry has been here since early 2000 and yet it is only now that call center and BPO employees have begun to seriously contemplate on unionizing. Although years late, it does make sense to unionize. After all, the outsourcing industry is a service-oriented sector where roughly 90% of the income generation comes from “people who work the mills.” There are existing labor unions in some call centers in the Philippines. For example, Globe Telecom employees have unionized years ago and it has fairly done its job for the employees it supposedly protects. In an outsourcing setting, it is different however. Employees in the outsourcing industry are exposed to different elements that make them think twice about unionizing. In this light, let me enumerate some of the Pros and Cons of having a call center/BPO labor union or being a member of one.

Pros:
1. With a good foundation and support, labor unions in call centers can definitely help employees especially in terms of representation, security of tenure and salary matters. I think people would stay longer in a company if they feel some measure of protection.

2. Employees will have a “real” avenue for their grievances.

3. Employees can have protection from against pro-company policies such as the “co-terminus” contract, non-compete clause, service bonds etc.

Cons:
1. No promotion – employees will have to choose between being a member of a labor union and their own career aspirations. Labor union members will have a very tough time getting promoted because company management will definitely not want somebody from “the other side” as part of their team.

2. Times have changed and so is the perception of our labor force during the present times. As a student of customer service myself, I believe most of call center employees these days are “walkers” instead of “talkers” which means most of them prefer to walk away or keep silent rather than protest when faced with oppression.

3. In some cases, employees just want to be heard and not necessarily be counted as a union member.
There’s an upstart labor union created by Teleperformance employees. I have closely watched developments in their website and I can’t help but notice that most issues in their website are mainly about complaints. My advise to tpwatchers is to promote an avenue of dialog between them and the management and not just a forum of rants. The purpose of protecting employees’ rights is defeated if nobody would have the balls to represent the majority and present an un-addressed case.

Call Center 80/20 Principle

April 16, 2008

Pareto PrincipleHas anybody heard of the Pareto Principle? According to wikipedia, known also as the 80-20 rule, it states that in many events, 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. It’s a common rule of thumb in many aspects of business.

For example, 80 percent of a call center team’s performance comes from only 20 percent of the team members. Make a stack ranking of your agents and notice that the top 20 percent are the ones pulling your team stats up. It also works in reverse, 80 percent of your team’s performance is being dragged down by only 20 percent of the team. Make a stack rank of your team again and see that the bottom 20 percent is pulling your quality, AHT, Sales and what have you’s.

How is this any relevant? In many cases when you do a stack rank, you are shown data which you can customize your approach to your team. Knowing the top 20 percent and bottom 20 percent should make you understand you who need to focus, help, coach and make action plans for to get your team performance higher. As a fair principle and fair leader, one should always have the time for each and every subordinate one has. But in reality, you only have one body and the demands of being a leader/manager does not allow you to be at many places and attending to the needs of everybody. In my humble opinion, a leaders slash manager’s main responsibility rests on his/her own team performance. Therefore, it is good management when you know focus on areas where your team performance needs help. It is good leadership when you make your people understand why you are doing more for people who need help rather than giving everybody equal attention.

Work At Singapore Call Centers?

March 18, 2008

For sometime now, I’ve dismissed this idea of working for call centers in the first world country of Singapore. I’ve already heard stories. I’ve seen ads in the newspapers. I’ve heard news about friends of friends already working in Singapore as call center employees.

For one thing, I just thought it was a scam. One needed a work permit to even apply for a call center job in Singapore. This I found true at most job posting in Jobstreet Singapore.

Secondly, Singapore’s high standard of living will suck most of your earning in that place no matter how high your salary offer was. Essentially negating the lure of earning big money because the cost of living is much too high.

Today, I chatted with an old call center batch mate. We never really were close but we knew each other enough to entice me to connect with him even if it was just to say hi and ask him how he was. To my surprise, he says he is now working at HSBC call center in Singapore! We parted ways 5 years ago. He worked for the HSBC Alabang and eventually got promoted to Asst. Manager for Operations. He says last year he says he tried his luck and joined friends at applying at EDI staff builders the recruitment agency for a call center post in Singapore and was lucky enough to one of the few who passed the screening and eventually got a job offer. I forgot to ask what position he got accepted for but I’m fairly sure he is working as an agent at HSBC Singapore. I guess he bit the big salary offer and sacrificed his TL post at HSBC Alabang for a chance to work there. He’s only been there for 6 months now and he says life is good.

Though I might not have agreed with his decision. It’s his life to make. For me, The sacrifice of being away from your family and the high standard of living negates the lure of working for another call center outside the country. But then again, money talks. Maybe for the right price I would. Maybe for a salary of 100,000 pesos per month I would think about it. LOL

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Ah yes… I’m back! (with a vengeance)

February 26, 2008

After getting fever sick for the past few days and overcoming my comfortable coach potato hiatus, I’ve finally made another post! I apologize to those who have regularly checked my blog but have not found any updates for the past week. We’re just all human you know… LOL.

Anyways, I’ve gone through my normal routines and contacts again and it looks like there’s been a lot of things going on since I’ve been gone. Here’s a few things I found.

1. It looks like the Dell call center people are heading through real stormy waters this time. Rumors and speculations concerning their jobs security a.k.a lay-off blues have been spreading and things ( it seems ) are not looking up for Dell in the meantime. As we call it (back in my old call center) NOISE have been persistent and are distracting their work. If you recognize this statement, then you’ll know where I came from once.

2. There’s a lot more buildings being built in North Cyber Plaza Alabang than I expected. During the past posts, I wrote about expansion of Genpact and FirstSource in the area. But It seems that there’s more! Either the property owners (Filinvest Land) are developing this area further to lease to more BPO’s coming there OR maybe some BPO’s have been secretly building their own sites there as well. I heard PS is establishing there but no confirmation from credible sources yet. That’s very good news for peeps in the south. North Cyber Gate is shaping up to be the next Eastwood city as far as I’m concerned.

3. If some of you guys want easy back-office work, try applying at Accenture! They are hiring for a pioneer BPO account. The work process, I believe, only consists of data entry which may be what the doctor ordered for those na lawit na ang dila sa calls. LOL They account starts mid-March and they are hiring at all levels. Sorry I don’t I any contacts in Accenture for referrals but from what I hear, Accenture has a very admirable atmosphere, culture and benefits package. Check-out jobstreet.com!

I’ll keep you posted for more soon. Tata!

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Call Center Blogger is back!

February 26, 2008

After getting fever sick for the past few days and overcoming my comfortable coach potato hiatus, I’ve finally made another post! I apologize to those who have regularly checked my blog but have not found any updates for the past week. We’re just all human you know… LOL.

Anyways, I’ve gone through my normal routines and contacts again and it looks like there’s been a lot of things going on since I’ve been gone. Here’s a few things I found.

1. It looks like the Dell call center people are heading through real stormy waters this time. Rumors and speculations concerning their jobs security a.k.a lay-off blues have been spreading and things ( it seems ) are not looking up for Dell in the meantime. As we call it (back in my old call center) NOISE have been persistent and are distracting their work. If you recognize this statement, then you’ll know where I came from once.

2. There’s a lot more buildings being built in North Cyber Plaza Alabang than I expected. During the past posts, I wrote about expansion of Genpact and FirstSource in the area. But It seems that there’s more! Either the property owners (Filinvest Land) are developing this area further to lease to more BPO’s coming there OR maybe some BPO’s have been secretly building their own sites there as well. I heard PS is establishing there but no confirmation from credible sources yet. That’s very good news for peeps in the south. North Cyber Gate is shaping up to be the next Eastwood city as far as I’m concerned.

3. If some of you guys want easy back-office work, try applying at Accenture! They are hiring for a pioneer BPO account. The work process, I believe, only consists of data entry which may be what the doctor ordered for those na lawit na ang dila sa calls. LOL They account starts mid-March and they are hiring at all levels. Sorry I don’t I any contacts in Accenture for referrals but from what I hear, Accenture has a very admirable atmosphere, culture and benefits package. Check-out jobstreet.com!

I’ll keep you posted for more soon. Tata!

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The Proverbial "Career Growth" In The Phil. BPO

February 11, 2008

I visited a call center thread in PinoyExchange just today and it struck me to write about the whole deal or dilemma of “career growth” or lack thereof in the call center/BPO industry today. It struck me because not having career growth is a popular clamor amongst ourselves and it does make some think otherwise about there own career direction.
In terms of career growth or promotions, I definitely believe all things need to be in the right places before it happens. And before this happens, it takes a great effort and conviction to make it happen. Competition is hard and that’s a given. With thousands of employees in our industry, not everyone will get a chance to be promoted at the same time. I will liken it to a good basketball team. With a certain number of talents within the team, not everyone will get the chance to be the franchise player. Some will have to be role players and such. It takes years to be considered a good coach as well as a trainer. Likewise in a call center setting, people will need to understand their role and make the effort to make sure they do a very good job to get noticed.

This leads me to the conclusion with my previous statement above that in order to get your turn at getting promoted, all things need to be in the right places at the right time. For me the things I’m referring to are two things that begin with the letter C. The first is Chance and the second is Conviction. For me, career growth is all about who does their job well consistently and sticks around long enough to get their chance at being promoted.

When I talk about chance, I meant people need to stick to what they do best and wait for an opportunity for promotion. I’d have to admit that the call center industry presents people with the fastest career growth across all industries. Sometimes we may see people in the VP level already but he’s only below 30 y/o. But that opportunity may not be for everyone. The reality is people need to prove themselves. People need to be consistent at what they do and stick with their career goals until an opportunity comes along. This leads my to the second C which is Conviction.

While waiting for that chance, one must always stick to his conviction or career goals. The most important thing in this aspect is a person needs to make sure that he/she takes the necessary steps to achieve his goal. Being good at what you do IS NOT enough. Please take note! A person needs to make sure his achievements are noticed and acknowledged by authorities so that he is recognized. Recognition and achievements are very big factors when it comes to promotions. Another thing I’d like to include here is the conviction for self-improvement. People must understand that promotion is not granted based on merit alone. An important factor for promotion is the behavioral and decision-making capabilities of the candidate. A person needs to show his conviction towards his/her own career goals by taking the initiative of finding out what skills and capabilities he needs to acquire in order for them to get to the next level. Hard fact is nobody else will provide him this but him/herself.

I’d have to admit I’ve known some very sad stories of people spending years in the same position but not getting promoted despite the fact they have really made an effort to get promoted. As an example, I had this batch mate from PeopleSupport back in 2003. We started out both as an agent and it was our first time working in the call center industry. I left PS after 7 months and a few months after leaving I was already a TL somewhere else. We lost touch after I left. A few months after being a Team Leader, I became an Operations Manager leading my own in-house call center. Then, we met again in HSBC Christmas party last year. We got to talk for a little while to catch up on things then he told me he stuck and spent 3 years in PS as an agent! Within the 3 years, he sent and applied to higher posts several times but was not successful. I really pitied my batch-mate. He did all the right things and had all the right stuff but was not given the chance.

But in the back of my mind, I felt his predicament was his fault. He had all the things right but he was not looking in the right places! All the stars may be aligned your way but if you are not exploring all your options, you may end up losing in the end.

So in conclusion, when it comes to promotions and career growth, people need to have 3 things right: Right timing (chance), Right stuff (capabilities) and be in the Right place (be in the right company that will give him a shot at promotion). Among these three, I think the second factor is the most underestimated and I really think people need to realize the important of having the right “stuff in order to get that promotion.

Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Thanks.

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