“Eh, sa call center lang naman sila nagtratrabaho” - Wandering Pinoy

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

“Eh, sa call center lang naman sila nagtratrabaho”

On my way home from work a day or two after Typhoon Maring ravaged our country, I overheard two “uniformed” ladies mocking call center workers and one of them blurted “Eh, sa call center lang naman sila nagtratrabaho.” This derogatory remark from the older lady hit me like a sword but I remained calm. For someone like me who has spent more than three years in a call center (and counting), such remark is rude and immature. It also signifies ignorance.

Photo credit: http://www.ncc.gov.ph/files/lacdao_phil_it_bpo_roadmap.pdf
I joined the BPO industry in 2010 and, more often than not, I hear negative remarks about the nature of our job. People look down on call center workers because they think we do not have a “real job.” Some even say that our life is dull and routinary: we go to work, take calls and go home and, then go to work, take calls and go home. Lately, a law graduate who used to work in a call center also received an insulting remark about call center agents from his colleague, and his post has gone viral on Facebook. His experience was pretty much the same as mine.

Contrary to what other people say, call center workers are hard-working and smart people, and working in a BPO is never dull at all. I said “hard-working” primarily because we work while majority are asleep. We work hard to support our own families or send our siblings to college. Unknown to many, we also work on holidays while majority are spending time with their families or special someone. This is a personal sacrifice which cannot be equated with material things. Our job also requires us to work even if there are typhoons, and this is something unknown to majority. Imagine a pregnant single mom working at the height of Typhoon Maring? This is absolutely heroism unknown to the public. I said “smart” because we have opted to work in this sector instead of “living unemployed” or complaining that the current administration is incompetent that it cannot even “provide jobs for Filipinos.” Despite the work schedule and the occasional stress associated with dealing with rude or irate customers, we have decided to stay because we want to help ourselves and those people who depend on us.

Working in a call center industry does not only require the ability to speak English fluently. It also requires courage, passion and dedication. If you do not possess these “special qualities,” I am afraid you will not stay long in this industry. Courage is needed to face and combat the stress (well, there is no such thing as “stress-free” workplace) and the physical and mental risks that may arise from constant exposure to irate or abusive customers and graveyard shift. In a study conducted by P. Bhuyar, Associate Professor at the Department of Community Medicine at Patil Medical College in India, “the working hours of call center workers may cause sleep disturbances and disturbances in biological rhythm. Physical health may also be adversely affected due to irregular and sedentary work hours.” Passion and dedication, on the other hand, work together and both drive performance and customer-engagement. When people developed love for what they do, work becomes more than a job -- it becomes a unique calling.

In a recently published article called The Economic Footprint of BPO Industry, Roberto R. Romulo pointed out “the exponential growth of the BPO industry, making it one of the chief economic drivers in the Philippines.” By 2016, the BPO industry is expected to employ approximately one million Filipinos with revenue reaching $25 billion. To quote Mr. Romulo: “…the BPO industry of the Philippines is estimated to hit revenues up to $25 billion by 2016. By these estimates, the Philippine BPO industry will account for approximately 10 percent of the nation’s GDP directly employing 1.3 million Filipinos and 3.2 million more in indirect employment.” Our taxes also play a significant role. As discussed by De La Salle University professor Dr. Alvin Culaba in his paper A Case Study on Innovation and Competitiveness: The Philippine BPO Industry, taxes collected from call centers can go as far as Php110 billion by 2016 which, if properly used by concerned government officials, can generate 200,000 classrooms and help 3.3 million families who are receiving Conditional Cash Transfer, also known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (PPPP), for a year. PPPP provides cash to poorest households in the Philippines. For someone who understands how economy works or, say, for someone who has common sense, these figures are highly significant. It cannot just be ignored. But for someone who looks down on call center workers, I wonder.

The Philippines is now the “Call Center Capital of the World” according to Transcom Country Manager Siva Subramaniam. In a few years to come, and with continued support from the government and the private sector, I am confident that call center workers will dominate the Philippine labor force, further augmenting our contribution to national economy. This should serve as soft reminder to those people who have uttered foul or discriminatory remarks about call center workers.

Ignorance of how the call center industry operates and how call center workers “work” should not be a lame excuse to degrade our job or make fun of us. If, for some reasons, this ignorance cannot be cured, try to observe and “make sense” first before saying “Eh, sa call center lang naman sila nagtratrabaho.” This is absolutely a walk in the park.

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