While writing a piece about racist attack on call center workers, I felt that I was not doing enough to get into the depth of the matter. Just analyzing the published data and reading report written by someone else did not feel enough. I decided to talk to someone who actually works in a call center. Following is the transcript of our talk. My respondent works at a call center in Pune, India. The answers have not been edited.
1) Here in USA we hear about call center workers being abused by callers from USA. They call them bad name and are nasty. Have you faced this kind of situation..? If yes then how did you handle it and how did it made youfeel about Americans in general? Also did the bad behavior from American callers made u have a bad image of America..? If an employee complaints of bad behavior from callers how does the management handle it? Are the employees provided counseling..?
Certainly. Daily an agent would get at least one or two calls where the customer gets abusive. In such situations the agents ask the customer to refrain from profanity or else he might hang up. This does not always work out as the customer may still be abusive and since the calls are all recorded the agent simply cannot hang-up on the customer and he has to request him at least twice. This does make the agent feel bad and it might affect the agent’s productivity. However a tenured agent (someone who’s been in the process for over 6 months can handle these situations smartly. However the new joiners find it pretty tough to deal with and it is for these agents that we have counseling sessions either immediately or after the shift. In such cases the Team leader also takes over the call from the agent. This is called as an escalation. Americans in general are quite patient and can wait for hours before they finally get to speak to a live human as the wait times are generally high especially in Tech support. Initially agents do feel let down and depressed because of such incidents but eventually they do overcome. However one such call can ruin the day for an agent irrespective oh him being tenured or a fresher.
2) If given a chance will you work in America for Americans..? Please give reasons for your answer.
This is a very subjective question. The pay packet in call centers is more compared to other jobs in the market. Likewise if you look at growth opportunities offered in the US market certainly the prospect of working In America is very appealing. Just a few bad American customers cannot scare Indian job seekers away from the $$$$$$.
3) Do you think that in future with raising costs in India, the call centers will migrate to other low cost locations..? and Do you think you are prepared to take another job in another industry?
Shifting of call centers or having a new setup is not entirely dependent on the monetary part. Yes the very reason of jobs being outsourced is because of cost cutting. This can only be possible if the resources that are available make for a good option. The biggest advantage and the most important reason for call centers booming in India is its English speaking population combined with the cheap labor. Either one of these options alone may not fit the bill for an alternative. Unlike America where call centre job is for unskilled labor (mostly) in India the people associated with this industry are highly qualified and even experienced in most cases. Hence getting another job is not a BIG problem but the pay package may not be the same.
4) What are your plans for your future..? Do you want to make a career in this field..?
Normally people associated with this industry would work for 2 – 3 years with some exceptional cases of individuals working for more than
4 or 5 years. Attrition is the biggest challenge faced by this industry but it’s mostly because of the night shifts. Night shifts and health issues are the main reasons (Nature of Job) for people moving out of this industry. Those who can manage it are sitting comfortably high on the corporate hierarchy.
5) Do you feel detached from social life because of odd working hours at the call center..?
This is the biggest drawback of being associated with this industry. You do not get sufficient time for social life. Though you work only for 5 days a week yet the 2 odd days that you get for yourself are simply not sufficient to take care of the recreation or other domestic commitments. That’s one reason why you find a pretty young crowd at call centers.