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Philippine call centers, blessing or curse for the workers

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Lately there has been a lot of news about call center employees being snubbed by others in the Philippines. This is ridiculous and if you work in a call center you should not be ashamed of the work you do. Call centers and BPO’s have created a middle class in the Philippines where before there was only the upper class and the lower class. Did you know that many call center employees make more than nurses and teachers here in the Philippines?

There is also a trend in the United States that if you call customer service or technical support and get a foreign accent on the other end that this person may not know what you are saying; this is not the reality of it. If you are speaking to an Indian call center, then you may have a harder time understanding them as their English and cultural knowledge leans towards British English. However, when you get a Filipino call center, the English they learn is American-based English and they know American culture, people tend to forget that the Philippines used to be a commonwealth of the United States. Also, the majority of call centers in the Philippines will not hire agents who do not speak English well.

Another stigma from the American view is that these agents are taking jobs from Americans. This is also not at all true. If they were to close the call centers and BPO’s in the Philippines, the level of service Americans are used to and would receive would be greatly degraded. What many do not realize is that if a company closes a call center or BPO in the Philippines and has to get rid of 500 Filipino agents, they are not going to turn around and hire 500 Americans to replace them, it would not be economical. You would have fewer people to take your call, would be on hold for extended periods, and the cost of services like cable, telephone, and internet would increase, because the company is going to put the extra cost of having additional American employees on your bill, not theirs. Also, there is no social welfare system in the Philippines so these agents that would lose their jobs can not apply for unemployment compensation or food assistance so they are left to fend for themselves and their families with nothing.

Something many Americans do not realize is that for the cost of one American call center employee, the company can hire several Filipino agents who are well educated and speak fluent English. Keep in mind that just because someone has a small accent at times, does not mean they are stupid or that they do not understand English. For example, a Texan speaks much different than a New Yorker, yet both can usually understand each other for the majority of a conversation. In America, most call center agents require nothing more than a high school diploma, while in the Philippines, you must have a degree in order to work in a call center or BPO. If you have a hard time understanding the person you are talking to, you have probably reached a company that outsources to India.

Now as for Filipino point of view, those that don’t work in the call center or BPO industry have started a new trend of looking down on those that do work in the call center and BPO industry. Is it caused by jealousy that call center agents make a decent living? There are many people that start at the bottom of the call center agency and work for many years to make it to the top through hard work and diligence. Filipinos who work hard at call centers should be honored and held in respect, for not only do they work hard to support their families, they bring money into the country which helps the Philippine economy immensely.

Call center life is far from glamorous; many call center employees work every weekend, every holiday, and many of them work at night, making daily life a hard task. American’s are used to 24 hour convenience with many big box stores, gas stations, and restaurants open 24 hours. This is not the case for the Filipino call center employee, most stores in the Philippines close as they are just arriving at work, and open after they are trying to get to sleep to be prepared for their next shift. On top of this, many travel long distances to get to work, in a city where traffic jams occur on the daily. What would be a fifteen minute commute for an American, often become a 1-2 hour commute for Filipino agents.

In conclusion, American’s who are complaining about outsourcing do not realize the alternative for the Filipinos. In America, you can work at McDonald’s or at a call center and make the same wage, and you will not face discrimination based on age, sex , height, etc., but in the Philippines that is not an option. The wage scale is very different here based on the type of work you do, and it is common to see job ads that will state a specific age, height, and sex for each position. Call centers and BPO’s are the only equal opportunity employer for many older people to have a fruitful career, and by older, we’re talking as young as 30 and up, because in the Philippines if you’re beyond a certain age, you’re too short, and/or you’re not attractive, you are not likely to get hired anywhere except a call center or BPO. So please, allow these hard working people to help you, and please be kind to them the next time you call, because they only want to do a good job, provide you great service, and take care of their families. Please the next time you call and it asks you to do an automated survey, take a few minutes and rate them well, this greatly affects their pay, because if they get high ratings, they will usually get a bonus for the month.

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