Whether you're a fresh graduate, a college drop out, or a high school graduate, you can definitely apply and land a job in the Philippine call center industry. I've written a whole guide for you. Here's how:
In summary: To become a call center agent in the Philippines, you need to be able to speak English with a neutral accent, take the online test (if applicable) then pass the job interview. Then the training follows. The training consists of phone etiquette, language, and product training. Lastly is the nesting, when your skills are put to the test and you'll talk to actual customers over the phone. If you want to have a better chance of passing all of these, here's a complete guide on how to become a call center agent in the Philippines.
Improve your English
Not all call center accounts are looking for English speaking agents. Some (although rare) look for other language speakers like Spanish, French, Mandarin, etc. But for the sake of simplicity, note that if I say "English", I'm talking about the language that the company you're applying in needs.
Needless to say, your fluency in English is non-negotiable.
If a headhunter invites you to apply to their company and says basic English is acceptable, be very wary. It's either he's lying or he's purposefully misleading you just for him to have better chance of bagging a referral bonus.
Ask the headhunter what the heck he means by "basic English." And I'll bet you, he'll struggle to explain what it means. That's because "basic English" means nothing in the call center industry. It's either you can speak it or you can't.
The reason why call center agents are call center agents is because they speak the language their customers speak.
That said, I've written this in-depth guide on how to improve your English. Most of my readers improved their English this way which helped them finally land their jobs. It might improve yours, too. The good thing is, it's free and you don't have to pay for any training fees.
Job interview questions
I'm not a fan of memorizing the answer to call center interview questions but I'm not a fan of just "winging it out" and "going with the flow" either. Some applicants can pull it just fine though. But not everyone.
Therefore, it's important that you understand the "why" behind each interview question. For example, "Tell me something about yourself.", isn't an invitation to tell your interviewer about your civil status, address, and birthdate. Instead, she wants to know what it is about you that makes you a good fit for the job.
Sometimes, you need to lie.
For example, the question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"
Interviewers who ask this question want to hear from you that you plan to stay with the company in the next 5 years. But if you aren't really sure about staying that long, you still have to make the interviewer believe that you're planning for a long-term stay.
But lying can only do so much. In situations where lying doesn't work, your best option is to be honest. If you're a nursing graduate, and you know you'll leave the call center someday, be upfront about it. You can say,
I can't really promise to stay in the company in the next 5 years because eventually, I will want to pursue my nursing career. But I'm sure I'm gonna stay in the next 3 years. I can guarantee though that it will not affect my work ethics. I believe in delivering the best in anything I do.
We can talk forever about call center interview questions and I won't finish till next month. I did, however, write a dedicated post about it here. That's for the common interview questions.
Depending on the account you're applying for, online exams may or may not be applicable. The purpose also varies. Most exams are used to assess your English fluency and grammar. If you're applying as a technical support though, then you'll likely undergo a test about the basic of fixing computer's hardware and software.
The exam usually takes 30 minutes either on a piece of paper or in a laptop. If you don't pass, you normally would be forwarded to another account that doesn't require an in-depth technical knowledge. Like in sales or in the customer inquiries department.
Most applicants ask whether it's possible to land a call center job with a turtlelike typing speed. And the answer is technically yes.
But would you really want to go to a battle knowing you lack ammunition? The training alone is far from dandy. If you think a final exam in college is more chaotic than a training in the call center, think again. You're expected to learn everything about the product in 2 weeks to a month.
Not to mention the nesting period when you have to talk to real (possibly irate) customers over the phone while tinkering with 5 to 10 different software simultaneously, while dealing with the customers' emotions. With all these multitasking going on, do you think you'll still be able to make time for your typing practice? Nah, forget it.
To have a better chance to reach contract signing, your best bet is to improve your typing speed now and apply later.
Remember: It's less about how fast your fingers are but more about being able to type without watching the keyboard. Kinda like typing on a cellphone keypad; you don't need to see the letters to type; you just know what you're typing. To learn this, check out the free typing tutorials online and they'll teach you just how to assign specific characters and numbers to each finger.
Versant and Berlitz are two different ways to measure the English fluency of an applicant. Versant is done by a software, while Berlitz is by a human. I would say that Berlitz is more intimidating, but definitely you can pass if you know what to expect and if you have the skills for it.
Depending on the company you're applying for, you might or might not undergo any of these tests. But if you do, remember to check this post for Versant and this for Berlitz. I've written each post detailing what happens during the test and what you should prepare for.
When applying as a call center agent in the Philippines, you don't really need a fancy resume. This is because competition isn't an issue. And as long as you can speak and converse with English well, you're good. Call centers are hiring everyday.
Understand though that you still have to work on your resume. But not as much. As long as it clearly communicates the professional info about you, a resume shouldn't be able to affect your application negatively nor positively.
Oh, and remember to put the accurate dates of your work experience and school years, especially if you're applying for a bank call center. I've been grilled once by an interviewer for putting the wrong dates and years. Despite that, I was still invited for the final interview.
If you want a resume guide, here's a short post I wrote about how to write your resume. At the end of the post are two different links for two different resume formats. Feel free to choose the one you wanna copy.
Training and nesting
The training is probably the easiest part of the journey but as it progresses, so is it's difficulty.
- Part 1 is language training where the trainer reviews English grammar and usage with you. You'll also start to learn the basic call flow but overall, expect everything to be pretty chill.
- Part 2 is the product training where brain will drown with information overload. Everything you need to know about the product you'll be working for is discussed here.
- Part 3 is the shadowing where you'll sit side by side with a tenured agent. With a headset, you'll listen to the agent's live calls, take notes, and ask questions if she isn't busy. This usually takes a maximum of 3 days.
- Part 4 is the nesting which is the toughest part of the training. You'll spend 4 hours a day talking to actual customers over the phone and handling real issues. The other 4 hours is spent with your trainer and your co-trainees reflecting about all the issues you've handled and how you can make it better next time.
- Part 5 is judgment time when you'll know whether you pass or fail..
Working in a call center isn't just all about pizza and parties. There's a lot intense emotions and stress involved too. Here's a few of them:
- Shifting schedules: at least once a month, you'll leave work at 9AM only to come back at 1 PM. (I despise those days with passion.)
- Night shift: If you hate night shifts, apply for an Australian account so you work during the day.
- The metrics: Most accounts require agents to meet a specific metric. It could be a minimum of average handling time per call, the number of customers to help per day, the customer satisfaction score, or a quota if you're in sales. And if you don't meet these metrics, expect a one-on-one sit down talk with the boss. (You'll get used to it, though.)
- The freezing AC (air-conditioner): Because they don't want the computers to "overheat". Just triple on your jacket hon, and you'll be just fine. Oh, there's a free coffee at the canteen too, to help with the drowsiness and cold.
- The irate customers: I had thought, that, in my 4 years in the call center, I'd eventually come to a point when I'd able to shrug off irate customers. But when you're in customer service, you just become so attuned to your customer's emotion that even a mere sigh from them triggers an automatic response from you that makes you apologize, wince, and cringe at the same time. It's emotions, emotions, emotions.
Voice or non voice?
If you want less stress, definitely choose non-voice, but that means lesser salary too, probably 25-30% less. I personally prefer chat over calls. Unfortunately, non voice accounts are harder to come by. If you're willing to take on the challenges of handling phone calls though, go for it. That's definitely an option. I myself lasted for 4 years before I called it quits. Hard but definitely not impossible.
Inbound: Inbound call means the one initiating the call are the customers and the agents answer. This happens when a customers needs an answer to their questions, or wants help about a technical problem like troubleshooting a slow internet or defective telephone line.
Outbound: Instead of customers calling, it's the other way around. This happens when the agents are the one who need something from the customer, like selling a product or service, or appointment setting to get the customer to go to the client's place of business.
Inbound with upsell: Some inbound call center agents don't just answer queries. Some of them, after helping a customer out, are required to upsell products. This means that in order to meet their metrics and quota, they need to entice customers to upgrade their current subscription or buy additional products. A hybrid of sales and customer service.
Despite the heavy workload and stress, it isn't hard to understand why so many Filipinos choose to work in the call center. Here's why:
- Higher salary than most Philippine jobs (mostly around 15k to 35K. It’s only gonna go up if you stay in the same company for a long time. I heard some agents getting up to 80k a month but that I can’t verify. But it’s highly possible if you’re in sales.
- Better insurance and medical benefits: aside from PhilHealth, contact centers provide an additional and better private health insurance for their agents, too.
- You’ll develop phenomenal skills and experiences: The job might be monotonous but it’s challenging enough to equip you with diverse set of skills that you can use even outside the industry.
Should you apply?
If you're in for some real challenge, definitely. Even if you don't intend to stay long-term, you sure will learn loads of solid practical skills you can add on your resume.
If you're looking for money, call center isn't a bad option, either. But don't make money as your number one reason for staying. For short term, it's okay, but I wouldn't recommend a long-term or permanent stay for many reasons (health being one of them). There are other ways to earn. Use your call center salary to build a better source of income. It's possible.
If you think you'll be able to enjoy the challenges the job has to offer, maybe even climb the corporate ladder someday, then that's a good reason to stay. Consider it.
Hope this helps.