Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ode to the Weekend

It's the last day of the work week—and I could never be happier. Although the waiting has taken no longer than the usual five days, it feels as if I've been waiting for this day to come forever. I know I love my job; however, there are times when everything just becomes too much that I find myself trying my best not to puke at the thought of answering yet another phone call of the millions of calls, I am expected to take as a call center agent.

With the weekend here, the only thing I can think of is catching up on my lost hours of sleep. Maybe, after I have recharged my spirits and energy, I might ring my friends and arrange for a fun gimmick, either at the mall or any nearby province that offers splendid natural views and a wide open space ideal for a picnic. If we're up to it, we might try hiking or swimming at a nice, cozy resort somewhere. Anything that takes my mind off work, albeit just for a short while, would do perfectly. Two days of not having to see the three divisions of my work station and overhearing the transaction of the two colleagues flanking me, is a much looked-forward-to blessing. Really. Musing over this thought brings a smile to my face.

Two days. Two perfectly peaceful days. That is all the time needed to help me unwind and recharge for the coming work week.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Guts, Age, and Being a Call Center Agent

These days, when it comes to being a call center agent age is never an issue. Whether you are just a 17-year old fresh out of high school lass/lad or a retired 45+ year old in need of a good paying job to supplement the family income, call center companies, especially ITI Philippines, keep their doors wide open for you. Just like in love, age has nothing to do with how you would fare in this line of work. It all boils down to your determination to step up to the plate and live up to company expectations.

Scared of having to communicate continuously in English? Don't be. Although this is common (I myself was on the verge of fainting during my first conversation with an American customer.), speaking English fluently is easily attainable given the right training and effort, particularly on the part of the trainee. Good thing, at ITI, they gave us the right kind of training needed, which was handled by the best trainers who set us off on the right path towards becoming successful call center agents. They laid the ground work for my acquiring the needed skills for the job. To further ensure that I reach my goal, I diligently practiced on my own by conversing with my pals in English, and brushing up on my grammar skills by reading more materials written in English.

Last but not the least, I mustered every ounce of courage I got to do what needed to be done. Well, every challenge questions our abilities and degree of personal courage. Without the latter, however, no ability, regardless of how great it is, would ever become useful. Why? Letting our fear of rejection or failure overtake us automatically impedes our progress because it keeps us from using our abilities to the fullest. Even if we trained ourselves hard, bleeding ourselves to death just so that we can get exactly the right kind of skills and training for the job we want, in my case as a call center agent, if we do not have the guts to apply them, then it all amounts to nothing. Makes sense, right?

Want to know the latest in the call center industry? Stay updated by checking out the blogs at www.itiphilippines.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Face Exasperation with a Smile

What I hate most about speaking with people, whether online, over the phone or even in person, is that they can't be expected to be nice 100% of the time. By nice, I mean civil, polite, even-tempered, and ethical in their way of communicating. As a call center agent, training yourself to be nice is an understatement. Professionally, being ethical and putting your best foot forward in conducting yourself while speaking with someone is imperative—and this is mandatory, regardless of the temperament or attitude of the one you are speaking with. Though exasperating, staying calm and in control of the situation, which means keeping up with your job requirement, is the only way to stay ahead of the game—if you want to stay the dutiful and productive call center agent you are that is.

But keeping your cool when the one on the other end of line is speaking like a total brute can be downright challenging. Before you let your blood boil over and give in to the temptation of telling him off or slamming down the receiver, in an effort to deafen him, albeit temporarily; listen up, count to 30, flash a big smile, and take these tips to heart:

  • Fighting fire with fire would only worsen the situation.

    Take a deep breath, and address the situation as calmly as you can. Resolve to end the conversation in the nicest, most professional, and calmest manner possible. Fighting back would only blow the situation out of proportion. Worse, it could lead to uglier consequences that could affect your good stead at work.

  • Politeness and being engaging in your conversations are the primary requisites of being a good call center agent.

    If you can't keep up with these requisites, then it only goes to show that you are not cut out for the position. Even if you are compelled to raise your voice and be upfront with your feelings, yielding would put you at risk of not only losing a potential customer, but also getting kicked out much sooner than you think.

  • Smile and just let it pass.

    Dealing with acid-tongued and/or boorish clients are just among the many identified challenges confronting every call center agent. Do not take it personally, and just resign yourself to this inevitable truth. No matter how rude they get, do not think of their remarks as anything personally directed at you. After all, though you speak with them on a one-on-one basis, the fact that you are corresponding with them for a specific business-related purpose means the conversation should be treated impersonally, on your end especially, right from the start. So just shrug it off, and get on with your task with your foot still put forward.

Want to know the latest in the call center industry? Stay updated by checking out the blogs at www.itiphilippines.com

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Phone Etiquette 101 Part 1: On Making Calls

It is perfectly understandable that to be a call center agent, one must be able to make calls. In other words, know how to use a phone. Though apparently a no-brainer, particularly due to the prevalence of advanced communication technology these days, being able to pick up a phone receiver and say “Hello” is not all there is to being a qualified call center agent. As a means of communicating, proper etiquette, which I think should be more aptly categorized as an “art form” on its own, must be applied if one is to succeed in this line of work.

Setting aside the emphasis on acquiring that distinctive accent identified with native English-speakers, phone etiquette speaks of having the right manners as two or more people try their best in communicating with one another. By communicating, I mean getting the message through in the clearest and most effective way possible—and needless to say, this goes way beyond mastering the art of picking up the phone and saying “Hello.”

To refresh our memories on the “Art of Making Calls” (With the stress we take on at work, losing sight of the basics can be downright easy, don't you agree?), here is a concise list of refresher pointers call-center agents should review from time to time:

  • It all begins with “courtesy.”

Whether on the phone or in person, courtesy is a communication must no one can dismiss, regardless of reason. Never mind if the one who answered you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and is venting his annoyance on you. What matters is you keep your composure and stay courteous at all times, at all cost.

  • Make sure you dial the right number.

Dialing the wrong number may not bother you if you are the one who did it. But for some people, especially those on the receiving end, the disturbance can get on their nerves, hence you automatically botch your chances of making them your prospects. Check your list of numbers carefully. If you have poor eyesight, get the appropriate glasses, so you cut down your chances of erring.

  • As soon as someone answers, say your greetings and give your name first before asking for the person desired.

This is self-explanatory already. Done for the sake of courtesy, you come across as ill-mannered if you proceed with asking for the person desired without introducing yourself first. And it goes without saying, that coming across as unethical automatically botches your chances of getting on the good side of your customers.

Want to know the latest in the call center industry? Stay updated by checking out the blogs at www.itiphilippines.com

Friday, July 8, 2011

Up and About All Night Long

The call center agent position can be aptly defined as an all-nighter job rather than a day job. It only makes sense since most call canters here operate at night to accommodate clientele in the US, whose daytime happens to be our nighttime. If you are not a born night owl like me, adjusting your body's natural system to be productive during the graveyard shift can prove quite troublesome—especially during the first one or two months.

To be a “call center agent”...

As if the time adjustment is not challenging enough, being a job—the security blanket that makes survival in the material world possible, I have to be on my toes all the time, as staying productive is a must if I were to remain in this game. At first, I thought chugging countless cups of coffee each night would cut it—and I was gravely mistaken.

Yes, the caffeine keeps you up during the first few nights. After a few weeks, however, your system gets immune to its effects that it wasn't long before I found myself struggling to stay awake and attentive. Should sleepiness strike during the peak hours of your shift as you are attending to a barrage of calls, believe me, the experience is very far from comfortable.

Forcing oneself to stay awake is not the only main objective call center agents or wanna-be call center agents must strive for. Keeping a close eye on the state of our health is likewise mandatory. From a logical standpoint, it does make sense. After all, how can you expect to continuously burn the midnight oil when your oiler is busted?

Practical and Healthy Stay-Up Advice

Cutting to the chase, I googled informative articles about practical ways to stay up and healthy while thriving in the graveyard shift. Below, I have compiled a few important and definitely doable health-wise pointers.

  • Keep your system running by making sure that your body is well-fueled.

    By this, you should never let yourself go hungry. Eat at the right time. Be wary of your food choices though. Piling on the junk food may sustain your energy needs for a time, but the excess salt and additives command a higher price in the long run: unwanted health complications. Stay on the healthy side by eating nutritious balanced meals.

  • No match for the sandman? Fight drowsiness by taking short walks.

    Get outside the office for a few minutes and inhale some fresh—pretend it is; never mind the fact that we live in a polluted city—night air. The walking would do your body good, for it shakes up those stiffening muscles. Plus, the change of scenery helps de-stress you, even just a bit.

  • Take power-naps.

    Power-naps are short naps lasting no more than half an hour to a full hour at a time. For hardworking call center minions like us, the short amount of time we spend in dreamland suffices to recharge our system and spirits. In taking them, however, we only have to make sure it is during our break time or else...