What is a Call Center?

What is a call center? How do call centers work? What are call center agents? What is a call center agent’s job description? These are questions that we will answer in this blog post. If you don’t have any clue as to what a call center is or a call center agent does, then we will introduce you to these two terms and hopefully clarify any doubts that you may have about the call center industry.

First of all, what is a call center? Basically, a call center is a business that handles another business’ customer phone calls. So how does a call center business work? Let’s take malls for example. All of us know that security guards in malls don’t work directly for the mall. These security guards work for an employment agency which provides security guards to businesses. This means that instead of hiring and training security guards, mall owners would rather subcontract the security of their mall to an employment agency.  Now why would mall owners want to leave this vital work to a different company? The answer is the mall owner would like to save money on training security guards and would rather just leave this part of running their business to an employment agency. This is the same reason why big businesses like Microsoft, IBM, and HSBC hire call centers to handle their customer phone calls. So big businesses hire call centers to handle their customer phone calls for them and call centers hire call center agents to take these calls.

Now that I've explained how the call center business work and what a call center is, let us now move on to the call center agents. What are call center agents and what is a call center agent’s job description?

Nowadays, every company has a customer service hotline. If you have a complaint on the kind of internet speed that you’re receiving, you will be contacting either Globe, Smart, or Sun (or whichever internet service provider you have). When there is a discrepancy on your credit card statement, you will no doubt be calling BDO, BPI, or whatever bank you’re with. The people who answer you when you make these phone calls will most probably not be in the corporate office of Globe or in a local BPI branch near you but they will be located in a call center office in Manila. These employees will be dedicated only to answering phone calls from customers. They will be answering phone calls on headsets and will be seated in workstations with a computer in front of them. When a call comes in, their phones will beep and they have to greet the caller with the standard greeting in call centers which is: thank you for calling _________, my name is___________, how may I help you today (or something like that). This is what your job is going to be like as a call center agent. You will be seated in front of a computer all day long. At the beep of your phone, you will be answering the phone call that just came in. After the phone call, you will be doing some documentation on what transpired during the phone conversation for other people to see (if in case the customer calls back in reference to the same issue). Depending on the company that you’re with, you are usually allotted ten minutes per shift of bathroom break. You will have two fifteen minute breaks and a one hour lunch break. Your work will depend on the company/account that you’re working with.

Generally, you could be working for a customer service account, a technical support account, or a sales account. A technical support account is where you will be troubleshooting computer problems. A customer in need of technical support will most probably have troubles with their internet, cellphone, or computer. In a technical support account, you will generally be asking the caller to try and clear their cache, reboot their computers, and etc.

There are two kinds of sales accounts. One is called an inbound sales account and the other is called an outbound sales account. An inbound sales account will receive calls from customers while an outbound sales account will be making calls to customers. What happens in an inbound sales account is the customer will call to make an inquiry about the company’s product and it is up to the call center agent to convert that inquiry into a sale. Inbound sales account work will typically also entail up selling other products. Up selling is like when you are being asked if you want fries with your hamburger or if you want to make your regular sized coke a large one.

Some people think that ALL call center agents work for just one company or organization. Some will even ask you if you know a friend of theirs who is working for a certain call center because they assume that you all work for the same organization. This is untrue and a great misconception. A call center is a general term for businesses engaged in this line of work. There are many different call centers in the Philippines such as Sykes, and Convergys. These call centers have different clients or accounts and these are the companies which hire them to handle customer phone calls. There are however in house call centers which essentially are call centers which are owned by the company which it services. An example of an in house call center is JP Morgan which serves JP Morgan customers and HSBC which serves HSBC customers. Aside from taking customer phone calls, a call center can also deal with non phone work. This is especially true for in house call centers.

Because of the fact that call center agents receive phone calls primarily from Americans, call center work tend to be at night. Remember that the time in America is more or less twelve hours behind our time so Americans are awake during the time that we are supposed to be asleep. There are however accounts or companies with international clients (from Asia, Europe, etc) so some accounts will have morning, mid, and grave yard shifts. There are also Australian or British companies or accounts which will require you to work in the morning or in the afternoon (respectively). This is also because of the time zone that these countries are in. Majority of the accounts or companies though that you will work for will be in the US so the chances of you working in the night if you are a call center agent is extremely high.

This ends my post on the basics of the call center industry. I sincerely hope that I was able to clarify any questions that you might have had about call center work and the industry as a whole.

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