The Philippines has overtaken India as the new call-center capital of the world.
This means that when you’re on the phone to a call-center in the US, you’re most likely talking to a Filipino agent.
In a room lined with rows of computers, everyone is busy with their headsets, answering phone calls from other parts of the globe.
They’re working all night long, while everybody else is asleep...
Jana Kleibert, a lecturer from the University of Amsterdam explains the advantage of using Filipino call-center agents.
“The main attraction lies in the fact that there is a very large talented work force that is English-speaking and English speaking with an accent that is very understandable especially to North Americans,” Jana says. “The second thing is the work force is also well educated which makes it easier to transfer service-based tasks. And there’s a cultural affinity with North America that also helps in communicating and performing customer services.”
Rory Zachs is the general manager of a US-based company, PCM. He says the company has a largely young and well-educated workforce.
“You know you have a base of strength from individuals who have studied so many disciplines and are willing to give the talents they have learned and they have the communication that relates to the company they are coming from and base—Australia, Europe, IUC English countries--England, Ireland and of course my roots in the United States…”
The call-center industry in the Philippines is now the third-largest dollar earner after tourism and remittances.
With a salary of at least 400 US dollars a month, the industry employs nearly 800 thousand workers.
24-year-old Maria Concepcion Andres is a graduate of Communication Arts. She joined the call-center industry 4 years ago.
“To be quite honest, it’s really for the pay,” she smiles.
“From what I’d experienced before with local jobs, they give you a very low salary and the benefits are not very competitive. Foreign companies that are based here give better benefits so I’d prefer to work for them than for local companies.”
But it comes with a great deal of stress says one of the call-center workers, Louie Delostrico.
“First of all, sleeping during day time because you have to work during night time. And another thing is the customer itself because there are a lot of customers who are irate. You need a lot of patience for yourself especially when a customer is swearing at you, giving you profane language.”
There are health consequences as a result, says Leian Marasigan, a researcher on labour issues at the University of the Philippines.
“It’s the nature of the work. You answer calls all the time. There are adverse health impacts on that, on the throat for example, and then of course you also deal with irate customers most of the time because this is customer service.”
This advertisement from a leading call-center company describes their workers as the new breed of heroes... for sacrificing their family and social life to contribute to the country’s economy and their families’ welfare.
Unusual working hours, means having fun at strange times of the day. It’s 9 in the morning and Rory Zachs is bowling after work with his colleagues.
“I come to work at 10 at night. I stay all night like everybody else and work very hard. But like I said, you and I are gonna cut off this discussion because I’m gonna go to sleep…”