The Philippines, Call Center Capital of the World
This article is in reply to “BSCT: Bachelor of Science in Callcenter [sic] Technology?” It is quite interesting to see an article like this as I am aiming to research on call centre communication on a conversational level. Apart from several (actually many) grammatical mistakes and a digressing narrative (as you read further into the article, it seemed to have lost touch with the main issue that was presented), I believe that JoVi is suggesting that the Philippines should respond to the high-demands of call center industry by making it an academic specialization.
Come on, really?!
Companies taking advantage of low-cost third-world-country-labor and communication technologies outsource their services with an inherent goal of saving money. Did you think that they would prefer non-native speakers of the English-language over native English speakers? Let alone to pay the previous to communicate with their own people? Choosing offshore locations to provide communications services is purely economically motivated. The Philippines, being a country thriving with bilingual individuals who can speak and understand English and who are willing to work for cheaper salaries, is a ‘call center paradise’. Compared to engineering, nursing or psychology, the call center industry is a new institution that needed to lure new employees. It is faced with the challenge of luring a workforce among those who have trained under established academic specializations like engineering, psychology, nursing, computer science, etc.
Being a call center representative from the get-go was a secondary career choice – a back-up plan. I dare say that none of those employed in call centers today have dreamt of being call center agents or have trained to be call center agents in school. It provided a very good fall-back for those who needed to drop out due to financial difficulties or disinterest towards studying; even for those who’ve trained for different professions but who are not able to look for work in their chosen field or industry. The Philippines’ failure to produce enough jobs for university trained graduates caused many of them to opt for underemployment than no employment at all.
I believe that working in the call center industry should remain a second choice for Filipinos.
I am not saying that the call center industry is irrelevant or that working as a call center representative should not be treated as a “job” per se. Rather, there are reasons why I think a Bachelor of Science in Call Center Technology should never exist.
Firstly, the courses that JoVi proposed (e.g., ‘Soft Skills 101’, ‘Grammar 2’, ‘Complaints Handling 104’, ‘Multi-tasking Skills 5163’) will provide ‘students’ with the same skills that can be learned through (completing) mainstream courses or on-the-job training. Soft skills can be enhanced by completing group-tasks and working with other students; actually, just by being around people a lot. Grammar can be enhanced through reading and writing, and reading and writing even more; reading textbooks, magazines, journal articles, internet articles, anything – with essence of course. Complaints handling can be learned within organizational communication or industrial psychology courses. Multi-tasking skills can be learned just by training yourself to do more things at the same time. Just be busy – with school work, social events, work stuff. If multi-tasking were a necessary course, don’t you think universities would’ve offered it a long time before, as it is a necessary skill of everyone, not just call center representatives?
Skills needed for call center work are skills that are inherent in courses offered by mainstream degrees. To extract and teach them as subjects per se remove their essence and, as such, they will become fruitless. When you embark on established degrees like engineering, psychology, sociology, biology, etc., you learn these skills along with other relevant knowledge. Completing any of them does not only make you highly qualified for a call center position but also for (an)other professional field(s). Don’t waste money. I also quote JoVI for saying that working in a call center only has “few qualifications needed” – what does that say about the quality of BSCT if it were to be offered?
Secondly, and this is coming from a cross-cultural psychology perspective, there are cross-cultural issues implicit in cross-cultural communication. You don’t only need to learn to relate to people, but you need to learn to relate to these people from this culture. Some skills become irrelevant within the context of cross-culture communication and could cause interactional breakdowns. Communication is more complicated than we all think.
Thirdly, making an academic specialization for a position that is inherently within the “employee” category as opposed to enticing people to pursue academic qualifications that provide them with the agency to become potential “employers” is underestimating, if not bastardizing our Filipino society’s potential. Outsourcing call centers to our country is a safe choice by companies who wish to keep more profit for themselves. Call centers exist because companies think they could not afford or would not like to pay for higher labor costs in their own countries. As such, third-world countries are always second choice. Come on Filipinos, we could do more than call center representatives, surely.
Lastly, making an academic specialization for call center work will make labor-costs more expensive. This is something that companies will not like. Faster than you can say “Hello, this is [blank] speaking..”, they will be off looking for other locations with even cheaper labor. That is why I believe that call center work should not be a life-time career. It is highly dependent on labor costs and the county’s position as a call center capital of the world can change anytime.
For the people who choose it as their career, good on you. If you could spend the rest of your life on the phone then a call center job suits you very well. I have nothing against people working in call centers but I am sure that you are more talented and more capable than that. Filipinos are way better than this.