- Shocking news
- My great misconceptions about Call Centers
- An independent zoman
- Beware of the Organization quicksand
- Changes implemented in Call Centers
- Some possible changes that might take place after the unfortunate Tania murder incident
(Just a passing thought. My ex-roomie works at Convergys which handle calls for Microsoft, HSBC, JP Morgan, Sedex and Cisco to name a few. He’s in the Microsoft division. But he’s known as a Convergys employee, not a Microsoft employee. Was TOI wrong in saying the victim was an Aviva employee?)
My two roomies back in Bangalore work at Call Centers. Atleast 70% of the Bangaloreans I used to hang out with are all Call Center employees. And most of the people I got to know over the Net are also working in various Call Centers. Some of them don’t even handle calls, yet they all come under the Call Center umbrella (Many people still make the wrong assumption that all BPOs are Call Centers handling calls)
Thanx to my friends, I got to know a lot of Call Centre jargons, like incoming process, outgoing process, daylight savings, ACD, ASA, screen name etc. Sometimes they even use these in their daily vocabulary. Once, me and a couple of friends were sitting infront of the TV waiting for an EPL match to commence. It was 9:30 pm already and the match was supposed to start at 4pm in UK. That’s 9:30pm here in India as we are 5:30 hours ahead. But nothing was showing on the TV. Later we found out the delay was due to a light rain that formed a puddle in the field. But while we were waiting, one of my Call Center friends nonchalantly said the delay was due to Day light savings . And then there are my two Call Center roomies who would actually use “LOL” and “BRB” when they speak! (Before this, “FYI” was the only chat jargon I’ve ever heard people use while talking).
Six years ago, midway through my engineering college course, I knew a squat about Call Centers. Back then, my World was still very small. I thought people who work in Call Centers were those women who answered the phone when you dialed those 1-800 numbers. Lolz. Ok sorry but hey, it’s not my fault. I blame AJ’s bro who would come back from America with a suitcase full of Playboy and Penthouse magazines. Hey don’t give me that stare! Those magazines had pretty good articles about the Presidential Election . On those mags, there were a lot of advertisements, always with a see-through lingerie clad model in the background. The Ad usually goes like this “Wanna have a good time? I can satisfy your inner most desire and fantasy. Call me at 1-800-246-SLUT-67”.
Ok fine. So now you know where I got the inspiration for my Bangalore mobile phone number . I fought tooth and nail to get the particular number 9845554625. All because, when translated into the letters corresponding to your key pad, you get 9845-5-KIMA-5.
Anyway that’s what I thought Call Centers were all about. But when I started meeting the elder sisters and brothers of my College mates, they didn’t exactly seem like the dirty sex talk type. So I said to myself, “Kima you narrow minded perverted freak. Call Centers aren’t just about sex calls. A Call girl is given that name not because she works in a Call Center. They can also be those Suicide help-lines where people call if they are feeling depressed or have lost all hope”. I even thought Call Center employees were also those people who work in those outdated switch board machines, connecting pins here and there while answering all the calls with people on the other end of the line saying “Operator”.
Anyway, I finally got to know what Call Center employees really do towards the end of my Engineering course. But I never actually got to know anyone personally, until I moved my ass to Hyderabad after Engineering College. I met Ashley, an Anglo. Along with some other basketball mates, we soon formed a small gang like thingie. He was a voice trainer at a Call Center. When he first told me that he was a voice trainer, my first impression was, boy he must be a really good vocalist, probably playing for a cool rock band in the city. Hehe. How wrong was I. He told me his job was to train Call Center employees on how to improve their voice modulation, enunciation etc. Well, I still thought it was a pretty frivolous occupation then, but during a game of basketball when I had the ball and am surrounded by the opponents hustling and shuffling all around me, I usually blind-pass the ball to him as his “extremely modulated” shouts for “pass” was the most audible among my teammates
A year later, I was in Bangalore. Met a lot of new people, new friends, new brothers, new habits. Most of them were working at Call Centers. I even read “One night at a Call Center” by Chetan Bhagat. Finally got to know the real life of a Call Center employee, especially after dropping out from IIMB as these are the guys I started spending my entire time with. I love their lifestyle. So relaxing, except for the odd working hour timings. But then, there are also Day shift employees working during the daytime just like regular people. And then there are those who can actually choose anytime of the day to show up for work, just as long as they put in 8 hours of calls a day. And so many of them work in a non-voice process that does not involve a telephone. Boy what a misconception I initially had about Call Centers
They have monthly team outings, team parties, team road trips, and the salary they get is more than enough to make ends meet. They have incentives and appraisals of all sorts. Their network of friends through the various Call Centers is extremely wide too. After dropping out from IIMB, my friends told me to apply for a Call Center job. But I refused. It looks very inviting indeed and I can still have a good time in Bangalore without depending on my parents anymore. Finally I will be an “independent zoman” . But, something in me just couldn’t do it. I need to think of the long run. I always had this dream about joining an Organization at the middle management level. I know, I know, one must start from the bottom to reach the top. But life is short. I want to find the shortcuts before I am too old to do anything. Yes a wise sage once said there are no shortcuts in life. But the IIMs came and proved him wrong
The only thing that does not appeal to me about Call Centers is when it comes to climbing up the executive ladder. A year in IIMB has completely brainwashed me into being a complete target-oriented growth-committed position-motivated ambitious wannabe manager. My goal is to climb higher and higher, without ofcourse jeopardizing the Company’s interest or my own social career within the Organization.
In most Call Centers, one usually enters the Company as a Junior Agent. From there, they go up to a Senior Agent, a Team Leader and then a Supervisor. The terminology may differ from Company to Company. Another Company has a Junior Agent, Senior Agent, Focal, Assistant Manager (equivalent to a Team Leader), Operation Manager, Senior Opr Manager and so on. I just don’t see myself working as one of those designations for the rest of my life. I need a more stable, higher wage, daytime job once I start my own family. I’ve heard of many couples who hardly see each other because they both work at different Call Centers with different shift timings . Recently one such couple had a baby (my frens “N” and “G”). Can we call that a Process Result baby? Lolz. After all it was the result of N’s incoming that led to G’s outgoing. Haha. PJ!!!!
Anyway coming back to the topic, that’s not the future I want. Maybe as a part-time job, I don’t mind working in a Call Center for a short while. But I know so many guys who initially planned to work there for a short time, but are now so attached to the job that they just can’t seem to leave the Company.
Working for an Organization, especially after your Graduation, is like getting sucked into a Quicksand. Once you’re in, it’s mighty mighty difficult to come out. Unless you are completely dissatisfied with the salary or the working environment or the location or there are other job opportunities available etc you will remain shackled to that Company for the rest of your life. I once asked my friend “Dude, you’re an Engineer. Are you planning to work at a Call Center for the rest of your life?” and his reply was “Man, you have no idea how hard it is for me to leave. I am satisfied with my paycheck, my boss is a great man, I have made so many friends in the Company, and I lead an easy life. I know I can’t do this forever, but you gotta be in my shoes to know how hard it really is to leave.” Well, a definite 5 star rating to the Company’s Retention Policy, while my friend there sink, deeper and deeper, every passing day.
Being in Bangalore, I have seen with my own eyes the changes that have taken place. People once complained that Call Center Cabs drive too recklessly. Immediately there was a change and most Cabs now have a bumper sticker “If this driver is driving rashly, please call up this number to report this incident”. Ofcourse if the driver was driving that fast, there was no way we could have taken down the number, but it was indeed a good effort from the Call Center’s part to reduce the number of complains (I find it a bit funny and ironic that some outsourcing Companies actually rely on other outsourcing companies (Cabs) to pick up their employees). A close friend of mine, born and raised in Bangalore, even told me “Before it was fun. We used to drag race with these Cab drivers in the night. Boy they really throw a mean competition. But now, not one of them will take up your challenge for a race”. A part of me was extremely relieved. “D”, who never go below 140 while driving through Intermediate Ring road, will now have to drive like normal people. Phew.
And then came the ghastly news about the rape and murder of Pratibha, a Call Center employee. Immediately the Companies made serious changes in their policies, like the first pick-up and last drop cannot be a woman and if there is a change of Cab drivers, they must first confirm this with whoever is in charge of the Cabs etc. These Organizations cannot afford another scandal like this.
But now, with this latest unfortunate incident, once again, I’m sure there will be a flurry of changes again. I won’t be surprised if it will be made mandatory for all Call Center employees to use the Call Center Cabs unless they have their own transportation. They might not be allowed to come and leave as they like using taxis, autos or friends anymore. I know so many employees whose shift timing ends in the evenings and then they go directly to a Pub or disc if their break was the next day. And I know people who decide to stay over at their friend’s place for the night/day instead of returning home at the end of their shift.
If it is made compulsory to use the Cabs provided, then it won’t be possible to do all that anymore. You’ll have to be at your house during the pickup and have to return to your house after your shift ends. Then only can you go where you please from there, even if you had passed your destination on your way home. You will always have to be in time for your Cab (My roomies used to take an auto to their Office whenever they wake up late and miss their Cabs). You cannot make short stops on the way to have tea, coffee or buy cigarettes anymore.
Boy, this is definitely a Call Center employee’s nightmare. But seriously, this might happen one day, especially if the employees’ folks hold the Company liable for their son or daughter’s safety from the moment they leave for work until they return home safely walking through the door. In the current scenario, 24x7 might say they are not responsible for Tania’s murder as none of their Cabs and Cab drivers were involved in this (unlike the Pratibha rape and murder case where the bastard responsible for that was her own Cab driver). But if enough voice is raised by concerned parents, especially those who are out-stationed, there might be a possibility of implementing this draconian strict Cab rule where it is mandatory to be picked up and dropped by the official Call Center Cab.
Because this is not like a School/College or other day time offices. At those places, one ofcourse cannot expect the Institutions and Offices to provide transportation for the students and employees. But a night shift Call Center is different. During the day, even if your so called “friend or colleague” had picked you up or dropped you, there is a high chance that he won’t do anything else, like stab you 32 times. But under the cover of darkness, sometimes even someone who you trust with your life can be the very one who takes that away from you.
I shuddered a bit as I tried to imagine what Tania’s last thoughts were. She must have probably screamed out for help, but unfortunately the night had swallowed up anything that was remotely living. As Kishore continued stabbing her, she must have pleaded and begged for mercy, but all she could see were his bloodshot eyes, until she could see no more. She would have probably crossed over to the Otherside way before he stabbed her for the thirty second time. And all because she said no to his proposal? Jesus… And she was going to turn 32 soon. Was this his sick demented and psychotic way of wishing her a birthday? A stab for every year? Makes me sick man...
As for me, I’ve lost count on how many times I have picked up or dropped my friends from their respective Call Center Offices, most of the time usually somewhere between 2 and 4 in the morning. And ofcourse they completely trust me. Tania probably trust Kishore the way my friends trust me. And to know that he betrayed such a trust, leave alone kill her, is enough to make me pissed off like Hell. Son of a bitch.
I pray that an incident like this will not happen again. It may be just another brick on India’s wall of shame, which is already occupied by much bigger bricks like communal violence, bomb blasts, wife beating, rape, bribe, caste discrimination etc but the entire wall will be much easier to break if there are lesser bricks.