Fundamental life lessons from working in a call center

I remember I had a very dear friend who got a job at a call center and she was praising it so much and wanted me to apply for it as well, so we can work together there. At the time, I was against it so much, as I had heard a lot of negative experiences (and we all know what that is like) so I passed it. I remember asking her if she likes her job a couple of years later and she startled me with her response:

You start loving it after a while. It becomes something you know to do so well that when you have results, you really love it. I love my job. 

Years after that, she progressed within the company, becoming a team manager which was something she really impressed me with. But, I should not be that astonished, since, we all know, when you have a passion for something you do, you inevitably become very good at it and achieve amazing outcomes.

Many years after that, I left my home city and moved abroad, I obtained a job exactly where I did not wish to work: within a call center. But, I am blessed to work within an environment that is very civilized. And by that, I mean, I have flexibility, I am working part time (4 days a week), I can switch my days, if one day I feel I am not in the mood for taking calls, people have compassion at the workplace, human rules are applied and managers are acting as people, not just as an extension of the company’s stakeholders’ money driven attitudes. I am blessed with a call center job in which I take calls and I do not sell anything, I do not necessarily have problems with achieving the company’s performance to do lists. I feel I should be more grateful for the job I have. I mean, I am well paid compared to other call centers.

But, how did I get to think this?

I have been working for the same company for 2 years and 4 months now. I will not deny, the beginning was a nightmare. I can recall one day I came home completely melt down as my brain, my spirit, my whole being were torn apart by the stress of the customers and the fact that I did not feel I understood very well what they wanted and I did not really know what or how to do my job, and I was actually stressed that I might get fired and that was actually why, if I take it to reasoning now, that I feel I actually hated call centers. Because I do not feel I can handle stress very well. And I do not want to be told I am not good at doing my job. Especially since it is a very simple job, take the call, say the right things and push the right buttons on the screen. However, as simple as that sounds, there is a lot of stress surrounding the job itself and how managers need to handle your performance to be able to keep their jobs as well. The whole pressure around doing the job properly as to what that means to a specific organisation, mostly to a call center (as it usually comes down to numbers, time on the phone, punctuality, the perception and the real thing, is that, you are just a resource that the company is using as much as possible to get its interests) is powerful. If you are like me, and you cannot cope very well with failure (which comes from a perfectionist nature), a call center might be very challenging. It definitely was for me. It still is, however there is a different approach I take now.

Because this is what I have learned from working in call centers:

  1. You are a resource of the company’s policies that need to be spread to customers in a polite, yet concise manner.
  2. Your time is valuable for the company. And this is how you learn, how precious your time on Earth is. You start valuing so much more your free time. Your passions. The time you spend with your passions and hobbies.
  3. You know what a person feels or thinks about something just by listening to their tone of voice. Their voice. You know if someone is lying from their voice. Your intuition gets luxurious. Because you can tell things that you could not feel before the call center experience.
  4. You become an expert in whatever you help customers with and you start to become too rigid in thinking that people should understand specific things. Your expertise can make you a bit of a looking down at people type of human being. Because you think you know it all and you fail to remember how you were at the beginning – when you barely could understand what you had to tell the customer to do. You did not even know how to offer help.
  5. You appreciate other people working in a call center because you understand how it feels. You become a better person when someone is delaying your services or when there are issues with whatever you are trying to do and you need an operator’s help.
  6. You start using people’s names when you meet new people or when speaking on the phone, not because you know it is nice for people, or because you got accustomed from the work environment, but because that’s a way of proving yourself how good you are, it is a way of telling other people, I know this better than you, so I will use your name, to highlight how important and smart I am, when that’s actually a way to prove to your ego you are something compared to other people’s titles as well. You have become something. It’s like a way to compensate the fact that you actually hate your call center job because other friends or uni or college colleagues have reached important goals in their lives, and you have remained within a call center. It’s the only way you can prove yourself you have progressed within that call center. Or that you accomplished something, even if, that is something so small as highlighting the name of a person in a conversation. I am not sure I am describing the experience very well, but I bet you understand what I mean, if you are in the call center vibes struggle.
  7. You start disliking having to phone companies to ask for things, as you know, you might need to speak to 3 different people in 3 different departments before something is fixed.
  8. You lose patience but you also become more patience. You lose patience with technology. You gain patience with people. At least, this is what I am experiencing.
  9. You feel when someone is really saying sorry or just copy-pasting the call center standards into their vocabulary.
  10. You know how to be a customer in order to obtain what you want. I mean, you know how things work by now.
  11. You do reach a point when you love your job. When you have positive customer experiences, when your manager praises you, when you are happy with your performances. That’s when you reach that feeling that I quoted my friend above: it becomes something you do so well, that you love that about yourself. That you can do something with results that are visible and valued. 

and then, you can say, I love my job. I really do. Except when I have crazy demanding difficult customers that stress my brain out. Except when my manager tells me I had not been good. Except when my manager listens to a call I was horrible and I am paid to be excellent. Except when you know you have failed yourself, your inner perfectionist, your inner self esteem. Except when you know you have done something wrong by mistake or from pure tiredness or poor attention and you are truly sorry, but you cannot forgive yourself for the mistake. Because you know, if you were a manager, you would not forgive it. You know very well that things must be done fairly and with excellency. You know this is what it is expected of you to be delivered, for which you receive that salary. You know you are rigid and sometimes mean (in a great customer service manner) to your customers because when you do something you kinda don’t really love, you spit that hate towards other people. You empty your soul of poison. You know you do wrong and you know you should not do that. There are these days without exception in any call center factories people’s stories.

That’s another thing you learn when you work in a call center. That you can become very mean. You cannot imagine how unprofessional you can sometimes act. Because you are human. Because you are not just a resource of stuff, as companies or call centers wish to believe.

People working for people can create a lot of mental issues and compassion at workplace should be something all call centers think to implement. Because people working in call center factories are not just resources. We are humans. We are customers too.

life lessons from working in a call center

The fundamental lesson you learn in a call center is related to your role within the society as a call center representative and it’s also related to your role in your own life. It’s mostly like that Tarot card, called the Existence. It goes something like this:

You were not born by accident. The Universal Existence needs YOU, who ever you are. Without You, something would be missing and no one could ever replace your existence, you. This is something that pinpoints your dignity, because the Universal Existence could not be without you. The stars, the moon and the sun, the trees, the birds, the earth, all that it exists in the universe would lack your presence, your existence, as it could not be replaced by nothing and by no one, except yourself. It is a delightful bliss to know this thing, a great accomplishment, to be conscious of your own relationship with the universal existence and to also know that it takes care of you. When you will become fully aware of this collision between you and universal existence, you will feel a fulfilling joy and an immense love will flow over you from all dimensions. (Osho) 

Working in a call center makes you more aware of how small you are in this world or how insignificant but at the same time of your greatness. Your greatness lies in your power to overcome all the stressful at times, inhuman obstacles at the call center job. Your greatness lies in your resilience towards the enslavement of your resources to the company. You are more than just your human resources. You are smart, helpful, kind, serious, punctual, fair, powerful, authentic, different, intuitive, emotionally intelligent and a good communicator. You do not realize that this call center working environment has turned you into a Thor of the human world. You can now work in any environment. You have gained the rare skill of accepting a lot of pressure and working fine with other people, avoiding to treat them as you are treated sometimes in that workplace. Because sometimes, ugly things happen. People are emotions. People are not just resources.

But you need to know that working in a call center will make you stronger, powerful and RARE. You are rare. Not many people can resist it.

A call center receives a lot of people to train and to work with. Few remain. The few that remain are exceptional human beings. That’s the reason they are loved by the call center management. Because a call center needs humans. Humans are creative in their relationships with other humans, machines are not.

It takes a lot of time to discover that about yourself (if you are working in a call center). That experience will astonish you.

Because when you handle hard jobs, you become better skilled to handle tough situations. And that’s a rare skill that A LOT OF CORPORATIONS desire in their teams.

Have you ever dared to take an interview for a call center?