Why GMA-7's ‘The Borrowed Wife’ is wrong about Filipino call center agents

Manila, Philippines - In the pilot episode of GMA 7’s 'The Borrowed Wife', lead casts Pauleen Luna, Camille Prats and Rafael Rosell exchanged comments against working in a call center, saying, “Hindi ako nag-aaral para sumagot lang ng telepono!” (I did not go to school just to answer phone calls!) and “pang walang pinag-aralan lang ‘yan” (that job’s only for uneducated people). Naturally, the show prompted several members and affiliates of the BPO industry to comment against the show’s “insulting remarks.”

Call center agents on the job

GMA-7’s statement regarding the issue states that what was said in the show does not reflect staff or the network’s opinion on the call center or BPO industry. However, the discrimination illustrated in ‘The Borrowed Wife’ stems from the belief that the only role call center agents have is to answer the calls of irate customers. While good customer service is at the heart of business process outsourcing, appeasing irate customers is not the only duty call center agents can have. In Stellar Philippines, for example, some agents serve as communication assistants that help the hearing impaired make calls to others. This shows how being an agent can truly help other people have a better quality of life.

Comments like “pang walang pinag-aralan lang ‘yan” from The Borrowed Wife show that people don’t know that working as an agent is just as difficult, if not more difficult as working for something that requires a four-year degree. There are skill assessment tests that each agent must pass before getting hired. Furthermore, there are performance targets that each team and individual must meet on a daily basis. And lastly, most call center agents work at odd hours, because they often serve clients from another time zone.

For people who think that being an agent is a dead end job, the fact is that there are agents who have been promoted to being team leaders and managers. In BPO companies, if an agent is competent and has enough experience, he or she can be qualified to apply for higher positions, like a team leader or QA specialist. In addition, the BPO industry provides intensive training in English, customer care, leadership roles, sales, and others. It also has solid succession planning and enviable HR practices due to its emphasis on placing value to its workforce.

A call center agent in the Philippines

The outlook for the Philippines’ BPO industry is bright. The Business Process Outsourcing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) expects the industry to grow as much as 1.3 million employees by 2016. Furthermore, in late in January 2014, investment advisory firm Tholons named Metro Manila as the second best outsourcing destination in the world in its Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations for 2014 ranking.

As long as there are companies that know the benefits of outsourcing, the Philippines’ BPO industry will survive, provided that it continues to edge out its competitors. This is a challenge to the Philippine BPO industry: to keep spotting trends in outsourcing and to keep offering services that are more attractive than what its competitors from other countries may provide. If the industry achieves this, then it will continue to provide well-paying jobs for Filipinos, driving growth for the economy, and being a window to showcase Filipino intelligence and skills.

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