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'I'll never work at a call centre again!'

By Subhash Mukherjee
Last updated on: November 19, 2004 19:04 IST
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he BPO/ITES sector is only expected to grow larger, and more profitable, over the next few years.

Most young people are eager to jump on the money-making BPO bandwagon.

But is working for a BPO all that it's made out to be?

No, says Subhash Mukherjee (name changed on request), who recently quit his job at a call centre.

This, in his own words, is his story:

I am 20 years old.

I was recently hired by a call centre in Kolkata to work for an overseas-based company. I was earning Rs 7,500 per month.

My workday began with calls I had to answer for five hours continuously, without a break.

As soon as I was through with one call, the next one would be waiting.

There was no time for me to even say a few words to the person sitting next to me.

After five hours of constantly answering calls, I would get a 20-minute break.

Then, I would take calls again for another three hours. Without a break.

I would take around 350 calls a day. 

One day, I reached breaking point.

After taking 156 calls at a stretch, my throat started to hurt terribly.

I paused to take a breath and, in the process, I missed a call.

The calls that are directed to us were constantly monitored by a machine. Immediately, it alerted my supervisor to the fact that I had missed a call. My supervisor came and asked me why I was in the 'wrap mode'.

What this means is that my dialler shows a red bar when the person on the other end of the line hangs up without getting a response. The red bar is an indication that I did not take the call -- that the call was not 'live'.  

At that moment, I just wanted to pick up my bag and leave. Permanently. 

Instead, I stayed calm for the duration of my hours at work.

I fielded all my calls till 1 am.

But I had made up my mind -- I would quit this job with its inhuman pressures and its lack of empathy for employees.

Workplaces like this have only one goal -- to make money. This job expects you to work even if you are feeling ill; even if your throat hurts.

You cannot take even a 10-second break; the dialler throws calls at you continuously and you have to start pitching (taking them) immediately. 

If you do not respond to the person at the other end of the line, s/he might hang up. That shows on your machine. 

You have to ask for permission to go to the toilet. Often, your request is denied by your supervisor.

You repeat the same five sentences 350 times a day.

Isn't it pathetic?

When I started out, there was no pressure. Gradually, though, the stress grew beyond the levels of human tolerance.

Working at the call centre was a great learning experience for me. Now, it was time for a break.

When I worked, I had no time to watch a film, no time to read a book, no time to meet friends, no time to swim. 

For the last few months that I worked at the call centre, I had time only for two meals a day. As a result, I lost my appetite.

I would return home at 2.30 am and go to sleep at 4 am. I would get up at noon and go back to work at 3.30 pm.

Now that I have quit, I can go out with my friends. I can spend time rediscovering myself.

With the approximately Rs 65 per hour that I made, I can buy a few books and have some fun. 

Maybe that will take away the pain that came with this job.

But, believe me, the money could in no way make up for the pain!

I'll never work at a call centre again. Nothing is worth the ordeal I went through.

Subhash Mukherjee quit his job in mid-October. He is now pursuing an Economics degree at the University of Calcutta.

Do you work in a call centre? What do you think about your job? Do you have any advice for others who want to work in the BPO industry? Let us know! 

Illustration: Dominic Zavier

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