Michelle Alvarado and Jeric Garcia: ‘You will keep coming back’
“Once a call center agent, always a call center agent,” says Michelle Alvarado, as she grabs a stool at a sari-sari (convenience) store across from the Sutherland Global Services building in Davao City, two or three hours before the start of her graveyard shift.
Wearing a casual shirt and jeans, a long scarf wound around her neck, she tells of how it is to go home in the morning after work just when daytime workers are still about to start their workday.
“You see them on your way home, and you begin to think how it is to work in the daytime,” she says.
“But the pay that I get at the call center is something that I cannot get if I work by day. That’s why I appreciate the company for taking me.”
Dusk has descended on the roadside, and the yellowish light from the sodium lamp gives the faces of Michelle and co-worker Jeric Garcia a warm glow as they take a rushed and early dinner.
“I work as a frontliner,” Michelle says in between bites.
“It is us who are making or taking calls. The people we talk to on the other end of the line are often upset and irate, it’s difficult to adjust.”
No matter how she puts herself in the other person’s shoes and tries to understand how that person feels, she says she’s only human; she also gets affected.
“Even if it’s only a phone call and you can’t see who you’re talking to, you get insulted and berated, so, you end up being upset, too,” she says.
“It’s a very stressful job,” she adds.
But unlike other call center agents who keep complaining, Michelle has nothing but praise for her company.
She is happy with her job, she says, and she cannot yet imagine herself in the future working in another job. She’s glad the company she works for appreciates what workers like her do. “They always keep in mind the welfare of their workers,” she said. “It’s not just like any other work, because the company also holds events that allow us to at least remove the stress away.”
A mother of two, Michelle used to work in a fast food chain in Matina, where she earned only half as much as she is earning at the call center. At the call center, she got the P7,500 entry level pay when she applied and got accepted by the company in 2012.
Barely a year later, the company added a P2,000 allowance, which brought her take home pay up to P9,500.
“That’s about more than double what I used to get at the fast food chain,” she says.
Since she does not go out much on her day off and even chooses to work on holidays, she oftentimes exceeds the P10,000 mark each month.
She only went as far as the second year of her BS Education Course at the Philippine Normal University in Cebu when she decided to quit.
“It [the course] was the choice of my father,” she says. “On my first and second year, I tried hard to love it but I failed. I have no regrets.”
It was at the call center where she met Jeric, 22, a student of BS Marine Technology. Jeric describes himself as “ma-discarte,” someone who can actually easily hack out a living if he put his heart to it, but the previous year, he lost interest in his studies and drifted away.
“Computer games, night outs,” is the way Jeric describes the time he flunked all subjects in a semester because he could not bring himself to go to school. “I simply lost my motivation.”
Now, he says, he would try to finish the course again while working at Sutherland Global Services. The company encourages its employees to go to school and even allots a P3,000 scholarship assistance for its workers who are studying.
“I work here, first to earn, and second to anchor myself, because once I lose my motivation for doing things, I will drift away just the way I flunked all my subjects in the previous semester,” he says. “I’m the type of person, who, in the absence of a compelling reason to strive, will easily lose motivation and would just drift away.”
But Jeric, who’s about to graduate with a degree in BS Marine Technology, nurtures a dream.
“I’ve set myself a goal. If I can make some P30,000 a month working here, I would no longer leave land,” he says. “I would give up being a seaman,”
He had a brief taste of the life of a seaman on an inter-island ship. “Although, you can save a lot because you won’t spend anything while on board a ship, but aside from the danger, you will miss your family,” he says.
“Even in three days when you can’t see land, you’d know the feeling. Work in a ship is just akin to work in a call center, it only takes time to adjust.”.
But unlike most who make up for the stress by splurging and traveling on their days off, Michelle and Jeric would rather stay at home and sleep. Jeric is confident that if he’d work hard enough, he will hit his target.
“They used to say, once you’ve worked for a call center, you could never leave,” he says.
“It’s because once you’ve got a taste of how it is to work here, you will keep comparing the pay you’re getting with those of the workers in the day time,” he says.
“And their pay could never compare,” says Michelle. “So you will keep coming back.”
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