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Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

  • Jason Strother / Malte Kollenberg

When Americans call for customer support there is a good chance the agent on the other end of the telephone line is Filipino.

The Philippines has the world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers.

One of them is Angeline Rodriguez. The 30-year-old trained nurse says she makes more money working the overnight shift at the C3 call center, where she and 2300 colleagues handle customer service for several foreign companies, answering up to 200 calls per night.

Rodriguez's boss, Andy Sarakinis, has worked in the Philippines’ business process outsourcing sector for 16 years. He said due to the country’s strong ties with the United States, workers here communicate with American customers more easily than agents from other countries like India, the world’s former call center leader.

“The ease of doing business here has been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Being able to hire an individual that can step in day one and have the conversational skills to get on the phone with a U.S. consumer, that can be an airline company, a car rental company, a healthcare provider, telecommunication, financial services, to be able to get on the phone and be able to talk intelligently and resolve customers’ concerns has been great with the Filipino workforce.”

Major source of revenue

BPO centers are now among the Philippines’ largest sources of revenue, making the country’s economic growth the fastest in Southeast Asia.

But for all of the financial rewards, there are concerns the lack of sleep and odd hours contribute to unhealthy lifestyles.

Researcher Victoria Fritz says overnight call center employees the world-over face these risks.

“I found that BPO workers who work the night shift develop physical ailments over the years,” she said. “Among the findings is they develop cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and obesity.”

For about $7 a month, employees at the BPO center C3 can sign up for fitness classes at an onsite gym.

But some workers say they are more bothered by the toll the overnight shift has taken on their social lives.

Customer service agent Angeline Rodriguez says after five years of working in the industry, she has gotten used to it.

“Social life, I don’t really have one right now. I’m not really into it, I’d rather work,” she said.

She adds that if she wants to make new friends, or a boyfriend, there are plenty of people on her same shift.

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