Training staff for call center positions

The Call Center, being a booming industry in India has many types of fallout which support the growth of this relatively new commercial venture. There are many people - young and older - who are employable given the employment criteria required in call centers. For example, a simple graduate a few years ago had no scope of landing a job in India unless he/she did a professional training course or went through the recommendations of someone known in the company they applied. Today, a fresh graduate many times is booked in advance through campus recruitment, and goes directly to his/her place of work after walking out of the college drawing a starting salary that usually (as per the market trends in India) takes about 10 years to reach in an ordinary job. No wonder, these types of jobs are relentlessly pursued by the new generation youth.

Today, the materialistic world has left the youth hankering for luxurious gadgets and style of living. They need the latest camera mobiles, good bikes, lap tops, designer label clothes and air-conditioned rooms to really feel comfortable. Even an MBA from leading institutes may not be able to command such salaries when they start out in their career. But call centers do - the start up salary being upto three-four times the regular salaries. Hence the demand is high!

But not everyone who wants to get into a call center can get into it. Why? Because of many factors:

  • Bad accent - Indian languages are heavily accentuated and these put heavy demands on the English language. For example a Telugu person's English and a Bengali person's English can have a hell-and-heavens difference, even if both attended English medium schools in their childhood
  • Tendency to translate verbatim - most of the Indian languages are high metaphorical, constantly comparing nature, animals and feeling with something; the sounds, occupations, feelings are always emphasized with comparisons - when these are translated verbatim, they make some massive howlers; similarly translating verbatim English phrases can totally the communication on a different tangent
  • Limited vocabulary - people here speak English for two reasons - one when they travel and they do not know the local language and two when they study; unless they are high-class hobnobs people do not speak English at home or at the work place. This is why their vocabulary stay limited to the field they usually move in - and most people are lost when they are out of their field
  • Not having good voice on the telephone - this is the last important reason - but a valid reason nonetheless. People in call centers are required to attract and calm clients; if their voice is not pleasant and calming it is difficult to engage such persons
  • Lack fluency in English - many high educated Indians are not comfortable to speak in English because they are not fluent; this is because inspite of going through the school, college and higher education texts in English, many colleges still use the vernacular medium to explain the students do the same. Hence, fluency leaves much to be desired even in people at MA levels.
  • Understanding foreign accents - many people are totally lost when they come across American English. In India people are more comfortable with British accents, though even those create trouble in understanding All the above points can be remedied through training programs which have mushroomed in the past 5-10 years to almost saturations levels. These programs offer an overall development to the person enrolling, most of them assuring them of placement after the completion of the course. This of course, is the main attraction and point of sale for most of the training programs. The training programs will cover to a large extent the following areas of improvement:
  • English speaking skills - depending upon their nativity and cultural background, the people unlearn many things in pronunciation and understanding and re-learn the English language. They are exposed continuously to English speaking atmosphere and common phrases and jargons used and encountered during conversations with Americans and British, so the person understands not only what they are saying but also what they are likely to imply.
  • Phone etiquette - people in India are pretty abrupt on the phone. They need to learn the small talk of polite conversation that is need to keep the customer buoyant and satisfied
  • Communication skills - people are trained to transmit more in less time and words. Communication should be to the point yet covering all the bases. These skills are trainable and require rigorous practice sessions. Try to explain how to open an account without confusing the client is one such example
  • Teach self-confidence - the call centers need people who can handle people. When a person who receive a call is unsure of himself/herself they open themselves and the company to aggression and bullying from the customer; besides when the customer can intimidate the call center person, they are likely to stay with the idea that the company can be sued, or worse. Hence, sounding confident and un-intimidatable, while staying polite and convincing is again something to be learnt

How do they do it? The professional training centers first segregate the candidates according to the nature - extrovert, sophisticated, quiet, vivacious, etc as well as factors like poise, confidence, optimism, etc. This is something they cannot unlearn and training them in different directions is too much a drain of resources. This is done through specialized tests and personal interviews screening procedures.

After the results from these tests come, the students are given their personality based training. The rest is done as per a fast drawn curriculum whereby the students learn and polish the above mentioned drawbacks.There is one great plus point for trainers in India - the young generations (and a good part of the old too) are great simulators. They can learn in optimum time the best accents of English if they are exposed sufficiently to it. These training centers being almost always lined with a few call centers, the passout immediately land a job.