In the world of call center corporations, we’re often told tales of the high quality of agent amenities and benefits, but, according to one veteran agent in Mexico, daily life on the floor can be more difficult than the powers that be might think.
Born in Mexico, Erika Posadas, 32, currently lives in Mexico City, with her three-year-old son Daniel, but spent most of her life in California after moving there at the age of five. When she returned to Mexico at 28, she had to integrate into a new culture for the first time—having grown up in the States—so she went on the hunt for bilingual jobs.
“Teletech in Mexico City popped up after a quick Google search,” she recalled. “They were looking for native English speakers with technical support experience, so I applied and got the job. Most people in the call center were like me; they had grown up in the U.S. and were keen to find work. A lot of jobs in Mexico don’t pay very well, even if you have a degree. Many people work in call centers to make more money, and being bilingual helps with that even more. Contact centers have been a great way for me to be able to afford to raise my son, even as a single Mom.”
Jumping into the call center industry made Erika feel more at home when she arrived in Mexico, particularly as she was surrounded by other native English speakers. She told us that coming from the U.S. to live in Mexico was a difficult transition, so it was comforting to see so many others adapting to this new life.
Even so, not everything about the role was ideal.
Erika described the Teletech working environment as “a fast-paced, high volume facility”, with a focus on customer service and technical support. Her main campaign at the time was with Time Warner Texas, for which she took “back-to-back” support calls for eight months.
“They put a lot of pressure on their employees, so there isn’t much time to breathe,” she said. “Customers are generally calling because they are angry, or the service doesn’t work, but we were still pressured to finish calls after a certain amount of time. The schedule at Teletech was horrible. Besides a short lunch break, we got one 12-minute break, split up how you wanted, but this included bathroom visits or cigarette breaks, so it wasn’t very flexible.”
Frat House Vibe
The Teletech facility in Mexico City had roughly 1,000 agents aged between 18 and 32 when Erika worked there, and new people came and went every day. “That kind of workplace is not great for moving forward on a career basis,” she explained. “There are a lot of issues in the hiring process that have resulted in a “high school” type vibe – it’s not what you would call a standard job. It was like being at a frat house—there were fights and possible drug use. Even some of the supervisors were involved.”
In their defense, Erika recalled that agents spend a lot of time sitting in the same place, so tended to get goofy and easily distracted. She also recalled crazy calls from customers saying they would “blow up your house if you don’t activate the internet”, or agents getting upset after taking so many negative calls, leading them to punch computers, cry, or shout at each other. “I wouldn’t work there again,” she committed.
Skills for Progression
Despite the downside of working for Teletech, Erika found that its advanced training programs helped prepare her for the type of contact center role she wanted. “For all its faults, my time at Teletech gave me the experience of handling high amounts of pressure, and it had the best training of any other call centers I’ve worked at,” she said. “It helped me to better handle calls, taught me about multitasking and using multiple programs at once, and finding answers to things without supervisor assistance, among other things.”
Erika took her experience at Teletech and used it to find work with Sykes, where she did sales and customer service on a Verizon campaign for a year and a half. “They provided a very flexible schedule—Monday to Friday, 8-4—while I was pregnant with Daniel, which was really great.”
She then went on to work for Scotiabank Canada, helping customers with transfers, payments, and account management. The bank has a much stricter profiling of employees, provides good benefits, and has facilities in Estado de Mexico (the State of Mexico), which is good for people who don’t live within the city.
Improving the Agent Experience
Having worked with a few different companies, Erika has a few ideas on how to improve their working environments. “It all starts with the type of personnel that are hired by HR, because the right people will lead to a better ambiance,” she suggested. “Then it comes down to pay and progression. I knew some people who after four years at Teletech still earned the same as when they started with minimal chances to move up, which is demotivating. In the end, a happy worker is a good worker.”
Call center technology also makes a huge difference to agent productivity and happiness, according to Erika. “Some of the companies in Mexico that you might think had enough cash to improve their technology chose not to do it. It felt very “old school” in some of them and were not always the same systems that clients used in the U.S., particularly in Scotiabank, where the old systems sometimes prevented us from being able to help customers to meet their full requests.”
Bigger and Better Things
Erika has now switched from a customer service environment to a more sales-oriented position at ICE: a resort and cruise booking specialist based out of Arizona that has offices near her home in Mexico City.
“The main reason I took the job was for the convenience and the increased pay. After joining the call center industry, I’m now making triple what I made when I first came to Mexico, and I’m really thankful for my experiences.”