How to Survive the First Three Months in a Call Centre

Habib held on for two weeks. Felix threw off his headset after five months. Hugo flinched after two years. With record turnover rates, call centres do not have a very good reputation. The conditions and nature itself of the work are not always rosy. Nonetheless, here are some ideas to put some balm on this particular work experience.

Hugo Prévost was a student in search of funds when he accepted a job at a call centre in 2004. “I was 18 years old and I needed to work,” says the now journalist. At the time, he sold La Presse and L’actualité by phone. For him, like many call centre employees, there was no place for having fun in the grey rooms, between rows of monotonous cubicles. To survive his work days, he kept his financial goal in mind. “Since I was paid on commission, it was hope that kept me motivated!” he recalls.

The same philosophy applied to Félix Boudreault. In 2002 he was preparing for a trip to Peru for which he had to raise $3,000. “I had to keep a close eye on all the cash flow. When I reached my goal, in the middle of a shift, I took off my headset and microphone and left,” he recalls with a wry smile. Finally, it was worth it. It took him five months part-time, with a commission on sales and occasional bonuses, “to make more money than in my current job,” he says. A good seller, Félix was even able to negotiate an increase in his schedule.

Laugh and socialize

In the company where Félix Boudreault worked, the supervisors made the employees lives easier in the hopes that they would stay longer. “Since it’s a thankless job, they let many things go by.” The worker, today 35 years old, remembers eating popcorn, drinking vegetable soup and leaving his slippers at work, for example.

Softening his work days also meant bonding with his colleagues, who became friends. They stood side by side during the shifts and invented challenges worthy of the Masked vigilantes. They would force themselves to say an incongruous phrase during their calls, for example, or count the number of times they included a completely irrelevant word.

“It’s only a job”

Sometimes jokes aren’t enough. There are a lot of grumpy customers who could undermine morale. “It is important not to take the calls much to heart,” says Hugo Prévost, who often would say, “It’s only a job,” during his shifts. 

With potential unhappy buyers on the other end of the line, it’s hard to remain impervious to criticism. Hugo Prévost advises to “set your brain to zero” and when leaving work, have some fun to soften the end of the days a little. He also suggests not to cling unnecessarily to the job if it is no longer bearable.

Habib Al Qurashi didn’t last beyond the two weeks of training required to work in a call centre. “It was too hard for me,” he says half-heartedly. “There are calls during which the person had been drinking too much and began to insult me!”

Poor staff management or malicious? The call centre where he worked prohibited him from going to the restroom between breaks. Habib learned the lesson: sometimes, to survive, you have to know when to leave…

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