In a two-part interview, our English candidate Tamara talks about the frustrating role as a call centre agent and why life in the iGaming industry in Malta has been a life-changer. This week we touch on topics like mental health, death threats, toxic bonus culture, iGaming recruitment, and much more.
The job interview process
I wasn’t quite sure if the job as a call centre agent was for me, but I applied through someone I know as that particular company had a referral scheme for employees. You know when someone elaborates on a job role making it out to be amazing… So yes I did have a few reservations but I was told it was all customer service focused and the salary offered sounded good.
I applied with my basic CV on the company website, then received an email inviting me for a telephone interview. It was easy and I was then invited to attend a face 2 face interview at the local branch where I lived in South East England. There were lots of candidates attending that morning, it was like a group interview as we went for a chat, filled out paperwork, the customer service job role was explained and how the company is structured.
Some candidates didn’t get any further, maybe dismissed due to criminal records, and were asked to leave, or the candidates decided the role wasn’t for them. The rest of us remaining were told we were successful and given a start date. It did seem like they wanted anyone who could breathe and walk on two legs…
This role is all about sales
Not until I was offered the job as a call centre agent and started the training did I realize it’s not actually customer service based at all. My new role was in the billing department and we had to deal with the most disgruntled customers moaning about everything related to phone bills and payment issues. This was all about sales, upselling mobile phone subscriptions, tablet contracts, and broadband deals.
My background was in the hospitality industry as a restaurant manager and worked as a security officer in bars and nightclubs. Believe me, it’s easier dealing with drunk customers that aren’t allowed in than rude and angry phone customers online moaning about their phone bills. I was lost but luckily I came across a friend on Linkedin who told me about opportunities in the iGaming industry in Malta. I didn’t know how to prepare a CV and I knew nothing about online gambling, casino games bonuses, and how I could relocate to Malta. It took almost 6 months before I started applying but more about that later.
I was a call centre agent working 12-hour shifts 4 days on and 3 days off, and we took about 100 – 250 calls each, depending on the length of the call if it was complex or if we had to transfer the call. The teams were 6-8 people but that changed as people were away, promoted, leaving, and new members joined. It was a very fast-paced job, with lots of changes, lots of line managers and then section managers, and then managers who managed them.
Salary, bonus but no benefits
Ah, the salary system and attractive bonuses! There are big bonuses if you can sell extra phone contracts, but you then realize halfway through the training what the company actually expects of you as a call centre agent. Not only trying to resolve the customer’s query or a complaint in less than 3 minutes you have to persuade the customer they need an additional tablet or a better phone contract and transfer them through to the sales team.
There is a tier bonus system which was seen as an incentive to do well if you were good at sales. Extra quid for every additional line, bonus for a brand new contract. There were also bonuses for getting a customer to sign up for broadband. Some folks would go out of their way to try and sell because the base salary wasn’t very good and some of the methods used to make bonuses were unethical and wrong.
There were team meetings every week, to tell us about changes that were happening or new promotions. They changed things a lot, KPIs were always being changed as they got gradually higher targets it was near impossible to meet therefore you couldn’t get your bonuses as to get your bonuses for additional lines or new contracts you had to be on target with KPIs.
How can I sum up my monthly income as a call centre agent? No bonus, no benefits, no joy. That’s why the iGaming industry and various companies’ amazing benefit scheme was like a utopia for me. I had no idea about gym wellness allowance, company loyalty trips, free transport home after late-night shifts, and being supported in professional development programs. I felt like a queen just hearing about the relocation package the first time and then seeing my current company do their utmost to assist me during onboarding to start a new life in Malta. Fantastic!
Mental health is empty talk
Yes. In my role as a Call Centre Agent, I realized quickly that the company has no clue about mental health, even though they bang on about advocating it. Please let me give you a few examples:
I was stressed and upset because a customer had been horrible, using foul and derogatory language including death threats, etc.
The company just used to tell me to ignore it and get on with my job… Next call, please! You weren’t allowed time off the phone for a bit of breathing space.
So it means customers are allowed to be rude to you and you just have to be polite. Shut up and do your job! You’re not allowed to hang up unless a line manager says you can, and you would have to warn the customer first, and finally, after three warnings you could hang up. The customer would just ring back and get through to someone in my team and do it again. It was horrible.
It was hard to talk to line managers as some weren’t approachable, some only wanted you to get bonuses so they would get their bonus at the end of the month as well. It was a very bonus-driven environment and it was toxic.
Minimal training for Call Centre Agents
New call centre agents were given in-house training for two weeks off the phones in a group which was in a training room, how to log into the system, how to transfer a call, and then what we could do with people’s actual phone contracts. If you had some common sense, it wasn’t that difficult.
After the two weeks were up we then go to experience staff taking calls, we had to listen in to the calls and we watched what they did on the computers. As a call centre agent had to do it on your own, we had a floor walker for the first two weeks who would come and watch over us or if we had any issues we had to stick our hands up in the air and they were meant to come over and help us. A lot of the time we were told to sort it out ourselves or read the help sheet. The experienced staff couldn’t be bothered to help us, although some were better than others but a lot of the time we had to fend for ourselves.
We all know a good trainer will add value to any new starter in a company and I quickly realized that joining iGaming in Malta. The training was informative, educational, and interesting. Through 3 enjoyable weeks, I was taught about AML, Casino games and casino bonuses, Compliance Requirements, and Responsible Gaming. I loved it and it was a real eye-opener that would kickstart my iGaming career.
No desire to be compliant
I expected a call centre agent to strictly adhere to the rules set by a regulatory body as failure to follow them can lead to large fines and seriously damage the company’s reputation and image. I was wrong. I felt I was in a kindergarten for grown-ups because I saw no real desire to make sure this company was compliant.
If you had a really difficult customer and couldn’t resolve the issues some line managers wouldn’t take the call even when they are meant to if a customer asks. You’d end up walking to other teams to try and get their manager to take the call. Team leaders went missing or managers were impossible to read. Guess what happened next?
– Some sales were done to older folk who were sold packages who had no idea what there were and then charged for products they were told were “free” but had a monthly tariff
– Offering additional expensive mobile phones contracts clearly to people who didn’t need it
– Not all calls were recorded so if something goes wrong and the customer asked for a call listen it may not be there
I am amazed to see the responsibility shared by the iGaming industry. They are doing their best to stay compliant according to regulatory requirements, excellent training is given to new starters like me and it adds credibility to their company dealings.
We will be back with more from Tamara next week as we look at iGaming career options, social recruitment tips, and the challenges facing the UK job market in the next few years.