Deepa Krishnan, a woman in her mid-20s, has grown from being an officer to a senior manager in just 5 years. Today she heads a team of about 150 people. Padmanabha Rao, all of 26 years, leads four processes and manages a team of over 220. In addition to being the head of a programme, he is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt in corporate efficiency and part of the Black Belt certification projects, aspiring to be a vice-president in the next few years.
Deepa and Padmanabha are among the lakhs of youngsters in the BPO sector who manage integral operations for their global clients. They take decisions that have a direct impact on their clients’ business and provide inputs that add value to their clients’ end customers. The BPO sector offers challenges like these — exposure to a global business environment and taking on large mandates at the very beginning of one’s career.
For an entry-level job at a BPO, the personal skills of an individual are more valuable than academic qualifications. This industry truly believes in the capabilities and strengths of the individual. Profit centres or business units worth Rs 1-30 crore are today being led by young professionals of 23-27 years, which is unheard of in most industries.
Once an aspirant joins a BPO, the organization provides him various levels of training. The nature of training evolves with the employee’s career growth. The first step is the foundation-level training. New recruits are trained in business communication; computing and typing, and on other modules like customer service, telemarketing, trouble shooting, accent neutralisation (in case of voice-based processes) and culture sensitisation.
On completion of the training, their skill sets are assessed and deployed to different profiles, based on their strengths and capabilities. The next level is the programme/ process specific training.
From the time an individual joins as a trainee, his/ her performance is constantly reviewed. For example, in a voice-based process, calls handled by the customer service representative are regularly monitored and feedback is given. Each process also has an individual assessment and appraisal at fixed intervals.
Generally, if a customer service representative consistently outperforms on the job for more than a year, he/she is eligible for promotion to become a team-leader. In this capacity, he/she will need to mentor and lead a team of 10-25 members and assume responsibility for key deliverables, client satisfaction and the profit/loss of the process.
After proving oneself as an able team leader, the next step in the career growth ladder for an individual would be as the manager of a process or training or quality. Typically, a top performing individual who continues to grow in the company could be promoted to head of process and then to head of the overall operations.
A majority of the industry’s attrition is at the entry level. One of the main reasons is that individuals misunderstand the requirements of the work involved. Hence, it is a sincere advice for BPO aspirants to speak to friends, peers, relatives to understand the scope and the nature of work the industry offers.