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BPO training, a hot career option
Vivek Fernandes
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January 31, 2007

Does a career in imparting new skills interest you? Do you have a flair for languages and proficiency in spoken English? Are you gifted with an ability to motivate others to learn? 

If you've answered 'yes' to all these questions, then a career in BPO training may be just perfect for you.

Employees in BPO companies are engaged in marketing, grievance handling, and technical support services over the telephone for countries like the US, UK, etc. Thus, they need to understand the accents they are hearing over the phone and also need to be well-trained in communication skills. That is where training comes into the picture.

The evolution of training in the BPO industry began with foreign nationals, who came in to train new ranks on accents, soft skills, processes and products, etc. Soon, callers who proved themselves on the shop floor, were picked up and promoted to these ranks. 

Many organisations have their own internal 'train-the-trainer' programmes, which certify resources to become trainers. However, lack of trained professionals and an ever-increasing demand for trainers have resulted in opportunities for employed, full-time resources and freelancers.

How it works

Training in the BPO industry can be split into two basic elements: 

~ Voice and accent training:  The objective of the trainer is to improve the speech and diction of the trainees and help them develop a 'global, neutral accent'.

~ Process training:  The objective is to familiarise trainees with standard operating procedures and operating applications for the process, be it collections/billing, technical support or sales.

The pay-off

While full-timers can expect a starting annual package of Rs 4.5 lakhs to Rs 7 lakhs annually, freelancers can expect to earn anywhere between Rs 2,500 and Rs 8,000 per day for an eight-hour shift.

Talent and traits

A trainer needs to know how to talk to people -- we all talk to people, but not all of us know the right way to communicate. And this is what a trainer is trained on.

Both, voice and accent and process training require people who can present themselves and the information they are sharing, well. Thus, a trainer is supposed to have good presentation skills too.

However to be a BPO trainer you need some additional, specific skills, especially for voice and accent training.

~ Excellent listening skills

"Tune your ears to identify different accents, vowel and consonant sounds, and their pronunciations across regions," advocates Leela D'Sa, a freelance trainer in Mumbai.

~ Stamina

Because trainers are required to put in a minimum of eight hours per shift, and spend most of their time on their feet, talking, they require both physical and vocal stamina. They also need to be able to motivate their students to put in their best and need high, contagious energy levels.    

~ Patience

"Patience must be a trainer's best virtue. No question is too stupid, no clarification too dumb. You cannot let the frustrations of slow learners drag you down," D'Sa adds. 

~ Expertise on subject matter

"To become a process trainer, one must be a subject matter expert," says Kunal Gaind, a team leader and process trainer for a Mumbai-based BPO. "Most process trainers are callers, who make/receive calls to/from customers abroad, who have been promoted from the floor. But even these need to have a good command over English and they must display leadership skills," he adds.  

Mario Rui, a former assistant training manager with 3G, says that trainers must have "good process orientation, the ability to analyse, interpret, comprehend information or a process, and the intuitive ability to describe this in detail".

~ Negotiation skills

"In a collections process, one must be taught to sound convincing and develop negotiation skills. For sales, you must train people to be able to push the deal too," Rui adds.

~ Improvisation

A note of caution from D'Sa: "Training is different from teaching. Here, unlike in other educational courses in schools or colleges, there is no compulsion to stick with the prescribed syllabus and courseware. As such, a trainer must have the aptitude to improvise on the spot, to demonstrate and to provide more practical techniques."

Qualifications and certification

Though there are no formal qualifications, a trainer is required to have at least a certification in English language or in facilitation and training.

The Indian Society for Training and Development offers an 18-month diploma in training and development that is recognised by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. This is also approved by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel, Government of India, under its faculty development scheme. For details, one can visit the web site.

The Certificate of English Language Teaching to speakers of other languages (CELTA), offered by the British Council in India, is an internationally recognised qualification awarded by the University of Cambridge and is widely respected too. More details are available on their web site

Career prospects

Those dealing with direct customer interaction as in hospitality industry, aviation and management, have an added advantage as a trainer in the industry.

Psychology graduates who have an understanding of behaviour and MBAs with a specialisation in human resources have also done well as trainers in the industry.

"Though training has not been taken too seriously in India, it is now emerging as a fast-growing and lucrative profession within the services industry," says Rui who moved out of the BPO industry and now works as an in-flight training executive with Jet Airways.

"But don't move to training as an escape from a 'routine desk job'. Do it because you want to motivate people," he adds.  

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