I have a New Home Online. Check out MyronStaAna.com!

Hi Everyone,

 

This is to announce that from now, I will stop updating this blog site and will continue blogging on my new website, www.MyronStaAna.com.

This is where you will see my next blog posts, near-future products and programs, next scheduled training programs and speaking engagements, news, and all the other interesting stuff.

I will not deactivate this blog site yet but I’ll be busier with my website.

If you would like to invite me to train on any topic at your organization, speak at your next event, mentor you on leadership, coach you on language; intra and interpersonal communication, be your consultant for learning and development and call center operation, facilitate your company’s team-building activities, and host your next big event; you may send me an email at info@myronstaana.com or mss@myronstaana.com or simply text or call me at Country code +63 and 905-223-6621. This is my mobile phone number.

I encourage and invite you to check my new website now. It’s cool yet very professional.

Till the next blog!

To our success,

Myron Sta. Ana: Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Consultant, Leadership Mentor, Communication Coach, Online Author, Team-building Activities Facilitator, Boxing Journalist, and Events Host

www.MyronStaAna.com

 

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Excellent Customer Service on the Phone – PART III-A

I know that a lot of readers have been waiting on this part – the third part of my three-part blog series about Excellent Customer Service on the Phone, which should have been published early last week.  Due to a training invitation for Yours truly and some preparations related to it, I was not able to work on this one. Do not fret though as here it is now.  I will talk about the remaining stages of any typical call flow that an agent must master and provide excellent customer care in.  They are Handling Customer Complaints, Providing a Helluva Customer Care Experience, Call Control with Results, and Closing a Call with Impact.  However, this time around, I would have to divide this third blog into four segments since we have four more remaining topics to cover.  We will just further divide this into III-A, III-B, III-C, and III-D that will be posted today, tomorrow, on June 5th and on June 6th. 

For today, we will cover Handling Customer Complaints.  Read on please.

STAGE VI:  HANDLING CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS

One of the most difficult aspects of call handling or assisting customers over the phone is handling their complaints.  The reason it is difficult is that different people have diverse tendencies, perceptions, and personalities that make them tougher to understand and deal with.  This is an art and a skill at the same time because of that.  It involves a lot of considerations and some other factors that help an agent know, understand, accept and appreciate not only for who their customers are but for how they react and behave at the same time.  Thus, it is very substantial that any agent perfectly knows how to handle complaints.

Why do Customers Complain to Begin With?

To be able to handle customers and their complaints well, it all starts with acknowledging and comprehending why they complain.  Below are the different reasons why customers grumble about various concerns when they call customer service or technical support.

  1. The company did not do what it promised.  Who would not be pissed when the company said it was going to provide something only to find out that it is not giving it all along?  We have all been customers ourselves and we know that it feels bad when we have been promised something we are not getting.
  2. The product did not work that way it is supposed to.  People buy usually because of the benefits that they get from a product and/or the features that it says it has so when it does not work accordingly, they lash out real bad.
  3. The customer cannot get help when he most needs it.  When a problem arises with a product or service and customers do not have any idea how to solve it, they do not think of anything else but calling customer service or technical support.  Do they?  Therefore, it is such a big headache when they must talk to someone on the phone but finds out there is no phone support being offered or there is but they end up thinking they should not have called in the first place.
  4. The customer has been waiting in the queue for a long time.  Most of us have experienced calling customer service ourselves and waiting on the line for several minutes or even hours (seriously) just to get a hold of a live person who will help us.  Even if there is background music to keep us cool or entertained, we still end up feeling we have been made to wait too long.  Worse, when the background song sucks or there is none, it is like waiting forever on top of having to put up with the discomfort that comes with holding the phone, etc.
  5. The conversation always gets cut off in the middle of everything and the customer has to go through several minutes of hold time or gets bounced around different departments again.  There is nothing else more enraging than a customer’s conversation with the representative being cut off in the middle of everything due to line problems or whatnot.  This means going thru the long hold again or worse, getting transferred from one department to another.
  6. The customer has had a bad day and the product/service dissatisfaction even made it worse.  We always remind ourselves not to talk to customer service or technical support when our emotions are still high or when we are not in a good mood over and above the displeasure we have over the service or the product.  We know the outcome will be having the representatives suffer from our wrath.  However, there are customers who waste no time and call right away when something about their subscription comes up on their end.  The problem is, they happen to do it when they are already upset with something else.  The consequence is they pour it all on the hapless agent.
  7. The customer gets an inconsiderate; slave-of-the-policy rep who does not get out of his way to provide a reasonable consideration.  Agents should always keep in their mind that they have to be understanding, flexible and compassionate when they deal with their customers.  Nobody likes a representative who is selfish, who does not go the extra mile, and who does not offer an alternative to compensate for not giving the main thing the customer is asking for because of personal limitations or policy restrictions.  It only makes situations worse when customers get a rude agent.
  8. The customer has been misinformed or given wrong expectations.  It is really very annoying to be misled or misinformed when one expects to be educated properly and completely or to be set the right expectations.  It is like feeling stupefied or duped and nobody wants to be treated that way.
  9. The customer encounters a boastful rep who thinks he knows it all.  Some customers are egotistic so when they confront an agent who is as conceited as they are, if not more, they tend to compete with that person by imposing their will on him or by debating.  This is often the reason why some customers hate smart alecks.
  10. The customer thinks the company and its employees couldn’t care less about his concern. Some customers are naturally sensitive and emotional.  The moment they feel that the company they have a subscription with does not value them or could not care less about their situation, they behave negatively to the point of filing a complaint.

I hope that by knowing more about customers, the way they think, and what makes them mad, agents who get to read this article would identify with them more and assist them with their concerns the way they deserve to be.  Once again, knowing customers inside and out will make anyone a better customer service provider.

At this point, how do we deal with different unsatisfied customers then?

Dealing with Unsatisfied Customers

  1. Stop and Listen.  The moment an agent gets a customer who does not sound the normal way, he should listen right off the bat because for sure, there is a problem.  This only conveys that he is either mad, sad, or confused.  Therefore, the best first thing to do is to pay attention and to listen actively.  Listening actively helps one understand the gist of the problem to be able to assist the customer better.
  2. Empathize or apologize.  Empathizing or apologizing is not always done unless the customer’s current situation necessitates it.  When a customer sounds like he needs somebody to understand him, empathizing or apologizing is always the first requisite.  Empathizing, as everyone should define it, is putting oneself in his customer’s shoes so he gets to feel what the latter feels, experiences what he experienced, and pictures what transpired prior to the call.  Apologizing, on the other hand, is simply saying sorry because the customer wants to hear it and that hearing it alone snatches the negative emotions away.
  3. Give way.  Interrupting a customer or competing with the him over the phone always leads to worst-case scenarios.  Therefore, agents should always give way and offer their customer the chance to explain himself in detail and to articulate what he expects to get out of the call (the expectations).
  4. Do not take it personally.  Agents who answer their customers back or mistreat them on the phone are those who get affected by what they say or their behavior.  So as not to be carried away by emotions, agents should never take everything personally.  Unless verbal attacks are hurled directly at them, they should always think that such profanities or behavior is for the company.  It just so happened that they are the ones caught in the middle so they have to receive everything on the company’s behalf.  In fact, even when they are already being personally attacked,  it still does not give them the right to retaliate.  Like what we said on the previous blogs, “CUSTOMERS ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT BUT THEY ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TREATED RIGHT”.
  5. Be assertive.  Treating customers in a special way and giving way even when they are mad do not always require an agent to stop doing a part of his job, which is to educate his customers correctly or to stand up for the policies and procedures or the product/service on the company’s behalf.  It only takes positive scripting, the right intonation, and confidence that does not border to the dangerous zone of cockiness or disrespect.  Agents can still be confident without sounding boastful and they can still defend the company or the products without rubbing customers the wrong way. 
  6. Own it.  Representatives are given a certain extent of decision-making power and authority when they represent the company on their calls.  It is up to them to maximize such power and authority without violating the rules that even the highest-ranking officials and even the owner of the company they are working for are not allowed to break. Hence, they should always own their calls and responsibly act as well-guided point persons for the calls that they get.  That is being professional and having integrity at the same time.
  7. Get the good out of the bad.  As part of not taking anything personally or controlling one’s temperament, it helps a lot when agents always get the positives out of the negative situations.  Not only that they do not get stressed by their customers or their concerns, they are also able to think better and do their jobs with a peace of mind.
  8. Last but not least, always focus on the solution.  Arguing with customers does not help.  Instead of purposefully wanting to clash with customers, representatives can just focus on solving their problems, fixing their issues, addressing their concerns, resolving their reason for calling, and answering their questions.

Now that you know how to deal with unsatisfied customers well after determining the different reasons why they get mad to begin with, it is also important that agents know how to deal with their own different-to-control tendency to get irate themselves.  An agent’s worst enemy when they assist over the phone is not their annoying customers but themselves.  When agents do not know how to control and manage their own human nature to be on combat mode, they end up getting mad at their customers first.  So,  below are different tips that I can share about controlling and eliminating one’s anger.

Tips to Control and Eliminate One’s Anger (Anger Management for Agents)

  1. Find out what caused one’s anger to begin with.  Agents should ask themselves these questions:
    1. Why am I acting like this?
    2. What led me to this feeling?
    3. Should I behave this way?
    4. Will I resolve things with this manner?

Getting to the root will help agents know what to avoid next time or how to veer away from negative feelings that will not help them assist their customer.  Once again, it is all about not taking the customer’s negative feelings and emotions seriously and personally and keeping one’s composure and professionalism all throughout the conversation.

     2.  Avoid anger-triggering situations or encounters.  The best way to deal with controlling one’s emotions is by avoiding feeling them in the first place.  Just like “Prevention is better than Cure”. 

     3.  Control it when it happens.  If avoiding is impossible and the agent is already irate, the best way to deal with it is by controlling it.  Breathing and making an effort to clear one’s mind help a lot.  Just like what the ever-famous Marvel Comics character, The Incredible Hulk does to keep his temper in check; agents are also expected to make an honest effort to not let their fury get in the way of doing their jobs as customer service specialists.

These are the steps that an agent who wants to finally solve his anger management issues need or should take in order to provide excellent customer care.  Remember, agents do not have the right to be mad.  Basic mandates of their job are to be extra-patient, understanding, and compassionate in addition to maintaining grace under pressure and carrying out their tasks with passion and intelligence.  So, I hope that these three basic guidelines do the trick and save the day, any day, for a concerned customer service representative or technical support.

Being Assertive on the Phone

As previously mentioned on this article, there are instances when agents are expected to be assertive about something towards their customers.  These are in cases like:

  • Explaining to the customers that they cannot grant their wishes or requests due to biding policies, terms, and conditions that are in effect on their products or services;
  • Not being able to disclose a company-confidential information that the customer is forcing one to divulge;
  • Not being able to support them at all for failure to confirm their identity or verify their ownership of the account in question;
  • Explaining matters concerning the product that the customer is not expected to appreciate or feel good about.

I understand that it is very problematic and tough to stay assertive or to be on the company’s defense when the customer is being inconvenienced, is more reasonable, or is already irate; but there are still several ways by which remaining assertive can still be accomplished.

But before we talk about those “Assertiveness Tips”, let us first define what being assertive means.

To assert yourself means that:

  1. The agent stands up for his or the company’s own rights while respecting others’;
  2. He defends his or the company’s own boundaries while respecting others’;
  3. He expresses his own opinions, needs, and feelings without hurting others;
  4. He disagrees without being disagreeable.

Now that we are fully aware of what the word means, let us now talk about several tips on how to stay assertive in the midst of the customer’s aggression:

  1. Be an Active Listener.  An agent listening to the customer’s concern not only helps him understand all details surrounding what the customer called in about, but helps him formulate the best solution to resort to or the best things to say.
  2. Be humble and modest.   An agent being humble and modest can carry the same professionalism and calmness even when he starts talking about policies and all that.  Remember, it is not what one says but how he says it.  Customers may not be sold to the agent’s explanations but hearing how professional and gentlemanly (ladylike) the representative is makes him just settle for what he hears and understands where the agent is coming from.
  3. Possess an assertive voice sound.  Being assertive, once again, is explaining anything with confidence in the absence of sounding arrogant and imposing to a fault.  For as long as an agent speaks calmly with no tense at all, any customer would remain sane to understand no matter what.

Pacifying an Irate Customer

One of the most important aspects of customer service that all company representatives must learn and specialize in is how to appease customers with heightened disappointment and animosity.  As they say, it is easier to please customers than to pacify those who started the call mad already.

To pacify an exasperated customer, the following must be put to practice:

  • Defuse the situation.  Defusing the enraged state of a customer’s mind is similar to defusing a bomb.  Like what we see on action flicks, cops or soldiers usually do it by cutting the red wire or so that’s how the theory goes. Correlating it to comforting customers, we are also ought to find that ‘red wire’ in them and cut it off.  This red wire pertains to the root cause, by the way.  By knowing it, we know what pissed them off to begin with.  Knowing what made them angry helps us know where to concentrate our best efforts on.
  • When they are through, agents should indicate they heard them and apologize.   Customers, no matter how furious they are, yield to representatives who are humble yet positive, confident, and assertive.  They cooperate with those who truly understand where they are coming from and empathize with them and their dilemmas the sincerest manner they can.  This is why agents should always let their customers know that they are acknowledged by saying lines like “I perfectly understand that…”, “I definitely know where you are coming from…”, or “Absolutely, if I were you, I would be feeling the same way you are now…”. These magic words, so long as they are delivered genuinely and positively, almost always work.
  • Agents should give an assurance that the issue is as important to them as it is to the customer.  What pacifies customers faster is when they are guaranteed that the issue they are reporting is as important to the agent as it is to the them or even more.  When this is verbalized, the customer is assured that the agent knows what to do next and that their issue will surely be taken care of.
  • It is either give the customer what he wants or offer alternatives.  Some agents think that it is already the end of the road for some customers when their wish is not being fulfilled, when their request could not be granted, or when their wants are not given.  Most of the time, offering the next best thing that the customer might want to consider settling for does the trick.  The representative just has to explain why his original request could not be granted and how alternatives work just the same or just as good as what they want.  Therefore, agents should always offer alternatives especially when there is really one or when the company permits it.
  • Agents should not get emotionally involved.  Agents should always be focused on the solution rather than on their customers’ behavior or statements.  It does not contribute anything significant to the resolution of the customer’s concern when an agent ends up arguing, crying, or hanging up on the customer.  It only aggravates everything.  Thus, agents should remain professional and dismiss any cussing, discriminating, or bullying on the phone.  Unless the customer is already being overly-abusive, the agent should control or manage his temper and just do his job like a pro.
  • Fend off profanities politely.  In relation to the previous item, there is a policy or a procedure in any call center for dealing with abusive customers and their choice words on the phone.  Just resort to that.  It is that simple.  Nonetheless, agents should just see to it that they say their respective scripts very politely and sincerely and that they do not talk down on their customers.  Remember, These customers can call back anytime and agents should not wait until they ask for a supervisor to protest them and ask them to be kicked out from their jobs.
  • Agents should make sure they have identified the correct problem.  Customers flare up when they sense that the person they are speaking with do not know what is going on or do not understand them.  Ergo, agents should always listen actively to make sure they identify the correct problem.  Pinning down the correct problem leads them to the right and appropriate resolution rather than assuming or misunderstanding the customer’s problem and ending up barking up the wrong tree.
  • Agents should not be negative.  Agents should perpetually look at the bright side and keep their statements, reactions, behavior, and tone positive.  When customers talk to an amicable representative, they enjoy every bit of the experience and suddenly forget that they were mad at the onset of the call.
  • Agents should hold fast to the principle that “There are no dumb questions, only dumb answers”.  Agents will always encounter customers who would call the hotline just to ask even the easiest or the simplest question that they can answer or which answer they can find by themselves.  Regardless, they should always be treated the right way and their questions should always be accommodated.  Remember, unless they are just doing a prank call, they would not call if they had already known the answer/s to their questions, right?  Nobody (or only a few) goes through the hassle of waiting in the queue for minutes or even hours just so he could mess with an agent.  So, always treat each question from calling customers as important and valid.

Okay, let us say that despite doing those above and they still do not pacify the customers, what can agents do to deescalate supervisor requests?

Below are some recommended scripts for dealing with insistent customers who demand speaking with a supervisor despite the agent’s best efforts to help them.

“This, I assure you. Leave your query/request with me and if I am not able to take care of your concern, then I will get the supervisor on the line right away.”

 

“If you will just give me the chance to see what I can do for you, I’ll be glad to assist you with your concern.  After which, if you still need to speak with my supervisor, I will transfer the call at once.”

 

“Sir/Ma’am, I will be glad to assist you with your request.  After which, if you still need further information or assistance, I will transfer you to my supervisor.“

 

“Sir/Ma’am, I am specifically trained to help you with this case. Just please be patient for a little while because my supervisor would just tell you the same things.”

 

These are just four of the several ways by which an agent can assure his customer that he is already the best person to speak with and that it makes no difference if he talks to the supervisor because he/she will tell him the same things.  Also, these are different ways of educating the customer that he is just wasting his time trying to get a hold of the supervisor in a nice way.

Building Rapport: Retaining Customers and Attracting New Ones

Different agents have numerous ways or styles of building rapport with their customers or giving them a memorable customer service experience on the phone.  Below are just some of them that will surely make customers stay and never switch to a different provider.

  1. It all starts with being sensitive and knowing when the customer is already angry.  The key to being a great customer service representative is being selfless, sensitive, and empathetic.  When the customer is already angry, upset, disappointed, or down; it is the agent’s responsibility to pacify him, cheer him up, or assure him.
  2. Try to retain cancelling customers by knowing why they are cancelling, if there is any way that they will not do that anymore, or if there is anything else an agent can do to keep them from cancelling.   Doing, saying, or asking about these things makes customers feel that the company treats them as special and valuable.  When they do feel they are, they give second chances on the condition that the company does something about their needs or wants or provide the next best option.
  3. Agents should think of their customers as their company’s greatest assets that must be protected and maximized.  If there are no customers, there will be no call centers and if there are no call centers, there would be no jobs for call center agents.  It makes sense, right?  Agents should always hold on to that.  Thus, they should not be thankful when only a few customers are calling.  They should actually be alarmed when the number of callers is decreasing or worse, nobody is calling anymore because they might lose their jobs.  It only means that the service or product is perfect (which is unlikely and impossible though) that they do not have any reason to dial that customer service number and speak with an agent.  If this happens, companies would be forced to close their centers down and agents would be forced to find a job somewhere else.  Therefore, agents should hold their customers in high regard the similar way they expect to be treated if they are on the other side of the fence.
  4. Agents should go above and beyond the call of duty.  What separates a good agent from a great one is the initiative to go the extra mile when providing customer service over the phone.  Those who actually do this know the benefits that they enjoy from going above and beyond the call of duty.  From being commended by their customers and getting high customer satisfaction scores to enjoying short call handling times and being considered for promotions, there is a lot at stake when an agent exceeds expectations.
  5. Provide excellent customer service.  This is what the job requires of any call center agent, which is why their job description or title clearly says “CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE”.  Doesn’t it?  It is both a fundamental expectation and a personal obligation for all call center agents to provide for one.
  6. Offer alternatives as an initiative.  As previously mentioned, when an alternative is possible, authorized and available,  there is nothing wrong with resorting to it.  Customers will truly appreciate it.

Hopefully, agents who read this learned a lot about handling customers’ complaint.  However, be reminded that learning is just the first step.  Application is a different story all together.  Thus, I tell them now to give these essential components a go and be better and more “HUMAN” customer service representatives.

Tomorrow, our next article about “EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE ON THE PHONE” is Providing a Helluva Customer Care Experience.

Until then, Be Equipped for now. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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He used to be one of the country’s best, most multi-affiliated, highly-awarded and proven youth/student leaders in the early to mid-2000s and is currently one of the more accomplished youth in the corporate world.

For more information about him, please check the About and Awards and Citations sections of this blog-site.

What’s In It For You in his Affiliate Marketing Program (10% for Every Closed Deal)?

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Sexual Harassment in the Philippine Workplace

On February 11, 2013, I went to Miriam College along Katipunan Avenue; particularly to their Environmental Studies Center at the Environmental Studies Institute; as I was invited to talk about Sexual Harassment in the Philippine Workplace in front of junior and senior Business Administration students of the College of Business, Entrepreneurship and Accountancy.  This seminar was organized by the college’s Business Administration department’s student organization, Inter-School Business Administration or IBA.

There, I helped the participating students know and understand how Sexual Harassment in the Philippine workplace is defined based on both its dictionary and legal meanings.  Also, I explained to them the provisions of the Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, a.k.a Republic Act No. 7877, and what they say about how to deal with circumstances classified as an act of sexual harassment.  Lastly, I gave them a lesson about what to do next in case they are harassed in the future or better yet prevent or keep acts of sexual harassment, whichever they are or however they are done, from being committed to them.

In this blog for today, we will talk about the essentials of this topic in accordance with what the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 says.

To begin with, Sexual Harassment has both its dictionary and legal definitions.  According to Merriam-Webster, it refers to the uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student).  On the other hand, the local law (R.A. No. 7877) defines it as the following:

SECTION 3. Work, Education or Training -Related, Sexual Harassment Defined. – Work, education or  training-related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other  person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy  over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor  from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or  requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said Act.

Ergo, based on the two definitions, Sexual Harassment can only be considered as such if or when the offender is someone in authority or who has a direct or indirect governing or controlling influence over another who is a subordinate.  This means that a peer-to-peer case or a subordinate-to-supervisor case is not considered as one or might be categorized under a different law.

However, is the sexual favor that is being demanded, requested or required only limited to inviting the subordinate to have a sexual intercourse with the superior?  No.  When we say sexual, it does not only involve the act itself but also includes anything that has to do with or related to the reproductive organs or a behavior, which is sexually motivated or has sexual desires.  What can be derived from here is that even a dirty joke that was not accepted well, an uncalled for remark that did not come across funny to the recipient, or any of the superior’s body parts brushing over the body of the subordinate whether intentionally or not and was interpreted by the latter as sexually motivated can be considered as an act of sexual harassment.

What are the different forms of Sexual Harassment then?

There are different forms of sexual harassment.  Number one is physical.  This includes but not limited to malicious touching or otherwise known as act of lasciviousness, very obvious sexual advances, and gestures (facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, and even other bodily movements) with lewd connotations.

The other one is verbal.  This includes requests or demands for sexual favors (having sex, asking for a kiss, or requesting to be hugged) and lurid remarks that have malicious intent in them.

And the last one would be use of objects, pictures or graphics, or written notes with sexual underpinnings or influences.  Let me give an example.  Let us say a supervisor jokes around with his female subordinate saying that his penis is as big as the ruler he is holding, while showing it to the latter, and then the employee gets offended by such a dirty joke; she can actually complain about her boss and file it as an act of sexual harassment.  Another example is let us say a supervisor is holding an FHM magazine with a sexy celebrity on the cover page and suddenly cracks a joke with his female subordinate saying they have similarities after saying he fantasizes over the model; then the female employee can complain about it especially if she feels insulted or abused.  It would appear to her that the mere fact he is saying they have similarities is like he is saying he also fantasizes over her.  Are you with me so far?

Now, at this point, let us talk about what the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 says about our subject matter.

According to it, getting the information from Sections 2 and 3, the following individuals are covered by this legislation:

1. Workers or employees (both public,  private or even non-government/non-profit)

2. Applicants or candidates for employment

3. Students

4. Those undergoing training, institution, or education other than students

Who can be punished or can be held liable by this act?

1. Employer of the company or head of the department/division

2. Employee who belongs to a level higher than that of the subordinate

3. Immediate manager or supervisor

4. Agent of the employer

5. Anybody else who has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over the offended

6. Any person who directs or induces another to commit any act of sexual harassment

7. Any person who cooperates in the commission of the act by another without whom it would not have been committed.

8. College or university professor/instructor

9. Coach/trainer

Where is this decree applicable?

1. Workplace

2. School

3. Any other place of training, institution, or education

When is Sexual Harassment committed?

To talk about this accurately, we would have to refer to the exact (word-for-word) provisions of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.

(a) In a work-related or employment environment, sexual  harassment is committed when:

1. The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or  in the employment, re-employment or continued employment  of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms of conditions, promotions, or privileges;  or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way  would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee;

It is very clear here that this law is applicable even to applicants or candidates for employment. An employer or recruitment personnel shall never make any sexual favor or attempt a sexual advance in exchange for hiring anyone, putting one back on the job, or regularizing/certifying a probationary employee.  It also says here that no sexual harassment shall be made as a condition for increasing ones salary, promoting him/her or enhancing his privileges and benefits.  The part where it says “limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities” refers to demoting an employee, assigning him/her to a department where he/she would perform less, or negatively influencing his/her co-workers to distance themselves from the person.  On the other hand, the portion “otherwise adversely affect said employee’ pertains to a situation in which because of the incident of sexual harassment, the employee is eventually traumatized or feels little about himself/herself.

  (2) The above acts would impair the employee’s rights or  privileges under existing labor laws; or

In case an employee will not get what he/she deserves or what he/she signed up for based on the job offer or what the labor code mandates if he/she will not submit to the sexual favor demanded, requested or required by employer or the recruiter, it also falls as a commission of sexual harasment.

(3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile,  or offensive environment for the employee.

This further explains the part where it says “adversely affect the said employee”.  If, because of the commission of the sexual harassment, the employee ends up feeling uncomfortable or awkward reporting in the workplace; or people around him treat him/her differently to the point of alienating him/her; the same act has been committed without a doubt.

(b) In an education or training environment, sexual harassment is committed:

(1) Against one who is under the care, custody or supervision of the offender;

This means that those that can be punished, if found guilty, are not just the immediate teacher of the sexually-harassed but the school administrator, guidance counselor, principal or any other officials for as long as they have control or influence over the students and have done them wrong.

(2) Against one whose education, training, apprenticeship  or tutorship is entrusted to the offender;

(3) When the sexual favor is made a condition to the giving  of a passing grade, or the granting of honors and scholarships,  or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other benefits,  privileges, or consideration; or

(4) When the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee or  apprentice.

Any person who directs or induces another to commit any  act of sexual harassment as herein defined, or who cooperates  in the commission thereof by another without which it would  not have been committed, shall also be held liable under this  Act.

What to do next once victimized?

1. Well, first of all, the victim has to come out and complain first.  A lot of cases of sexual harassment are left unattended to or forgotten because most of the victims are not courageous enough to stand up for their rights and complain about their offender.  Thus, the offended must tell the trustworthy authorities about their experience and let the due process and justice take it from there.

2. Next, let your immediate supervisor know that you were harassed except of course if the person in question is himself/herself.  When this happens, common sense says, that you skip level or bypass the person and go to next level or path of escalation who is that person’s own boss.

3.  What if your boss’s immediate superior is not doing anything to help you with your case or is siding with your immediate supervisor? Usually, this happens when the former is very close to the latter.  In cases like this, you skip them all together and you just go straight to Human Resources particularly the Employee Relations department and let them take care of everything.

4.  From this point onwards, of course, Human Resources will follow its Discipline Management/Employee Issue Resolution process with the necessary coordination with all the people involved or responsible.  You just need to follow their lead, do as they say and hope that your case is in good hands, of course.

What is your employer’s involvement in all this?

Your employer or division’s head has a couple of duties in issues like this according to the law.  They are the following:

1. Proactive Approach – to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment.

2. Reactive Approach – to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment.

Now, in order to attain these ends, your employer shall:

(a) Promulgate appropriate rules and regulations in consultation with and joint1y approved by the employees or  students or trainees, through their duly designated representatives, prescribing the procedure for the investigation of  sexual harassment cases and the administrative sanctions  therefor.

Administrative sanctions shall not be a bar to prosecution  in the proper courts for unlawful acts of sexual harassment.

The said rules and regulations issued pursuant to this  subsection (a) shall include, among others, guidelines on  proper decorum in the workplace and educational or training institutions.

These so-called appropriate rules and regulations may include but not limited to guidelines in proper decorum in the workplace, employee code of conduct which is usually explained during onboarding orientations, and other related internal or client-provided policies.  On the other hand, the procedure for the investigation of sexual harassment cases and administrative sanctions are commonly provided by or stipulated in the company’s discipline management or grievance procedures.

Your employer’s next obligation is:

(b) Create a committee on decorum and investigation of  cases on sexual harassment. The committee shall conduct  meetings, as the case may be, with officers and employees,  teachers, instructors, professors, coaches, trainors, and students or trainees to increase understanding and prevent  incidents of sexual harassment. It shall also conduct the  investigation of alleged cases constituting sexual harassment.

In private companies, this committee is usually referred to as either the grievance committee, the employee relations department, or the strategic business unit/HR business partner.

Last but not least would be:

SECTION 5. Liability of the Employer, Head of  Office, Educational or Training Institution. – The employer or head of office, educational or training institution  shall be solidarily liable for damages arising from the acts of   sexual harassment committed in the employment, education or training environment if the employer or head of office,  educational or training institution is informed of such acts by  the offended party and no immediate action is taken.

It did not really specify in this section of the law which specific damages these are.  Thus, it means it is safe to assume that this encompasses the following:

  • Financial damages thru monetary settlement
  • Emotional/Mental/Psychological damages that can be provided thru company-provided counseling, referral to an agency offering professional help, or any other advice or option available.

Now, one other interesting question to answer here is, Can the victim pursue independent actions for the damages and not just rely on the company’s final verdict or administrative sanctions?

The answer is yes.  Section 6 of the Republic Act 7877 says that:

SECTION 6. Independent Action for Damages. –  Nothing in this Act shall preclude the victim of work, education or training-related sexual harassment from instituting a  separate and independent action for damages and other affirmative relief.

Ergo, my advice is that if you are not contented or happy with the administrative sanctions served to your offender by the company for the act of sexual harassment committed to you and you believe the person deserves more, then you have the right to take your case to the court and have your public attorney/private lawyer handle everything for you given their knowledge and expertise.

Now, what are the companies’ common sanctions or disciplinary actions for acts of sexual harassment?

Well, each company has its own code of conduct, especially for offenses against proper conduct and decorum, which an act of sexual harassment is usually classified under.  This means that they may have different provisions as to what the corresponding punishment is depending on the degree of gravity of the infraction.  However, below is a generic set of sanctions or discplinary actions most companies apply or refer to:

Light offenses:

1st offense – Second to Final Written Warning with Counseling or Reprimand

2nd offense – Fine or preventive suspension not exceeding thirty (30) days

3rd offense – Dismissal

Less Grave offenses:

1st offense – Fine or preventive suspension not exceeding thirty (30) days but not exceeding six (6) months

2nd offense – Dismissal

Grave offenses – Final Written Warning to Dismissal

And, how are the violators be punished by law?

Once proven guilty, the offender may face or be responsible for the following:

• Fine of Php10,000 – Php20,000
• Imprisonment of 1-6 months, or
• Both at the discretion of the court based on the degree of gravity of the offense
– Grave offense
– Less grave offense
– Light offense

Now you know what Sexual Harassment in the Philippine workplace is and what Republic Act No. 7877 (Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995) says about about it.

Lastly, let us talk about what the best things to do are when one is victimized by an act of sexual harassment (with reference to the blog, “The Pinoy Employee’s Guide to Survival in the Workplace”)

1.  Reject the advance being made firmly but politely but loud and conspicuous enough for potential witnesses to hear and see it.
2.  Take note of the event by recording the date, the exact time and the specific location in the workplace where it happened.
3.  Tell your closest confidant in the workplace first.
4.  Report it to your immediate supervisor unless he/she is the offender.
5.  Go to your HR person in your immediate supervisor’s absence or if he is the person in question.

So, there you go.  I just hope that after knowing all these things, you are already informed and will be protected in case any act of sexual harassment, whatever your gender is, is committed to you.  Just keep in mind that everything starts with you divulging you have been harassed.  If you will not come out, the point of learning about this subject matter is useless to begin with.  Let me leave you with my self-thought quotation that goes…

“A VICTIM REMAINS AS SUCH ONLY UNTIL HE/SHE LETS JUSTICE BE SERVED BUT BECOMES AN ETERNAL FOOL IF SHE DENIES HERSELF OF IT.”

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If you are interested in inviting the expert, Myron Sta. Ana (The Rising Star in Multifaceted trainings and learning and development consultancy and the Next Big Name in motivational speaking and events hosting) in your school or organization to talk about this topic and a lot more, just email him @ Myronosophies@hotmail.com/Myron.S.Sta.Ana@hotmail.com or text/call him at 0927-351-9391 / 368-3214.

Myron Sta. Ana, thru his Myron Sta. Ana Training and Consultancy Services brand, trains Rizal LGUs’ Chairpersons/Information Officers/Councilors/Secretaries on Business Correspondence Writing

Last December 6-7, 2012; Myron Sta. Ana (the country’s Next Big Thing and budding Superstar in diversified training and consultancy services) went to the Multipurpose Room of the Rizal Provincial Capitol in Antipolo City, Rizal to train around 200 LGU (Local Government Unit) chairpersons/information officers/councilors/secretaries on Business Correspondence Writing.

There, he discussed its basics together with the following interesting discussions with them:

  1. Definition of a Business Letter
  2. Examples of a Business Letter
  3. Parts of a Business Letter and their Formatting
  4. Business Letter Formats or Styles
  5. Composing a High-Quality Content (Elements, Tone, and Components of the Body)
  6. Definition of a Business Memo
  7. Differences between a Business Memo and a Business Letter
  8. Parts of a Business Memo
  9. Definition of Minutes of the Meeting (MOM)
  10. Importance of Taking Minutes
  11. Parts and Elements of the Minutes
  12. Differences in Parts between a Business Letter and a Business Email
  13. Email Etiquette Tips and General Guidelines
  14. Coming up with a Grammatical Business Correspondence
  15. Basic Punctuation Rules
  16. “Filipinoisms” and Common Misspells

Aside from talking about the varied topics aforementioned, he had also conducted a good number of in-between icebreakers and topic-related activities that surely made the trainees learn while having real fun at the same time.

After the two-day affair, both the participants and the organizers were very thankful, happy and contented that they got him to train them on the subject matter.  They affirmed they have learned a lot of things that not only enhanced what they already know but also added new pieces of information that will definitely make them more equipped and effective when writing business communications in their respective offices.

The event was organized by RIOL or the Rizal Information Officers’ League in cooperation with the Provincial Government of Rizal and the Department of Interior and Local Government – Rizal (DILG).