Have you ever worked in a call center? I have...and it's a great experience to LEAVE. I have really enjoyed the blogging of AC in Call Center Purgatory, https://callcenterpurgatory.blogspot.com/ and it reminded me of my call center experiences...and how lucky I was to get out too!
Doing some research on the history of call centers, I found this "Criticisms of Call Centers" information in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_centre
Criticisms of call centers generally follow a number of common themes:
- operators working from a script.
- non-expert operators (call screening).
- incompetent or untrained operators incapable of processing customers' requests effectively.
- overseas location, with language and accent problems.
- automated queuing systems. This sometimes results in excessively long hold times
- complaints that departments of companies do not engage in communication with one another.
- deceit over location of call center (such as allocating overseas workers false English names)
- close scrutiny by management (e.g. frequent random call monitoring).
- low compensation (pay and bonuses).
- restrictive working practices (some operators are required to follow a pre-written script).
- high stress: a common problem associated with front-end jobs where employees deal directly with customers.
- repetitive job task.
- poor working conditions (e.g. poor facilities, poor maintenance and cleaning, cramped working conditions, management interference, lack of privacy and noisy).
- impaired vision and hearing problems
Customers will tell you they don't like dealing with call centers. Employees like AC will tell you that they "hate" working in call centers. So why do they exist? The answer my friends is purely "financial". When I was hired by a Customer Service Outsourcing firm, Teletech, as a Training Supervisor for their UPS call center project in Tampa. UPS (the most bottom-line driven company I know of) saw all the financial benefits of closing their local calling centers and partnering with a company to do their customer service. It looked like a brilliant move at the right time to the company's leaders.
It was a disaster. The call centers opened with pomp and ceremony and the UPS employees back in their local delivery and processing centers fought us every step of the way. My employees would follow UPS protocol, only to find the local level UPS managers sabotaging their decisions, and the partnership at every turn. This was a classic case of 'us and them". Within two years, the local managers had won. The UPS call centers became nothing more than message centers. Our employees had all of their em"power"ment to fix a customer's problems taken away. Even worse, our call center employees simply became punching bags for the unhappy customers. Customers quickly figured out the call centers lack of empowerment, demanding to speak directly with someone who could actually do something for them besides "take another damn message".
Our customers did get clever...coming up with acronyms for UPS's customer service. Two of my favorites were: UPS = U People Said and UPS = Utterly Poor Service.
3 Years into the UPS partnership...the damage to our call center had been done. All the symptoms of misery were visible and measurable:
120% annual turnover rate
Terrible morale and attitudes
Employees burning out in 6 months
Shrinking labor pool -- would you want to work there?
Coming to work was a horrible way to earn a paycheck for many of the employees. And it was horrible for our UPS customer's. And all of us in management were in a constant state of reactive chaos.
Bottom line: Call centers continue to struggle. Customers are frustrated and unhappy. Employees are miserable, turnover rates are growing to nearly "McDonald's like" numbers.
I know what we can do!!! Let's ship our call center jobs overseas...to...uh...I know...India! Lower costs to the company! Yes..that's the answer. Close those U.S. call centers...they're too expensive, anyway.
Can you say...customer service disaster? I can...and I will. An article in Time magazine reports that the call centers in India are facing grave shortages of employees. Why? Let's just say the call center honeymoon is over. https://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1671982,00.html Yes, even employees in developing countries can figure out an awful place to work when they see one.
"Young people say it is no longer worthwhile going through sleepless nights serving customers halfway around the world. They have better job opportunities in other fields. The work is tiring and stressful and offers few career advancement opportunities, says Dr. A. Sankara Reddy, head of Sri Venkateswara College in New Delhi. In response to students' complaints, Reddy said the college a few months ago banned call center recruiters from campus. At least a handful of other local colleges over the last few years have made the same decision."
So...I guess the next step for companies is to find a better customer service tool than a call center. Wait! I've got it!!!! Let's try on-line customer service. That way that can't even call us! Let's take away the human contact and call ourselves "Problem Solving Representatives". I'll save my thoughts on this customer service disaster (and my latest round of frustrating customer service by e-mail with Amazon.com) for a future blog.