Are Call Centres the Modern Day Working Mill?
Call centres have often been the target of satire and social commentary in recent times. Even as the manufacturing industry seems to be shrinking, the service industry has stepped up and filled its place, sometimes even literally. After all, what better use is there for old mills than as office space for call centres?
While the manufacturing sector in the UK contributed 40% of the jobs in the nation, until after the Second World War, the figure today is just 8%. But even as we delegate our manufacturing to a certain part of the world, the service industry seems to be booming in the UK, and indeed around the world. Call centres seem to have sprung up everywhere, and just like the mills once represented the industrial and manufacturing revolution, they represent the new revolution.
So why is there a comparison between call centres, or contact centres as they are known within the industry, and working mills? This is because of the ‘assembly line’ approach taken by the service industry towards customer service centres; and secondly, because of the alleged working conditions of call centre employees and the almost dehumanising nature of their work.
Who in their right mind would like to make cold calls to people and try to sell things? Well, that is what telemarketers have to do. And just like mill workers, they have targets to meet, hourly targets, weekly targets and monthly targets. Disturbing people at their homes and workplace, trying to sell them things they don’t want or need and being scrutinised and assessed at every stage of the process is what telemarketing work basically entails.
As for call centres taking incoming calls from customers, the story only get worse. Most people deem calling up a call centre one of the most stress-inducing activities in their life. But if it is stressful for callers, how stressful might it be for those who are physically answering the calls, and trying to deal with problems they are probably not equipped to deal with? Simply because they have to meet a certain target.
Until not so long ago, the aim of incoming phone call centres was to get as many phone calls processed as possible. This meant that each employee had a certain target to meet. However, the industry soon realised the pitfalls of having a customer service system which doesn’t allow time for any customer service!
The truth is that call centres have earned a notorious reputation of being no better than factory farms of human beings with a script to read from. But this reputation has been earned over the years, during which time the service industry has striven to change its ways. Today, the industry is making efforts to change the way contact centres are run and managed and trying to evolve efficient systems that cater to the customer, as well as save the companies money.
The main aim of setting up call centres is for companies to save money. It is all about getting what needs to be done at the cheapest price. This basic premise dictates that call centres will never provide more than the bare minimum for their employees or indeed for the customers.