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<nettime> call centre crisis
Andreas Broeckmann on Thu, 9 Jun 2005 03:17:41 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> call centre crisis

[abuse, incompetence, or false expectations? or, as a friend of mine 
always used to say: you buy cheap, you buy twice. -ab]

The abuse of Asian telephone centre staff by customers is symptomatic 
of corporate cock-up on a grand scale, says Simon Caulkin

Sunday June 5, 2005
The Observer

The lengths to which companies will go to avoid drawing the right 
conclusions in favour of the self-serving and expedient never ceases 
to amaze. A spectacular - and sad - example was highlighted in an 
article in this paper last week ('Indian call staff quit over abuse 
on the line'), describing how increasing numbers of employees were 
abandoning their jobs because of abuse, often racist, from British 
and US customers.

According to the article, irate customers were a major stress factor 
contributing to rocketing turnover rates at Indian call centres, in 
some cases touching 60 or 70 per cent a year. Some organisations were 
employing psychiatrists and counsellors to help employees to cope. 
Their conclusion: anger and fear about offshoring were to blame. 
'When you move jobs away from a country, there's going to be a lot of 
pent-up frustration which gets let out on Indian workers,' one 
analyst said.

There is zero excuse or tolerance for the kind of abuse documented in 
the article. But to blame the anger on racism and the effects of 
offshoring is to ignore the glaring fact that belligerent customers 
are a major stress factor for UK and US call centres, too. Does that 
cause a dim light to go on somewhere? It should. The important thing 
is nothing to do with where the call centre is located; the important 
thing is that customers have had it up to here, everywhere, and the 
reasons are everywhere the same.

At bottom, companies are still producing to suit themselves rather 
than the customer. 'We don't care about the colour of the person 
we're talking to,' says Professor Harry Scarbrough, director of the 
Economic and Social Research Council's Evolution of Business 
Knowledge programme. 'But we do care about being fobbed off with 
people working to a script. Call centres don't have the knowledge 
available in a local bank branch or shop. What customers get is 
knowledge that is pre-packed, shallow, mass-produced and inflexible. 
People don't like that.'

continued at

(picked up at
(Doors-Report, Notes on social innovation and service design
(June 2005

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