Monday, March 16, 2009

Call Centre, week two

So I have finished my second week in the new job. I am working on a top secret 'campaign.' For security reasons I cannot tell you what this is. But I can give you some clues. I provide customer service for people enquiring about a very important travel document. It comes in a little burgundy book. It has a photograph in it, that you probably hate. This object begins with 'p' and ends with 't' and has an 'ass' in the middle. And a 'port.'

I only work a thirty hour week, spread over three weekdays and one day at the weekend. I had to work on Saturday, meaning that I thought I wouldn't be able to watch the Scotland - Ireland rugby game. I rang the Scottish Rugby Union to ask if they wouldn't mind moving the game to Sunday, but they said they couldn't do anything at such short notice. Luckily, my company has a contract with Setanta Sports, meaning that there are TVs on the call floor tuned to Setanta Sports News 24/7. But someone disloyally turned the channel over to BBC1 so we could watch the game, albeit at a distance of 40 foot away & with the sound turned down.

I have not had many difficult calls to deal with so far. Mostly I just book people in for interviews or help them fill out an application form. A Scotsman got very upset with me because he was flying the next day and had put his passport in the wash and ruined it. He seemed to think this was somehow my fault, and was unhappy that he would have to wait a week to get a new one.

Then I was helping a father complete an online application for his 15 year old daughter.

At the end of the call he says 'Will this passport enable her to travel abroad without her parents?'

'Oh aye' says I, thinking she's off on a youthful school trip

'Only she's going abroad with her 19 year old boyfriend and he's arranged it all' says Mr Dad.

Now, when I say it's a thirty hour week that's not quite true. I don't get paid for my lunch and teabreaks. That's a new experience for me - even when I worked for some big American companies in Australia I got paid for my breaks. Never lunchbreaks but always playbreaks. I didn't know that was legal. So I work a 34 hour week but get paid for 30.

Furthermore, the company times how often you go to the toilet, or just generally move away from your desk. You are only allowed 12 minutes per day. You have to be back at your seat right on time or your in trouble. We've already been ticked off about this. And all for less than £10,000 a year. One colleague got ticked off for eating a plum at her desk yesterday.

Reading this makes me wonder if there is any point being a Labour supporter. We've had 12 years of a 'left-wing' government for this? Apparently, union officials aren't even allowed on
site. I was told that the local rep got into a shouting match with an employee in the canteen and was barred. It wouldn't surprise me if this argument wasn't engineered by the company. I've been told that the union rep sometimes comes and stands at the front gate and hands out piss-taking leaflets. I'll have to look out for him and have a chat, maybe they'll put my name on a blacklist.

Anyway, people vote with their feet and rarely stay long in the job. There's a massive turnover of staff and I've even been offered a £200 bonus for every worker I can find for them who stays in the job a few weeks. It makes me wonder why they don't treat their workers better. I've read somewhere that staff retention, or lack of it, is one of the most expensive outlays for many businesses. What's the point of spending so much on neverending advertising, recruitment & training just to treat your staff like cretins?

They even draw up a productivity formula for each worker, based on electricity costs, heating costs, breaks we take, work we do, time idle, time at the toilet, time on holiday and calculate it to the nearest penny. My own productivity formula, like a big old battery hen.


whynotsmile said...

Why, oh why, oh WHY do companies think this is a good way to operate? I mean, timing toilet breaks!!???!

I could come and work for them for long enough for you to get the £200. But I'm not sure I want my toilet breaks timed, thanks very much.

In fact, isn't there a possibility that they are breaking some sort of gender discrimination thing there? What with the fact that it generally takes women longer to go to the loo than it does men?

FrizzyLogic said...

This sounds HORRIBLE. No wonder staff turnover is crazy.