Call centres – the reality

The call centre is a unique working environment where good management is
vital to the health and happiness of its staff

What is it really like working in a call centre? With more than 13 years of
practical experience at all levels in call centres before turning consultant,
Becky Simpson, managing director of Improvement Solutions, was able to share
her personal experiences with the audience.

Her talk covered the sort of best practice regimes that employers can use to
minimise stress levels in call centres, ranging from rest breaks to measures to
combat eye, limb and back strain. She also looked at the impact of poor
management practice on the health of call centre staff.

The call centre, she pointed out, is a unique working environment. Nowhere
else are staff:

– Managed minute by minute

– Told when they can have a break and leave their desk

– Tethered to their desk with a headset

– Expected to work for more than 80 per cent of their working hours

– Carrying out a role where monotony and routine are commonplace

– Isolated from much of the rest of the organisation.

She broke down the occupational health hazards faced by call centre workers
into a number of different categories.

The environment (lighting, temperature, ventilation and noise) was
discussed. Screen glare caused by poor lighting, inadequate ventilation to cope
with the high density of people and equipment, and noise making it difficult to
hear the caller are all common features of the call centre environment.

The workstation ergonomics need to be carefully addressed if the operative
is not to fall prey to eye strain or musculoskeletal disorders and rest breaks
of 10 minutes every two hours are considered best practice, ideally taken in a
separate rest area.

Indicators used to measure productivity include the number of calls handled
per person per hour, average call duration, number of outbound calls made and
average speed of answer. All these are easily measurable but create poor quality
and cause stress.

Putting quality measurement indicators in place which emphasise criteria
such as the rate at which problems are resolved at the first point of contact,
the accuracy of data entry and the number of complaints and compliments
received gives a more balanced view.

Regular training and creating opportunities to involve staff in
decision-making all help reduce stress levels and frustration and increase
enjoyment for call centre operatives.

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