Call centres thrive despite overseas threat to jobs

Despite
concerns over the migration of call centre work abroad, employment in the UK
call centre sector continues to expand rapidly – growing 3.9 per cent last
year.

Call
Centres 2002, a sector study by the Call Centre Association and Industrial
Relations Services, also shows that pay for some frontline staff rose by more
than 8 per cent and that staff turnover has increased from 18 per cent to 24
per cent.

Employers
have increased pay and improved staff benefits to enable more flexible working
in order to address the industry’s retention and recruitment problems.

The study
was based on responses from 134 employers, operating 322 call and contact
centres nationwide, with a total workforce of almost 66,000.

Other
key findings include:

• Trainee
rates increased by 8.6 per cent to £11,400 a year, while salaries for
lower-grade frontline customer service representatives (CSRs) rose by 8.3 per
cent, to a median of £13,000 a year

• The
public sector pays the highest rates for frontline staff, while management
rates tend to be higher in the finance sector

• The
highest-paying regions are: London, the east of England, and the East Midlands

• More
than 70 per cent of respondents say their work-life benefits improve staff
retention; others claim they help control absenteeism and stress

• Employers
were asked to suggest which of their HR strategies were most effective in
retaining staff. Pay and conditions packages, personal development plans and
strategies to improve morale and motivation were the most common initiatives.

The
editor of Call Centres 2002 Philip Pearson said: “UK call centres have some of
the longest operating hours in Europe. Many employers open, or can readily
arrange to operate their call centre for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With
workers under increasing pressure, the industry has to address the problems of
finding and keeping good staff. This has started to happen but there is still
some way to go. Some employers are leading the way and should be seen as
examples of best practice. 

“The
majority of staff who resign leave the profession completely. Just one-fifth of
employers (18.8 per cent) state that the majority of those who resign take up
call centre work with another employer.

"And
employers know which methods work – competitive pay and conditions packages, personal
development and/or career development programmes, as well as an attractive work
environment – are the most effective ways to hold on to staff.

"It’s
not rocket science and the industry could make simple adjustments to hold on to
valuable staff so that fears about a mass exodus abroad don’t materialise.”

www.irseclipse.co.uk

By
Quentin Reade

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