Places where telemarketing originates from. Call centres are sweatshops where employees work long, supervised shifts within carrelled desks with aging terminals.

Call Centres usually have large clocks on the wall to indicate the importance of time, as many employees are on quotas for contacts and sales. Also if employees are late returning from a break, they are locked out. A large clock provides no excuse for tardiness.
When you ring up a company to make a complaint or place an order, the chances are that if the company has more than a few hundred employees you will be talking to somebody in a Call Center.

Most call centres are large offices that contain rows of desks. Each desk will have a hands free telephone and a computer that displays the script - prompts that will help the call center worker know what to say.

When your call is routed into a center, the chances are the first thing you will hear is an IVR. These systems ususally have multiple choice options that you respond to with your telephone's DTMF tones.

These systems save call centres a lot of money because instead of training each operator how to handle every kind of problem; they only need to know about one or two issues that might occur.

The call routing system makes sure that each operator only gets a limited set of problems to deal with... that's why if you ask for something unusual, most call centre people wont be able to help you.

Call centres are a big deal for large companies, because they can shift their entire customer support operations to parts of the world where labor is cheap.

By minimizing training expenses and getting poor human beings to front for the corporation's Customer Relationship Management system companies save a lot of money.

Call centres are factories. A lot of people don't realise that. Maybe thats why call centres have such a high level of staff turnover. I only realised this the day I resigned from the Sky facility in Livingston. It was my ex call centre manager who pointed it out to me. And coincidentally enough, the building I worked in used to be a manufacturing facility for some odd little plastic thing or other before Sky took it over.

I think call centres suit people of a certain temperament. But they also tend to have two almost opposing sets of temperaments within them. For people who work in them Monday to Friday it is their career, their livelihood. Walk in to a call centre during the week and there is a sort of muted hum about the place. Nobody is moving around. The wall boards are scrolling through page after page of statistics. The managers have their beady eyes on the staff.

But come a Saturday, its a completely different story. The atmosphere is much more relaxed. The people who do the weekend shifts tend to be there for the money, plain and simple. Maybe its a second job for them, maybe they are students who need the cash, maybe they're full time mothers who come to work at weekends just to get away from the kids.

Even though the atmosphere is different at weekends, the pressures are still there. The calls still have to be answered. Systems have to be sold. Money has to be chased. But call centres can be fun places to be if you work with good people and have a good line manager. When I was with Sky my Team Leader was mad, totally and utterly certifiable. She was a great person to work for. And on the whole she wasn't afraid to tell her bosses when they were being thick.

Call centres are brimming with funny stories too, if you've never worked in one you'd never believe what some customers say on the phone!!

Food For Thought:

In an inbound call centre you're forced to deal with a huge amount of information all at one time. Days, times, names and numbers are thrust at you from all angles and you're forced to make sense of it, all while speaking with a customer and trying to solve their problem.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that we (in a collective call centre employee sense) deal with a very large volume of information all the time, and not all this information is something Mr. Joe Blow would really want any one stranger to know. When was the last time you had someone randomly walk up to you and say, "Hi random person on the street! My name is Joe Blow, my phone number is 416 555 5555, and my Social Insurance Number is..." What? Never? Really... well then why don't people have a problem with dialing a 1-800 number and spilling their guts over the phone?

Alright, now since I'm the one writing this, I'll look at it from my point fo view. In the run of a day I can deal with very sensitive information about over 80 people, sometimes more. After not even 10 seconds into the call I have the caller's name, address, home phone number, and probably a business number or cell. Now all of this information alone is pretty potent, but wait, 5 more seconds and a couple clicks later.. payment history, credit issues, billing history, and tons of other stuff I don't even know about yet (i'm still exploring our billing system)!

In other parts of this call centre, credit card numbers (along with all other important info) is read aloud, and if I were the type of person with a malicious nature, i might go around writing that information down, and keeping it for personal use. But I don't, nor would I ever.

With all of this information at your fingertips, you could seriously wreak some havoc on any one person.. or as is ever popular these days, steal their identity.

But nothing much ever happens to those customer we deal with on a daily basis. Why? I don't think most call centre employees really understand with what kind of information they're dealing with.. nor do the customers really realize what infomation they're willingly giving out to some stranger over the phone.

Anyway, I feel the need to say I do the job to the best of my ability and always try to help everyone, even the jackasses (thought there are times I really don't want to).. I'm just mentioning how free we are with our information these days. Keep that in mind.

Another interesting (perhaps scary) thing about call centres:
Much like when you're at McDonalds, you know that you should never piss off the 15-year-old making your burger or you might find yourself bighting into a little something you weren't expecting, never piss off or annoy a call centre employee. We don't have managers hovering over us watching that we don't spit in your burger, and we know how to bend the rules and procedures just right so that you might not get the best result... not that I ever do this :)

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