A recent article in the Guardian reported on the launch of a new call centre in Salford that will be staffed entirely by ‘resting’ actors.
According to the article, the company behind this ‘initiative’ claims it actually wants staff to leave and pursue their dreams. It went on to state that the new call centre will be based near the Coronation Street set and BBC studios, so that actors can leave at short notice for an audition and return when an acting job has finished.
At first I dismissed it as a clever piece of marketing, which has delivered some cheap publicity; but then the wider implications sank in and I realised that it is potentially quite damaging for the sector as a whole.
That’s when I got annoyed.
“Sorry I didn’t come into work, but there was this role in an avant-garde play that was to die for.”
First of all, it encourages call centre absenteeism, in a sector which is plagued by attendance and adherence issues. In a survey conducted by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), 48% of respondents cited absenteeism as a major management headache, and this simply adds to the pain.
Furthermore, call centre agents already have to live with the fact that they are widely regarded as having one of the most maligned jobs in the modern world, (according to the Daily Mail, call centre agents are rated worse than traffic wardens).
So why add fuel to the fire? Surely it is in everyone’s interests to champion the role and not denigrate it further.
If you’re not serious about the job, then you won’t take the job seriously.
The article quotes one 24-year-old as saying,
“They drill it into you to never think that working in a call centre is your career because it’s not, you are an actor and you will make it as an actor. This is just a stepping stone.”
If agents are just actors who aren’t treading the boards, surely when it comes to dealing with customers they won’t be fully engaged and will just be treading water.
And why just actors? Why not open your doors to anyone who has a deep-felt desire to be doing something else with their lives, and see what that does for staff morale.
It demeans the call centre professional for whom it is their first and only job. Maybe they once had dreams to be a movie star, (didn’t we all?), but now this is their chosen career and they are damn good at it.
It’s all about professionalism.
Cheap, easy-come, easy-go labour deters investment in training and other productivity measures. It undermines loyalty and corrupts the relationship between employer and employee – all at a time when we need to be increasing levels of professionalism and motivation.
In a recent worldwide survey by Xerox, 42% of respondents held the view that within the next decade the call centre will no longer exist, due to people being replaced by automated systems. But while automation may well have its place, it is highly unlikely that it will ever be able to cope with complex issues.
But what it does highlight is the need for a new generation of call centre staffed by agents who are equipped to deal with the most challenging of customer enquiries. Good luck with attracting the next generation of super agents, when the job isn’t valued or respected.
To engage, or not to engage? That is the real question.
The key to reducing absenteeism and lessening the headache, lies in a holistic approach that ensures every employee is fully engaged at work.
As we previously reported, Gartner are championing the cause of Workforce Engagement Management; underlining how the shift of focus from optimisation to employee engagement is essential to improving the customer experience.
This is where Gamification comes into play. By using game-mechanics to motivate, engage, coach and reward agents, it injects an element of fun into every single working day, (since when has that not been welcome!)
This combination of game mechanics, material rewards and social interaction is proven to drive agent engagement, (don’t take my word for it, see for yourself agents’ experience of using EvaluAgent Gamification in this video).
Gamification provides agents with countless opportunities to display their resourcefulness and initiative and then be acknowledged, both through material rewards and the acclaim of their peers.
Furthermore, Gamification has been designed to be user-friendly and employs easy-to-use dashboards. As a result, any wannabe luvvies can get to grips with it faster than it takes to realise they’re not getting a call back.