View Full Version : Call centres - how helpful do you find them?

30th Apr 2002, 06:24
There was an item on BBC news just now about how the rail enquiry centre fails to give best routings/fares. Made me think about call centres generally....and this is what I thought..

I have worked in a call centre (no, not for the rail companies) and being someone a little older I noticed that the younger generation on the whole only answer direct questions and don't think laterally. This is either a function of the schooling process or idleness - I could never work out which as some of the individuals involved are clearly smart and capable. The concept of going that step further to give great service is not of interest, it just doesn't feature. It is not that the individuals don't wish to give good service, they genuinely think they are!

If the reporter conducting the mini-survey on the rail enquiry service had added, is there an alternative routing from another station, then I am sure he would have received the full information.

In Britain of the 21st century, you get what you ask for, no more.. no less...and the scary thing is those providing the inadequate service really often don't realise it!!

What do you think?


30th Apr 2002, 06:31
You give the answer when you say "I have worked in a call centre (no, not for the rail companies) and being someone a little older I noticed that the younger generation on the whole only answer direct questions and don't think laterally. This is either a function of the schooling process or idleness"

Most (but not all) school kids today are not taught thinking skills or how to find things that are not so obvious. perhaps the nanny culture, TV are contributors to this.

The same thing happens if you write querying something. Then you appear to get the nearest scripted answer.

Alpha Leader
30th Apr 2002, 07:50
Don't call centre operators all work off FAQ lists with ready scripted answers?

30th Apr 2002, 07:51
Just think yourself lucky if you get to speak to a human being at all :mad:

And you're right - it's then impossible to get past the scripted answers.

I think it goes deeper than the idleness / schooling thing. I suspect the people are actually given a script of stock answers and replies and not allowed to deviate from them.

We live in the days when everything comes down to so-called "training" and "standard procedures" which means no-one can think for themselves even if they want to. :mad: :mad: :mad:

Gunner B12
30th Apr 2002, 08:02
The problem is that quality is now considered to be uniformity, hence the fear of deviating from the scripted answers.

The thing is people find ways to fudge the stats. I know of a government call centre who used to regularly be lambasted for poor response times. They realised that only calls which made it into the queue were timed so now have a special arrangement in the network which, if the waiting time goes over a preset amount of time, closes the queue to incoming calls. They have been praised for the improvement, no longer get the heavy treatment in the media but no one has ever looked into how much of the time this government service has the lines closed for.

Would you believe 75% of the time. Some service that is!

:( :( :(

30th Apr 2002, 08:21
Fox Fire, we desperately need your inoput on this one!:D

30th Apr 2002, 08:33
:D Press 1 if you wish to have my real viewpoint.
Press 2 if you wish to review other opinions
Press 3 if you can't be @rsed!

30th Apr 2002, 17:01
hmmm "Don't call centre operators all work off FAQ lists with ready scripted answers" the short answer is "yes and no" some places do. I used to work on a call centre and each question we'd get from the customer was basically different, the speel that you'd give about the services ended up just being learnt off by heart so you'd end up going into a totally memorized speech if asked about certain things when at the pub

Send Clowns
30th Apr 2002, 17:23
But the BBC's department of crap statistics completely misinterpreted this survey. The results were from a Which test, asking only 62 querries, but all on the tricky side. Apparently some of the routes requested had not been travelled by anyone for more than 2 years they were so obscure. The Association of Train Operating Companies' spokesman agreed this is a useful survey, showing improvement (last time it was 90% wrong, this time less than 70%!) and where they can make furhter improvements. However in a more realistic test 97% of enquiries were answered correctly, so don't be fooled by statistics!

30th Apr 2002, 17:59
I used to work in a call centre - we had to stick to the script whatever happened, and in the end I was fired - for hanging my jacket on the back of my chair. So yes, call centre managers are indeed fascists.

Tartan Gannet
30th Apr 2002, 18:50
Firstly, I feel sorry for the poor s*ds who have to work in these underpaid and high pressure jobs. Part of Thatcher's legacy. I could sympathise with the charge by Steamchicken that some Fascist junior boss sacked him for hanging his jacket over the back of the chair. For Christ's sake, its NOT as if any customer would see it, but as I know these little jacks in office love to throw their weight about.

Yes I have had to endure someone asking me questions off of a script when previous answers would have indicated that the later questions were redundant.

I HATE having to deal with call - centres. Believe it or not I PREFER the automated, computerised response. "If you wish to check your balances press 1 followed by hash, etc" and hate it when I have to deal with some human being instead. A machine is objective, unemotional, non judgemental. It doesnt have a bad hair day, wrong time of the month, an unintelligible accent etc, all of which I have had to endure on the phone. An electronic voice telling me that the funds have been transfered, or the time of the flight or train is far more satisfactory, even if sometimes I have forgotten and said "Thank you!" at the end.

No, it is unfortunate that as the REAL jobs were destroyed in the 1980s poorly paid and harsh conditioned "Mac Jobs" such as these flooded in to take their place. And yes I DO agree that the silly experiments in Education such as the Comprehensive System has produced a generation who cannot think outside of the box.

From BOTH sides of the Political Spectrum Generation X has been shafted. Im glad I have no children!:( :( :(

30th Apr 2002, 19:05
Actually TG so are we!

:D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

30th Apr 2002, 19:17
steamchicken, you were fired for hanging your jacket on the back of a chair????

were you given several warnings first or were you just fired straight away?

Send Clowns
30th Apr 2002, 22:39
So TG the fact that no-one wanted to buy crap products of British nationalised industry produced under poor management at huge costs forced on them by the over-powerful unions with no responsibility had nothing to do with the job losses in the 1980s?

Tartan Gannet
1st May 2002, 05:02
SC, yes, there WERE faults in the Nationalised Industries but Thatcher's wholesale destruction of them was NOT the cure. I feel this was more motivated by political dogma than other considerations, and what the Tories did to the railways was unforgivable.

Im afraid that these are the subjects, Economics and Industrial Relations, on which we will never agree, although we can find common ground on many other points. To my mind the wholesale destruction of complete communities in Mining, Steelworking, Shipbuilding was far too high a price to pay.

As to the poor management of the State Sector, let me tell you that its equivalent in the private Capitalist sector isnt much to crow about as I have recently found to my cost. (The defamation laws prevent me from being more specific).

Fox Fire
1st May 2002, 11:55
Yes CM I'm here on one of my rare visits to JB and find a thread 'call centre bashing' :(

As a person who works in an Oz call centre (as opposed to a UK one - aren't most of those in India anyway?) we for one call centre do NOT and have never have had scripted answers (and workmates who have moved on to other call centres in my area with other companies don't either); and thinking laterally is encouraged. Perhaps scripts are an overseas requirement especially when a lot of UK and US call centres are now in countries other than where the service or company is located.

Personally I think the above viewpoints are pretty generalised but are an unfortunate side effect of the 'battery hen' style of customer service in such places as call centres (ain't technology grand). BUT what alternative is there to call centres in view of the very high customer numbers the company or service has to deal with in this day and age? And working in a call centre is not a bed of roses either - today for example I've been abused 4 times, called an f***wit, silly biitch, stupid, and an idiot - so does that mean I'm multskilled? :p ;)

Fox Fire
1st May 2002, 13:41
I forgot to mention that employees of call centres also have rigid statistics they have to adhere to e.g. calls taken/hour; and call times in some organisations can be very low - can you guys imagine trying to impart as much information as the customer requires plus extra information (including listening for what the customer is ringing for) in 90 seconds or less? If statistics are not up to scratch then more pressure is put on the hapless individual to do better, go faster, become an automaton in the reach for what are quite often impossible service levels.

<exit soapbox stage left> :D

We return you to normal programming <beep>

Feeton Terrafirma
1st May 2002, 15:11
Call Centres. That’s a misnomer. They should be referred to as Answer Centres, but that would imply that you can actually get answers!!

In the last few days I've been shopping for car insurance (after the current company was taken over and the new owner put the rates up 400%) and I’ve struck a number of very different styles and results from call centres. The one's where there is no lateral thinking, and "I must complete this call in 60 seconds" attitude will fail to get my business every time, purely because I am after something a little different to Joe Average.

A very small number however have listened, have gone the extra 3 inches, and have been able to provide a quote, rather than the frequent answer – “We don’t seem to have a rate for that car, good bye”

It really makes you ask the question, what are the “gone is 60 seconds” companies trying to achieve? Certainly it’s not growth of the customer base, and certainly it’s not high value customers!!

Not happy Jan!!

1st May 2002, 15:29
Tartan Gannet,

When there was (and is) a worldwide over capacity in steel production I am intrigued to hear some suggestions of possible ways we could deal with that which do not involve massive, and painful changes in communities which depend on it. I remember only too well how the prevailing attitude in the UK at that time was that we have a right to make steel, cars, ships (whatever we don't make any more) regardless of cost and quality and whether there was a market.

Instead of just saying there must be a better way, please enlighten us with some suggestions, including how they might be paid for.

Incidentally, I hate all call centres and fear that the anger and frustration they cause may well lead to civil unrest. :mad: :mad:

Feeton Terrafirma
1st May 2002, 15:34
Actually most call centres seem to embody the theme - This would be a great business, if it wasn't for the damn customers!!

The sooner those companies go belly up the better!! On the other hand, congratulations to those (like Foxy) who are providing good service and make a customer feel welcome.

1st May 2002, 17:34
Phoned my banks call centre today and they were most helpful in arranging to cancel my Direct Debit (ex ITV Digital customer)

2nd May 2002, 01:50
If the day comes when you are fortunate Pulse1 enough to call yourself a tradesman. Feel free to comment on the demise of British industry. There are many of us about who have suffered from your short term narrow minded vision.
We are now suffering Thatchers legacy which has left us jobs in MacDonalds or Call Centres. What is your suggestion to the thousands of skilled craftsmen who can no longer utalise their trade. And don't tell me they weren't highly skilled as certain shipyards in the UK still send their tradesmen over to Europe to fix the f*c*Ups that european tradesmen make before a ship is commissioned. This doesn't apply solely to the ship building industry either. So before you air your Thatcherite vision be aware that you may be dictating to those that know!!!

2nd May 2002, 08:07

I was not aware that I was expressing any view - just asking for alternative suggestions about how do deal with over capacity.

I am not sure how you define "tradesman" but, before and during the Thatcher years, I was employed as a process chemist in a variety of industries connected with automotive, aviation and electronics. I do not see that role as being any different to any more traditional trade. Many of my colleagues lost their jobs at that time. I survived then purely by the luck of being in the right place at the right time. Towards the end of Thatcher's new Britain I lost my job and investment following a management buy out when the bank pulled the plug because we didn't fit with their new policy(following a take over by TSB).

Now I fight tooth and nail to keep a business going and several "tradesmen" employed. That fight depends on our collective ability to be competitive in a global market place which, thanks to the present slump in telecommunications, has a massive over capacity.

That is why I am interested in alternative suggestions. When I think of the Thatcher years, I will give her credit for changing attitudes and the awful working practices which prevailed before the 80's. Unfortunately, this has allowed equally awful management practices to prevail, one sympton of this being the advent of call centres, the topic of this thread.