Like many reality TV series with larger than life characters, forced spontaneity and hatchet editing, BBC3’s The Call Centre has been making waves throughout the Twittersphere.
As industry experts since 1995 we know a thing or two about the true life of a contact centre. Here, one of our longest serving call centre agents, Vicky, talks about her experiences and what she thinks about the series so far…
What attracted you to working in a call centre?
I’ve been at WeAnswer for six years now and it sounds like a cliché but every day is different, and that’s what I like most about it. The nature of the calls might not change much between campaigns but every caller has their own story and character and most are lovely to speak to.
I originally chose the job due to the flexibility; the contact centre is open 24 hours a day so I can fit my shifts around childcare and other commitments.
The people here are really friendly and a real mix of characters. The team leaders are all ex-call handlers so they understand the realities of the job and know how to support you when you are having a bad day and give advice and training on how to improve your call handling.
I’ve had friends in the past that worked in call centres and I wasn’t sure it would be for me as I thought it might be a bit repetitive, but we are always launching new campaigns for different clients and having training on new products so that keeps it fresh and as I said before, the customers are great.
The team leaders always try to place you with campaigns that suit your own interests as well so you can chat a bit with the customers about the ranges and offers, if it’s appropriate obviously!
What are the toughest parts of the job?
Clearly you aren’t going to get happy customers every call, and if people are stressed they can be a bit short with you. You get used to managing their expectations and, if you are nice and patient and explain everything to them in a fair and reasonable way, they are fine in the end.
It may be impossible to get the customer exactly what they want but there is almost always a way to negotiate a solution.
We know the clients need us to be part of their brand and this certainly keeps us on our toes, but we get heaps of training and on-going support, and regular campaign updates so we can be confident in our delivery and able to answer any customer queries.
And the most rewarding
It’s great when clients come down to visit and you get feedback from them – it’s nice to put faces to names and also to hear how they feel campaigns are going.
They’re really appreciative of our hard work and it’s helpful to pick their brains about new product releases or service offerings we can talk to callers about.
Even though it is crazy busy, Christmas is my favourite time at work – people phone or email in a complete panic thinking a simple oversight is going to ruin their holiday but once you break down the situation with them and look at all their options there is nearly always something we can do to help.
You can almost hear their shoulders un-knotting as the call goes on!
Do you think BBC3’s the Call Centre is representative of the contact centre industry?
I have only worked at WeAnswer contact centre but there has been a fair amount of chat around the tea room about the TV series and no one I have spoken to so far has said they worked anywhere remotely similar. The CEO, Nev, on the TV show is way too overbearing in my opinion, not to mention inappropriate. I can’t imagine working for someone like that – though his staff do genuinely seem to like him – so far!
From what I can see from the agents on the Call Centre they are a lot more, how can I say… informal than we are, but it seems they are encouraged to know the products and services they are representing well and that is massively important to a contact centre and its clients.
The focus so far is on the relationship that the sexist Nev has with the agents and quite a bit on the friendships amongst the agents themselves, rather than the job and responsibilities.
It will be interesting to see if later episodes do address the work more, though knowing reality TV I reckon it is more likely we will get more soap opera and left-baiting sexism. Nev likens himself to Napoleon at one point, as did a candidate on The Apprentice recently – which doesn’t fill me with confidence.
A lot of the agents seem like nice enough people, and pretty resilient. We don’t make cold calls at WeAnswer though the agents there make about 200 cold calls a day, so you can see why Nev would want to recruit strong personalities.
We’ve all been following the hashtag #thecallcentre on Twitter and there are plenty of people asking Nev if he is recruiting – whether they are joking or not is another matter!