What comes to mind when you hear the term “call centre”? Do you imagine pestering outbound callers with highly regulated bathroom breaks? Or something a lot less regimental? A recent blog made me question our perhaps unfair perceptions of the call centre. Should we be more open-minded when it comes to this line of business?
The blog focused on the BBC Panorama programme which aimed to uncover the often sneaky intentions of some outbound call centres, designed to “make money, regardless of how many regulations they have to flout to do it”. The blogger asked whether or not this was a fair view, and suggested that not all call centres be thought of as shrewd, heartless money making machines. The program in question claimed that the majority of consumers did not appreciate sales call from companies. But not all call centres are outbound, and not all outbound call centres partake in this “cold calling” behaviour. The blogger rightly pointed out that many of the automated calls to customers do not originate in call centres at all.
So let’s take the term “call centre” with a pinch of salt, and not assume that they all have the same intentions. But can this open-mindedness be adopted on the inside as well as the outside? Can the perceptions of call centre managers be changed too? Recently, one call centre manager told me that it is not the nature of the call itself, but the relationship formed with the customer that is most important for them. I don’t believe for one minute that she is ready to disregard the standard call centre Service Level Agreements (SLAs – time taken to answer a call; length of call etc.), but her ethos is one to be admired. If a business is to be customer-centric, then this behaviour must start at the call centre. The challenge facing managers now is combining such SLAs with this customer-centric view. But are we fighting a losing battle, if the attitude of the consumer is proving difficult to change? Will the call centre always be seen as the often heartless money making machine?