Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hi, This Is Nick Speaking, How Can I Help You?

Call centres. Hate 'em or hate 'em, you can't escape 'em. They seem to be one of the many necessary evils of this modern world what we do live in. Well, maybe they're not that necessary but I doubt that they're going anywhere anytime soon. This was a fortunate thing for me in the late Nineties as, fresh out of university and still sporting a little bit of hair, I found myself donning the headset and taking the abuse that a call centre operative gets.

There's something uniquely dehumanising about working in a call centre. You put on the magic (and fetching) headset, you log into the phone system and you cease being that individual person and start being defined by statistics. The amount of time you're logged in, the times you take fro breaks, the calls you clear per hour, the number of sales leads you pass across. These are the things that define you - not your likes or abilities but whether you maintain the stats, keep the numbers up, don't let them drop. Add to that the fact that you're just supposed to absorb all the bile and vitriol that is poured your way (with a healthy soupcon of "regular crazy and demanding caller" thrown in for good measure) and you begin to feel less like a person and more like some call-processing human emotional sponge.

All of which is not to say that the people who work there are inhuman. Not at all. They were people all right - a fair number of them graduates like me who needed to get that cash coming in and start paying off those student overdrafts (and the call centre temp jobs paid good money - high burnout rate). We did our time, plowed through our calls and got very drunk whenever we could (frequently, as I recall).

I worked there for six months as a temp, kept my head down, did my job and was offered a permanent position. I said yes initially, thinking that this was my way on to the career path. Then one day, a moment of clarity - I looked around at the people who'd been on the phones for years or those who'd made their way into the sales team and then stayed there for years and thought, "No, this isn't the life for me."

So I made my excuses, left and launched myself back into the wonderful world of temporary employment...

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