The Call Centre BBC 3 Live Blog


A new fly-on-the-wall documentary called simply The Call Centre  on BBC 3. I had to watch. As I waited for the programme to start suddenly the idea hit me. why don’t I live blog it? Type out my thoughts as I watch the episode. The worst that can happen is that I produce an incoherent mess, so here goes:

 

I’m watching The Call Centre on BBC 3.

The intro tells us that of 1 million UK call centre workers the average age is 26. According to the voiceover call centres are the “new factories”

They’re talking about voices now. Nev, the boss, says you need to be ‘smiling’ down the phone. My big failing.

A two week training ‘academy’ – Luxury! In my old place you’d be lucky to get two hours before being pitched into the fray.

Now it’s about love. The newbies in the academy are like new meat for the prowling cats. Can’t say I’d ever come across love blossoming in a call centre – No one got chance to speak to each other.

Christian – the one the girls all fancy – is comparing the call centre to his last job ‘flipping burgers’ – the call centre wins for him. It’s his first week – he’ll soon learn.

It’s striking me that people seem to be out of their seats – quite a lot.

George, a sales agent, tries to describe the call centre in three words; fun, enjoyable…… can’t think of a third. I can!

The company are organising speed dating.

Despite the constant rejection it’s actually looking like a fun place to work. This call centre seems more like a club 18-30 holiday than work. The polar opposite of my call centre experience

Now it’s become the x-factor as the staff are auditioning for a ‘voice of the Welsh call centre’ contest.

Christian has a girlfriend of 2 years. Romance over.

The first older employee to be shown – quite a way into the programme. A man who looks in his late 30s. He’s not doing bad at the singing contest, but it’s interesting as it’s so far been presented as a young peoples environmnet. Controversy as one judge suggests that the man isn’t photogenic enough for a side of a bus advert – not what we want representing us. Nev disagrees, but it’s interesting as it seems to be an uncomfortable truth that older people are working in a call centre, fits less well with the ‘not really a real job’ line that the programme seems to be taking.

In 6 years the call centre has grown from 8 staff to 700

Nev says ‘it may feel like a holiday camp’, but it’s all about creating a feelgood vibe to cope with the “drudgery” and reduce staff turnover. Nev says you can “feel the buzz.” I’m starting to think he’s a genius.

The call centre has a band and they’re performing live in the call centre.

We’re introduced to the top seller Anya. Sales technique seems to be dancing whilst calling. Anya says she had a wild past, didn’t go to school much. Apparently her attendance record has been plunging. Nev says she ‘wouldn’t get away with it in most businesses.’

Nev is now working as a match-maker for George trying to set him up with someone else from the centre. He’s got Alex to agree to a date. Now George is getting coaching on his chat-up technique. “It’s like sales” he’s told.

One of the call centre workers, who won the audition to go through to the main ‘voice of the Welsh Call Centre’ contest  is an actress who spent a number of years in the Welsh soap opera – people of the valley. she seems to genuinely be enthusiastic about the job.

We’re back to Anya. She explains she’s got anxiety problems which keep her from coming to work and Nev seems keen to try to help giving her the less pressured job of tea lady.

The tea trolley is being taken round. I’m guessing this is to give staff a cup of tea whilst keeping them plugging away on the phones. I remember when I was in the call centre and one cup had to last several hours. A tea trolley would have been brilliant.

Looks like George has been stood up.. again.

Anya’s still not coming into work. The soft, sad music playing in the background -like the old piano in Neighbours – signals what we’re about to be told. Anya has been let go.

Nev is giving advice to George. “It’s like sales” he says SWSWSWN “some will, some won’t, so what, next”

Trailer for what’s happening next week,… a very alcoholic looking punch and the call centre football team.

Well, lots to think about there – a whole new post maybe. I wonder if these working practices would ever happen at an inbound centre where it’s all about dealing with the maximum volume of calls with the minimum of resources and which usually entails a ‘sit down and shut-up’ management philosophy. The sales agents, providing they’re hitting targets (which aren’t mentioned at all), seem to be looked after more, probably as there much more tangibly making money for the call centre owner. Would I want to work there? Not now probably, but if I was in my early 20s then maybe……….. how about you?

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6 thoughts on “The Call Centre BBC 3 Live Blog

    • It’s certainly not what I’ve experienced in call centres either! I think that in part it is because the dynamic in sales is slightly different from an inbound centre where the emphasis is on taking as many calls as possible with the minimum of staff so managers want you to spend every single second of the day on the phone.

      I did have an interview once at more sales oriented centre and that was a more raucous environment and was a bit more like the one in the programme, but I think that Big Nev’s centre has been chosen as it makes good TV rather than necessarily being representative of an outbound call centre.

  1. As an “older” ex call centre worker I was reprimanded for putting an unprofessional response in my “Out of Office” when off work for a long weekend. The message was:
    I will be away until * * * * anything urgent should be directed to * * * * I have to go for surgery and on my return please address me as Samantha.
    I had my revenge with the following verse:

    I came back to my work today after holidays were spent
    To find that access to my mail was blocked without consent
    I called the local helpline and explained of my dilemma
    And the lady that I spoke with, I think her name was Emma

    I asked how this could happen as the login was correct
    But all that she would tell me was that she would re-connect
    I tried to find out more from her, indeed I was persuasive
    But the only answers that I got were very much evasive

    I headed for my “Inbox” which is what I usually do
    To see how many emails, in my absence, did accrue
    There were four from our solicitors and ten with no content
    How strange, I thought, and tried to find just what these “empties” meant

    I spotted one from “you know who” and asked her what it was
    And she whisked me straight into a room without so much a pause
    My boss, already in the room, it felt like a confessional
    As they proceeded to explain to me how I was unprofessional

    Into my “Out of Office” box, I wrote, just for a gas
    “That after operation, please address me as a lass”
    It seems that message such as that had breached the protocol
    When all that was intended was recipients to enthrall

    I asked them who had I upset, they said that sols complained
    I asked them who the sols were but they simply looked quite pained
    The situation then was used to explore my “other faults”
    But that is for another verse and acts like Epsom Salts

    The moral of this story is when “Out of Office” filling
    Use only simple sentence or you’ll end up with a grilling.
    They say with age comes wisdom but with me that’s not the case
    If you cannot have a laugh at work you’re just a waste of space

  2. I watched this episode right before going to my second interview. Now I want this job even more 🙂

  3. Pingback: Turning Thirty in the Call Centre: What is the average age of call centre employees? | The Secret Diary of a Call Centre

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