Watching the new BBC 3 series The Call Centre, the thing about it that gets me is how much fun the place looks, so much so that halfway through it had me thinking about emailing the genial boss ‘Big Nev’ a copy of my CV. In just one episode there was a soap-operas worth of romance, plently of laughter and we were introduced to the house band whilst the trailer for the next episode promised even more fun with a glimpse of the bowl of alcoholic punch at the office party. So can the call centre actually be fun….
When you say call centre, you may imagine something like an old airctraft hanger, a grey industrial unit, or a generic glass and steel office block, none of which particularly stir the soul. You’re also likely to imagine an equally dull generic call-centre interior, where workers sit in rows of cubicles and the colour pallate consists of grey, grey, and more grey. Hardly fun.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Why not turn the office into a playground? I’ve heard of one office where a slide has been installed and all prespective employees are encouraged to have a go. Granted it’s not a call centre, but architectural design has been used to make call centres more fun, such as the Thomas Cook Call Centre in Peterborough which includes among its features beach huts and waves. Another Thomas Cook Call centre, this one in Falkirk, also shows what can be achieved just by ditching the traditional rows in favour of clusters and bringing a splash of colour in
Big Nev’s call centre with it’s a house band and football team showed how fun could be integrated around working routines. There are also ‘motivational games’ based around sales targets like balls of steel where agents begin with five balls and gets to take one ball from another agent when making a sale , or pod wars where the agent making the sale gets to ‘sink’ another agent, but if all that sounds a bit rubbish there are the more illicit games which can be played in a call centre such as the hang-up race , word-sneak or call centre hold-em.
How about some good old office romance? This was certainly on offer in Big Nev’s call centre with office speed dating events and no small amount of flirting . According to one survey call centres are even a hotbed of romance, mainly due to the young age range of workers who have a predilection for hitting the pub after work and though I didn’t see much in the way of romance in my place a friend who worked in a call centre belonging to a high-street bank did tell me about a male and female colleague who had a rendezvous in the disabled toilet. Something surprising to me though is the finding that one in four workers reported flirting with callers – not much opportunity for that with my client base of angry pensioners.
For Big Nev making the call centre fun made sense as, in an industry notorious for high staff turnover, it helped with staff retention. So really it’s win-win, staff have fun whilst recruitment and training costs fall.
So why can’t the call centre be more fun?