Photo: Vitor Lima/Flickr
Working at a call centre isn’t glamorous. You deal with an endless stream of already-annoyed customers over the phone — some cordial, some abusive.But what’s the office environment like at one of these places?
We spoke with a former employee of contact centre outsourcing firm Sitel, who worked as a customer service representative for Best Buy/Geek Squad.
He paints an interesting picture of what it was like to work at the facility in Kentucky — one of Sitel’s 29 call centres in North America. The particular Sitel facility is entirely dedicated to Best Buy customer support.
Here’s what he had to say (we’ve withheld his name for his protection):
We made $8.00 per hour while in training and $8.25 per hour once we completed the training and took our seats on the floor.
I started in the Customer Service field in 2008 at DIGITAL in Colorado making $13.75/hr. after a 3-week training session, so as you can see their pay scale belongs in the “slave wages” category.
You are watched by CC cameras and the phone lines are monitored (a common practice and one that is known to the agent). You log into a phone when you sit down to work, and you log on and off the phone for your time clock.
You are given 30 seconds in-between calls to document the call you have just handled. If you go over the 30 secs., a supervisor will either come over to see what you are doing, or, as the lazy ones do, they will yell at you from across the room.
Since they pay so abysmally the agents are young and inexperienced with handling customers, or even aware that they are in a phone centre where other people’s customers can hear them cursing or gossiping in the background of your call.
The whole call centre is run on a “who you know” basis. For example, they have what is known as VTO; Voluntary Time Off. VTO is OFFERED when the phone call volume is low to avoid wasted time on the clock, which is fine.
But there was a rule about VTO; it was *supposed* to be offered to every person on a “team” (mine was Pacific Sales, there is also Geek Squad Entitlement, Mission Control, Escalations, etc.) but the “good ol boys” who knew people there could get VTO just by asking to leave because they had a stomach ache or some other malady. I complained about the special treatment afforded to others because if they were sick, then it should have been a Sick Day counted against them, and NOT VTO time off.
We were told that if we had to use the restroom that we had to go into our “break time” on the phone system (it clocks you in and out of everything) so that when your break came around to get something to eat or drink, you had to take out your restroom time. It was like being watched with a digital clock which tracked you down to the 1/10th of a second!
In other words, it was like being a Digital Slave.
I’d have to say that anything which might have been good was offset by the way we were treated and the poverty-level pay. I mean, when you pay people so badly that they still have to resort to food stamps to even put food in your mouth, it’s pretty bad. But the non-salaried workers there ALL can qualify for food stamps due to the abysmal pay.
Do you work at a call centre (in-house or outsourced)? Send me an email at [email protected].
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