Psychosocial Risk Factors In Call Centers

CoolAvenues Newswire | February 04,2014 03:36 pm IST

INTRODUCTION


Call centers are comparatively a recent introduction to the world of career options in India. The career avenues provided by call centers are one of the best-suited and growing option which even a fresher can opt for.

With the opening up of the Indian economy and the advent of globalization more and more companies from abroad are basing or outsourcing their call centre services to India, a trend started by GE when it established a call centre near New Delhi in 1998.
 

A call centre is a service centre with adequate telecom facilities, access to Internet and wide database, which provide voice based or web-based information and support to customers in the country or abroad through trained personnel. Call centers exist in all sectors of business including banking, utilities, manufacturing, security, market research, pharmaceuticals, catalogue sales, order desk, customer service, technical queries (help desk), emergency dispatch, credit collections, food service, airline/hotel reservations etc. The wide area of services provided by the call centers makes it a lucrative career with a range of opportunities.
 

Traditionally, call centers meant only voice-based customer support. But now most call centers are more of a contact centre, offering e-CRM services that include voice based customer support as well as e-mail response, web-based text-chat services and other customer interaction channels. The call centre services can be 'inbound' where in calls are received from customers enquiring about a service or product that an organization provides. The call centre services can be 'outbound' where in calls are made to customers to sell products or collect information/money etc. Call centre services can also 'specialized' say in business processing where in calls are made from one company to another company.
 

Some call centers stick to only domestic businesses dealing with customers within the country called domestic call centers while others such as an International call centre mainly deal with clients from abroad say from US, Europe etc. There is a great scope for Call centers in India, with a large population of educated English speaking people. The wide range of opportunities, comparatively well paid jobs for the minimum qualification it requires and the facilities the companies provide like to and fro transport, subsidized meals and medical facilities makes Call centers a good option.
 

Call centers have been aided by a range of telecommunications and computer technologies, including automatic call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), and computer telephony integration (CTI), which allows the actions of the computer to be synchronized with what is happening on the phone. In addition, early customer relationship management (CRM) technologies, such as Siebel, and other database systems, were heavily employed in call centers. The latest internet technologies allow "virtual" call centers to be established across a company's telecommunications network without physically putting all the people in one office.
 

The staff of the call center is often organized in tiers, with the first tier being largely unskilled workers who are trained to resolve issues using a simple script. If the first tier is unable to resolve an issue the issue is escalated to a more highly skilled second tier. In some cases, there may be third or higher tiers of support.
 

Call centers have their critics as well. Some critics argue that the work atmosphere in such an environment is de-humanizing. Others point to the low rates of pay and restrictive working practices of some employers. There has been much controversy over such things as restricting the amount of time that an employee can spend in the toilet. Furthermore, call centers have been the subject of complaints by callers who find the staffs of the call centers often do not have enough skill or authority to resolve problems.
 

Owing to the highly technological nature of the operations in such offices, the close monitoring of staff activities is easy and widespread. This can be argued to be beneficial, to enable the company to better plan the workload and time of its employees. Some people have argued that such close monitoring breaches human rights to privacy. Yet another argument is that close monitoring and measurement by quantitative metrics can be counterproductive in that it can lead to poor customer service and a poor image of the company.
 

RESEARCH QUESTIONS
 

1. Is working as a call handler more stressful than working in other jobs?
2. Is working as a call handler equally stressful for everyone who works as one?
3. What is it that makes working as a call handler stressful?
4. What can be done to reduce the psychosocial risks associated with working as a call handler?
 

What are some of the problems?

As a call centre worker told recently: "Many of the problems are because the processes are developed to fit the technology, not the workers and sometimes not even the customers."
 

Monitoring

It is common for call centre workers to be subjected to a variety of personal and group surveillance and monitoring mechanisms. Calls can be taped, keystrokes recorded, quality of work monitored, what is said, how it is said.
 

Who and what are monitored? Calls per hour

Length of calls
Time transferring calls
Amount of rework
Adherence to roster/start and finish times
Adherence to standard/set phrases
Number of sales
Dollar value of sales
Tone of voice
Quality of call
Compliance with company policies
Team performance
The worker as a team member
Shareholder satisfaction
Sick leave
Toilet breaks
Who the worker calls
Who the worker emails
How the worker uses company assets
Customer information
 

All of this information can be stored indefinitely.

 

Rate of Work

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