The year was 2019, after reluctantly leaving the BSc Chemistry I was studying at university due to feeling like I’d picked the wrong course. I found myself pondering the new direction my life would take. Everyone had drilled it into my head that without at least a bachelors degree I would most certainly be working to the age of 70 and paying rent on a property I could never hope to own.
My parents came to me with a solution to all my problems, the BT headquarters and call centre had announced they were providing 36 new apprenticeship positions, in the business technical support department. Great news for the prospect lacking youth of my impoverished hometown. This was an exciting career with room for advancement, a chance to work with all members of the community, to build your CV and earn a very decent wage with added bonuses, perks and a team of positive uplifting individuals to top it all off.
Long story short, it was none of these things and i’m going to explain why. Call centres are absolute hell holes to work in, they lure you in under the guise of a promising office based career in which you deal with pleasant business owners who appreciate your help. Kind of like how a predator lures children into a van with the promise of candy. Once they have you under their thumb ( probation period ) the real fun begins.
You are informed during your first 9 months you can be fired for failing to meet a ridiculous set of metrics and targets which cannot be applied to all of the situations which will arise on the call.
You have a target time of 12 minutes to resolve the callers issue, a 30 minute and a 15 minute break which if you log on or log off out-with either of their time limits you are given into trouble. If you are supposed to finish a shift at 5PM and a call comes through, you HAVE to take that call and resolve it. Whether you miss the last bus home or not is not their issue. You have an allocated bathroom time of 8 minutes throughout your day for when nature calls ( if you fail that metric they will also know, because they monitor everything you type, say and fail to do with screen recording software and a dedicated team who work on your floor that monitor exactly how long your calls are taking, you have the customer on hold etc).
When you have to arrange an engineer visit to a customer’s property, you must first get them to verbally agree to a potential £150 fine if the visit turns out to be unnecessary. The number you contact connects you to call centres based in the Philippines, mistakes and misunderstandings are rife because of this.
The customers are relentlessly stupid, whether they’re house was hit by lightning, they locked themselves out their Email, or their router had malfunctioned it is entirely YOUR fault. I once had a man screaming at me demanding his call was taken higher because he received a template letter in the post telling him his bill was due, I informed him it was a mistake due to a bank holiday, and his account was fine, but he continued his verbal assault (people are very brave when they are hiding behind a phone).
And then there’s the manager, or my manager at least, an emotionally immature, self absorbed, self-loathing sack of shit who was only in her position by virtue of being there for 8 years, not due to competence of any kind, this was paralleled with her lack of soul.
She would roll her eyes at you when she spoke, break down in tears to her higher up when she wasn’t having a good day, then proceed to inflict herself upon her innocent workforce trying to make ends meet with threats of disciplinaries, firings and other punishments for the rest of the day. She would give us new starts even more demanding work and clunky software to get used to, “training us” on complaint handling when we were only a month into the job already trying to get used to three other specialties of our department. None of the other 28 recruits under the other managers were to be put on complaint handling.
She told us it was an “exciting new way to work with our customers who need us” which roughly translates to more work and heat from the most dissatisfied and irate customers. See this manager was gunning for her superiors position, she wanted to be the best manager on the floor and that meant constantly whipping us into submission with any fault she could find, she was a fundamentally unhappy person.
At this call centre i witnessed a pandemic (pre COVID btw), of obesity, depression, substance abuse and absences. Fully grown, middle aged men were in tears from the way customers had screamed at them and the managers follow up question of “why didn’t you try and offer them an upgrade”. I witnessed a culture of brown nose progression and corrupt upper management who would sneakily look for ways of firing people who appeared to have mental health issues, by using their minefield of metrics and unachievable targets to get them out the door and avoid legal action.
Seriously if you have any sense of self respect, preservation, happiness or ambition DO NOT work at a call centre, they will suck the life out you and tell you its because you have a problem, you’re not made of the right material.
The massive staff turnover rate, unlimited online videos, blogs, studies and horror stories about these exact issues don’t lie. They are present in call centres all over the world.
Leaving that job was the happiest i’d been in all the months I worked there, my life seemed brighter, I woke up with energy again and a renewed sense of well being that my future was better than anything that place could have brought to me.
I now have plans to return to study and am currently happily working full time in a static and mobile security role, in a COVID quarantine hotel and also at a corporate industrial site.
Anyone else have any similar experiences in any work place i’m interested in hearing about it.