Life choices have led to me having more jobs in 20 years than many people have in a lifetime. This has good points and bad, but generally the variety and constant delivery of new faces and new challenges has suited me well. However, one job stands out as one of the worst experiences of my life.
This was the second call-centre position I experienced. The first one having been good fun, supporting, motivating and team-oriented, I was totally unprepared for what I found here. I’d like to share the reasons I think this company failed its employees and customers alike:
The ‘leaders’ would bark unreasonable orders and expect complete compliance.
After parking my car in an unmarked area that, it turns out, was a ‘forbidden’ parking zone for employees, I was called at my desk and told to move it immediately. Then they changed their mind and told me I should use my only break (not wasting company time.) When I refused, I had to stand and hold up my hand like a naughty schoolchild, so the manager could pick me out for a ‘chat’.
It resorted to ‘carrot and stick’ methods of motivation.
Outdated and inhuman, these methods would be more at home in a Victorian schoolroom than the modern workplace. Naming and Shaming was the method of choice; you were praised and paid when you met targets, and in danger of losing your job if you didn’t. You were charged for loss or damage to equipment, so people avoided the charges by nicking stuff off someone else. The ‘support’ team walked around bandying the little power they had by issuing threats to anyone caught breaking a rule.
It ignored the importance of human contact.
This workplace was bursting at the seams with people, yet in two months I hardly spoke to a soul. We were assigned to teams, but didn’t share the same shift, let alone the same work area, as those we were teamed up with. We were told where to sit and that changed twice a day: I never sat next to the same person twice. This was quite honestly the loneliest job in the world.
This wasn’t a home for people who cared.
Aside from the debilitating lack of human connection, it was simply impossible to fulfil your job. Customer service was not valued. The targets were sales, meaning ‘problem’ customers (i.e. those that needed help) were considered a waste of time, put on hold and transferred. One customer was so surprised that I called back when promised, he offered me a job! Unfortunately, I could only refer his problem electronically – no names, no voices, no chance to chase – and it never got solved.
The pay for this soul-sucking experience
was, frankly, shit.
Well actually, no. I’m not bitter, but the thought of working somewhere like that again fills me with dread. By the end of just two months, I experienced a total lack of confidence, spent a lot of time crying and felt totally drained. It horrifies me that a workplace like this still claims to be a desirable employer (the sign outside makes just this claim) as it uses up and spits out whoever walks through its doors
But what really amazes me about this whole experience, is why the company even feels it works. The cost of the company’s enormous staff turnover – 3 weeks of training for each new intake, plus the increased support and whatever other costs are involved in setting up new members of staff – and the inability to maximise the talents and efforts of those who are there, makes no commercial sense.
It is quite likely, with sales targets playing such an important role in keeping people in line, that the company made a profit, and it is patently clear that’s all they wanted to do. But a different way of working – one that values employees and nurtures their skills – can result in 2.5 times more profit! (source: WorldBlu)
Overstressed and underpaid staff, their achievements ignored and failures excessively punished, are unlikely to do more than put in their time. Employees who feel customer service is a burden must damage the company reputation by failing to care. Those who do care, and want to do better, will not survive here, and will leave.
Fortunately – slowly – attitudes are changing. Billionaire businessmen recognise the value of paying a living wage, while other organisations are emerging to help employers create ‘democratic workplaces’, ‘happy startups’ and energy management systems that encourage and empower people to give their best. And the overriding message from each of these ideas is this:
I know from experience that the more supported I feel, the more an employer believes in me, trusts me and gives me opportunities to shine, the more I want to give back. When a company pays me for the value I provide, the more likely I am to care. I’m proud to be part of the company and I want to give it my best.
With happy (fairly paid) employees, a business wins. With motivated and engaged staff, the customers are happy. Happy customers come back and the business wins again.
It’s a cycle of success that makes so much more sense.
Agree, or disagree? Tell us your thoughts.