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What About the Workers? A New Kind of Contact Centre Survey

Contact centre surveys are numerous, but generally, they aim to understand how well, or otherwise, contact centres are serving customers and to tease out how practices, procedures, systems etc need to be tweaked or radically revamped in order to improve customer satisfaction and service and thus increase sales and profitability. 

But what about contact centre workers?

What about the little, and not-so-little things that can make a difference to an often stressful and demanding job where they are closely monitored: on time to answer, call duration, customer satisfaction etc?

US magazine Contact Center Pipeline has conducted what might well be the first such study into these things. It has put to 231 US contact centre operators a range of questions to solicit information on company policy on, amongst other things:

  • operators’ use of personal mobile phones and the Internet
  • operators having food and drink at their workstation
  • workstation ergonomics
  • timeliness and unscheduled absences

The views of agents were not solicited but Contact Center Pipeline explains its motivation for the survey by saying

“When speaking with agents about job satisfaction you often hear about the ‘little things’: security rules that are enforced, creature comforts and work policies”.

“The decisions driving these rules go a long way toward making a work environment comfortable and inviting. Leaders understand this, and often ask what other companies do about a given issue or policy. So we decided it would be helpful to run a survey on this topic.”

The results for some of the questions seem reasonable (eg 68 percent of respondents permit food and drink at workstations), but results from others are rather surprising. For example, the ergonomics question found over half, 55 percent, of respondents said workstation heights were fixed, and only 11 percent allowed the agent to adjust for any seated height.

Contact Center Pipeline observes

“When it comes to attendance and tardiness, contact centres have a reputation for being restrictive compared to other types of employment. The answers to our survey confirm that view.”

Almost half of all respondents record anyone arriving more than five minutes after their scheduled start time as being late, and 42 percent regard any absence with less than 24 hours notification as being unscheduled.

The report sums up the results by saying “Compared to other jobs in the enterprise, the role of an agent comes with close monitoring and work policies that some may view as confining. That is not likely to change in the future — in fact, as security and privacy become even more important, things may get even more restrictive.”

It does not advocate any relaxation of the policies surveyed, rather it recommends boosting awareness and providing compensating benefits.

“Applicants should get a realistic job preview so they can make an informed decision. Agents should be able to trade shifts (or even parts of shifts) whenever possible. And if the workstation needs to be locked down, let’s have some comfortable break rooms available where agents can snack, nap, chat and tweet with wild abandon.”

You can download the complete Contact Center Pipeline report from the survey here.

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