Call centers : The Naked truth

The age of globalization and the internet has practically reshaped the economic model overnight. The mechanisms of old do not apply anymore and the way companies interact with their consumers has been altered forever.

Everything, from products to services, is now available at  one’s fingertips. The convenience of online shopping with its cheap prices is impossible to ignore, let alone to resist, and it also gives us a false sense of empowerment. Our eagerness to embrace new habits of shopping is at the expense of the high street stores that have, for the most part, vanished from the landscape, unable to compete, forced to oblivion.

People have become more demanding, more impatient, more irritable and, ironically, less sociable, despite the  explosion of social media tools; The have become increasingly reliant on digital devices such as smart phones and tablets. What does it say to you that today’s generation knows more about the use of keyboards than the use of pen and paper ? What does it say to you that physical versions of books or magazines are virtually alien to  today’s generation ? What does it say to you that most of our kids spend more time in front of a screen than outdoors ?

The sense, the very idea of community, mortar that used to keep society together, has eroded significantly. This is a world where selfishness is not only encouraged but force fed through the constant flow of brainwashing advertising that are, nowadays,  dangerously pervasive. This is a world where every one and everything depends on data stored on servers owned  by big corporation and governments.  The “Big Brother” threat has, in effect,  become a brutal reality !!! Your online behavior is recorded and combed through up to the slightest detail. They know what you buy, they know what you read, they know what you watch and listen to.

Companies have gradually disengaged themselves from customers; they have transferred their responsibility for pre-sales, after sales or customer care services to a new breed of desensitized outsourcing entities; those impersonal behemoths operating behind the scene, whose prime goal and interest is to achieve irrelevant target numbers, and which are, for the most part, both geographically and emotionally remote from the base they support.

This does not come without a cost. We have reached a point where all pretense is gone and the notion of customer service has become meaningless.

The first decade of the new millennium is the decade that has come to define the full rise of the contact center phenomenon. What was traditionally the normal appendage of any business has grown into a full blown multi million dollars operation. An noxious industry built on the constant stress and misery of low paid workers who are expected to work grueling hours under continuous pressure from supervisors, hooked up to a phone that never stops, and whose prospects look distressingly bleak.  These cohorts of workers always seem to be one step away from being tossed out at the whim of management. In a maddening obsession of multitasking frenzy, They have to juggle with phone contacts, emails and messaging sessions at the same time.  No wonder call centers were once described as “Satanic mills” by a contact center manager on the BBC a few years ago.

Customers contacting a call center are strange animals. They feel vindicated by the smallest pretext, they feel wounded by the smallest trifle. They throw themselves at you with all the wildest passion they can muster, with all the fury of a vengeful god, with all the rage of a rabid dog, gnawing at your nerves, eroding your confidence, trying to beat you, metaphorically speaking, to a pulp. They bully their way to get what they want, no matter how unrealistic it is and, like a pit-bull with a bone, they don’t let go until they obtain it. They so often deem themselves experts and think they know better than you, that one has to wonder why  they call you in the first place.  It is not hard to imagine them in their unbridled wrath, their mouth foaming and eyes blazing, as if they were possessed.

The French are particularly virulent in this kind of exercise, being the uncontested champion of sorts. But they are not alone.

We are Morlocks to be, hordes of minions on the front line called customer services agents, customer service representatives or other glorified titles. Our supervisors are incensed scions that cowardly refuse to enter the fray while we are gasping for help, fanatic high priest ready to sacrifice us to the altar of efficiency, statistics and targets. And the system is a titanic apparatus whose sole purpose is to shape us into obedient foot soldiers.


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