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BEST PRACTICE IN CALL CENTRES 2004

By Clyde King,2014-06-17 12:41
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CWU RESEARCH

BEST PRACTICE IN

CALL CENTRES 2004

    CONTENTS

    ; Introduction………………………………………………………….……………….3

    ; Remote Sourcing……………………………………………………………………..4

    ; Staffing………………………………………………………………………………..6

    Reasons Cited For High Turnover………………………………………………...8

    Call Centre Retention Policies…………………………………………………….9

    Temporary Staff………………………………………………………………….13

    ; Pay.………………………………………………………………………………......15

    Pensions……………………………………………………………….…………19

    ; Work-Life Balance & Family Friendly Policies…………………………...……..20

    Annual Leave………………………….…………………………………………24

    Other Leave…………………………………………………………………….. 24

    ; Attendance Arrangements…………………………………………………………26

    Overtime Criteria……………………………………………….………………..28

    ; Performance Measures…………………………………………………………….29

    Measuring Service Quality..……………………………….…………………….30

    ; Training……………….………………………………………...…………………..33

    Induction Training……………………….………………………………………33

    Ongoing Training……………………….……………………………………….34

    Career Progression…………………….…………………………...……………37

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    ; Health & Safety………………………….……………………………...………….39

    Sickness Absence………………………………………………………………..40

    Stress…………………………………………………………………………….41

    Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Breaks………………………………………42

    Working Environment…….…………………………………………………….45

    ; Union Relations……………………………………………………………………48

    ; Conclusion…………………………………………………………………...…….49

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INTRODUCTION

    In June 2002 the CWU published its first analysis of call centre employment, examining best practice and providing some clear guidance for achieving better working conditions for call centre workers.

    Two years on from our initial report, the problems associated with call centre employment (relating to recruitment and retention, training and development, management style and working conditions) continue to demand attention from unions and call centre managers.

    Using the latest published research evidence from organisations such as Incomes Data Services and the Call Centre Association, the CWU‟s latest study of call centres seeks to highlight some

    of the best examples of working practices in relation to staffing, pay and pensions, family friendly policies and issues relating to performance, attendance, training and health and safety. The report also aims to identify some possible improvements.

    Aside from concerns about call centre terms and conditions, the last two years have witnessed a growing threat to the industry‟s long term viability from remote sourcing, and the CWU has been

    at the forefront of the union movement‟s response. We believe that competition from low wage economies overseas could have a devastating effect on the UK economy, leading to the loss of thousands of jobs from some of the UK‟s poorest regions.

    The call centre sector currently accounts for around 1.6% of the UK‟s working population, with around 420,000 employees (Labour Force Survey, 2002). From huge sales-oriented centres to banking service centres via emergency information lines, call centres are present in almost every sector of the economy and fulfil a huge variety of functions.

    Instead of focussing purely on cutting costs, call centre companies should be looking at how to maximise the quality of service they offer by providing better training, more comfortable working environments and improved management. The CWU believes companies should be

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    developing a high road business model based on investment, innovation and productivity and we will continue to press for positive Government involvement to make that a reality.

    One of the most important assets for call centre managers is having motivated, competent employees staffing their centres. Companies have consistently had problems recruiting and retaining the people they need to sustain a successful call centre enterprise. This document, it is hoped, will provide some helpful guidance for achieving the aim of a productive, efficient call centre industry. Highlighting some of the major issues regarding terms and conditions in the call centre workplace, „Best Practice in Call Centres‟ also stresses the importance of training and a supportive environment to maximise the potential of all call centre workers.

    Call centres must be encouraged to invest in staff to provide a safe and healthy working environment and to continually upgrade their skills and technologies to maximise employment opportunities in the UK. Failure to do so can only serve to undermine the UK call centre sector with damaging consequences for CWU members and for the wider UK economy.

REMOTE SOURCING

    There is currently a serious and growing threat posed to the UK call centre industry by the potential loss of thousands of call centre jobs through remote sourcing to developing countries. BT is planning to create 2,200 new call centre posts in India by the end of 2004, HSBC plans to employ 8,000 people in India, China and Malaysia and Aviva plans a 1,000 person call centre in India. Several other British companies including Prudential, P&O, British Airways, Thames Water and Thomas Cook have sought to cut costs by outsourcing their call centre activities to low wage economies.

    Companies believe they can make operational cost savings of anything between 40% and 70% by remote sourcing call centre work. BT staff in Bangalore will be paid just 80p an hour compared with ?6 in Britain which equates to ?3,000 a year instead of ?15,000 in the UK. Mitial

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    Research predicts a sharp decline in the UK call centre industry and says that a third of Britain‟s larger call centres will close by 2005, triggering around 90,000 job losses.

    Overseas competition has put extra pressure on the UK based call centres to prove they can compete in terms of cost, service and technology. The extra pressure creates high stress levels and attrition rates among staff, which drive up costs, while service quality suffers. Instead of focusing on costs, companies should be looking at how to maximise the quality of service they offer by providing better training, comfortable working environments and better management. That will improve staff motivation, increase productivity and lower attrition rates which will in turn cut costs.

    MPs are to launch a wide-ranging inquiry into the loss of thousands of call centre and IT jobs from the UK due to remote sourcing. Critics fear that if remote sourcing of call centre activities continues a major source of revenue for the Treasury could dry up as jobs, skills and profits go overseas.

    The DTI recently commissioned a report titled „The UK Contact Centre Industry: A Study which was published in May 2004. The report aims to provide information about the UK contact centre industry which stakeholders can use to develop policy and initiatives to build on the success of the industry.

    Unveiling the report, Patricia Hewitt argued that the UK has a vibrant call centre sector that is forecast to grow. She said that British call centres are unbeatable on quality, and that the best British call centres are the best in the world. However, she emphasized the need for British call centres to position themselves according to their strengths and to compete on quality rather than on cost.

    In response to the threats posed by offshoring, the CWU has developed a global organising strategy aimed at protecting members in the UK while ensuring compliance with decent labour standards abroad if and when work is outsourced overseas. To address the threats posed by outsourcing the CWU have identified the following key objectives:

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     Maximum consultation with employees in advance of any decision to outsource overseas; No compulsory redundancies with any job losses dealt with through voluntary severance

    plans;

     Redeployment/retraining packages for employees whose jobs are sent offshore; Compliance with ILO core labour standards including the conventions on the right to

    organize and on collective bargaining throughout company supply chains.

    It should be noted that despite the recent growth in outsourcing, some UK companies say they have no plans to outsource call centre work abroad. They include Carphone Warehouse, Alliance and Leicester, Nationwide, MM02, Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS. Some of the key reasons cited by these companies for not remote sourcing are the increased risk to data security created by geographical distance, a lower level of consumer data protection in other countries, and a wish to maintain strong links with the communities in which they operate.

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STAFFING

    In our previous study we reported that consultants, Blue Sky have estimated that the constant turnover of staff costs employers over ?1.1bn every year. Between 20% and 33% of call centre employees change jobs every year, according to their survey, and this has been worsening continuously over the last five years.

    On average, staff turnover stands at 25% in call centres, according to the latest IDS survey, although most observers view this as a serious under-estimation with the real figure being closer to 33% (there is reportedly a range of between 0% and 88%); compared with 18-20% in the rest of the economy.

    The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development have found that, on average, the total overall cost of turnover per employee is ?3,462 (the figure is over ?5,408 for managerial and professional staff). The use of agency staff to address staffing problems in call centres is in decline according to the IDS. The average proportion of temporary or agency staff in the call

    Recruitment Problems by Region

    60

    50

    40

    30

    20

    10

    0

    % of Call Centres Reporting Problems Recruiting

    Wales

    West Mids

    Source: IDS 2003

    North West

     7 Yorks & Humber

    Scotland

    UK Ave

    East Mids

    North East

    South West

    South East

    East

    centres surveyed by IDS in 2000 was 11 per cent, compared with 10 per cent in 2001 and only 6 per cent in 2002.

    In the public sector, turnover is up slightly to 14.7%, though this is still well below the industry average of 25% and less than half that in retail (37%). At the same time, public sector organisations continue to pay the highest wages: ?15,300 per annum on average for customer service advisers compared with the overall average of ?14,500. Public sector organisations also tend to have a better track record of introducing family friendly policies and flexible working practices including job shares and training opportunities.

Reasons Cited For High Turnover

    Reasons Cited for Staff Leaving Employment

    55

    50

    45

    40

    35

    30

    25

    20

    15% of Staff Citing Reason10

    5

    0

    Intensity ofPayTight LocalOtherWorkingCompetition

    EnvironmentLabour MarketConditionsfrom other Call

    Centres

    Source: IDS 2003

    Note: total adds up to more than 100% because respondents could identify more than one answer.

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    Reasons Cited for Staff Leaving Employment

    55

    50

    45

    40 % of Staff Citing Reason

    35

    30

    25

    20

    15

    10

    5

    Intensity of Pay Tight Local Other Working Competition

    Environment Labour Market Conditionsfrom oth er Call

    Centres

    Poor rates of pay is the most common factor (cited by 47% of those surveyed) in causing people to leave call centre employment. This is hardly surprising when the average wage for a call centre agent stands at just ?14,500 compared with national average earnings of ?25,025. The second major influence on staff turnover, cited by more than 40% of those surveyed, is the intensity of the call centre environment. However, the „buzz‟ and vibrancy of the call centre atmosphere is also highlighted as one of the main features that staff like about their work. Other reasons influencing staff turnover include the local labour market and competition from other call centres which may relate to rates of pay and working conditions (including the hours, monotony of work and lack of career progression etc.).

Call Centre Retention Policies

    Retention Problems by Region

    80

    70

    60

    50

    40

    30

    20

    % Reporting Retention Problems10

    0

    Wales

    North West

    Source: IDS 2003

     South East

    The IDS survey 2003 asked organisations to describe any initiatives that had been taken to Yorks & Humberaddress staff turnover, aid recruitment or reduce absence. A significant majority of organisations

    Scotland

     9 UK Ave

    East Mids

    North East

    West Mids

    South West

    East

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