I’ve just read an article in today’s Guardian with a clear argument about the UK’s current policy towards higher education. It’s not the overall discussion that’s prompted me to write this post, just the following 8 words – ‘One in six call-centre staff have degrees’.
In the article this statistic is used to question the value of a degree, with the strong implication that this is far too high a proportion. But why should it be seen this way?
1 – The UK has a service-led economy, and many services are sold and supported via call centres. They are a vital component of service delivery and as such are incredibly important to a company’s performance.
2 – They are also an excellent example of pure line management – how do you build and maintain a motivated, productive team of people in order to deliver day in day out to exacting standards?
3 – Those standards are all closely defined, monitored and performance managed, using complex technology/data management to give live data.
4 – Much call centre activity is a complex web of in-house, mid-sourcing, out-sourcing and off-shoring making the management of all the contracts, cultures and stakeholders a minefield.
These four points are just the first that spring to mind, I’m sure that you can think of many more, so surely businesses want very intelligent people working in them (whether those people have degrees or not).
I was just chatting about this to my colleague Martyn who remarked how similar an environment a call centre is to the trading floors you find in banks – large open plan rooms with many people at their desks, focussed on the screens, talking on the phone – their every action monitored, graphed & overseen by the compliance team. These trading floors have been seen as ‘graduate’ employment for at least a generation, so perhaps it’s time that Call Centre’s also got the respect they deserve.