Call Centers are mainstream. You see call centers in TV commercials and on the cartoon pages of your daily newspaper. Both are great indicators that the call center is a “household word.”
Ten years ago if you told someone you worked in a call center, they responded by asking, “A call what? What’s that?” No more. In fact, I’m waiting for the TV sitcom to come out because the life in a call center is such “real life” and full of story after story. So it’s no surprise that call centers make the news as did
On August 23rd in the
The fact that they ceased operations makes it a newsworthy story. How they did it makes it a noteworthy story for the call center community. I am well aware that this story most certainly has layers I am not privy to that would shed light on the circumstances that caused the company to cease operations. The story’s headline was, “
The company was quick to point out that they were not like “other American retailers” who were cutting jobs. No, they were transferring jobs. Pay no attention to the fact that the new locations were 70 miles and 1,470 miles away so you could choose between a little over an hour’s commute or a day’s!
A remarkable attempt to appear pure and caring. In all fairness, it’s important to report that they did offer 60 days’ severance pay to anyone who could not accept the transfer. Somehow it would not surprise me to find out that offer had holes in it, but I’ll never know and don’t want to know.
If you taste or smell something foul, it’s the company’s culture. No one denies a corporation’s need to make tough, difficult business decisions. We accept that no decision is good for everyone and in fact, people are often hurt even in the best of decisions that come down from on high.
Now, take a look at a different view of life in a call center. In a letter I received in August from an American retailer, The Dress Barn, was this statement: “We have expanded our telemarketing, website and fulfillment operations and moved them in-house. At Dress Barn we are committed to offering you superior customer service.”
What is remarkable about this letter is the notification of the move “in-house” of their operations. Yes, the call center is mainstream!
The letter goes on to explain that past customer experiences have fallen short of expectations both for the customer and for the company. Now neither you nor I know if the letter is purely a marketing effort or a demonstration of the real essence of caring. What we do know is that Dress Barn didn’t need to inform cardholders of the change. What we can hope for is that this is a real demonstration of exactly who they are and want to be.
We can hope that when the tough and difficult decision was made to bring operations back in-house, they didn’t pull the plug in the middle of the phone call. We can hope that if they face a new tough and difficult decision to close or downsize, they will not pull the plug in the middle of the phone call.
If something tastes or smells fresher, it’s the company’s culture.
It’s gotten very popular to talk about “culture” and apply it to business settings and strategies. While references to good ol’ Webster can be trite and space filling when an author has little to say, I find this one remarkable enough to insert. Pause for a moment and think about your definition of “culture” and then return for Webster’s (On line Merriam-Webster to be exact).
Culture: 1) The act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education. 2) Expert care and training (beauty culture). 3) Enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training as in the acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills. 4) a) the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. b) the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group c) the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a company or corporation
What I take as the most common meaning of the word, i.e., the references to customs, beliefs, and all other things sociological, was down in the 4th spot. It didn’t surprise me that “4c” referred to the use of the word in the business world. That indeed speaks to the pervasiveness of its use.
Notice the distinction made in the third definition saying that this is not about vocational or technical skills but about enlightenment and excellence through acquisition of intellectual and aesthetic training. It’s as if the third definition defines both the first and second while the 4th applies it.
So I pondered this for a time as I put this article together to see if “culture” was really the essence of the two stories about two call centers,
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