BBC Three’s The Call Centre documentary has sparked a social media storm. But is it reflective of everyday life in a busy call centre? We talk to one of our dedicated call handlers about her role.
The Call Centre – a documentary series based on a Swansea financial services call centre – has caused a furore on social media and in the press, with eccentric chief executive Nev Wilshire inspiring wide-ranging opinions about his ‘out-of-the-box’ management style.
The documentary is certainly entertaining, but whether it provides a realistic insight into the day-to-day practices at a contact centre is questionable.
Life at our contact centre is certainly a little different. As our customers are mainly charities and third sector organisations, we require a different skill-set from more traditional call centres. We’re not looking to ‘sell’ to callers. Instead we look to offer empathetic support and advice, while building relationships and presenting our customers’ causes in the best possible light.
Alongside our commitment to callers is our dedication to our team. A recent internal survey found that 82% of our team believed that joining Connect Assist has had a positive impact on their lives.
We also pride ourselves on providing jobs in an areas of traditionally high unemployment, with 46% of our team joining us after a period of unemployment. A quarter of those were classed as long-term unemployed (over 6 months without a job), with a further 10% out of work for over two years.
We truly believe we are different. So what separates Connect Assist from other contact centres? We caught up with Team Leader, Rachael, to find out…
How long have you worked for Connect Assist?
I joined Connect Assist as a call handler in March 2011, so just over two years ago. I had graduated with a degree in Psychology from the University of Glamorgan, and wasn’t sure what to do next. I’ve always wanted to help people and I love customer service environments, so I applied for a role here.
Obviously this is a different type of contact centre than most, whereby the ‘product’ is your support and understanding. So what type of training did you receive to prepare you for that?
The training was designed to build up my confidence in taking and responding to calls, and my knowledge of the charities we work for.
To achieve this, I was ‘buddied’ with an experienced member of the team, during which time I was able to listen to calls and make notes, carefully taking in the tone. Many of the calls we receive are from people who are seeking help at a critical time in their life, so it’s really important that we handle every single call as sensitively as we can.
I was then provided lessons in a ‘classroom’ environment, to learn about the charities we work for in a great deal of depth. Before I was let loose on the telephones, I had been given a thorough grounding both in the work we did, and in how to do it. And more than anything, the training had really driven home with me how important we are to the people turning to us for help. My first one-on-one call came around four or five weeks after I started, and I’ve not looked back since.
What gives you job satisfaction?
I get such a buzz from helping those in need. Not everybody has the confidence to pick up the phone to a complete stranger and ask for help and advice, and knowing that I make a difference to somebody’s life is a fantastic feeling.
A call that sticks in my mind was from an elderly widow, who had no access to hot water and central heating during the winter. She was receiving very little support from her family or the local council. During our conversation, I learned that her husband had been a Freemason. I contacted them to see if they could help this proud lady, and within days, they had arranged a visit from a company that fitted a new boiler.
It’s calls like this that make the job amazing.
What is it like to work for Connect Assist?
It’s a pleasure to work here. It’s like a family and everybody is so supportive. I’ve loved it since day one and can’t imagine being anywhere else. Being able to make a difference to people’s lives gives me so much satisfaction.
What types of professional development opportunities are there at Connect Assist?
If you show the potential and you’re willing to work hard, there is huge potential to develop here. I started as a call handler and within six months or so, I was promoted to supervisor, and then again to team leader.
The support is here for everybody to progress their skills. Even if a specific role isn’t available, you will be encouraged to work towards that role, and be given opportunities to improve your skills along the way.
Would you recommend it as a workplace to others?
Definitely. We’re not a stereotypical call centre hard selling products or services. We’re here to support those most in need in society.
We all love each other’s company, but we get our true rewards from the work we do each day. People who work here love the company’s values and its commitment to helping its staff, who in turn help individual callers and charities.
If that sounds like something you would enjoy being part of, then you’ll definitely thrive in this organisation.