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					PERCEPTIONS OF THE CALL CENTRE
 INDUSTRY IN SOUTH EAST WALES

  Presentation to Call Centre Forum

Fiona McAllister, Market Research Wales
      Nick Miller, Miller Research
            February 2001
        STRUCTURE OF PRESENTATION

• INTRODUCTION

•   RESEARCH FINDINGS
    - Street Interview Results
    - Focus Group Outputs
    - Qualitative Interview Results

• CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS
INTRODUCTION
                          OBJECTIVES

Overall aim = to investigate root causes of
    recruitment difficulties
    Specific objectives were:
•   To investigate why there are difficulties in recruiting
    prospective staff onto call centre training/recruitment
    initiatives in SE Wales
•   To explore perceptions of call centre employment
    generally
                OBJECTIVES continued

• To highlight any negative attitudes which may exist &
    may deter potential applicants from taking up
    employment in sector
•   To assess whether there is a need for TEC/CETW to
    develop potential recruits so they are ‘job ready’ for
    instant recruitment
                METHODOLOGY

Approach taken linked together 3 research
   elements:
1. Quantitative survey of 200 potential call
   centre recruits across SE Wales
2. Two focus groups conducted with students
   on a call centre training course & potential
   recruits from outside the workforce
3. Series of qualitative interviews with training
   providers, recruitment agencies and
   employers across SE Wales
Fieldwork took place Oct-Nov 2000
RESEARCH FINDINGS
STREET INTERVIEW RESULTS
                    Q1/Q2: INTEREST IN DIFFERENT
                            TYPES OF JOBS
                                  %
                              Would not consider working             Would consider working


               Factory                                                                        45
                                                                            33


                 Shop                                                                    44
                                                                26

                                                                                 37
                 Office
                                                                 27

                                                                            33
Local authority/Council
                                                    20

                                                                       30
            Call centre
                                                                            33

                          0       5   10    15    20       25        30     35    40    45         50

    BASE: all respondents (200)
             Q3: SPECIFIC INTEREST IN CALL
                     CENTRE JOB
                            %
           Very interested         Fairly interested   Not very interested
           Not at all interested   Don't know


                    20                                     15




                                                                             22


              34
                                                                11

BASE: all respondents (200)
                Q3: SPECIFIC INTEREST IN
                    CALL CENTRE JOB
                           %
          Main Responses –                    %       Responses – Those            %
          Those Expressing                              Not Interested
               Interest
      I like talking to people                19     It doesn’t appeal to me       14
      It is a job                             16     Not my type of work           11
      I would like to do                       9     I don’t like talking on the   10
      something different                            phone
                                                     Too much                      4
                                                     stress/pressure
                                                     Boring                        4

BASE: respondents expressing interest/non interest
in call centre work (161)
                                Q5: PERCEPTIONS OF CALL
                                        CENTRES
                                           %
                                                                                           40
The work in call centres is boring and repetitive                          22
                                                                                           39

  You can suit work hours to suit you and your                                            37
                                                            9
              family in call centres                                                                 55
                                                                                     32
  Call centres offer varied and interesting work                           23
                                                                                                47
                                                                                                                     Agree
                                                                                     32
        Call centres are friendly places to work        7                                                            Disagree
                                                                                                           62
                                                                                                                     Don't know
                                                                                29
  There's too much pressure in call centre jobs                 12
                                                                                                           61
                                                                                29
      The pay on offer in call centres is too low       7
                                                                                                                66
                                                                                27
       Call centres offer good opportunities for
                       promotion                                 14
                                                                                                          61

                                                    0   10            20        30        40    50    60        70


   BASE: all respondents (200)
                Q5: BALANCE OF OPINION ON
                  PERCEPTIONS OF CALL
                       CENTRE WORK
                            %
  Statement of Perception                             Balance of Agreement
                                                               %
  You can suit work hours to suit you and your                28
  family in call centres
  Call centres are friendly places to work                    25
  The pay on offer in call centres is too low                 22
  The work in call centres is boring and repetitive           18

  There’s too much pressure in call centre jobs               17
  Call centres offer good opportunities for                   13
  promotion
  Call centres offer varied and interesting work               9

BASE: all respondents (200)
                      Q6: AWARENESS OF CALL
                     CENTRE TRAINING COURSES
                                %
                                   Yes             No         Don't know

100
                                          88                               88
 90
           76
 80                                                          70
                         68                                                              68
 70
 60
 50
 40                                                                                 33
                              28
 30                                                     25
      18
 20                                  13                               13
                 7   5                                            5
 10                                            0                                0             0
  0
           All        Barry         Caerphilly          Cardiff       Merthyr       Newport
                                                                       Tydfil

BASE: all respondents (200)
                              Q7: INTEREST IN ATTENDING
                                CALL CENTRE COURSE
                                          %
                               Very interested                            Fairly interested
                               Not very interested                        Not at all interested
70                             Don't know
                                                                                         60
60
                                                                                                                                 55
                                            53
50
                                                                                                                 43
40                  39


30                                                     28        28
                                                                                                  23    23
                                                  20        20
20        19                       18                                          18                                          18
     16        14             15             15                                     15
                         13                                                                            13             13        13
10                                                                         8
                                                                      5
                                                                                                                                      3
                                        0                                                     0              0
 0
               All                 Barry          Caerphilly                   Cardiff             Merthyr             Newport
BASE: all respondents (200)                                                                         Tydfil
                         Q9: ATTITUDES TOWARDS CALL
                          CENTRE TRAINING COURSES
                                      %
                                                                                                                      84
     The guaranteed job interview is a good idea          8
                                                          9
                                                                                                  60
    The training would help me achieve a real job                     22
                                                                     20
 I wouldn't want to lose my benefits by going on a                                           57
                                                                       24                                                  Agree
                       course                                        20
                                                                                                                           Disagree
                                                                                   38
                   I don't want to attend a college                                          55                            Don't know
                                                           9
                                                                              29
The cost of travel to the college would put me off                                                60
                                                               12
Family commitments make it difficult for me to do a                      24
                                                                                                  61
                    course                                          17
                                                                    18
   The colleges are too far away from where I live                                                          71
                                                               12

                                                      0   10    20       30        40   50   60        70        80   90

    BASE: all respondents (200)
         Q10: ESTIMATES OF TYPICAL
          CUSTOMER SERVICE CALL
            CENTRE SALARY P.A.
                     %
                                       Mean = £10.02k p.a

Below £9.5k                                            25



£9.5k-£12.5k                                                     34



      £12.5+                      10



 Don't know                                                           38


               0       5         10    15     20     25     30   35    40
   BASE: all respondents (200)
                 Q11: ACTUAL SALARY cf
                    EXPECTATIONS
                          %
                                                Women     Men        All

About what you                                                                            45
  would have                                                                                   47
   expected                                                                          43

More than you                                                   29
 would have                                          22
  expected                                                                 35

 Less than you                        13
  would have                               15
   expected                      9

                                       14
   Don't know                            15
                                      13

                 0               10             20              30              40              50

   BASE: all respondents (200)
                   Q12: EFFECT OF LEARNING
                  SALARY ON INTEREST IN CALL
                         CENTRE WORK
                              %
                           Made me more interested                 Made me less interested
   80                      Made no difference                      Don't know
                                                                                                               70
   70                                                                       65
                  59                  60
   60
                                                         50                                   50
   50
                                                40                                   40
   40

   30    28
                                                                  23
                             20
   20                                      18
                                                                                                       15 15
              9                                                        10
   10                                                8                                    8
                       5          3                           3                  3                 3
                                                                                                                    0
    0
              All              Barry            Caerphilly         Cardiff           Merthyr           Newport
                                                                                      Tydfil
BASE: all respondents (200)
FOCUS GROUP OUTPUTS
             CALL CENTRE COURSE
                 PARTICIPANTS
           Perceptions of Training Course
               Positive                                Negative
•   Gaining of essential skills &       •   Some found attending college a
    building self-confidence and            shock
    self-discipline                         “Too much paperwork…. I
    “If you haven’t worked for a long       hadn’t worked for 20 odd years
    time, having to go in every day         and all the questions were
    really shakes you up….I                 about being at work or at
    surprised myself over that four         college”
    weeks”                                  “Too much crammed in -
•   Awarding of certificate                 should be longer”
•   Trainees not losing any benefits    •   IT element intense for those not
    by attending course                     computer literate
          CALL CENTRE COURSE
               PARTICIPANTS
        How Training Could Be Improved
• Content of course thought to be good, but could be longer
• College environment difficult for some, especially the more
   mature
• Felt to be low general awareness of training & poor publicity for
   call centres
• Perceptions based on stereotypes such as “adverts for
   insurance on the TV”
• Trainees not aware of guaranteed employer interview at end of
   course
• Employer visits widely welcomed, but experiences mixed,
   depending on workplaces visited
              CALL CENTRE COURSE
                    PARTICIPANTS
             Barriers & Incentives to Working
                     in Call Centres
               Barriers                                Incentives
•   Pay, especially lack of overtime    •   Fairly positive perceptions of
    payments at weekends                    nature of work carried out
    “I’d have to work four days at          “We asked them if there was
    **** to get what I get for two          time pressure when you take
    days at (retailers), because I do       calls and they said no, it’s more
    Sundays”                                important that you satisfy the
•   Rates of starting pay with              customer, even if you take 20
    employers who recruit through           minutes”
    agencies                            •   Call centre employers perceived
    “Start at £8,500 – I couldn’t           as good at training staff
    afford that”
          CALL CENTRE COURSE
             PARTICIPANTS
        How Call Centres Could Attract
                 More Staff
2 issues:
•   Pay, especially overtime for “anti-social” hours
•   Employers should be more proactive about going
    into colleges and other centres
         POTENTIAL CALL CENTRE
                RECRUITS
         Perceptions of Call Centres
Overall downbeat perspective on call centre employment:
• Perception of having to deal with irate customers
• Fears of cold-calling/high pressure sales
   “There’s only two types of call centres…. You’re either hassling people
   to sell them something or you’re being shouted at (by customers)
   because they’ve got some problem”
• Anecdotal evidence widespread
   “She said it was the worst job she’d ever had”

• However, when prompted for knowledge of pay & conditions,
   few had direct experience or insight
           POTENTIAL CALL CENTRE
                  RECRUITS
           Perceptions of Call Centres
                   continued
• No real knowledge of hours worked & perceptions of pay rates mixed
• When prompted with pay rates, men still not impressed
  “That might be OK for a single person but it’s no good if you’ve got kids”
• Perceptions of working environment vague:
  - lack of variety (although same as working in a factory)
  - friendliness and team working – no real opportunities for conversation
  as “you’re talking on the phone all the time”
  - perceived to be high pressure by some
• No awareness of call centre training
QUALITATIVE INTERVIEW
      RESULTS
                        RECRUITMENT AGENCIES

Barriers To Recruitment
•   Lack of appropriate careers advice in schools
•   Need for positive PR
•   Need to attract older people
Skills Issues
•   No specific skills gaps identified
Staff Retention
•   Labour turnover 20-25% (repetitive nature of job)
•   To counter this, companies have to offer speedy and visible career
    progression with constant training
•   Influence of new technology may help increase retention by reducing
    routine enquiries
                        TRAINING PROVIDERS
Barriers To Training
•   Travel costs seen as disincentive to taking up training opportunities
•   Fear of losing benefits also has impact
•   Negative perceptions of sector felt to put potential recruits off –
    seen as mundane & compounded by bad publicity around Firstline
•   Training providers consider not enough interaction between
    themselves & client companies
    “There’s no dialogue at all - we just don’t know what employers
    want”
•   One trainer felt length of courses is too short due to funding
    constraints
                            TRAINING PROVIDERS
Who Trains
•   Typical trainee – late teens/early twenties, just left college/given up
    first job
•   Difficulties in getting women returners & mature applicants to train
Skills Being Delivered
•   Perceived skills: basic verbal communications, literacy, numeracy,
    administrative skills
•   Basic skills a significant problem amongst trainees
•   Ethnic minority recruits – English language skills sometimes lacking
Training & Progression in the Workplace
•   Some employers do not provide enough progression opportunities
•   Better training & development would benefit recruitment/retention
                   TRAINING PROVIDERS
              Call Centres As An Entry Point To
                        Labour Market
                 Positive                                     Negative
•   Recruits on personal qualities, rather    •   Trainees have negative perceptions
    than on formal qualifications                 of call centres: images of
•   Provides relatively well-paid entry           regimentation & conformity with
    into labour market                            prospect of humiliation if targets not
•   Quickly builds confidence                     met
•   Comparatively good wages on offer         •   Ethnic minorities: English grammar
•   Perception of less internal pressure          & accents
    to conform to stereotype of office        •   Perceived to be competitive/high
    workers                                       pressure
•   Availability of flexible hours & casual
    work
                                 EMPLOYERS

Recruitment Issues
•   Employers report tightening of labour market/increasing difficulty in
    finding recruits - perceived to be due to local competition
•   For inbound call centres – competitive difficulty of outbound centres
    offering sales jobs with bonuses/incentive schemes
•   Employers ideally want call centre experience when recruiting
•   Many new recruits are young – but older workers & women
    perceived to be more suitable
•   Employers have difficulties in recruiting men
•   Movement towards developing home teleworking for women
    returners
                                  EMPLOYERS

Salaries
•   Salary levels in SE Wales may impact on its status as call centre
    cluster
•   Widespread disquiet about short-term effect of new entrants
Women Returners
•   Perception that supply of women returners is drying up
•   Also difficult to tap into this source - as with ethnic minorities,
    people with disabilities, people over 50
Role of Employment Agencies
•   Some employers report a declining relationship with agencies, now
    failing to keep pace with clients’ demands for new recruits
                                 EMPLOYERS
Disabled Recruits
•   Unsuccessful attempts to recruit people with disabilities through New
    Deal
Negative Perceptions
•   Majority of employers acknowledge widespread negative perceptions of
    industry, especially poor media coverage
•   Lack of marketing or promotion of call centre work in positive way
Skills Issues
•   Employers looking for attitudinal skills, rather than formal qualifications
•   Technical skills not considered important in recruitment
•   Basic skills can be a concern – lack of literacy/numeracy
                                       EMPLOYERS
Labour Turnover
•   Labour turnover ranged from 15-20% up to 50% per year – varies
    according to company culture, nature of work & type of staff recruited
•   Some employers acknowledge embedding staff into a social culture
    improves retention rates
•   Agency staff tend not to stay long
Call Centre Training
•   General awareness of Coleg Hafren course, but employers did not feel
    linked into it & scale of course felt insufficient
•   Perceived problem – calibre of people attending courses
•   Content of course considered to be good general grounding
•   Suggested that stronger links needed between providers & employers
 CONCLUSIONS &
RECOMMENDATIONS
                            CONCLUSIONS &
                          RECOMMENDATIONS
Increasing Take-Up of Training Courses
•   Advertising campaign to recruit trainees for courses & industry to
    raise awareness
•   Investigate establishment of a centre of excellence
•   Marketing of courses within colleges & Job Centres
•   Facilitate a “recommend a friend” scheme
•   Increase levels of co-operation between employers & training
    providers
•   Revisit location of training courses/suites
•   Examine funding mechanisms for private sector training
•   Tie in with basic skills provision
                        CONCLUSIONS &
                     RECOMMENDATIONS cont
Improving Industry Recruitment
•   Facilitate showcasing of call centre environment to redress
    negative perceptions & encourage new applicants
•   Target women returners emphasising flexible hours, training
    programmes, relatively good salaries, progression opportunities
•   Market that employers are looking for “common sense” and a work
    ethic, rather than computer/telephony skills
•   Employers should examine pay structures – overtime rates during
    unsocial hours
                        CONCLUSIONS &
                     RECOMMENDATIONS cont
Other Issues
•   Growth in call centre market is leading to pressure on supply of
    staff and consequent wage inflation
•   Although problem in short-term, in longer term will be beneficial in
    driving up value of activities carried out in call centres in SE Wales
•   Employers need to take responsibility for redressing negative
    perceptions of sector – perhaps by common advertising or
    promotion
•   Lack of co-operation between employers is having damaging effect
    on sector development – concerted action by employers is vital

				
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