Flexible working seen as answer to sweat-shop call centres

Jul 12 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Staff turnover in call centres remains some 25 per cent higher than in other workplaces, but operators who embrace flexible working and offer better benefits can shed themselves of their sweat-shop image, research has suggested.

A study by Britain's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Institute of Customer Service and Aston Business School found that call centres which addressed work-life balance and flexible working issues experienced better results and reduced staff turnover.

They also become more attractive to under-used groups, such as parents and students.

David Parsons, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said: "Call centres and other UK customer services roles have a poor reputation. They are often referred to as low paid and low skilled. But they don't have to be modern day sweatshops.

"They should remain employee focused to create a positive and supportive culture as they rely on staff to retain customers and promote the brand. Treating staff as individuals, rewarding them for success and helping them to fit work around other commitments demonstrates appreciation, and can make all the difference in retaining staff and improving performance," he added.

Flexible benefits needed to be combined with the total reward package if they were to produce positive results, he suggested.

Organisations that developed a benefit package that met the needs of both the business and employees generally achieved a higher standard of customer service.

Organisations with the highest levels of customer service tended to use individual performance related pay, performance judged against customer satisfaction, not just productivity and team-based communication, reward and recognition schemes

Charles Cotton, CIPD adviser, said: "High performance requires staff to feel valued and depends on line managers or supervisors providing support and feedback to all staff, and engaging with them to understand their individual needs.

"There is no one size fits all solution, and what works for one employee or drives the reward strategy for one organisation may not work for another."