The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Leash on call-centre hoppers

New Delhi, June 8: It’s known as the tattle brigade — a gaggle of guys and gals who assume pseudo identities and fake accents to deal with a farrago of questions from overseas customers about their insurance claims, airline ticket bookings, student loans or utility bills.

As call centres become big business in India with growth rates projected at over 40 per cent, the industry is beginning to worry about the huge attrition rate in its workforce.

Reason: the so-called vocal brigade is also the most fickle workforce, with every fake Fred or Fiona flitting from one job to the next either on a whim or for moolah.

The business process outsourcing (BPO) companies are finally getting their act together. After a lot of navel gazing, the BPO companies have decided to undertake a scientific approach to reduce the attrition rates in call-centre services that includes managing employee expectations and identifying industry’s long term vision.

A study undertaken by NFO India’s Vocal Workforce on call-centre professionals explores the reaction of people working in situations like different working hours, days, holidays that are determined by the geographic consideration, assuming pseudo identities, learning foreign accents, altered social and family life.

According to Vocal Workforce, “ The high growth call-centre industry is dealing with the spectre of a high attrition rate, and much of this is associated with the need to clearly define a long-term vision for the industry and managing peoples’ expectation in the immediate future.”

The study involved interviews with 1,000 front-line call-centre professionals across 19 leading call centres like GE, HCL e-serve, iSeva, ICICI Onsource, Spectramind, Amex, Citibank and Edaksh in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi.

By gauging their perceptions on more than 65 parameters, the study determines their satisfaction, motivation and commitment at work.

The study also included expert interviews with human resource managers, training professionals, sociologists and psychologists associated with the industry.

According to Abraham Karimpanal, business head (south), NFO India, “The research aims at answering questions that are top of mind for HR professionals and leadership teams in the call-centre industry. These include understanding the needs and expectations of the frontline employees within this industry, while at the same time measuring how the employees coping in this work environment.”

Although working for well-known national and global ‘names’ is also adding to the glamour/delight, the industry is not being seen as a long-term career option, with very low expectations in terms of ‘opportunities for personal and professional growth’ within this industry.

This is driven by the fact that most of the candidates in the industry are reasonably well qualified considering the job description of an associate/agent.

Although happy with the money they are being paid, they are constantly introspecting ‘whether they are being paid as per industry standards or not’. This is the cause for the high level of attrition within the industry, with candidates happy to be switching jobs for even small monetary gains.

Further, they believe that employers are not doing enough when it comes to ‘HR policies to reduce stress at work’ or providing ‘sufficient holidays to recuperate from stress at work’.

Helping employees cope with their ‘work-life balance’ is a more immediate concern area for the employers.

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