30 Nov 2004

A Brief History of Call Centres

Part One: Banishing the Back Office.

A combination of economics and technology has created call centres. The desire to get more for less created the need for companies to centralise; therefore taking their operation out of city centres and into the outskirts, in a bid to transform the country into a car park.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, using technology as an excuse, that has driven the rise of call centres. It’s a logic that says “We need more call centres because our customers want to contact us by telephone” while customers are saying “I need to contact people by telephone, because I don’t have a choice, they’ve moved everything into a call centre.”

Management have been determined to banish ‘back office’ work. The ‘back office’ conjures images of gnarled old men punching holes in strips of paper while Bob Cratchet chucks another log on the fire. Back offices were filled with people who used to ‘do stuff’ and they have been replaced by computers that ‘don’t do stuff’. It was a necessary to make companies profitable.

A hundred people were once employed, on four pounds an hour, to 'do stuff'. Instead, we have Management consultants who are paid four hundred pounds an hour to work out why nothing gets done.