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Call centres may benefit the competition

CALL centres, hailed as a boon for WA’s economy, can prove harmful to the businesses employing them.

The industry in Australia is believed to be worth $6.5 billion a year and is growing at around 25 per cent a year.

However, call centres can have the unwanted effect of isolating the

company they are working for from customers and losing the company business.

One such example was a potential customer trying to insure the contents of his Perth home with CGU Insurance prior to Christmas.

His insurance efforts stalled because of the presence of Cyclone John and its soon to arrive offsider Cyclone Ilsa – both of which went through WA’s north-west.

The call to CGU was put through to a call centre in Sydney.

The insurance seeker was told the company could not offer policies because of cyclones in the region.

It appears the operatives in CGU’s Sydney bunker were unaware just how far the cyclones were from Perth.

Calls to CGU’s Perth office at the time found its ‘no policy when a cyclone coming’ policy could be bent considerably. Perth homes would still be covered.

This was of little comfort to the insurance seeker who had taken his business elsewhere.

Australian Customer Service Association president Jillian Mercer said information received by the association suggested customer tolerance for call centres was very poor.

“Call centre operators are trained to answer with scripts,” Ms Mercer said.

“This can prove very frustrating to a caller. I know a lot of people that won’t deal with them.”

Ms Mercer said call centres were known as the new ‘sweatshops’ in Europe.

“The staff in the centres are poorly paid and because they are paid per call they can be abrupt in some cases,” she said.

However, West Coast College of TAFE Joondalup campus director Kevin Chennell believes call centres can be very effective if the operators are properly trained.

The TAFE has become the first WA organisation to deliver specialised call centre skills training.

“There is a recognised need in the industry for better training,” Mr Chennell said.

“If a call centre is done properly it can increase customer service.

“Call centres are moving from an easy way of answering calls to a customer interface.”

Mr Chennell said scripts were important because operators had to have consistency and quality.

At the same time, he said, operators had to be able to pass enquiries on to somebody who was better able to deal with them if required.

Mr Chennell said more mature operators were being favoured by the call centre now because they had more lifeskills.

Apparently salaries in the industry can reach $45,000 a year.

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