Battery hen image of call centres being tackled

The call centre industry seems to be tackling the issue of its "battery hen" image.

The call centre industry seems to be tackling the issue of its “battery hen” image.

The industry is often seen as underpaid with high staff turnover, but a new survey says staff churn is decreasing and wages are rising faster than inflation.

The TMP Annual Call Centre survey says staff attrition has fallen from 25% to around 15%.

“Most call centres experienced difficulties in recruiting staff [70%],” says TMP general manager Jane Kennelly.

“This can be attributed to a range of factors such as changing/high level attrition, call centre culture, misconception of the industry itself and a general lack of recognition in the industry.

“It appears that the industry as a whole needs to promote itself as a career ‘industry of choice’ and sell the benefit of working in the industry as that of a one-stop career,” she says.

Call centre salaries have risen, with average increases of 3.5% to 4% over the past year. Outbound roles and call/contact centre manager roles experienced the greatest increase (6.36% and 6.8% respectively). Inbound customer service rep roles were up nationally by 5.54%.

TMP says the industry expects further salary increases, mainly to keep salaries competitive. “Other reasons include keeping up with the cost of living and the fact that survey respondents were taking on more staff generally. Rising salaries are also expect to assist employers attract new staff,” Kennelly says.

Auckland contact centre Salesforce managing director Michael Masterton confirms it is always hard to get good staff, and says the industry has “troubled connotations” following “nasty” media reports. He confirms bad payers are having to pay more to attract staff though says other centres still “underpay” workers.

For Salesforce, he says, there were factors other than pay behind recruitment and claims its attrition rate was “still under 8% - the lowest in the industry”. Employers have to take a more "holistic" view, he says.

The survey also says call centres are getting bigger and are dealing in more foreign languages. Some 36% of call centres have more than 21 seats, compared with just 27% last year. More than two-fifths also deal in languages other than English; with Cantonese, followed by Mandarin and Samoan, being most common.