The Call Centre: My initiation

Tuesday 4 June 2013, 09:25

Angharad Evans Angharad Evans

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When I got the job as a runner on The Call Centre, an observational documentary series set in a Swansea call centre, I admit I had mixed feelings.

Like most people, I had preconceptions about call centres and the type of people who work there. 

I envisaged a sterile, soulless place full of disillusioned, miserable, failed young people. I couldn't have been more wrong.

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Meet Nev Wilshire and his staff of extraordinary characters behind the phone lines

Walking in to the call centre on my first day, I was overwhelmed by the volume of people I was introduced to and the constant noise of people on phones, managers shouting instructions and radios blaring.

It was part of my job to get to know the staff and to gain their trust. After all, we were a huge intrusion into their lives.

Radios were a particular issue for us when we were filming on the sales floor. 

Music is an integral part of staff motivation and you can often hear agents singing along or dancing.

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Happy people sell: Each new recruit has to sing along with Nev

Without music, the atmosphere on the floor dies and so does the drive to sell.

Unfortunately it was the duty of the runners to turn the radios off when there was filming in the vicinity - much to the disgust of some of the team leaders and agents.

It surprised me to find that very few people were unhappy working at the call centre.

Managers worked at keeping their workforce motivated by organising social events, charity days and numerous other incentives. 

Nev - the CEO of the company - even went as far as to instigate a game of egg roulette and a bean eating competition to determine the winner of a sales battle, which incidentally happens to be one of my filming highlights.

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Nev calls a duel between managers Twe and Palmer to find out who is the winner once and for all

I've never been in an environment where the CEO of the company knows most of the staff by name and gets so involved in their working and personal lives to ensure they perform.

His eccentric ways even extended to the production crew, who after months of filming, felt like part of the family. 

I, as well as the other runners and even the producers were often subjected to his maverick ways.

Nev Wilshire Nev sums up his management style: 'Probably Napoleon. Dictator, but his troops loved him'

On one occasion when I took Nev a cup of tea, after thanking me profusely, he jumped on his desk and screamed "GET OUT OF MY OFFICE, NOW!!!" - in full view of a floor of laughing sales agents. 

I was embarrassed, but it was something we witnessed and filmed him doing on a regular basis to the staff and it was eventually seen as an initiation ritual amongst the crew.

The Call Centre was a production like no other that I have worked on. I spent the majority of the time in fits of giggles. It has changed my opinion of call centres.

This one nurtures and cares for hardworking people who face constant abuse from the public, and it will definitely make me think twice about the person on the other end of the line the next time I get a call.

Angharad Evans is a runner on The Call Centre.

The Call Centre begins on Tuesday, 4 June at 9pm on BBC Three. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    I saw the clip of him on BBC news admitting to firing people because they refused to be forced to perform karaoke for him.

    Surely this is one of the most disgusting individuals ever to feature on the BBC.

    Hopefully he'll be put out of business paying off employment tribunal awards.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    There is no doubt this makes great TV but this guy is an HR nightmare! I was gobsmacked at the way he treated his staff and am surprised he hasn't got a long list of complaints against him (or maybe he has!) I do think he means well and under all that bravado is a man that genuinely cares about people if his manner is somewhat questionable. But at the end of the day its all about entertaining TV and hey it is what it says on the tin!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I work in a call centre that is losing money, has no music, little or no incentives and they wonder why !! . Every call centre needs a Nev, especially mine !

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I honestly thought this was going to be a comedy - similar to The Office (and it was as unfunny as The Office). If it is real, I feel very sorry for the people involved. I found it excruciating to watch, neither interesting or entertaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Feel sorry for his staff?!!? They have a far better time of it there than slogging it out for some soulless, sterile profit merchant who doesn't give a monkeys for the people under him. Nev has hwyl - it translates into English as 'zest, guts, determination, spirit' and more personality in his little finger than a lot of CEO's have in their entire bodies. It's a different world because it's a different culture. It's Welsh and it's passionate. And seeks to have a place for everyone, if at all possible. And loves nutters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Set aside the alleged documentary part of the show and take a serious look at the content in this context.

    A young lady turns up at the BBC to start work for the first time. Her boss who is twice her size and three times her age initiates her by:

    1) parading her in front of male colleagues offering and encouraging comments about her physical appearance
    2) forcing her to participate in an activity that is unrelated to her employment, but he enjoys very much
    3) openly comments upon her appearance, education, ability and sexuality
    4) throws things at or toward her
    5) swears at her or in her presence, taking no account of her concerns
    6) questions her sexuality.

    All of these apply equally to male and female.

    I wonder how long it would take the BBC to make every effort to protect this person from bullying and sexual harassment?

    If is good enough for BBC staff, it should be the same for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Great documentary, cant wait to see the next episode, what are people moaning at!, I’ve seen a lot worse bosses than Nev, some people will whinge at anything, funny how they all carried on watching before saying how rubbish they thought it was!.

    No wonder the country's in a state with all this political correction whingeing, its called having a laugh and a bit of fun, people aren’t forced to work there!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    @20 Not only did the BBC spend money on this person but according to his interview on the 1 show, ALL his money comes from taxpayers.

    He tried to explain his cold calling by saying everything he provided was 'free'.

    I.e government grants pay for the lot.

    He gets paid YOUR tax money to phone people up and annoy them.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The moderation team have just censored my comments.

    Having read through my comments, I see no grounds for the censorship, except that I am critical of Nev and I confirmed that his funding came from energy companies and not the Government.

    I cannot imagine what level of monitoring and censorship is being applied to this blog and how on earth the same people could make a reasoned judgement that the filming of people in a place where they have no control and are easily coerced into participation.

    I think that the BBC may be covering their arses! Just like Nev does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I actually really support his managing technique. I suppose most people who are commenting on this are used to the norm. But this man has a genuine passion for his work and supporting his staff.

    They only need to sing, he doesn't mind how good or bad they are at singing, he just wants them to make the effort. Working in a call centre would be extremely challenging due to the verbal abuse they get. If they can't pluck up the courage to sing, how might they cope with the job at hand?

    Although the tea bag joke may have gone too far, overall I think there should be more CEOs like him. I cannot understand why people see it as torture?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Loved this show. I think the CEO Nev seems like a great guy. I personally wish my boss what a bit more like him (I have to find my own dates!). He obviously has a passion for developing a community and motivating people. Seems like a fun place to work. Personally could never cold call so I won't be applying for a job there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Cant believe the amount of negative comments towards Nev, he may be the opposite of politcally correct but thank god for that! I have worked for some CEO's whom I've never met, only to receive negative comments via e-mail, at least he cares for his staff. Life and work is tough especially if you are doing a job that requires you to have a tough skin and that is precisely what he is trying to find out a.s.a.p. without wasting anybody's time!

    The man is a legend wish there was more like him out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Desperate abuse of both the public (cold calling) and the young staff, utterly distasteful and led by an egocentric .... I just hope someone takes him to court soon

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    Comment number 36.

    Yet the company came second in the Sunday Times, Best Companies to work for 2013. It may well be that whilst the bosses management styles are unusual and would put many people off, they may also highlight those that have a natural ability to flourish and excel in a call centre / cold calling environment. If that is the genuine atmosphere of the workplace then it also makes sense to replicate that atmosphere during initiation/interviews so that any employees recognise early on if they don't want to work there. Sure it may be a close line to humiliation/bullying/harassment but then, unsurprisingly, the tv show to date hasn't shown the bosses attitude to dealing with serious issues which would likely occur behind closed doors. If you look at the sunday times survey results the staff appear to be very happy, believe they are fairly paid and feel appreciated. Whatever the techniques the results appear to speak for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I don't see why you should 'feel sorry for his staff.' Nev has clearly found a format that works for him and the people who works for him doesn't seem to mind. At the end of the day, he's not holding anyone to ransom to remain. I work in telesales, though not in a call centre and my greatest challenge (though i actually enjoy what I do) is staying motivated! Looking forward to the next episode!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    nev is an absolute legend. wish he was my boss!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    When you see Nev

    Just think about working for an individual without moral or concern for anyone except Nev.

    Nev will happily drive someone out of the building and their job at will.

    Be wary of anyone who describe themselves to be heroic (Napoleon) or god like (Moses). These are traits of emerging madmen the likes of which you can see in Hitlers emerging years.

    Don't be fooled by the smile of a halfwit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Brilliant. People with negative comments clearly have not worked in sales or visited a call centre to understand what a tough job it is. Sales over the phone or face to face is all about smiling and dialing!
    Motivating people is tough, to motivate 700 mainly young staff to be happy take characters like Nev. You may not agree with his business but it works and he has created jobs for people who can take skills elsewhere in their careers. Its not bullying to get people singing. Its builds team work and self confidence. Champion Nev, and not knock his methods.


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