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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    Comment number 81.

    Nev has definitely got an unusual way of managing staff. I am no doubt that his style of management will annoy the sensitive PC bunch but it is a little refreshing that the management style is based around delivery and fun at the same time.

    His HR team (which don't seem to be involved much) must have a tough job on their hands.

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    Comment number 82.

    Just finished watching the fifth episode on the BBC iPlayer & was sad to find out that it was also the last as it always cheers me up.

    I was initially drawn in by clips that made it look completely insane, but quickly grew to love Nev & his eccentric management style, plus the wide range of warm quirky characters amongst his equally offbeat staff.

    Nev genuinely cares about the people that work for him, which is very much appreciated & clearly encourages everyone to work as a team. I wish there were more companies with such a positive atmosphere & management, as opposed to some of the soulless depressing places that I have worked for in the past.

    Hopefully Nev's business will continue to flourish & one day we might get to see a sequel :)

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    Comment number 83.

    Dont understand why this show is getting so much abuse. It provides good entertainment and its clear that the people who work there love Ned. Think you all need to stop being so stuck up and just enjoy the show.

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    Comment number 84.

    Let's be honest here, Nev only embraces success and the bottom line. His apparent altruism has everything to do with lining his pockets. He certainly had no hesitation in clearing out the weaker members of his call centre staff when the chips were down, did he?
    I think it's a sad indictment of our times that people have to work in these modern day sweat-shops, although most of the characters on this programme lived up to every unfortunate stereotype of call centre workers, i.e. not particularly intelligent and easily motivated by avarice.
    FWIW, call centres are my worst nightmare and to work in one is my idea of hell on earth! What a boring, futile non-job; if you want sell, then look at other industries where at least you get to some variety to your working day and actually get to meet people!!!

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    Comment number 85.

    To all you Nev haters. Stop being so uptight, he is doing a fantastic job. It may not be your idea of ideal but it is far better to conduct good business in an open and sometimes jovial fashion where success is nurtured, not forced. Everyone will be happier and the numbers will speak for themselves. There is a place for formality, certain laws are also there for very good reason but I do think he has got the balance very close to perfect in his particular work environment and a lot of people, especially those in management positions can learn a lot by simply observing the man at work. Ultimately there is never a perfect way or style to management but a constant adaptation, evolution and innovation so well done to Nev and his team, they are doing a great job and I can only see them getting better with time.

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    Comment number 86.

    There's so much wrong with this set-up I don't know where to begin. The reason cold-callers get abuse from customers is because they are not wanted. The callers' job is to bully customers into submission - they call that 'success'. In order to keep doing this anti-social job you need to be bullied and humiliated into it. If you are young and naive and have no internal drive because you are a needy extravert, you are vulnerable to this abusive manager. The manager is a natural bully. No one with any self-respect would work in a place like that. What's worse is that this unreal work environment will never enhance anyone's self-respect or give them any self-direction in life. Their desperate need to be loved is being ruthlessly exploited. If they eventually grow up they will feel contempt for their younger selves and the manager. It's a lose lose situation.

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    Comment number 87.

    So the series is over & I throughly enjoyed every single one. I am Welsh and have never been more proud that someone is starting to put Personality back into being a boss. Nev came up through the ranks, had businesses fail previously but persevered and is bringing a much needed sense of cultural identity back to Wales and especially to call centres. I have worked in many and see the same character types in all of them at the sub-management level but Nev & his management team really show belief in what can be achieved and have (to coin a local phrase) discovered their "hwyl" and are maximising it - well done! I couldn't give a damn about how he runs his company but seriously, how many of us even know our CEO's name, could pick him/her out in a crowd or just walk into their office and discuss anything? My main point is here is WHY ARENT OTHER PLACES LIKE THE CALL CENTRE as if the "half of your life" you spend in work has to be spent somewhere, better its somewhere enjoyable I say! Well done Nev, a cracking show and well deserved being #2 in the Sunday Times best places to work. For all the naysayers, just look at the list and tell us where your company came in the list!

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    Comment number 88.

    Recommended to watch this via some internet comment. Was actually in tears when this finished! My 21 year old son and I both watch (at different times). Love Nev's eccentric, funny style, jokes, inspiration 'n sayings - so true! If you seek rest, you are bored, if you seek work, you have rest, so to speak. Some will, some won't, so what? NEXT!!!! Have to remember that in dating ;). So what if he shouts 'get out, get out of my office!' You could see the guy he was saying it to was laughing his head off! I'd LOVE a manager like this - CALL CENTRE THE SEQUEL - it's a must!

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    Comment number 89.

    What a bloody marvellous bunch. Nev should be running the country, I'd vote for him. Make Holly the home secretary, she'd soon get the country back on its feet. They are an inspiration to us all.

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    Comment number 90.

    Call Center, has a good pay, attractive compensation package and great benefits but still all these would depend on the employers.

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    Comment number 91.

    Well I wud luv to work @ nevs call centre, great fun , close knit crikey he evem sorts out ur dated, think he is fab !

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    Comment number 92.

    thought it was brilliant! what a happy place to work, the staff are all happy and know what they are joining right from the interview, so they decide if they want to work there or some dull office (as it sounds most comments on here do) be different and enjoy going to work, lifes to short!!

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    Comment number 93.

    Ever wonder why so many people are workshy and spend their time sitting at home watching TV instead? It must be a nightmare coming into work spending eight hours a day in the company of a load of airheads and a childish boss.

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    Comment number 94.

    Navs the man, he really cares about his staff, we need more like minded businessman/ leaders like him to boost our economy.

 

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