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
    +6

    Comment number 10.

    Also if you are not willing to sing a song along with others how are you going to take the knocks and swearing by those that answer the phone. Best to ship them out early. If they are unsuited as he said its better for their lives and his to cut the employment shorter sooner rather than later. Very street smart.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 9.

    What I get is that Nev really cares for the people he is a people person and 'loves em' and being a leader is not just about praising those at the top but also bringing up those that have got knocked down which must happen on the calls a lot. I also liked his practical interview as the people that you work with make up 50% of your waking hours and I get he has created a positive environment in a challenging business. Hats off to his there are few people out there who can of created in the 20th century from scratch 700 jobs. As an owner he also behaves differently from managers because its his business and culture vs a safe monthly paycheck. Taking the knocks and building people up is part of that type of job. Foxtons have a similar but estate agent type test I believe. A real eye opener of a successful real life business builders and entrepreneur. My respect and admiration goes out to Nev.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 13.

    His methods are unconventional and I can see how some people might see it as humiliating, but given the job these people are doing they have to be the confident and outgoing type to start with. Not much point being a shy, retiring wallflower. He knows every one of his staff by name and seems to care for their wellbeing, not something that can be said for a lot of call centres. Chaotic, yes, not everyone's idea of an ideal working environment, no, but it works for them so no harm done.

  • rate this
    +5

    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
    +4

    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?!

 

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