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Call Centre Camadarie

Published : June 16, 2015

Once, when I was an 18-year-old Journalism student, I changed my place of casual employment from retail assistant at an Australian fashion store to customer service operator at a prominent call centre in Western Australia. Little did I know the simple move would alter my life.

by: Tammi Ireland

According to a 2009 survey by the Australian Services Union, more than 250,000 people, or about one in 40 employed Australians, are employed by a call centre.  Before joining my call centre, life was full of similar-aged, like-minded individuals, and hence full of the somewhat superficial ideals that surround the young fashion and modelling world.  I’d previously only ever worked with females of my own age and ethnicity, and the world in which they lived was the world I knew.

When I quit the retail job and moved into the call centre sector, I also moved into an office with staff aged 16 to 70, male and female, of all ethnicities.  My ideals were instantly and rightly challenged, and I have learnt more about myself during my time there than I had ever learned previously.  I heard different opinions on everything from culture and religion to baking techniques and movie preferences.  Between our incoming calls, the multitude of staff and I would discuss opposing ideals, often getting into heated debates but always respecting one another’s views.

Sixty-two-year-old Sue baulked at the idea of working in a call centre when the opportunity arose, but hasn’t looked back since all those years ago.
“The best part about working at our call centre is the wonderful variety of nationalities that I’ve never encountered before,” she says.
“I’ve learned so much talking to these people about their countries and customs.”

Customer service operator and psychology student, Melissa, 22, says the call centre-social melting pot is unique because members are forced to truly interact with such a wide range of people.  At schools and in big businesses, people tend to be from similar social status, religion and even ethnicities.  In comparison, call centres are unique.

“I think that call centre work ... makes you realise how superficial a great deal of social interaction is,” agrees colleague, and law and economics student, Emma, 22.  
“Through working with people and sharing experiences we are compelled to see them as whole people with unique ideas and beliefs, rather than as a reflection of our first impressions.”

Working in a call centre is not a minority job in WA, or Australia.  Companies such as Telstra, Synergy, Transperth and BankWest employee hundreds of call centre positions for people of all ages in Perth.  Whether fulltime, part-time or casually working while attending university or Tafe, the one thing these people from all walks of life have in common is their type of employment, and as different as we may be, we can all agree we’ve learnt a lot during our time in the office together. 

Flourish reader and call centre employee, Tamara, wrote to us with a deeply loving exposition of the camaraderie in her workplace.  She wrote, 'we are not the power women of our town, but we are in all likelihood the majority.' 

My time in the call centre prepared me for life in the 'real world', as I became more outgoing and accepting of other people.  I mark a lot of those attributes down to what I've learnt from the people I worked with when taking calls from the masses.

While working in a call centre has a certain negative social stigma attached to it, the reality is that the lifelong bonds employees form with their colleagues are an impressive and unexpected upside.  As 20-year-old Jarrad says, “We are the people who book your appointments, organise your bills, run your phones, handle your finances, approve your loans and take care of your utilities.
“We are the people running this country behind the scenes, per se.  We are a majority, and together we are strong.”

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