The other day I received an email from an old client who wanted me to supply her with a list of call centres in the area. He thought a call centre would be an easy-going place to work. He went on to say that call centres are friendly, easy going, and he would be able to work there whenever he wanted for as long s he wanted.

 He also actually said “I want a job where I can ‘rap’ with people without needing to type it up on the computer.”

 I honestly don’t know where some of my clients get these ideas. Apparently, this idea came from me.

 Hello Bart, I wrote in reply.

 It’s good to hear from you again.

 As you know, I’ve been in this position for a while now and I have watched call centres come and go. To be honest, most of them went. One of the biggest ones was in Surrey that housed the Chase Manhattan Bank. It was the size of 2 football fields – one stacked on top of the other and it had literally hundreds of people working there. Their sole aim was to get people to pay their Sears cards.

 That one is gone.

 There was one with a cute name that I cannot remember near main and terminal. They had contracts that ran out and they’re gone.

 The City of Vancouver opened up a call centre called 3-1-1. Operators there get to listen to calls about potholes that are emerging in various parts of the city. People need to type like lightening there and be sufficiently thick-skinned to field cusses otherwise directed towards politicians.  The Area also has the 2-1-1 line that people in various states of emotional crisis get to call to be referred to an agency. All this requires fast typing.

 I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Why don’t they just install Dragon Software/Hardware?” Dragon is a popular voice activated software that, for about $100, will allow you to talk to the computer and the computer types what you say.

 That sounds like it would be just the ticket for someone like me who doesn’t type, Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. You need to take time to train the software to recognize your voice, your accent, and the way you pronounce words. That takes time, and call centres cannot afford time.

 The other problem with dragon is the difference between the caller and the computer. Can you imagine a person calling up a call center and meeting an agent using Dragon? The caller would never know whether the agent is yelling at him or the computer.

 Then there is the problem of flexibility. Call centres are notorious for scheduling. In fact, they keep track of every second of an agent’s time. They time the lengths of calls, the lengths of shifts, and the length of time a person spends on breaks.

Then there’s one more thing – Pressure. Most call centres are set up to sell something. People have quotas to meet, and if they don’t sell enough time shares in the space of an hour. they get fired. Actually that isn’t 100% true. All but a select few leave the position in frustration.

 I did have a person with a significant disability working in a call centre, but that was a while ago, and that position lost.

 It is for reasons like these that I don’t keep a list of a large number of call centres.

 I went on to tell the client that I was sorry for being blunt and I hoped he didn’t think I was being overly negative. In fact, I think I was being positive. I see most call centres as being modern-day sweat shops with controlled time, high stress, and, once you cut through the panoramic views, the luxurious lounges and the staff social wellness coordinator,  miserable places to work.

 For the time being, Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at or at or at 604-464-4195.  If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates. When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.




  1. Sharon Says:

    Good response, Mike. Much more kind than sending him a list and let him find out the hard way. The call centers I’ve seen look more like sweatshops than “panoramic views and luxurious lounges.”

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