Clues, Dismissals and Call Centre Calls

Blogger Down

A hot topic in blogosphere: the Sub-Editor of the Sowetan (part of Avusa Limited) was suspended for blogging about his employer on a competitor blogging site. He posted about staff shortages, employee morale and incompetence. A disciplinary hearing followed. He subsequently gave a half baked apology on the same site. The damage was done and no surprise, he was dismissed. As this column was being finalised (November), he was going to appeal the disciplinary hearing.

Pick n Pay

SA’s favourite retailer, Pick n Pay Stores Ltd embarked last year on a R110 million rand initiative to change the brand identity, repackage product lines, transform their stores, introduce changes to customer communication and launch their convienence food range. The most captivating staff nuggets from their SENS announcement: appointment of three experts to the senior management team and branding of 40000 uniforms. The initiative has been criticised and supported online, by customers and marketing analysts alike.

Some readers may be irritated by the brief coverage of the above matters without me probing the deeper stuff – was it right to fire the blogger even if his ramblings were allegedly true? What about freedom of expression or company confidentiality?  Are Pick n Pay staff aligned to the overhauled brand or does it stop with uniforms? 

The point of these examples is not to dissect the content, but to probe the conversations. In both cases, the respective organisations remained silent and distant from the market conversation. So customers and employees have a field day in spreading messages about the organisation, the products/services and HR practices. Sure, they may have outdated assumptions, distorted facts, and jaded opinions. Your organisation may vehemently disagree with their opinion. But until your organisation participates in the conversations, their voices rule in cyberspace. Getting into the conversation is a threat to the old guard. It is messy, uncertain and shows up the fallible nature of the organisation. Corporate PR can’t control the content. Going forward, these conversations across the globe are going to shake up organisational and employer brands.

Calling the shots

Not too long ago, if you contacted an organisation on their advertised number, you could have a heart to heart chat with a permanent employee, on a first name basis. Your call went straight to a fixed landline to a desk in a closed office. These days, you must check the number (landline, cellular, premium rated, or share call) and settle for a call centre, by the numbers response. You must press the right combination of numbers for automated solutions or painstakingly track down a call centre agent. But how do you deal with that automated voice about your call being recorded (or not)?  A quick rundown on the hidden meanings:

“This call is recorded for security purposes” – in the event of a dispute, we will use your words against you and not share what the call centre agent told you.

“This call is being recorded for your protection” – we will save your call indefinitely on the company servers, just in case you suffer from Alzheimer’s and forget that you called us.

“This call is recorded for staff training and development” – we are timing the call centre agent for getting rid of you as fast as possible. Their bonus depends on it. Your conversation will be used to reduce the time available for future customers

“ This call is recorded for quality assurance purposes” – we tried to implement Total Quality Management in the 1980’s. We keep trying. We want to check if you know that the quality of our products and services suck. We will outsource the call centre to China or India in 2009.

“This call is being recorded (no explanation)” – we a brother of big brother. We may report this call to the regulatory authorities.

No mention of whether the call is being recorded – we are big brother. Conspiracy theories .

Until next month, select your recording option and join the conversation.

(HR Future, February 2008)

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