Ethical Issues in Call Centers

call-center image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com

Rightly or wrongly, call centers often get a bad reputation. Whether it's your broadband provider's customer service line or a sales company making repeated cold marketing calls, most people have a story about how they've been driven to distraction by poor service or badgering at all hours of the day from call centers. Complaints also are often voiced about outsourcing to foreign call centers. These concerns raise a number of ethical issues.

Outsourcing

Many U.S. companies outsource their telesales or customer service call centers to countries where labor and overhead costs are lower. Not only does this present ethical issues around the withdrawal of jobs from the domestic market, it presents problems for the often highly skilled graduates who accept phone jobs in developing countries and the people to whom they speak in the United States. Many overseas call centers train their staff to speak with an American accent and give them Western-sounding names; it could be argued that this is a misrepresentation. These practices could also be seen as demeaning for the employee, who effectively is asked to change his identity.

Monitoring

Call center staff members are closely monitored in the number and quality of calls they make and on how much time they spend at their desk. Some workers have been told that they have to ask if want to leave their desk to use the bathroom and are timed when they do so. Workers have claimed that these practices are demeaning at best and deny their human rights at worst.

Dropped Calls and Harassment

Despite amendments to the legislation that governs the national do-not-call (DNC) list and telemarketing rules in 2008, many consumers still receive multiple calls even if they have made it clear that they do not want to be contacted and have added their number to the DNC list. Call centers that use predictive dialers also bombard customers with silent or dropped calls. These occur when the system places calls and does not have an agent available to take them. A reputable call center operating under a strict code of ethics will try to minimize these occurrences and seek ways to avoid causing a nuisance to the people it calls.

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About the Author

Michael Roennevig has been a journalist since 2003. He has written on politics, the arts, travel and society for publications such as "The Big Issue" and "Which?" Roennevig holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Surrey Institute and a postgraduate diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists at City College, Brighton.

Photo Credits

  • call-center image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com