Response to 'Gen Y Doesn't Want to Work in Your Call Center'

David Filwood

In response to Gen Y Doesn't Want to Work in Your Call Center:

This is an example of how ‘bad data’ can lead to bad conclusions, and even become a dangerous incitement towards age discrimination in employment, which violates labor law in the US, Canada and the UK.

From just 401 respondents drawn at random from an online panel of individuals in the UK, I’d caution against drawing too many conclusions from the Sodexo ‘study’ about Generation Y's (employees aged 16 to 28) perceptions of working in a Call Center in the US or Canada, or the UK for that matter.

In today’s labor market there is a ‘tsunami’ of candidates applying for call center jobs. In 2009 there was an average of 30 job applicants for every vacant call center position in the U.S. This applicant-to-hire ratio varied from a high of 51:1 in the North East - to a low of 17:1 in the South.

According to the most recent Direct Marketing Association Survey of Teleservices Members - 26% of call center agents are students working full or part-time. This means that at least one-fourth of all call center agents are part of Generation Y's (employees aged 16 to 28) demographic.

Regardless of age, Baby Boomers/Generation X/Generation Y, very few employees view working in a Call Center as a ‘prestigious’ line of work. However, most students/GenY's still think of it as an opportunity to make money, even if they don’t view working in a contact center as a chance to grow professionally.

Regardless of age, working at a call center is not a lifetime career choice for the majority of employees. Call center work is generally acknowledged to be tedious, stressful, repetitive & boring. Since 2007 this recession has reduced call center turnover by one-third, but that still means that the average annual turnover rate for the call center industry is 27 percent, meaning that the ‘average lifespan’ of a full-time call center agent is just under four years. For part-time agents the ‘average lifespan’ is just under three years.

A call center job requires an employee to uniquely combine reliability with flexibility and mix adherence to a schedule & procedure with adaptability in order to meet customers’ needs. Call center employees are rewarded for metrics such as customer satisfaction, volume of calls taken, sales quota and product knowledge, to name just a few.

Call center agents have to manage customer interactions constantly in an environment driven by targets while their job is constantly monitored electronically. Each of these realities contributes to employee stress, decreases job commitment, increases absenteeism, and potentially decreases the quality of service delivered to customers. Regardless of age, while most everyone can use a telephone, not everyone is cut out to work in a call center.

Since 2007 and the onset of this recession, the unemployment rate for students/GenY's has soared to over 25 percent in the US and Canada. That's more than twice the national average.

In the UK the unemployment rate for Students/GenY's is over 18 percent. The decision to apply for a call center job is measured mostly by practicality. The Sodexo ‘study’ about Generation Y does the younger generation a disservice by portraying them as a "generation disinterested in call centers. The employment statistics for Students/GenY's working in Call Centers simply don’t support that assertion.

David Filwood is the Founder & Principal Consultant at TeleSoft Systems.You can find out about a Free Trial of SPAS Call Center Agent Pre-Employment Screening Software at