Worst Call Centre Stories EVER (Hang Up on Abuse campaign)
Worst Call Centre Stories EVER
The United Steelworkers Union (USW) launched a public relations campaign to educate the public of the psychological impact of customer abuse on call centre workers.
Every day, call centre workers experience racial slurs, sexual harassment and death threats – for trying to do their jobs. There are over 175,000 Canadians who work in call centers across the country. Some industry papers believe the number is as high as 500,000. Internationally, the business of call centres is growing, so it is urgent that the toll of psychological stress, caused by abuse is addressed. Our union represents more than 10,000 call centre workers.
Our campaign also pushed companies who operate the centres to adopt policies that allow workers to hang-up on abuse, deny service to repeat harassing callers and sensitize managers on how to better support customer service representatives. We also wanted to stop the disciplining of workers who do hang up on abusive, hostile customers.
We worked alongside call centre members to find out their real-life stories and then assembled them into a powerful and unique video, working with Point Blank Creative. The video has been viewed more than 121,000 times, on Facebook and YouTube alone. https://www.facebook.com/uswmetallos/videos/652411838253960/
As part of the campaign, call centre workers told their own stories of harassment and abuse on the job and the personal consequences on the public-facing website www.hanguponabuse.ca / http://www.jeraccroche.ca/ The stories are both gripping and deeply troubling. http://www.hanguponabuse.ca/petition
On the website, we also invited members of the public to take a pledge to treat call centre workers with respect and decency. http://www.hanguponabuse.ca/petition There was also a resource section for workers and managers so they could understand their rights and obligations under Canadian law.
Working with call centre members, we came up with a set of recommendations for employers:
- Give call centre workers the ability to hang up on abusive calls.
- Train managers on how to support call centre workers who had a bad client.
- Issue a warning and flag callers who have a history of harassing staff.
- Deny repeat abusers use of your service.
- Create a zero-tolerance policy that reports all violent and/or sexual threats to the police.
- Ensure that there will be no retribution against call centre workers who report abuse.
This campaign came about after a union meeting where a number of call centre workers got up to tell their stories of abuse. As a union, we knew we needed to do something to address this growing problem and the workplace stress that is endured and follows people home, each day.
As a result of this large public relations initiative by the union, we were able to bring this troubling situation to the attention of the public. Media coverage continued this awareness with both radio and print media running stories of the plight of call centre workers. More importantly, the campaign served to show call centre workers that they were not alone in dealing with abuse and empowered them to take a stand with their employers against engaging with abusive callers.
The video is available in English, French and bilingual.
Members of the public
Public awareness campaign