A company in India bought this call center, and it shows.
Pros: Full time work in a region where there is basically none, They'll hire you after the first phone interview, they'll take anyone.
Cons: Hours ensure no work/life balance, Impossible to work around a second job, No job security, No consistency in what you're told, Micromanaged to the minute, Impossible to reach customer satisfaction metrics, Heaps of rules that seemingly exist solely to be defied, No visible management, Expected to show up 20 minutes before your shift unpaid, the first break is unpaid.
Let's start with the pros - they'll hire anyone. They are desperate for employees. After your first phone interview, you will be called in, and they'll tell you to bring your SIN card and a void check. They'll do walk-in interviews too, and I imagine if you bring those things with you, you'll walk out with a job. They'll take ANYONE, and they provide guaranteed full time work, in a time and region where such work is very hard to come by. Just walk in and get 40 hours a week of minimum wage + a few nickels. Not great, but it beats the park bench.
But you may ask, if it's so easy to get hired, why are they desperate for employees? If it's so easy to get hired, shouldn't they have a surplus of applicants? Well, here are the cons.
First, they expect you to show up 20 minutes before your shift starts, and no, you are not paid for this time. You need this time to find a working computer station with a working keyboard and mouse (most people bring their own), sign in, open the plethora of programs and websites you need, and be prepped and ready to take a call/email the second your shift starts. In any other job I've ever worked at, you are PAID for this setup time. Setup starts when your shift starts, and if it takes half an hour to get set up because their computer stations are garbage and there's not enough keyboards to go around, that's on the EMPLOYER, not you. But that's not how it works at Minacs. You can just come in when your shift starts, sure, but that 20 minutes it takes to get fully signed in and start taking customers is taken off your pay, and you will be disciplined – more... and eventually fired for repeat "offenses". Being at work without expecting pay is mandatory.
Which brings us to the computer stations themselves. Most of the mice are broken, as are quite a few keyboards. The computers themselves are incredibly slow and buggy. They're all Macs, because our client is Apple and I guess they demanded that, and a week of working here will show you exactly why the business world runs on PCs. It's hilarious how often the software and the computers themselves crash. The programs you use for the job is INCREDIBLY glitchy. You absolutely can expect it to crash in some manner every single day, sometimes two or three times. When this happens, you need to track the time your computer is down, and notify the scheduling team about it so they don't take those minutes you're not signed on from your pay. Notifying the team is itself a convoluted process of emailing and website inputs that will take five minutes from your day. That's five minutes of hurt to your metrics.
Speaking of minutes, that's how hard you are micromanaged. I work in the email support department, and if you go even one minute between emails, the system flags you as inactive and you are not paid until you go back to active mode. You just spent an hour rapid firing off emails, you just need a couple minutes to lean back and stretch? Too bad. So most people take a little longer than they need to while actually IN an email, but if you're caught doing anything like this, you'll be written up for work avoidance. At Minacs, you're not a person, you're a cog. It's as simple as that.
Scheduling is done on a shift bid that doesn't seem to have any basis in anything. They say it goes on a combination of work performance and seniority, with the former trumping the latter, but I've seen a guy with an average of 4 emails an hour getting priority over a guy averaging 8. It's meaningless, it goes by favoritism, nothing else. But what's worst is that most of the schedules are right in the middle of the day. 11-7:30, say. Good luck having anything else going on in your life. And they'll throw on an extra hour whenever they feel like, to make up for absenteeism or poor work performance by your coworkers. Not you. You've never missed a day? Too bad, other people have, and you need to pick up their slack, so here's an hour. Can't work it? There's the door.
Any real management is invisible. They're never at the site. Your only real 'management' comes from team leaders and the next tier in customer support, and if you have a question about how to proceed with a case, every single one of them will give you a different answer. You're actually encouraged in training to note everything everyone tells you to do, so if you are told to do the wrong thing and you then proceed to do the wrong thing, you can point the finger at someone else. Rather than REALLY train people how to do the job , the company just employs a policy of throwing people under the bus. It's amazing, really. Training is lengthy, but largely useless. It focuses more on how to talk to people and identifying meaningless 'personality types', and not enough on actually teaching you what to DO to solve the customer's problem. They'll send you to the floor without knowing something as basic as where to redeem an OS X code in the Mac App Store, but oh, at least you've got some pseudo-psychiatry memorized!
Bathroom breaks ARE paid... but you have to write down how many minutes you took, and email the scheduling department so they will pay you for the time the system had you in unpaid mode. And if you take too MANY bathroom breaks (I think it's 8 minutes max in a day), you'll be written up for schedule adherence. This 8 minutes also includes time you can be late when returning from a break. So that 30 minute lunch time, with the lunch room upstairs on the far end of the building? It includes travel time. A 30 minute lunch is more like 25, and your butt had better be in your seat at the 30 minute mark, prepped and ready to take another email. You can be a minute or two late, sure, it gets taken off your 8 minutes of grace a day. But that's time taken off from the time you're allowed to go to the bathroom. Like I said, you're not a person, you're a cog. Of course, most people again just use email time to sneak to the bathroom if they need to go, but make sure you're not caught.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is respect, human decency, and the lack of it that Minacs provides. It blows my mind how our managers sometimes ask us why morale is so low and why there's so much absenteeism, when they take half an hour of your life without pay to get set up on their broken computers (the program will likely crash the first time you try to sign in), and stand behind you with a stopwatch if god forbid you have to use the bathroom. We're expected to keep ridiculous numbers of customer satisfaction considering half of our emails are denying requests for refunds, and the response template we're expected to follow for every email just makes us sound robotic and annoys the customers to no end.
My advice to management? This isn't India. I know Aditya Birla bought you, but this is North America. If you want absenteeism to go down, if you want productivity and morale to go up, if you want to retain good employees, you need to start treating your employees like human beings. No half decent employee is going to stick around when they have to show up half an hour early without pay and email permission to use the bathroom. In this economy, most employees here are college educated - one person in my training class had a MASTERS, for god's sake - and we know we're worth more than this. I don't care how much productivity you think you'll lose by letting employees go to the bathroom as they please, or letting them take a couple minutes between emails every so often as long as their emails per hour don't suffer, or letting them have a full 30 minutes of relaxing in the lunch room. You're losing far more productivity in employees just plain not giving an expletive due to how they're treated.
The employees know that even the lowest levels of management don't have to adhere to all this garbage. The employees know that virtually no other job has these kinds of demands, even entry levels in burger flipping or retail. The employees of today are skilled and educated, and are only working for you because there's really nowhere else to go in this economy. And if you're going to treat your employees like dirt, you have no one to blame for employee metrics being so low but yourselves. – less