8.5 Glossary

job offer: tomorrow I'll kill my boss

ACD-System: (Automatic Call Distribution) Consists of hardware and software. Takes in calls and distributes them to the workers using certain profiles. ACD-systems control the call queues and register all data regarding the calls (call times, not-ready-times...) which can be statistically analysed.

After-call-work: (not-ready-time or post-processing) Extra stress after the call, for instance entry of information on the computer, filling in of ordering or complaints forms. During that time workers usually press the 'not-ready' button on the call master so they cannot receive a call. Reason for continuous struggles with the team leaders.

Agents: Description for call centre workers. Call centre agent is being used by bosses and unions in order to present the drudgery as a profession and to reward it with formal qualifications and certificates.

Assessment Centre: Method for the selection of job-seekers. Those are dragged into stupid games and asked to lower their pants during psycho-tests. Right training for false statements.

Bridging: Turning an inbound-call (for instance a technical question, a bank transfer) into a product-sales talk.

Burn-out: The state one is in after some thousand calls in a call centre (or, if you want, after the shift when you always fall asleep on the bus, miss your stop, and therefore your date, and subsequently grow old and lonely).

Call master: A kind of telephone with more buttons as usual. On the call master you are supposed to log in and out, press ready, or not-ready, transfer calls to other workers or into the call queue-nirvana... In some call centres the call master has mutated into software and lives virtually as a screen window.

Call queues: Callers whose call has been registered by the ACD-system but has not been answered yet have the pleasure to listen to lulling call queue music and are being put in states of hypnosis by gentle female voices. The length of the call queue is often been shown to the workers on wallboards in order to get them moving.

Casualisation: (From causal; in other languages 'precarious' is used, meaning insecure) Term for the increased substitution of unlimited full-time work contracts through temp work, limited contracts, trainee periods...

Clandestine: Means: secret. When bosses should not know who is resisting against their measures, reducing the work rhythm or deciding to push through longer breaks, then it has to be organised in a clandestine way.

Coaches: Call centre talk for the hyenas who burn the standard phrases into your brain during the training, drivel on about the customer care rubbish and generally get on your nerves... In some call centres they listen to your calls, make notes and give you smileys afterwards... or warnings for your incapability.

Cross-selling: Similar to Bridging. During an inbound-call you are supposed to sell stuff.

CTI: (Computer Telephony Integration) Wiring between telephone-and data base-systems. Allows the direct connection of telephone work and computer applications. While receiving a call the workers automatically have all the caller's details on the screen.

Customer qualification: Caller reception including customer number, name... After that the call is transferred to specialised department.

Data Mining: Systematic search for personal data using customer profiles. Found data gets utilized during telephone sales. Similar to selection: search through data using certain marketing criteria.

Direct-to-ear: Direct transfer of calls to the ear of the worker, without 'lifting the receiver' or 'pressing a button' to answer the call. That is supposed to hinder the workers relaxing between calls.

External Call Centre: Not part of a bigger company, but a call centre service provider who gets contracts from corporate customers to handle their calls. See also in-house call centre.

First/Second Level: Form of work organization. The first level represents the first step in call handling, often used in business with masses of calls (customer reception, orders, account balances...). For other work procedures which cannot be done fast and demand special knowledge the calls are transferred to the second level.

Front-/Backoffice: Form of work organization. In the front office workers handle the calls and add information to data bases. All other steps - paperwork, decisions etc. - are made in the back office. That allows a speed up of the work rhythm. Furthermore, unskilled workers can be hired for the front office tasks.

Headset: Unity of headphone and microphone with the effect that the hands stay free. Sometimes headsets are greasy and have an itchy headphone foam.

Help Desk: A department to which for instance computer uses can refer to in order to get help.

Hotline: Description for telephone-based customer or information services.

Idle-time: Time on not-ready or a break... when you cannot receive a call. Literally: the time you are doing nothing. The ACD-system registers that through the monitoring and the team leader controls it - and uses it against you.

Inbound: Describes all incoming calls: information, ordering, booking services, complaints, emergency lines, support, sex hotlines... See also Outbound.

Inhouse-Call Center: Call centres which are not outsourced but part of a bigger company. On the contrary, external call centre service providers organise phone-services for corporate customers.

IVR: (Interactive Voice Response) Speaking dialog system that allows callers to give instructions via telephone-buttons or human voice. The entries are being digitally processed. IVRs are being used for checking customer's secret bank codes or the qualification of callers before their transfer into specialized departments.

Job-hopping: Newest athletic jumping sport from Ruhrgebiet. If you don't like a job because it pays shit or the shift schedule keeps you away too much from important things like being lazy, doing nothing or hanging around you just hop to the next one hoping (in vain) that you'll have more time for that then.

Log in/log out: Registering through typing in user-id and password on the call master and the computer. And to sign out, of course. Similar to clocking in and out with a punch card.

Masks: Fixed input computer screens with set boxes to be filled in or ticked before you can progress through the program.

Monitoring: Team leaders have software that uses the data of the ACD-system and enables them at any time to see who is ready or not-ready, the performance of a worker yesterday or last week... That's called monitoring and is some kind of surveillance.

Mute-button: Popular key on the call master. Its use enables the call centre worker to hear what the person on the other end of the line says but not vice versa. Allows carrying on flirting with a colleague.

Mystery Calls: Calls by testers to control the performance of call centre workers. These mystic snoopers see great importance in the smile in the voice, the compliance with scripts and standard phrases...

Outbound: Outgoing calls: customer relations, market research, opinion polls, arrangement of appointments, sales... See also Inbound.

Outsourcing: Used not just for call centres, it describes the transfer of parts of businesses into external companies.

Overflow: Calls which cannot be answered and go mouldy in the call queues. The overflow gets sometimes re-routed to external call centres.

Power-/Predictive-Dialer: Dialling-system for the outbound-sector that automatically establishes phone-connections on the basis of telephone-lists which are the result of data mining. Busy signals, faxes, answering machines can be filtered out. Produces a lot of stress because it sends you one customer after the other.

Profiles: Workers are being assessed using a certain matrix, for instance what languages they speak, which products they can support... This 'profile' is then programmed into the ACD-system so it knows which calls it can transfer to each worker. Profiles are also being used for customers during data mining in order to determine who should be called during a certain promotion because he or she has just married... and has still not been lumbered with enough credit.

Ready-button: Meanest key on the call master. Whenever you press it the ACD-system can send you calls.

Routing: The telephone numbers of incoming calls are checked in order to find out whether the call should be transferred further - routed - to Bayern or Sachsen, Scotland or Kent. The internal transfer of calls to a worker through the ACD-system is also being called rooting. During strikes the bosses use the re-routing to other call centres in order to get their calls handled there.

Sabotage: (sabot = wooden shoe) Workers on spinning machines invented a shoe-attack which makes the machine stop. Also practicable without a shoe on other machines.

Scripts: Scripts are precisely defined sequences of sentences that have to be read to customers. The compliance with them is often being checked by coaches, through monitoring or mystery calls. See also standard phrases.

Service Level: In some call centres the bosses calculate, how many calls per one hundred are being answered within three minutes, for instance. Anything above three minutes spoils the numbers. An objective is defined for the service level, for instance ninety percent. Sometimes the actual number is then shown to the workers continuously through wallboards or daily notices... in order to put them under pressure.

Smiling: Widened state of lips. Workers are obliged to use it because callers can hear the form of the mouth. In case of non-compliance you are threatened with one-to-one-meetings with slimy smiling team leaders and wage-cuts.

Standard phrases: Precise instructions, for instance, how to say welcome and goodbye to the customer. The compliance is checked and gets on everyone's nerves: 'Hello, my name is Firstname Surname, how can I provide you with an excellent service?'

Supervisor: Slave drivers. In some call centres the team leaders are being called supervisors but often they are the team leaders of the team leaders.

Support: : Term used for technical hotlines, but support often rather expresses some kind of hope and not actual help. The workers often do not have access to all the information they need and they hardly get trained at all.

Taylorism: Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 - 1915) made time and motion studies on factory workers what allowed the further division of work in small steps which can be carried out by unskilled workers. That was the basis for piecework targets and the continuous increase of that amount. (According to unconfirmed rumours he was beaten to death by burned-out assembly line-workers using a clock.)

Team: Most often arbitrary organisational unit on department level. Several workers are being put in a team so they can have a team leader. Logical. The teams rarely have anything to do with the work process itself, it just means a division into certain work steps performed step by step by a specific group of workers...

Team leader: What the foreman is in the factory, the team leader is in the call centre. As a qualification they have to know to snoop and make people work... but also to calm things down and to use the team-babble.

Tinnitus: One of the most common effects of call centre work. You are constantly hearing a sound, a noise, a whistle, although there is nothing. Whoever hasn't learned this yet: Call centre work makes you sick!

Training: Before you can work in a call centre you need to do training. That is some kind of education and takes between two minutes and two months or longer. Most of the time it is a form of brain-washing where the company and the product get praised so you can regurgitate that nonsense later when talking to customers.

Virtual call centre: Combined call centres in different locations. The incoming calls can be transferred to call centre workers in Luebeck, Magdeburg, Cardiff and Brisbane, whoever is not occupied at that moment.

Wallboard: Big running displays that show the amount of calls in the call queue, the service level...

Work-to-rule: Effective method of letting the work process fall apart. Workers just do everything as they are told: no improvisation, no rush, no extra-tasks, no thinking... Can be used for producing pressure...

Works council: (Betriebsrat) Elected workers' representation body on company level. According to German law the works councils can participate in some (minor) decisions like whether to put up a Christmas tree or paint the company's canteen.

WPA: Something like 'words of personal acknowledgement'. The coaches demand that workers often say 'Well done, Mrs Donkey!', 'Thank you very much for your open words, Mr Broom!', so customers get a positive impression. Here is another one: Bullshit!