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Why call centres suck, and what we can do about it

This report looks at the ways the UK could improve its call centres to increase productivity and create jobs.

This report looks at the ways the UK could improve its call centres to increase productivity and create jobs.

Key Findings

  • There is currently too much tech policy focused on glamorous tech companies.
  • If we want to increase productivity and create good jobs, we need to think about how to transform big technology-using sectors.
  • Call centres, which employ a million people across the country, are a prime candidate for innovation.
  • The government could help by investing to support service design and upskilling in this major industry.

We constantly hear about the need for digital technology, with seemingly endless hype about tech startups. But even the 250,000 "digital" jobs in inner London pale in comparison to the million-plus call centre jobs around the UK.

Call centres are inherently digital. They would never have existed without the epic decline in the price of telecoms services since the late 1970s, nor the proliferation of PCs, local area networks, and CRM software.

Nobody, however, seems to think of them that way. But if we improve the way they are managed and the way they use technology, we can increase the productivity and quality of jobs in a sector that currently employs a million people across the country. Doing so would be a major triumph for innovation policy.

Policy Recommendations

  • The Government should invest in innovation and skills in the call centre sector.
  • It should consider setting up a council on industrial service design to co-fund research and development in big service industries.

Authors

Alex Harrowell