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Call for Recognition

June 2003
Originally appeared on

Opinion Piece

Call centre managers don’t get the respect they deserve from the common reference used to describe them. Here’s why.
By John Carver

When I hear or read the word ‘industry’, smokestacks and not call centers come to mind. The term is used most often to describe distinct groups of productive profit making businesses such as the steel, manufacturing or banking industries.

Many, if not most, of the individual companies in these industries have call centers to service their customers. They also have sales forces, marketing departments, accounting groups etcetera, but we don’t refer to the people working there as members of the ‘sales industry.

So why do we suggest that the managers responsible for the work carried out in the call centre are members of ‘the call centre industry’? We shouldn’t and when we do, we’re doing these people a disservice.
The phrase ‘call centre profession’ is more applicable than ‘call centre industry’ when referring to the people who make their livelihood in the call centre. According to Webster’s, the word ‘profession’ means ‘a whole body of persons engaged in a calling requiring specialized knowledge’. If that doesn’t apply to call centre managers, then it doesn’t apply to anyone.

"It's time our language caught up
with the times" ---Carver

It is estimated there are 70,000 call centers in the U.S. alone with more than 7 million people employed in them. That’s ‘a whole body’! The ‘calling’ can be defined as “ensuring every transaction results in a positive customer experience”. The ‘specialized knowledge’ required by the manager includes a good understanding of the varied technologies that support the centre, agent motivational techniques, ergonomics, leadership, analytical skills and on and on.

There are call centre management courses offered in our colleges. Supervisors, Managers and Directors can achieve Call Centre Industry Advisory Council (CIAC) Professional certification (see DMN February 2003, page 8 “Canadians among first certified for contact centre management.”)

We’ve come a long way in the past 15 years or so and it’s time our language caught up with the times. Call centre managers are professionals in every sense of the word. They are members of the call center profession and should always be referred to as such.

The expression ‘people in the call centre industry’ continues to have meaning and shouldn’t be eliminated from our jargon. In my opinion its application is perfect when referring to those of us on the peripheries who are consultants, suppliers and vendors to call centers.