Dial 9 (published at Diário de Notícias, 09.01.2019. Google translate from Portuguese)

We have all received unwanted contact where they try to sell us something with a mechanized and persistent discourse.

Or we were attended to by someone who didn't seem to know what he was doing.

Worse still - we despair with incomprehensible menus: dial 1 for this, dial 2 for that, when we only hope to know if it is 0 or 9 to talk to the human being.

And who works there? Because of the way they sometimes treat us, we are not very impressed. And many have read news about low wages, precarious contracts and poor working conditions.

And can we conclude that all contact centers - or call centers - are based on low wages, precariousness, little training, unscrupulous sales? Of course.
So why did this bad image stay?

Because they are much more present in our day-to-day lives than we suspect.

Each Portuguese interacts with an contact center three times a week, on average. There are approximately 1500 million contacts per year.
The likelihood of any of these contacts going less well is high. Negative impressions mark us much more than positive ones. And that is the image that remains.

It is not just telecommunications operators that have a contact center. It is also with a contact center that we deal with when we make an electricity contract, when we place an order and we want to know the current situation, when we schedule a medical appointment, when we make and cancel insurance or report an accident and ask for a tow. When we call Saúde 24 or a supermarket chain. When we deal with any issue with Finance, Social Security or municipal services. Or even when we activate our alarm panel, or when we want to know the characteristics of a food, cosmetic or cleaning product. And we don't even escape on vacation - from a travel agency, hotel reservation centers, automobiles, or airline flight reservations.

Oh, and 112? It is also a contact center.

Do not deal with anything over the phone, do you always use mail, chat or social media? There is no escape. It is almost certain that you will also deal with the same contact center that answers and makes calls.
With a turnover of 1.5 billion euros, and employing around 100,000 workers, this is a sector with very different realities, making it impossible to make generalizations.
There are some large centers, with hundreds or thousands of jobs. But a good part has a few dozen or not. Many are more familiar than massified.
Some have a bad working environment. But there are a lot of people with an excellent atmosphere, and many receive national and international awards for excellence in the treatment of people.
There is still repetitive and not very creative work. But much less than there was, and the trend is increasingly for this work to be automated, freeing people for more creative and more autonomous work.

There are facilities with few conditions. But the vast majority have good working conditions, some truly remarkable, in prime areas of the main cities.

Not all employees have adequate knowledge. Yes, but there will be really exceptions. The number of hours of training is much higher than other departments of the Companies - knowing how to deal with any customer and at the same time knowing everything the company has to offer requires ongoing training.

The contact center is a passing job for university students, but it is also the career of tens of thousands of people, in very different roles, or an entry point for other areas of organizations. And it is one of the sectors in which it is easier to integrate older employees, who are generally welcomed here.

In several cities and towns in the interior, contact centers are the largest employer and have made it possible to prevent populations from fleeing to the coast or out of the country.

And Portugal, astonished, is not only the world leader in Cork and in disarray. The headquarters of some of the largest technological companies in this sector is in Portugal. And it is also here that we respond to customer requests in about 40 languages, with the help of thousands of foreign workers who have come here to work and emigrants who have returned.

For the user who is reading this article, if you are still skeptical, imagine going back to the days when you had to deal with everything in person, during limited service hours, with 25-line blue paper and other wonders.

I believe that the image of the contact centers has come and will continue to improve. If you want to know more, my company, for example, is organizing a free entrance conference - 28 February, Biblioteca de Marvila, Lisbon -, where we will discuss the Employment of People with Disabilities or the promotion of Telework. Just check our website -

Manuel Alçada, Managing director Happy Work

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