In The News: Why Canadians are Still Stuck on Hold Despite Rise of Automated Customer Service

August 8, 2023 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Madeleine Cummings, CBC News

Industry experts say the increasingly common and automated customer service options — like chat bots and support websites — are designed to make getting help more efficient. But these new tools, though they are improving, aren’t eliminating phone queues — for a variety of reasons.

Sean O’Brady, an assistant professor at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton, has studied this industry through interviews and surveys with mostly unionized telecommunications call centre workers and managers.

He says the rise of automated tools is frustrating call centre workers as well because they are now dealing with more irate customers whose complex problems can’t be solved easily online.

More outsourcing complicates matters further, he says, if agents abroad make mistakes and Canadian workers have to fix them. Many companies also require agents to stick to scripts, which standardizes the customer experience but might not result in the quickest solution, he said.

“Customers might think, well, my agent’s stupid — they keep proposing all of these solutions that I know right away won’t be the solutions because they don’t make a lot of sense — but they have to follow the protocols,” he said.

Read the full article published in CBC News.

Sean O'Brady

Assistant Professor
Human Resources & Management

Sean O’Brady is an assistant professor at the DeGroote School of Business. He is also an associate member of McMaster’s School of Labour Studies, a researcher at Cornell University’s Ithaca Co-Lab and a co-researcher with the Inter-University Research Centre on Globalization and Work (CRIMT). His research examines the politics of work and technology, precarious work, worker power, employment standards and institutions, and the social consequences of HRM practices.

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