Customer service staff in Egypt.. bleeding lives due to bad conditions
Cairo – The suicide of a “customer service” employee in a company east of Cairo sparked a storm of sympathy with the employees of this type of work, and exposed the wounds of its workers.
The employee had thrown himself from the balcony of the third floor in the company in which he works, after his direct superior’s intransigence with him, according to a statement by the Public Prosecution.
Social media users circulated posts of employee colleagues and other employees in other customer service companies that reveal painful labor conditions in such companies.
According to what has been circulated and confirmed by employees of these companies, the customer service employee’s working hours reach 8 continuous hours per day, during which he must be visible on the company’s system, during which time he listens to customer complaints, leads them, bears criticism and insults, which he accepts with open arms.
In return, the employee receives an amount ranging between two thousand and three thousand pounds per month (the dollar is about 15.70 pounds) for customer service in Arabic, and doubles for customer service in English, and increases for customer service in other languages.
Employing students and Africans
“Yara” is a customer service employee in one of the companies, and at the same time she is a student at the theoretical faculty at Cairo University. She preferred to speak by her first name to Al Jazeera Net, saying, “I work through a company that supplies employees to an international company, it trained me and then joined me in this work in exchange for a part of my salary.” The global company knows this, and I had to work to spend on my studies.”
She points out that most of her colleagues in the company are students, not graduates, as the students are more cost-effective, and it is easier when the dismissal is done just for the slightest mistake or failure to achieve the target of the number of calls received, which amounts to about 150 calls per day.
And she continued, “I was told at the beginning that there is transportation between my workplace and a residential area. I discovered that transportation only connects the company’s headquarters and the nearest metro station to it, where I and my colleagues gather, and that I have to bear the expenses for the rest of the trip, as well as the inappropriateness of working hours because I am a girl, and I should not be late.” night”.
The savings policy extended to the point of hiring African workers with limited or tourist residency in Egypt and high proficiency in the French language, and one of the companies announced jobs in customer service in which foreigners work with a visa valid for at least 3 months and not a work visa.
According to official data, the customer service activity achieved revenues of about 4.5 billion dollars by the end of the fiscal year 2020-2021, and the government plans to increase it by 8-12% annually.
Workers in customer service companies explain the use of these as “cheap labor, in addition to being easy to dispose of.”
On the other hand, an official source in one of the customer service companies revealed to Al Jazeera Net that the motive behind this step is the presence of a shortage in the number of French speakers, which prompts some companies to use Africans, given that French companies assign customer service activity to Egyptian companies, pointing to a paradox Fall due to the high turnover in this field is the outnumber of executives over the number of employees.
Data from the Information Technology Development Authority confirms that the labor shortage in French and German languages in Egypt is about 35%.
Successive Egyptian governments have bet on customer service activity as one of the activities that bring in hard currency “dollar”, in addition to employing thousands of young people as it is a labor-intensive activity.
During the participation of the Technology Industry Authority of the Ministry of Communications in foreign exhibitions, the Authority’s propaganda focused on the extent of the moderation of the Egyptian tongue and the straightforwardness of letter exits when young Egyptians speak in foreign languages, in addition to the strength of the infrastructure.
In the annual report of the Ministry of Communications’ achievements issued a few days ago, a series of training programs were launched in cooperation with international companies and accredited language teaching institutions to refine the language and personal skills of young cadres, to meet the needs of companies in the field of exporting outsourcing services from linguistically qualified cadres, with a focus on provinces most in need.
The government has allocated more than one billion Egyptian pounds (about $65 million) to train thousands of young people through programs launched by the Ministry of Communications, including the “Builders of Digital Egypt” program, “Qudwa Tech”, “Our Digital Future”, “Our Digital Opportunity”, and “Ambassadors”. technology”.
The ministry plans – according to a press release – to provide about 15,000 new job opportunities during 2022, in conjunction with the announcement of 6 international companies to invest in Egypt, to provide about 3,700 new job opportunities in the field of customer services.
This brings the number of employees to about 200 thousand employees, according to unofficial estimates, providing these services to 100 countries in 20 languages.
According to official data, this activity achieved revenues of about $4.5 billion by the end of the fiscal year 2020-2021, which the government plans to increase by 8-12% annually.
International reports praised Egypt’s efforts to revitalize the field of customer services, and placed it in the Kearney Consulting Corporation’s Global Service Locations Index 15th out of 60 countries for the year 2021.
Official advertisements promote pictures of smiling young people wearing headphones to receive calls, and despite the fact that the picture is realistic, it “does not reflect the psychological destruction of these smiling young people, while their selves are torn from the inside,” according to Mahmoud, a former manager in a customer service company.
Mahmoud continued to work in the government company that gave him job security, and he continued despite the physical problems that afflicted his back and ears as a result of sitting continuously for hours and listening without interruption to the calls of customers and suppressing negative feelings of anger and sadness, while exporting the opposite to customers to gain their satisfaction with the company.
Mahmoud was promoted as a manager supervising the employees and their discipline with a sufficient number to respond to the calls, but with the increasing staff decrease due to some of them fleeing at the first opportunity that appeared to them, as well as with the dismissal of the non-compliant company, he sometimes had to fill the deficit himself, which increased his troubles, so he joined the fugitives with the first opportunity She showed him another activity.
Among the negatives that prompted Mahmoud to leave the profession is that it is “a profession of those who have no profession”, and above that – as he tells Al Jazeera Net – there are no protection considerations for them, as there is no entity to defend them, as well as the continuous deterioration in the conditions of the profession that was launched in its beginning with global practical standards By forbidding working more than 4 hours, receiving a specific number of calls separated by enough time for the ears to rest, and on top of that a remunerative salary, and “today is all different,” which made it a constant expulsion of workers.
The activity of outsourcing or service of “others’ clients” that crossed borders sometimes started with the development in information technology during the era of former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.
The government led the activity by establishing a specialized company, Xceed, a subsidiary of Telecom Egypt, then the international company Teleperformance established a branch in Cairo, and the Egyptian Raya Group established a subsidiary company, and it was recently followed by the Egyptian company E-finance. Also, Vodafone Egypt preferred to establish its own department to serve its customers at home and abroad, and then these companies expanded with branches in the governorates.
In order to confront the crisis of labor shortage and its problems, several companies working in this field submitted a project to establish an academy to train and qualify university graduates and executives to attract the right cadres to work, while launching extensive awareness campaigns in cooperation with the Ministry to change the negative mental image of the profession among young people.