• Shiori W

How can working remotely be accepted among Japanese Companies? - Vol.1 Customer Service Centers

In Japan, companies have finally started considering ways to start working remotely since the situation with the virus, covid-19, has been getting worse and worse.

The latest number of positive cases in Japan reported by NHK is here :

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/special/coronavirus/data/


Some of you may be shocked and not get understand that why people and companies haven't started working from home yet in Japan.

- Me too, if I'm being honest.


The Nikkei newspaper, the most popular economic newspaper announced that less than 24% of co-workers experienced working remotely and less than 16% of temporary workers in Japan have experienced working remotely on April, 20th, 2020.

(co-researched online survey, by professor, Isamu Yamamoto, Keiko University and professor Kaori Muto, The university of Tokyo.)

https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGKKZO58183540X10C20A4CR8000/


We can divide the different industries and see which could easily allow their employees to work from home.

Let's say that if we imagine the jobs, such as medical staffs, care givers, fireman, electricity companies, gas companies, delivery companies, ship crews and so on, one can see that it is difficult for these types of businesses to switch its working environment quickly and easily.


While there are still other jobs which could make the switch easier. Then in Japan, I wonder why hundreds of companies still let people come to office to work?

Even it scares people and makes them worry about the possibility that they may contract the covid-19 virus or not, people will still go to work so that they can get paid. We need enough income to maintain our lifestyles.

For someone, whether lucky or unlucky, the decision of whether or not to work from home is out of their control. Let's have a little more at what happens in each service model.

The Customer Service Center Industry is facing the higher infection risks and the stiffen operation flows

Even if people are scared of the virus and they really don't want to go to work, It is not easy for them to tell their manager that they prefer to stay home to avoid contracting covid-19. It's due to their employment contract, almost of all customer service staffs are hired as temporary staff with commitments of a few months or a year. In general these temporary staff are reviewed based on their attendance and the quality of customer service. The result of the review is used to determine whether or not they are rehired.

Additionally, they are paid by the hour so it is important for them to go into work.


The managers in charge might not be able to close if they are providing a service that has been our sourced to them or they are remotely supporting something. They would have to wait for their clients to not need their services before closing or allowing more flexible working conditions. Agency models need time to adjust their operations and make decisions that flow their client's needs.



Yahoo!News' source above which was announced on April 14th, 2020.

It includes a comment from an interview and it says that "According to a woman who works at customer service center, where around 300 others work in one floor, their shifts haven't changed at all since the state of emergency declaration. The woman was upset and said "I feel unsure about the workplace environment where she works, since staffs work close to each other. It feels like being a pawn." The company who operates the customer service center replied stating that considering the needs of their clients, it's difficult to decrease shifts right away."

"ワンフロアに約300人が働く福岡市内のコールセンターに勤める契約社員の女性によると、緊急事態宣言後も勤務体制はほぼ変わらないという。女性は「人と人の距離が近く職場環境が不安。捨て駒にされているよう」と憤る。運営会社は取材に「取引先の意向があり、出勤抑制はすぐには難しい」と説明した。" 

- Original sentence in Japanese.


What do you think?

In the "Agency model" of customer service, it might be good to maintain profits by having multiple clients and hiring a lot of staff for several projects at same time.

However this way of doing things also affects the speed at which decisions can be made to change the work environment in the case of an emergency.


Temporary staff maintain the agency customer service centers.

CCAJ, Call Center Association of Japan, surveyed the population of co-workers and temporary workers among 54 customer service centers of the 101 that are members as of 2019. The 54 companies are segmented as "tele-marketing outsourced agencies" which handle customer services and and tele-marketing instead of their clients. In the 49 customer service centers of the 54 ( excepting the 5 companies who didn't answer about their numbers of employees), there are 203,097 people who are currently working at their offices. Around 16.5% of them are regular workers, so the other 80% plus of workers are temporary workers. It is obvious that companies may not be able to provide their services by using only regular workers.

On the other hand, the temporary staff might not feel free to talk about their shift to their manager. Could they work from home?



Only 3 companies are hiring tele-work communicators out of the 54 agency customer service centers in 2019.

Currently, according to the survey by CCAJ, there are only 3 companies, (6.3% of 54 companies) who are allowing people to work remotely and other 7 companies (14.6%) are planning to add the tele-work positions.

The main reasons for not allowing people to work from home given by the other 38 companies, are related to "security concerns", "work time management", "quality of customer service", "difficulty of operating management" and so on also there are 3 companies whose clients wouldn't like to hire tele-working staff. (The remaining 6 companies didn't answer of this question.)

Can customer service centers protect their employees against this historical pandemic?


What would you do if you were working in customer service center during this pandemic?


In customer service centers and other places using an "agency model", we would need more time to establish the framework needed to allow employees to work from home.


What is the Japanese customer service market expecting for 2020?

The companies are being asked questions about what to expect business wise and employees of those companies are also being asked what they are expecting from their employers.


"Agency business model" may need more time to make internal decisions at their office.

Also temporary workers are the backbone of the their agency business model, and those staff may have to continue to work at the their offices if it is deemed necessary based on client needs and the company's reputation.


- Wish there is any tip for you.


Reference:

CCAJ website https://ccaj.or.jp/english/index-e.html

https://ccaj.or.jp/telemarketing/doc/callcenter_research_2019.pdf (*JP only)

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