The NY Times (via cNet) has an update on the novel concept being tested by some McDonalds restaurants: using a remote call center to take drive-through orders. The VoIP-based business surfaced in mid-2004 (BrandAutopsy), with followups in early (CommWeb, MSNBC) and mid-2005.
An early headquarters contract with Oak Brook, IL SEI Information Technology (relationship to Verety?) promised “professional order taker[s] with strong communications skills whose job is to do nothing but take down orders.” A Colorado franchise-holder, Steve Bigari, expanded his call center so that it could serve more than his own McDonalds stores. Bronco Communications is featured in the current NYT article — suggesting there are at least three firms providing this service to hamburger chains.
Hardee’s — a regional fast-food chain — began testing remote call centers for order-taking in early 2005, according to the Dallas Morning-News (via the Tennessean). The jury remains out at Wendy’s, according to the NYT.
Is this the modern day equivalent of piece-work?
The NYT article says that Bronco employees “[take] up to 95 orders an hour during peak times.” They have no health benefits and “earn the minimum wage ($6.75 an hour in California).”
Software, monitored by managers, measures both speed (how fast the
employee is on the mouse) and productivity (number of orders processed,
upsales, etc). From the NYT: “every so often a red
box pops up on her screen to test whether she is paying attention. She
is expected to click on it within 1.75 seconds. In the break room, a
computer screen lets employees know just how many minutes have elapsed
since they left their workstations.”
We’re using technology to enforce an industrial-age assembly-line workflow. Is this really how we want to use technology?
Contrast that with another firm, which is testing having employees work from their homes — a distributed call center network.
All the articles I’ve
read so far have been originated in the rah-rah business section/trade press. Conspicuously absent: any data (comparative or otherwise) on repetitive-stress injuries.