Customer Service Professionals Voice Concerns, Seek Changes

Birmingham Call Center

Locals nationwide marked Customer Service Week, the first week of October, with celebrations honoring CWA's customer service professionals. Members of Local 3902 in Birmingham, Ala., (above) and Local 9505 in Pasadena, Calif., (below) show off their festivities.

Local 9505 Celebration


CWA customer service professionals in telecom, airlines, public agencies, newspapers and other businesses are making sure that October's Customer Service Month is about more than a one-time pat on the back.

Members working in call centers want changes that will reduce stress and improve their ability to serve their customers' needs, rather than just pushing them to buy new products and services.

Those issues are reflected in CWA's new blog where customer service workers can share their struggles and solutions. "Our members needed a place where they can express their issues and concerns," said Local 9416 President Pam Suniga, who helped create the forum and believes it can lead to real change.

Each month, the blog will feature a specific topic — this month it is "electronic sweatshops" — but participants are free to discuss any subject relating to their work. The blog is open to all customer service workers, not just CWA members. A sampling of comments so far includes:

  • "Micro-management is NOT working in call center settings...The turnover rate is so high the 'powers that be' need to take this into account and change it!"
  • "With electric monitoring is has become very easy for managers to instruct workers. Some managers and coaches have never done the job themselves."
  • "Companies can't understand why their insurance costs are always increasing. Perhaps they should look at ways to prevent the need for employees to be on medication just to make it through the day. It's a shame that so many customer service professionals must live in a state of numbness to survive the workplace."

Larry Cohen & Ron Collins greet worker

CWA President Larry Cohen and Chief of Staff Ron Collins, right, visit with Local 2108 member Jonathan Bohannon at a Verizon call center in Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 10. The CWA leaders spoke with many members during a Customer Service Month tour of the call center complex.

Below: In Bakersfield, Calif., Local 9416 Steward Mona Baca-Watson prepares to distribute information to call center members about CWA's new customer service blog.

Local 9416 Call Center


Some Local 2108 members got a chance to share those kinds of concerns directly with CWA President Larry Cohen when he visited a Verizon complex of call centers in Silver Spring, Md., on Monday.

"Our members were thrilled to have the chance to talk with him about the challenges they face every day," Local Vice President Marilyn Irwin said. Cohen's tour included the "retention" call center, where workers have the difficult job of trying to stop customers from canceling services they don't want or can't afford.

When Irwin started in a C&P Telephone business office in the 1970s, it was about 20 years before the first Customer Service Month was celebrated. "But the fact is, we felt much more appreciated on a daily basis than today's customer service professionals do," she said. "We had the freedom to handle a variety of calls and we learned to solve all sorts of problems for customers. We did it all, and I loved it. We were truly customer service representatives, with the emphasis on service."

Click here or go to to join the customer service discussion online.