Webtel Essay

December 2004, a Christmas tree was in place at the entry of the company. There is a festive atmosphere even if the employees are under pressure. Albert PIROTON, the general manager, convenes all supervisors and project managers for the annual meeting. He wanted to present the 2004 results and discuss his vision for 2005. « The productivity this year was very good. Beyond this excellent productivity result, I would like to explore our role as a responsible organisation. I would like WebTel to be a citizen organisation, in spite of our small size, believe in me, we could be a responsible company».

Albert PIROTON. Everyone around the table was surprised by this declaration. Aiming at another orientation , rather than increasing productivity and client satisfaction is totally unusual at WebTel. The real matter for Albert PIROTON is to know how to achieve his goal. « We should think about a specific strategy that will allow us to be a social responsible company. Maybe we have to think about an ISO certification, but I don’t know which certification to choose. I invite you to think about that ». Albert PIROTON.

A young supervisor, called Corinne LEJEUNE, still a student at the University, proposed the SA8000[1] certification. She had heard about this standard in a Human Resource Management (HRM) seminar at the university. Everybody around the table felt the danger of a uncontrolled strategic change, except the general manager who appreciated the idea. He asked Corinne to prepare more information about the standard and organisations certified in Europe. On January 2005, Albert PIROTON received a general study with much information about SA8000. He accepted the project very quickly.

This engaging answer impressed all employees. Albert PIROTON is known as a very careful entrepreneur. His new decision causes much curiosity and reserve. WebTel creation WebTel is a small company launched by the family PIROTON. Albert PIROTON created WebTel in 2000 with his wife and brothers. WebTel is a call center that works principally in the telemarketing sector. WebTel’s main activities are outbound and inbound calls for phone operations such as sales and surveys. Albert PIROTON is the general manager. His brother is the IT manager and his wife is the human resource manager.

In 2006, Albert recruited his second brother as a sales manager to develop the sales portfolio in Europe and in North Africa. The Company’s expansion Since launching WebTel in 2000, the results indicated a growth in turnover: 300% between 2001 and 2002, 70% between 2003 and 2004, 25% between 2003 and 2004 and 20% from 2004 and 2005. Since that date, growth in turnover has been limited due to increasing investment in infrastructure and sales development. On January 2004, WebTel subcontracted a big part of its French-speaking production to PhonCall, a call center in Morocco.

Through new information and communication technologies, the company assured the transfer of know-how and technologies associated to its core business. WebTel has two production units and employs 20 operators annually for each production unit. Employment contracts are often for a determined period through temporary agencies. WebTel has eight employees with unlimited contracts, including members of the founding family (Statistics of September 2006). The employees’ skill level can be characterized as low.

Except for the family PIROTON, no employee graduated from university. Statistics of September 2006). WebTel started its activity with very few clients. During the first two years, the company worked with two major clients. The absence of a sales manager obliged the company to preserve its two clients for a long period and to concentrate its efforts on controlling its core business. Since 2006 the sales department has begun to grow. WebTel’s clients are very demanding in terms of quality and work conditions. The subcontractor in Morocco has been subjected to several visits from clients to check employees’ working conditions.

Those visits represented a guarantee on compliance with the Moroccan legislation in terms of safety, hygiene, social standards and working conditions. WebTel faced some real strategic challenges in 2005. In January 2005, the CEO decided to choose the SA8000 certification as a social commitment, both inside the company and toward the community. Many employees ignored the added value of this strategic choice and didn’t perceive the impact on their professional and personal lives. It was the beginning of a mystery and resistance to change. The Call Center sector Call centers are currently undergoing strong expansion in western countries.

They are largely established in sectors strongly structured like banks, insurance companies and technological products. On one hand, their development in western countries creates jobs and remains very useful for information technologies. On the other hand, many questions remain unanswered regarding work conditions and partnership terms. Indeed, the large allowed use of temporary work and the very stressing work conditions contributed to reinforce a negative image of the sector, with a strong focus on increasing the turnover and less attention to employees’ well being.

Beside that, the large wave of internationalization of the sector towards emerging countries made the sector of social responsibility highly suspect. Many European call centers are implemented in North Africa because of the geographical proximity and the good practice of the French language. Those sub-contracting partnerships reinforce clients’ doubts regarding the respect of work conditions in the host countries. In spite of its small size, WebTel took part in this internationalization movement by subcontracting more than 40% of its French-speaking production to PhonCall: the Moroccan call center.

The company presented several guarantees as for the respect of the Moroccan social laws and the employees work conditions. These guarantees represented additional costs, nevertheless they distinguished WebTel from the practices (or reputation) of the Western companies subcontracting most of their activities to emergent countries. In addition to subcontracting projects to the Moroccan call center, other Co-sourcing (partnership) and out-sourcing (subcontracting) projects have been planned with some Tunisian partners since 2006. ———————– [1] SA8000 : Social Accountability 8000, www. sa-intl. org

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