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Satisfaction and dimensions of control among call centre customer service representatives

Rose, Ed and Wright, Gillian H. (2005) Satisfaction and dimensions of control among call centre customer service representatives. International journal of human resource management, 16 (1). pp. 136-160. ISSN 0958-5192

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Abstract

The impact of the call centre workplace upon employee satisfaction or well-being is beginning to attract the attention of researchers. The aim of this paper is to explore the factors related to control and other work-based characteristics that impact upon employee well-being in call centres. Based on a survey (n=173), data are presented to highlight antecedents of employee well-being or job satisfaction in a call centre. Using factor analysis and regression modelling, we have isolated eight factors that are significantly associated with job satisfaction. Emotional pressure emerges as a significant as a dimension of control underpinning factors impacting upon job satisfaction. In addition, work-based characteristics including computer-facilitated and supervisory control associated with the role of the customer service representative (CSR) are shown to be direct antecedents of satisfaction. Another element of control, that of targets, emerged as a distinct factor, contributing indirectly to job satisfaction via its influence on work-based job characteristics. Much current research infers relatively low levels of satisfaction with both work and management on the part of customer service representatives (CSRs). The significance of our analysis resides partly in the qualification of the view that CSRs are subjected to, and perceive themselves as being victims at the 'sharp end' of, extreme technological control of the 'electronic panopticon' variety, itself based on a 'mass production of services' model. Moreover, much call centre work is considered relatively low-skilled, and much sociological research indicates that low-skilled work generally is not intrinsically satisfying and, indeed, employees look to extrinsic factors such as pay and job security as compensatory mechanisms. Following on from this, and even more significant for our purposes, is the argument that those call centre workers who generally regard themselves as playing a positive role within the wider organization, are regularly informed and valued by team leaders, and recognize the benefits of certain HRM practices, will have their view of the work situation ameliorated by those compensatory mechanisms. Given the validity of this argument, call centre work in certain circumstances may therefore accord more with the characteristics of 'mass customization' models. This is not to deny, however, the undoubted pressures of call centre work, which were commented upon by respondents and which still may represent the 'unacceptable face' of call centre culture.

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