Call centres are centralised operations where trained agents communicate with customers via phone and using purpose built information and communication technologies. The normative model of call centre organisation is that tasks are tightly prescribed, routinised, scripted and monitored. What are the implications for managers and management? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this article focuses on middle management in call centres: how they work, how they talk about their work and what alternatives they see. It describes an emerging understanding of a manager who is as constrained as a worker under this mass customised bureaucracy. Lack of strategic support and development, a powerfully normative focus on micromanagement and deeply embedded goal conflicts combine to undermine these managers' scope to truly manage. Like the agents they supervise, call centre managers are engaged in a coping project. In this context, they perform their identity with ambivalence: sometimes role embracing, sometimes resisting.
Journal of European Industrial Training – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 1, 2001
Keywords: Customer service management
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