Call centre job functions and the quality of work life: revisiting the job characteristics model
The aim of this paper is to determine the relationship between job functions, which cover three interrelated concepts: job content, job variety, and job autonomy, and the quality of work life (QWL). The two case studies GovCo and ServCo differ significantly on a number of measures, including ownership, organization size, structure, and culture. Two different approaches to job functions are determined, alongside two very different outcomes where the QWL is concerned. This study challenges the mainstream call centre literature which tends to mainly focus on the negative aspects associated with the ‘human element’ of call centre work. The findings from this study suggest that positive human interaction can in fact enhance job satisfaction. Within ServCo, job variety is used as a deliberate managerial strategy to improve job satisfaction. Customer services operators (CSOs) in ServCo have comparatively higher levels of method autonomy and discretion than those in GovCo. On the other hand, GovCo only attempts to secure job variety through bidding for new work campaigns and exerts significant control over the duration and content of each call. ServCo provides an example of a call centre where managers make deliberate efforts to shape and foster an environment where CSOs feel empowered, respected and confident. In GovCo however, the bureaucratic nature of the organization and the top-down approach to management see managers largely shedding responsibility where the quality of work life of their workers is concerned. There are a strong contradiction between the bureaucratic, codified processes in GovCo, and the type of environment needed to foster well-being in the call centre. While the public sector has largely embraced the efficiencies associated with handing client contacts through call centre operations, these benefits must be realised alongside the potential implications on the workforce.