Research Design and Methods- Literature Review

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Table of Contents

12.0. Chapter Two: Literature Review

12.1. Introduction

12.2. Effective Management and Call Centers

3Employee Performance2.3. Automatic Call Distribution and

42.4. Performance Evaluation for Call Centers

52.5. Technology-Driven Innovations and Effective Management

62.6. Changing Characteristics of Call Centres

72.7. Call Center Outsourcing

92.8. Integrating Human Resource Issues in Call Centers

2.0. Chapter Two: Literature Review

2.1. Introduction

The greatest asset for any call center is quality assurance. It therefore means that any management change on call center must be treated with high regard towards ensuring that the organization attains the needed quality assurance. From the one hand, implementations of effective management practices may come as a challenge to some employees thus affecting their performance and motivation. However, researchers continue to agree that provided such changes are aimed at improving quality assurance, call centers will succinctly connect to the aspect of human service management as it entails ways of structuring an organization into hierarchy. Effective management on call centers remains integral element for a successful organization. Management approaches that are not well accepted or perceived by call centers will not only lead to a decreased organizational efficacy but also affecting quality assurance. This chapter critically examines the relevant literature, assembles data, statistical evidences and cases studies regarding the impact of effective management on call centers with regard to quality assurance. The relevant conclusions that help in answering the research questions are incorporated so as to form a model of interrelationship between effective management, operations of call centers and quality assurance.

2.2. Effective Management and Call Centers

Researches have taken different organisations case studies to evaluate the link between effective management and changes to call centers. McIllwaine et al. (2001) described the introduction of effective management as the process of influencing others within call centers to facilitate the attainment of customer expectations, service delivery and fulfillment of organisations relevant goals. The thesis statement developed by these authors is that effective management brings formal system within an organization that is distinct by hierarchical roles in helping to maintain effectiveness and efficiency in call operations. Taking case studies of Lyca Hotel, Stylianos et al. (2006) on the other hand, argue that the link between effective management, call centers and quality assurance is premised on operational measures designed to monitor organisational operations, preventions of frauds, minimization of errors, authenticate the accuracy and reliability of the accounting data, and efficiency. Call centers should always test the effectiveness of the ongoing activities in compliance with established managerial practices of the firm.

However, contemporary scholars tend to deviate from Stylianos et al. (2006) position. Their argument is that in as much as Stylianos et al. (2006) successfully assessed the connectedness between effective management and call centers the research failed to recognize that implementing effective management need to recognize that quality assurance is a continuous process that may not just emanate from call centers (Jaiswal 2008; Lloyd 2016; Hanson et al. 2016; Roux 2016). This school of thought has been widely researched by Lloyd (2016) who presented data from Apple Company to show the impact of effective management on call centers and how transformation on call centers changes organizational goals. Generally, Lloyd (2016)
observed that effective management is a situation where managers establishes challenges with their call centers then develops structures to help in clarification of internal and external relationships within the call center. As a result, Lloyd (2016)
introduce what it terms as “effective management to call centers’ (p. 426) which is defined as an aspect of human resource addressing interpersonal relationships and behaviours. These behaviors entail the assessment of team building, communication, leadership and facilitation of mediation abilities towards quality assurance. From the one hand, Lloyd (2016)
and its model in linking effective management, call centers and quality assurance differs with Hanson et al. (2016) approach in the sense that call centers and management are tailored towards meeting customers’ legitimate needs. The challenge with Hanson et al. (2016) and Lloyd (2016) models is that they over emphasize on the need to satisfy customers’ ‘legitimate’ without noting that effective management must also recognize efforts emanating from workers at call centers. That is, employees’ ‘legitimate’ needs should also be met as they strive to deliver quality assurance needed by customers. Therefore, with dynamisms that have been witnessed in contemporary organization based call centers, there is need for the integration of the two approaches so that a balance can be found between quality assurances, effective management and call centers. This study argues therefore that an approach should be developed that represents a critical assessment of structural change in call center interaction aimed at replacing traditional modes of management with formalized social control tailored towards customer satisfaction.

2.3. Automatic Call Distribution and Employee Performance

As captured in the introductory part of this research, an aspect of of automatic call distribution (ACD) systems remains integral. As a matter of fact, researches that have dwelt on this area have observed that ACD have contributed significanlty in the improvement of productivity of the call center industry (Mukherjee and Malhotra 2006). It therefore remains that the best approach in understanding the link between effective management, quality assurance and call center is to succintly provide organisational based data findings that asses traffic patterns on workers shift, prescheduled breaks and lunches used to optimise and predict call volume within reach of the modern operation.
Automatic call distribution can be enhanced by establishing management practices that enhance employee performance. Taking case study of McDonalds and Denny as operated in China; Abdullateef et al. (2013) argue that automatic call distribution requires that managers establish businesses processes that are embedded on factors such as reliability, tangibles, responsiveness and assurance. This view has been supported by recent studies from scholars such as Hanson et al. (2016) who have observed that creating quality assurance is about enhancing quality assurance which in turn is affected when managers coach specific employees for betterment of automatic call distribution. Aron et al. (2005) in their research observed that automatic call distribution is an integral element when organization attempt to create quality assurance. Their research presented one factor which managers should implement to help employees improve automatic call distribution; creating positive attitudes of employees towards the organization and communication with customers. Based on these literatures, effective management on call centers remains two-fold. Firstly, there is need for introduction of management practices that are more adaptable to current needs in automatic call distribution as this will enhance performance from employees. Secondly, call centers should have an internal control system in place .The system will be used to test, evaluate, and validate all aspects of its operations and administration to ensure a fulfillment of the objectives of the management and that the established administrative, operational, and financial policies and procedures are followed.

2.4. Performance Evaluation for Call Centers

One aspect managers have recognized is that call centers continue to evolve in terms of configuration and size. As more empirical analyses continue to shed light on the features like arrivals, service times and abandonment in different centers, there have been new performance evaluation models that have been developed and analysed within contexts of different organistions. These models have been based on different features and demands of modern call centers. Malhotra and Mukherjee (2004) observed that large call centers adopted the analysis of heavy traffic limits as it is regarded as useful approximations of different models of queuing. These models have interested in understanding the need to provide effectiveness in service delivery and quality assurance to customers on call. Recent studies have been motivated by the fact that service times and abandonment times may not be exponentially distributed (Sharma et al. 2016; Roux 2016). As a result, managers are now adopting models with general service times as well as general abandonment times in order to develop performance in service delivery. The roles of managers in performance evaluation have also been studied widely. Specifically, Butler (2004) noted that managers should tailor their management approaches to ensure that the objectives of call centers are focused on the organizational goals, operational efficiencies, and safeguarding assets against wastage, fraud, misuse and unauthorized use of resources. Malhotra et al. (2007) supported this position three years after Butler (2004) finding adding that performance evaluation for call centers requires that managers enhance an accurate and proper reporting and recording of call data and customer satisfaction through what they termed as ‘call recording for quality improvement’ (p. 217). What these studies agree on is that performance evaluation for call centers creates a system that can be used to test, evaluate, and validate all aspects of operations and administration to ensure a fulfillment of the objectives of customers.

2.5. Technology-Driven Innovations and Effective Management

Over the past one decade, studies have presented data to show that managers who implemented technology driven call centers succeeded in providing quality assurance (Pandey and Kaur 2011; Mukherjee and Malhotra 2006). From these points of view, these studies have defined effective managers as those who introduce technology-driven innovations in service delivery within their call centers. Tracing background approach of this management approach, the deregulations of the telecommunication industry has propelled competition, thus leading improved quality, increased network capacity, and lower costs for either domestic or international traffic. Additionally, Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) and Automatic Call Distributor technology continue to be cheaper, increasingly sophisticated but cheaper. On the other hand, as businesses continue to be focused on their core competences, the advances in technology and telecommunication infrastructures brought by CTI and ACD have continued to make it easier for companies to contract their call centers operations to third-party organisations termed as ‘outsourcers.’

The relationship between technology-driven innovation and effective management is evaluated based on how managers have introduced multi-site operations. Most managers have opted for multi-site structures where they introduce multiple sites to allow for risk mitigation and customer satisfaction. This approach has necessitated call sharing as well as call routing problems for a multi-site call centers especially where managers are not having technology for virtual pooling between sites. Further evidence has been provided through Roux (2016) research that examined call center operations at Vodafone the data gathered showed that managers who introduce technologies such as smart routing policies in distributed call centers is able to attain a certain level of performance optimization as well as load balancing results nearing those of a virtual call center. The approach of introducing technology-driven innovations to call centers are found to be allowing organisations to focus their efforts on specific expertise around the product and not the function, which brings in a more focused set of skills and experiences needed by customers when on call.

2.6. Changing Characteristics of Call Centres

One of the critical features of effective managers towards improving quality assurance is changing characteristics of call centres including functionality, agent skills and customer types. This area has elicited debates from theorists and scholars who argue that the best approach of enhancing quality assurance from call centres is the introduction of flexibility. While researching on Automatic speech recognition software applications for quality assurance in call center of Telstra and the input managers are putting in enhancing quality assurance, Roux (2016) found that managers who introduced flexibility design improved call services rendered to their customers. This view has been supported by Saccani (2012) who found that flexibility design approach was integral in ensuring that call centres meet specific demands from clients. As a result, Roux (2016) recommended that effective managers are those who introduce changes in their call centres by introducing the right mix of specialised and flexible agents, investigates skill set of call centre employees and change them if they are non-compliant with current needs of organisations and introduction of cross-training in call centres. The relevance of Roux (2016) and Saccani (2012) is that they focus on current challenges faced by call centres agents especially in the wake of modern technologies such as CTI and ACD. Secondly these studies focus on quality assurance by ensuring that characteristic change provide the organization with an opportunity to gather cross-functional and diverse teams under each focus segment thus providing customized and effective solution to the customers. The principle of changing characteristics of call centres calls for the establishment of skill-sets to form long chain of structures such as those that allow calls to be moderated or offloaded in times of congestion.

2.7. Call Center Outsourcing

Effective management that reflects specific needs of customers’ quality assurance need to focus on how managers carryout call center outsourcing. Butler (2004) argues that increasingly, management practices that aim to be in line with current organisation needs to outsource especially those companies that are specialised in running other firms’ call centers. Outsourcing could be premised on two reasons; economic reasons and quality service deliveries. In this particular case, effective management would mean a manager outsourcing to help customers gain flexibility in customer care operations, the company benefitting from economies of scale or benefiting from technological flexibilities of the sourcing company. Organisation-based data have been gathered to support the effective management team that outsource call center outsourcing. The case at Burlington Northern Santa Fe is an indication of the finer details managers should comprehend when dealing with call center respondents from different socio-economic backgrounds (Butler 2004). Through outsourcing from companies such as Optus and Telstra, the manager dropped old approaches of managing call center; logistics and scheduling which in turn, created a great deal of quality assurance at Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. The continued interest in outsourcing has indeed motivated some recent call center studies that have focused on finding whether outsourcing motivates workers at call centers. Case studies on Apple have been evaluated to assess the extent to which outsourcing discourages or encourages operations and dedications of workers at call centers (Saccani 2012). The thesis statement of their research was premised on the ground that if outsourcing discourages workers operations then quality assurance is likely to be compromised. Due to the growing complexity in call center industry, an application of different management principles of quality assurance will provide the needed help just like it was with the case at Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. Organisations need to recover from their sophisticated and competitive position in the service delivery industry. The case as presented regarding Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad provides connectedness with earlier findings.

2.8. Integrating Human Resource Issues in Call Centers

Quality assurance needs effective managers; managers who are able to integrate different aspects of human resource management into practice. In as much as call centers literatures have looked at personal planning problems from the perspective of the call center, such decisions as shift scheduling, staffing, routing control and rostering are some of the decision that define an effective management. Stylianos et al. (2006) assessed how managers who integrate human resource issues in their call center operations succeed in developing effective quality of services delivered to customers. Their findings noted that integration of human resource issues such as shift scheduling together with incentives to employees affect performances at call center thus promoting quality assurance. From this finding, the connection between quality assurance, effective management and call centers is that effectiveness of managers will be felt if they can introduce appropriate human resource issues that improve operations of call centers. Sharma et al. (2016) provide an extensive analysis of literature review on this and agree with Stylianos et al. (2006) that when appropriate human resource issues are identified and applied to call centers they influence performances at call centers which in time provide positive services to customers.


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