Call Centres, Quality of Work Life & HRM Practices: an In-House/ Outsourced Comparison Dr Julia Connell College of Graduate Studies University of Wollongong in Dubai United Arab Emirates Tel: +971 367 2478 Fax: +971 367 2760 email@example.com Zeenobiyah Hannif School of Management and Marketing Faculty of Commerce University of Wollongong NSW 2522 AUSTRALIA Tel: : +612 4221 3574 Fax: +612 4221 4154 firstname.lastname@example.org
The focus of this paper concerns a comparative study of the quality of work life for the staff based in two Australian based call centres. One is an ‘in-house’ public sector call centre and the other is an outsourced private sector call centre. Whether the topic is in-house or outsourced the quality of work life is an under-researched area where call centres are concerned. Similarly, much of the existing call centre research has been based on the private sector despite the public sector emerging as a large user of call centre operations. The aim of the paper is to determine whether and how the quality of work life varies between the two types of call centres in different sectors and the implications of HRM on these findings. Three quality of work life factors are reported: job content, working hours and work-life balance, and managerial/supervisory style and strategies. The in-house, public sector call centre Govtcall emerges as being inferior in terms of all three QWL measures. Conversely, the outsourced, private sector call centre, Salesplus features a management model that is more akin to what would be expected in a call centre operating under a professional service model. Although this paper is based on empirical research conducted in two Australian call centres it can assist in providing lessons for other call centres involved in globally distributed work through call centres. Keywords: quality of work life, public/private sector.
The outsourcing of customer service work to call centres has been enabled by a set of factors that include: (a) improvements in telecommunications capacity and reductions in telecommunications costs and (b) the increased use of standardised enterprise software platforms that allow for a common set of employee skills across organizations. The cost advantages are encouraging organisations to increasingly outsource their call centre operations to specialist providers, many of which are located in developing countries that have the capacity to provide a supply of skilled labour (Srivastava & Theodore, 2006). A point of call centre differentiation is in terms of business organisation, which Paul and Huws (2002) and the ACTU (2002a) note can fit one of two main typologies. The first is the in-house call centre which can be described as either a unit within an organisation or on a separate site, and is the organisational structure most characteristic of large organisations. The second is the out-sourced call centre which is described by Burgess et al (2005:4) as ‘call centres that perform contracts for related entities’. Paul and Huws (2002) differentiate between large outsourced call centres and small outsourced call centres, stating the former typically take part in a variety of activities, have multiple clients, and are often partly owned by large companies in the telecommunications/banking or computer industries. In contrast, small outsourced call centres often serve only two to three clients at a time, and have a presence in most industries in both the public and private sectors. Regardless, the huge growth in call centres (CC) worldwide has resulted in a parallel escalation in international white collar employment (Taylor, Mulvey, Hyman and Bain, 2002, Richardson, Belt and Marshall, 2000). The proliferation and expansion of the industry can be associated with developments in information and communication technology.
478 This, in turn, has enhanced the efficiency and cost effectiveness of managing customer relations while expanding the...