Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Job Demands-Resources Model of Work Engagement in South African Call Centres

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Job Demands-Resources Model of Work Engagement in South African Call Centres

Article excerpt


The nature of call centres

The call centre industry in South Africa consists of approximately 1500 call centres and currently employs approximately 150 000 call centre representatives (CCRs) (Banks & Roodt, 2011). A call centre is defined by Holman (2005, p. 111) as 'a work environment in which the main business is mediated by a computer and telephone based technologies that enable the efficient distribution of incoming calls (or allocation of outgoing calls) to available staff, and permit the customeremployee interaction to occur simultaneously with the use of display screen equipment and the instant access to, and inputting of, information. It includes parts of companies dedicated to this activity, as well as whole companies that specialize in such services'. Inbound call centres mainly respond to incoming calls and deal with customer complaints, requests and questions. Outbound call centres are mainly for initiating contacts on behalf of an organisation attempting to sell products or services. Call centres in general consist of jobs of different levels of complexity, ranging from unskilled CCRs who provide standard information from prescribed scripts to highly skilled representatives who deal with sophisticated problems as in the case of nursing or medical help desks.

Holman, Batt and Holtgrewe (2007) report the results of a global study of the management and employment practices in call centres. The survey included 475 000 employees covering almost 2500 call centres in 17 countries. Data revealed that call centres look similar across countries with regard to organisational features, markets and service offerings. However, call centre workplaces differ based on the customs, norms and laws of the specific country. The average age of the call centres studied was eight years. The call centre industry evidenced certain general characteristics. Call centres typically serve national rather than international markets (86% serve only their national, regional or local market). Two-thirds of all call centres serve the company's own customers. Inbound calls account for 78% of call traffic, similar technologies are employed and the average call lasts between 3 and 4 min. Seventy five per cent of CCRs work in centres employing 230 or more workers. Structures are flat, with managers comprising 12% of staff. Females make up 71% of the staff complement.

In recently industrialised countries, performance monitoring (i.e. feedback on performance and call quality and listening) occurs on a weekly basis or more often. For example, a comprehensive oral performance evaluation instrument was developed to assess Filipino CCRs' customer service transactions with callers from the United States (Friginal, 2013). Ratings of job quality (using indices of employee discretion and supervisory monitoring) reveal that 50% of call centres in industrialised countries have low to very low quality jobs (low discretion or high monitoring). Internationally, this number drops to 38%; India is a notable exception: 75% of call centres have low job discretion, and monitoring activities are the most intense of any country. A full 67% of all call centre workers in the world work in low to very low quality jobs. With regard to management practice, 60% of call centres make no use of self-directed teams; the exception is Sweden where 60% of the call centre workforce is involved in self-directed teams. The global average call centre staff turnover rate is 20% with great variation between countries (e.g. turnover in Austria is 4%, whereas in India it is 40% and one-third of staff have less than one year's service at the call centre).

The first call centres in South Africa began to appear in the mid-1970s and mushroomed in the late 1990s due to a combination of improved computer technology and reduced telecommunications costs (Benner, Lewis & Omar, 2007). South African call centres developed similarly to most other countries in that they emerged initially to serve a domestic market. …

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