Evaluating the Performance of Call Centres from Consumers' Perspective: Marketing Research Industry Example

By Kolar, Tomaz | Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Evaluating the Performance of Call Centres from Consumers' Perspective: Marketing Research Industry Example


Kolar, Tomaz, Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues


This paper aims to explore customer perspectives regarding the evaluation of telephone interaction with an emphasis on a specific type of telephone encounter - telephone survey interviews. The empirical study consisted of two phases, both based on qualitative research methods. The results of the first phase of the research suggest that customers are becoming increasingly critical and have high expectations, which are reflected in a rich array of their evaluative criteria. Results reveal some specific elements of perceived value, dis/satisfaction and quality dimensions, of which human factors and the conversation scenario characteristics seem to be the most important ones, while some specific normative and ideal customer expectations also seem important in this context.

Received: 3. 10. 2005.

Accepted: 30. 10. 2006.

Preliminary communication

UDC: 339.138

1. INTRODUCTION

The telephone as a medium is ideal for building and maintaining close relations with customers (Anton and Gustin, 2000, Peppers et al., 1999). Technological advances in this area provide opportunity for more personalized, even distinctively new forms of customer relationships (McCartan-Quinn et al., 2004, Wickham and Collins, 2004). Yet, attempts to find analyses of telephone interaction from a customer's perspective in a more in-depth manner are exceptionally rare. In fact, it is hard to find empirical analyses of telephone interaction from a customer's perspective even in terms of basic marketing concepts like perceived value, quality and satisfaction. There is virtually no attempt to investigate how consumers define and evaluate telephone interaction in terms of these concepts and their corresponding dimensions.

On the other hand, telephone interaction with customers, managed through call centres, is still much too internally focused and cost/production-oriented, hence not responding to a growing need for a customer-oriented approach. Customers specifically express growing privacy concerns and cynicism toward direct marketing practices and declining co-operation of respondents in telephone surveys (Evans et al., 2001, Nancarrow, et al., 2004).

The purpose of this paper is to explore customers' perspective in evaluating telephone interaction in order to provide a better insight into the nature and dimensions of value, quality and satisfaction concepts in this field. In the theoretical part of the paper, provider and customer perspectives on the evaluation of telephone interactions are presented, illustrating the gap that exists between them. In the empirical part, results of two related qualitative surveys that explored customers' evaluation of a telephone interaction are later presented. The first survey, conducted by means of focus groups, is aimed at exploring general motives and attitudes regarding commercial telephone interactions with customers. The second survey, conducted by means of indepth interviews, is aimed at exploring how customers evaluate the nature and dimensions of a specific type of telephone encounter, namely telephone surveys. Opinion and market research sectors are important branches of the service industry; for instance, the worldwide market research industry turnover was estimated to be $US15.890 million in 2001, the telephone being the dominant mode of research in North America, Scandinavia and Australasia (ESOMAR - Annual Study of the Market Research Industry 2001). Respondents are one of the most valuable resources of this service industry, yet there have been no attempts to empirically investigate how they perceive quality and value when participating in surveys. Based on the literature review and results obtained, implications for improvements of the evaluation of call centre performance and managerial practice are provided in the third part of the paper.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1. Providers' perspective

Call centres are defined as 'A place where calls are placed, in high volume for the purpose of sales, marketing, customer service, telemarketing, technical support or other specialized business activity' (Bodin and Dawson, 1999, p. …

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