Nicola Millard*, Linda Hole# and Simon Crowle#
* BT Laboratories and # Bournemouth University
The concept of a 'Call Centre' is regarded as fundamental to enhancing relationships, improving the quality of contact, and maximizing the possibility of conducting business with customers. This is achieved by combining innovative technologies with skilled staff into a closely managed and controlled specialist call handling function, which supports the core area of a company's business activities. The call centre is a true socio-technical system. The agent must contend with the customer interface, maintaining a coherent conversation with the person on the other end of the phone line, whilst also interfacing with the various customer handling tools that they have to help them. The customer should be unaware of the technology whilst talking to the human agent. Enquiries can be resolved on-line, and although the volume of calls is generally very high, typically the nature of the calls is predictable and uniform. The call distribution technology automatically forces the agents to answer a call as soon as their lines are free. It tracks all agent activity, all the time, making call centres the most highly supervised and monitored environments in business today. Commonly, incentive schemes for customer service people are driven by measurements designed to assess how efficient and productive they are. However, incentives based upon quantitative measures such as call throughput, talk time and volumes reflect little on the quality of service provided to the customers.
In reality, a call centre is only as good as its people; motivating and retaining good customer service agents can be the single biggest challenge in running a call centre. This research examined how customer service agents in an inbound customer service centre could be motivated to 'smile through adversity' by incorporating motivators into their system interface, which might enhance their levels of motivation throughout the working day.