Thompson, P. and Callaghan, G.
(2002). Skill formation in call centres.
In: Holtgrewe, Ursula; Kerst, Christian and Shire, Karen eds.
Re-organising Service Work: Call Centres in Germany and Britain.
Ashgate, pp. 182–204.
About the book: Call centres are a new type of service work that stand at the interface between corporations and consumers. They exemplify more general tendencies present within service work. They also have a particular public image – being associated in the public mind with low skilled and regimented work.
This book presents contributions from British and German management academics and industrial sociologists based on primary research on call centres in both countries. The contributions cover the genesis and development of call centres as a new form of organization, or indeed a new industry; the rationalization and control strategies of organizations that establish call centres; and the nature of service work and service interactions.
The findings of this volume challenge the common public image of call centres and finds that call centre employment is in fact very diverse. So, for example, skilled advising and consulting services are often performed over the phone. Along with the sometimes-skilled nature of call centre work, work organization and working conditions vary as well.
The book also seeks to contrast the British and German experience of call centre work and employment. In Germany clerical work has traditionally been embedded in the specific traditions of co-operative industrial relations that define the German model. Call centres present a strategic challenge to this model, and the expansion of call centres has been at the forefront of changes aimed at making employment more flexible in Germany. A strength of the book is the choice of country cases, which permit a comparison of service employment within both a liberal capitalist and a socially embedded economy.
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