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Call centres: constructing flexibility

[conference paper]

Arzbächer, Sandra; Holtgrewe, Ursula; Kerst, Christian

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Please use the following Persistent Identifier (PID) to cite this document:http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-216732

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Abstract "The development of call centres as a flexible interface between firms and their environments has been seen as exemplary or even symptomatic of flexible capitalism (Sennett 1998). We are going to point out that they do not just stand for organisational change but also for changes of institutions towards deregulation. Employers and managers hoped for gains of flexibility, decreasing labour costs, and market gains by an expanded 24-hour-service. Surveillance and control by flexible technology would be based on clearly structured communication work. Low skill requirements would make an easy hiring and firing of employees possible. On the other side, unionists and workers representatives feared the loss of worker participation and co-determination (Mitbestimmung), a decline of working conditions not protected by collective agreements, low payment standards without bonus payment for night work and weekends, and even breaches of health and safety regulations, e.g. for on-screen work. In this paper, we argue that de-institutionalisation is only part of the story. A close examination of organisational and institutional change in the emerging organisational field of call centres reveals that initial moves of de-institutionalisation are followed and complemented by tendencies of re-institutionalisation. We are presenting preliminary results from the project 'Call centres in between neo-taylorism and customer orientation' which explores the establishment and development of call centres on the levels of institutions, organisations and work. As research methods we employ interviews with institutional and management experts and with call centre agents, six case studies of call centres in contrasting industries, and a survey of call centre workers' demography, careers and work experience. In this paper we present an initial institutional analysis and draw on case studies of two banking call centres, both of which belong to large banks in Germany. They handle telephone requests for their banks' branches, operate a support hotline for online banking, and offer directbrokerage services by phone. Bank 2 offers telephone banking as well. Both employ between 300 and 600 call centre agents." (excerpt)
Keywords call center; job; flexibility; labor; working hours; Taylorism; customer orientation; service; work organization; organizations; qualification; direct marketing
Classification Sociology of Work, Industrial Sociology, Industrial Relations; Organizational Sociology
Collection Title Re-organizing service work: call centres in Germany and Britain
Editor Holtgrewe, Ursula; Kerst, Christian; Shire, Karen
Document language English
Publication Year 2002
Publisher Ashgate
City Aldershot
Page/Pages p. 19-41
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
data provider This metadata entry was indexed by the Special Subject Collection Social Sciences, USB Cologne