Smiling Down the Line

Smiling Down the Line: Info-Service Work in the Global Economy

BOB RUSSELL
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442697850
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Smiling Down the Line
    Book Description:

    Smiling Down the Linetheorizes call centre work as info-service employment and looks at the effects of ever-changing technologies on service work, its associated skills, and the ways in which it is managed.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9785-0
    Subjects: Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. 1 New Workplaces: The Call Centre
    (pp. 3-34)

    Sociological interest in the unsolicited telephone call of the telemarketer begins not with the fact of the call or the volume of such calls in today’s world, but with the observation that our usual indifference to the product or service being offered is matched by curiosity, unease, concern, or even anger with the origins of the interaction itself. How was my name selected? Where was information about me obtained? Has it been sold without my knowledge? Where is the caller calling from: another city, state, country, or perhaps continent?

    Reversing the situation does not necessarily reduce the social actor’s uncertainty....

  7. 2 The Call-Centre Case Studies
    (pp. 35-58)

    The call-centre phenomenon has generated a good deal of interest apart from the broader theoretical issues raised in the last chapter concerning the way services are being reorganized and the effects this has on the staff who provide them and the publics who receive them. Concerns over working conditions in call centres, expressed somewhat differently by trade unions in Canada and Australia, yielded my introduction to the work of customer service representatives (CSRs). Below, I describe the genesis of this project, to provide the reader with an account of how the case-study organizations that form the heart of this study...

  8. 3 Making a New Occupation
    (pp. 59-87)

    One can comb through various national occupational classification guides from the early 1990s and search in vain for any mention of call or customer-contact centres or for customer-service representatives/agents or for any other reference to our subject matter. The 1997Australian Standard Classification of Occupations(ABS 1997) contains many familiar occupational titles under ‘Advanced Clerical and Service Workers’ and ‘Intermediate Clerical, Sales and Service Worker,’ but ‘CSR’ is not among them. ‘Call or Contact Centre Workers’ first make their appearance in the 2006 edition of theAustralian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations(ANZSCO) (ABS 2006). Call-centre workers are...

  9. 4 The Call-Centre Labour Process (1): The Division of Labour, Work Effort, and Job Skill
    (pp. 88-130)

    As suggested at the beginning of the book, the call centre has become something of a metaphor for the way in which work is organized in the global service economy. This follows directly from the point that besides being integral to many organizations – or in certain situations such as outsourcing, an industry in its own right – call centres represent a new way of organizing a broad spectrum of work. A central claim of this book is that the call centre is a labour process for the production and distribution of information, a site for the performance of what we have...

  10. 5 The Call-Centre Labour Process (2): Technological Selection and the Means of Communication in Info-Service Work
    (pp. 131-161)

    Poweris a customer-contact centre in the consumer-energy sector dealing in electricity and natural-gas distribution to households and businesses.² It exemplifies many of the features covered in the previous chapter and more than likely would fit comfortably among the other call centres in terms of the workload expectations and job skills we have already reviewed. Fifteen electricity teams, along with one gas, one multiskilled, (electricity and gas), and one emergency loss-of-supply team, field inbound calls that mainly deal with connections, final readings/disconnections, consumption, billing, payment inquiries, and complaints. Pam, the CSR whose calls I am listening in on, is a...

  11. 6 HRM and Call Centres: Culture and Identities
    (pp. 162-195)

    First impressions matter in interactive service work generally and in call-centre info-service work in particular. For service users there is often little other than the first impression, along with a relatively brief, virtually mediated, encounter with a distant worker. Such situations invariably create an image – be it positive, negative, or indifferent – of the organization with which the individual is in contact. Satisfactory interactions diminish callbacks, complaints, and ‘escalated calls.’ They are vital to an organization’s reputation, and this in turn may have implications for staff morale. In outbound telemarketing operations, first impressions may be even more ephemeral. In a matter...

  12. 7 Globalizing Info-Service Work: Outsourcing to India
    (pp. 196-234)

    Shortly after the beginning of the new millennium, when call-centre workers were being recognized as a separate occupational category in the employment-classification schemes of the wealthy countries, this labour process began to migrate to less developed countries, where it was quickly established as anew industry. The ability to source information and respond to queries from anywhere that digitized material can be received and transmitted is a powerful testament to the realities of globalization.² This chapter analyses a number of the implications attached to the globalization of information work. It is directed towards those changes besetting the world of work...

  13. 8 Discontent, Resistance, and Organizing in Info-Service Work
    (pp. 235-270)

    It is a truism that any sort of group work effort requires, at a minimum, a certain degree of coordination, which in turn relies on cooperation among members of the work unit. In call centres, managers generally oversee this coordination by constructing rosters and collecting and analysing performance data relating to schedule adherence, availability to take/place calls, time spent on the phones, and time spent in phone and non-phone activities. The immediate objectives are seamless service, with minimum call queues and waiting periods, and as much economic efficiency as possible (Houlihan 2006). Staffing can be a balancing act: managers want...

  14. 9 Concluding Reflections
    (pp. 271-278)

    When research about call centres first commenced, many of the terms referred to in these pages still did not exist. Designations such as ITeS/BPO and ‘supercentre,’ as well as natural-speech-recognition and screen-capture technologies, would have produced only shrugs a decade ago. Such have been the changes in the ways information is produced and conveyed that the task of analysing the subject matter in this book has been rendered all the more challenging. Info-service work is not something that is easily pinned down for inspection; there have been ongoing changes and new developments in the ways it is carried out. For...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 279-286)
  16. References
    (pp. 287-310)
  17. Index
    (pp. 311-326)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 327-328)