Factors Affecting Motivation: Working In A Call Center

The goal of this proposed project is to examine the factors affecting the motivation of employees working in call centers. Call centers have become an inevitable aspect of service delivery in today’s business world. Thus, there is a need for call centre management to find out what they can do to motivate their staff as well as to improve the service quality delivered to their customers. To achieve this goal, a research will be carried out. It will involve conducting surveys with the employees and employers of call centers in Mauritius and in other countries such as India, United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada. The surveys will be conducted in different ways: on the phone, on the internet and face-to-face. The research instrument that will be used is questionnaire where questions will be set according to the aims and objectives of the project. This research will be useful to many groups of people like the employers and employees of call centers, the government, the layman and the society as a whole. It will have a positive impact on the whole economy. It generate various benefits such as increased productivity, increased investment and better living standards, among others.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Call centers represent the service economy of the digital era. They are a growing part of the service industry in many countries and a considerable amount of call center agents jobs have been created in this sector in recent years (Baumgartner, Good, & Udris, 2002; Holman, 2003; Moltzen & Van Dick,2002; Wegge, Van Dick, Fisher, West, & Dawson,2006). Call centers are sites where agents use telecommunication links to conduct sales, service and technical support to customers who are located in distant areas, whether in the same country or across the globe. Communication between agents and customers serves different purposes like taking orders, giving information about products, providing highly skilled IT services or legal advice, conducting consumer research, and advertising.

Employment in call centers has grown drastically throughout the world over the past 15 years. Nevertheless, this growth has been contentious. Some observers argue that call centers provide low wages, with limited advancement opportunities and often stressful working conditions. Also, the customer service work in call centers is perceived as boring, monotonous and demanding. On the other hand, some observers, particularly in developing nations or disadvantaged regions in the developed world, have encouraged growth in call centers because they see it as an employment generating industry that often remunerates better than other alternatives.

Not only has the call center industry expanded rapidly in the recent years, it has also become very competitive. There have been relatively low barriers to enter this industry and thus, the number of companies within the industry has increased dramatically worldwide. Consequently, this has given rise to intense competition among the different call centers. To ensure survival in the industry, the call centers have to be competitive. And, to compete, they need to provide quality services to their customers to make them happy. Obviously, the management of call centers cannot make the customers happy as long as their employees remain unhappy because employees are the ones to provide services to the customers. If employees do not enjoy their work, it will affect the success of the organisation’s goal.

In order to be successful in the long term, managing people is one of the most crucial tools for a global business in today’s competitive world. Therefore, the topic of motivating employees has become extremely important to the employer of call centers, as motivation has a great impact on the way employees perform in the organisation. To be effective, the employer needs to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform. Knowing what it takes to do what is right for employees can help the business succeed. Everyone is different and that means that each and every person will be motivated by different things. Some employees may want more income whereas others may require a more interesting and challenging job. In today’s world, money has become less of a motivator. The employee’s request is more than just good pay. They now require some benefit and flexibility to bring their work and personal life together.

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Motivating staff is part of an employer’s responsibility to attract and retain employees. Attracting and retaining high performing customer contact employees is essential for service performance of call centers. Employers in call centers should develop an approach to motivate their employees to perform their best for the organisation, as motivation can manipulate the performance and behaviour of the individual. The motivation process will help maximise the ability of human resource and develop sustainable management strategies for the organisation seeking success and longevity.

Robbins and Coulter (1999) stated that motivation is “the willingness to exert high level of effort to reach organisational goals as conditioned by that effort’s ability to satisfy some individual needs which is reflected in the attitudes and behaviour of staff.” Motivated staff will perform better because they put in a higher level of effort and enthusiasm in conducting their work when compared to others. Hence, satisfying the need of the manpower reduces the felt tension within an organisation (Philip Kotler, 1990). Therefore, by motivating their staff, the call centers will be able to retain them and will also attract new and more efficient recruits. These factors may then help the organisations to achieve their goals.

Problem Statement

Despite the growing importance of call centers (Brown and Maxwell, 2002), there are several critical aspects concerning the mushrooming call centre industry that provide adequate ground for discussion.

Call centre customer service positions have been found to be highly repetitive and “dead-end” jobs (Belt, 2002). This position is often characterized by low status, poor pay and few career development opportunities (Deery and Kinnie, 2002). The work of call center agents is very demanding with respect to several aspects. There are lower levels of job control or autonomy, limited task variety, and higher levels of job demand and uncertainty. These characteristics are often linked to “mental health repetitive strain” which impacts on health and well being. Electronic monitoring, another critical aspect of call centers, is used to keep a tab on the quality of service provided. It is often associated with increasing amounts of stress, decreasing job satisfaction, and feeling of insecurity. This gives birth to the notion among the employees that the employers do not trust them. Thus, this feeling of lack of mutual trust has a negative effect on productivity, thereby preventing the growth of the business. The employees in call centers are de-motivated to work in such working environments. This also has a negative impact on customer service which is detrimental to the organisation’s success.

Consequently, call centers have great difficulty in retaining staff. They often face high agent turnover rates which are very costly to the organisation. Their corporate reputation is also at stake. Usually, call centers employ thousands of people and high agent turnover rates may also mean high unemployment rate for an economy. This, then, worsens the country’s economic and social conditions. Hence, necessary steps should be taken to overcome the problems encountered when working in call centers so as to prevent further problems from cropping up.

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Aims and objectives

The overall aim of the research project is to examine the factors affecting the motivation of employees in call centers.

The objectives are:

To help employers of call centers manage and motivate their staff more effectively.

To improve the working environment in call centers.

To decrease the agents turnover rates in call centers.

Methodology

This section presents an overview of the methods to use in the study. Areas covered include the research design, population, sample and sampling techniques, data collection and analysis.

Research Design

This study will involve the examination of the factors affecting motivation of employees working in call centers. Consequently, the research will be designed to achieve the set aims and objectives.

Population

The targeted population for the study includes employees and employers of call centers in Mauritius as well as in other countries such as India, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and Canada.

Sampling and sampling technique

It is obvious from the description of the population above that a census is not possible in this study. Accordingly, the survey type of research will be used. Structured surveys will be carried out in different ways: online (e-mail), phone and face-to-face. This will help to obtain different kinds of information related to call centers more quickly. A sample will be selected from the target population for the study. In total, a sample of 200 elements will be selected from the targeted population. The study will adopt a multi-stage stratified random sampling method to select elements. This is a probability method of sampling where every element has an equal chance of being included in the sample. First, the population will be divided according to their gender. Next, the two different groups: male and female workers will be divided into part time and full time employees. In this way, we will be able to collect data about factors that motivate the full time and part time employees in call centers. Usually, part time employees work during the nights whereas full time employees work during the days. Therefore, the factors motivating or de-motivating the two different types of staff may differ. This will ensure a fair representation of each group of people working in call centers.

Data Collection

The focus of the study is on the attitudes and perception of call center employees about their job. To meet the research aims and objectives, primary as well as secondary data will be collected. The primary data will involve collecting information about the factors affecting motivation of call center employees. It will be collected through structured surveys. Although the collection of primary data will be time-consuming, it will be useful since it will generate current information and the reliability of the data obtained could be determined. Secondary data will also be collected for the purpose of the study. It will be obtained from multiple sources such as commercial research houses and other research reports. It will focus on information like the trend in the employment rate in the call center industry during the past few years.

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Data collection instrument

Data will be collected by administering a questionnaire. The questionnaire will use structured questions, consisting of approximately 25 questions.

Benefits of the research

This research will be useful to different groups of people such as the employers and employees of call centers, the government, the layman, and the society as a whole. Employers will be able to take suitable measures to motivate their staff at work. This will then help to create a better work environment for the employees. Consequently, a well motivated workforce will aid to increase the call center’s productivity, service quality and profits, enhance its corporate reputation and decrease agent turnover. Low agent turnover also means low unemployment rates in the economy. This will be beneficial to the government. Its revenue in terms of taxes (taxes on the profits of the call centers and on the income of the call centers’ employees) will increase and its expenditure in terms of unemployment benefits will decrease. This budget could then be used for the provision of better public goods and services in the country. Subsequently, the society may benefit from higher standard of living. Low unemployment rates will also mean less social evils and thus, a healthier society to live in. Hence, this may attract more foreign investment in the economy. Overall, the project will improve the economic conditions of any countryAdditionally, this study will be useful to the layman. The latter will be able to learn more about the work environment in call centers. This will add to their general knowledge. Also, they will be able to know the extent to which it is advantageous to work in call centers.

Time Plan

The table below illustrates a Gannt chart. It represents the phases and activities of the research project.

WEEK

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

TASKS

1. Finalise research proposal and submit for clearance

2. Train research assistants

3. Pre-test study and finalise procedure/tool

4. Data collection

5. Prepare for data entry

6. Data Analysis and report writing

7. Finalise Report with research team

8. Discuss recommendation and plan of action

9. Presentation and Dissemination

Budget Analysis

Budgets are cost projections. They are an indicator of how projects will be implemented and managed. The table below shows the expenditures to be incurred during the research process, along with their equivalent cost.

Expenditures

Equivalent Costs (Rs)

Personnel Costs

2500

Travel Expenses

1500

Professional and Technical Services/Contracts

250

Telephone Bills

250

Supplies

500

TOTAL PROJECTED COSTS

5000

Budget Justification

Personnel costs include all the costs paid to employees involved in the research.

Travel expenses include the expenses of the research personnel when they are moving to and from the research sites (call centers) as well as conference attendance to communicate research results.

Professional and Technical Services/Contracts are expenses which relate to external contracts for services needed to conduct the research. They include They could include computer services, access to library databases, consulting fees for expert advice to resolve technical problems, cost of subcontracts, costs involved in providing personnel with training and/or development in techniques required to conduct the research project.

Telephone bills are costs incurred for telephone surveys.

Supplies include any materials that are consumed during the course of the project. They include office supplies, training materials, copying paper, postage, printing and photocopying expenses.

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