Individual performance in call center


Whilst, there is a growing body of literature relating to individual performance, few attempts have been made to make a framework that explain the individual performance in call center, especially, in relation to technology. Even, few studies explain the results according to a clear theoretical background. Generally, in the area of individual performance at work, the proposed models are rather presented in deterministic way. They don't' explain the motivational forces and process that explain action and don't' take in account the dynamic characteristic of the individual. Thus, they present individual performance as static phenomenon beyond the time space dimension. Nevertheless, the performance is not stable over time, it's an evolution phenomenon.

The information system field is recently developed[1] contrary to other field as social or marketing one. Hence, the theoretical development is still evolving. Beside, the nature of IS field is interdisciplinary, that the evolution of related fields lead to a shift into the IS core. Even, IS scholars have emerged from varied academic background as organization science, computer science, information science… Hence, there is a mass of theories, methodologies and topics (Benbasat and Zmud, 2003).

Nevertheless, the main topic in information system field should be the IT artifact, as design, use, and consequence of use (Benbasat and Zmud, 2003). To answer this issue, IT artifact should be taken in relationship with the environment embedded it. It's not a neutral element. It's rather socially constructed (Massey et al, 2001). Additional, Orlikowski and Iacono (2001) make an overview of different IT artifact researches between 1990 and 1999, they stay that the research in information system is not engaged in its “core subject matter the information technology IT artifact”. IT artifact is under theorizing for many reasons. In this way, the researches either study the context within it technology operates, either the influence on a specific outcome in deterministic way. Thus, they conceptualize artifact as stable. In this way the influence of IT artifacts is assumed to be fixed. Accordingly, IT artifact is somewhat a neutral element.

Studies among this issue are generally, According to the previous purposes, there is a strong relationship between information system field and social field

Jones and Karsten (2008) share Poole and DeSanctis (2004) who state that structuration theory is one of the best influencing paradigms in information system research. As consequence, it's an interesting issue to study the application of structuration theory to appreciate the influence of information technology on organization and especially on individual performance.

The context of call center is chosen to make such investigation. Call center are employing phone operators who are answering customer need. The job requires strong attention to the customer using an information technology. It leads to a sequence of actions (identify customer, identify type of subscription, identify problem...) and decisions (pass reclamation, reboot the modem...). Even, the use of information technology is according to rules imposed by society and the system's itself. Similarly, phone operator should respect the organization norms and rules. When the agent interacts with information technology and social system, this leads to performance. The following scheme shows the different interactions:

Accordingly, some reasons lead to chose call center context. Firstly, call center is a socio-technical system (Reix and Rowe, 2002). In this way, Clergeau et al (2002) state that evaluation of call centers' performance should be in term of a social and technical system at the same time. Hence, there is an opposition between two poles. It's more interesting to analyse such system in duality way. Accordingly, Walsham (1998) claims that it's important to carry out the impact of technology in a micro level (such individual level) and its relationship with social level to in order to explain the transformation taking place around as.

Secondly, the work process in call center is based on phone operator. The overall performance of call center is based on the phone operator performance (metre les informations à partir de l‘aricles). As consequence, here the phone operator is not merely a passive user but he/she contribute to the firm survival. As suggested by Lamb and Kling (2003) IS researches should consider social actor (here phone operator) as an organization member who is representing the interests of the firm or department rather than as a user. As consequence, the performance should be expressed function on social actor (phone operator).

Finlay, call center are widely increasing especially since the last decade. Especially, the relocation and the sub-contracting are precursors of this development (Buscatto, 2002). This context is an example of time space distanciation. The technology employed by call center is the disembedding mechanism that favors this distanciation. Call centers are an immense manifestation of modernity. As consequence, some countries are employing thousand of people in this area. (mettre les staistique). Hence, the performance topic in call center becomes very attractive.

As consequence, the structuration theory is useful to understand the performance of phone operator using an analysis of duality between technical and social levels. Then it focuses on the importance of individual to explain the different interactions in the society and so in organization particularly. Overall, structuration theory is the most influential theories in exploring technology use in organizations (Chisalita, 2006)

As consequence, the research question is as follow:

To what extend the individual, social and technological interactions can explain individual performance in call center context?

In research on information systems, studies on the effects of various individual differences have been very rare after an influential article (Huber, 1983) strongly suggested that one specific individual difference, cognitive style, is not a good basis for operational guidelines for management information systems/decision support systems design and that scarce research resources should be targeted elsewhere (Topi et al, 2002)

According to the methodology, to focus on the dynamic nature of IT artifact, we follow the suggestion made by Orlikowski and Iacono (2001) to make a longitudinal research. Additional, many studies used structuration theory take this way. This will highlight the evolution in the core of IT artifact and the social context around it.

This thesis advancement state will be organized as follow: firstly we are going to make an overview of the theory used in information system research and a presentation of the usefulness of structuration theory. The second chapter deals about individual performance. The third chapter talks about an exploratory analysis and a presentation of a conceptual framework. Chapter four present the research methodology. We conclude with future steps.

[1] Since 1970, Benbasat and Zmud, 2003

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