Contact Center Trends

9 Organizational Factors that Affect Service Delivery in Call Centers

By Shauna Geraghty

0 min read

Graphic Pattern Four

In customer-centric call centers, delivery of high quality service is crucial. In order to increase the quality of service that call center agents provide customers, managers must understand any organizational factors that may facilitate or hinder this process.

A recent study examined 58 call center agent’s views on the organizational factors that affect how they deliver service to their customers (Dean and Rainnie, 2008). They conducted a content analysis on the responses from agents working in a telecommunications call center in Australia.

Below is a rank order of nine major themes that call center agents identified as factors that affect their delivery of service:

1. Management’s emphasis on sales – focus on sales rather than service

Managers were described as profit oriented and required employees to upsell while responding to service requests. Many employees viewed the sales focus as “opportunistic” and “mutually exclusive from service quality”. When the focus was on sales and profit, service quality was sacrificed.

Example: “If the pressure’s on because your sales are down, quite often it can interfere with the sort of customer care that you can give… because you’ve got to try and push, help the customer out the best you can… but on the other hand you’ve got no sales, and then they get on you because you spent too much time with the customers helping them out and not making sales.”

2. Performance monitoring and feedback – quality assurance processes, targets and feedback

The quality assurance processes were viewed as necessary, but too regimented. Having a quantifiable productivity target also affected delivery of service quality as agents would often sacrifice quality to meet the target. Additionally, managers failed to provide positive feedback and encouragement thus agents felt it difficult to improve their performance.

Example: “…you think ‘oh God, my talk time is going to be so high I’ve got to get this customer off the phone as soon as I can because I had a really long call before’”.

3. Efficiency demands – time pressures associated with workload and KPIs, service quality delivery/productivity demands conflict, insufficient breaks

Time pressures associated with meeting workload demands and KPI targets contributed to stress and exhaustion, thus negatively affected service quality. Additionally, call center agents gave productivity targets precedence over customer service because they were concretely measured and tied to job security.

Example: “With QA the way it is, [you need] to be a recording, a robot.” “Because they like to measure numbers… there’s no intangibles in there, only what can be measured.”

4. Call center structure and support processes – communication, technical/product support, resources

High quality support processes, resources and good communication between team members facilitated service quality. However, there was no standardized protocol to report customer feedback and it was therefore not used to enhance support processes.

Example: “Customers sometimes have really good ideas but there is nowhere to send them to – well, there probably is, but we’re not made aware of it.”

5. Importance of employee-job fit – customer service orientation, ability to cope with stress, positive, flexible attitude

The “right people” for call center work were described as, “polite, helpful, flexible, confident, good at multitasking, have a positive attitude and have a sales orientation”. When surrounded by a good team, service quality increased.

Example: “We’re looking for flexible people. Flexible emotionally, intellectually, and with their time.”

6. Human resource management practices – recognition, rewards, incentives, rosters, shift times, training

Human resource management practices either facilitated or hindered the quality of service delivered. Training, recognition, rewards and incentives all had a positive effect on service quality. Factors that had a negative effect on service quality were: rosters (emotionally exhausted employees), inflexible shift times and lack of perceived job security.

Example: “You must have your workforce happy otherwise if we’re not happy, then we’re not going to make it sound like we are… We get fed up and we don’t want to speak to customers.”

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7. Teams and team leaders – team leader (technical, emotional support), team members (social, technical, emotional support)

Teams provided the operational framework for the call center as well as social and emotional support to agents. Team leaders encouraged their team to meet efficiency targets and quality assurance standards. Excellent teams and team leaders facilitated better service quality.

Example: “If an irate customer calls, everybody knew about it. When the call finished, you got the support from your team.”

8. Service encounter stress – customer interactions, QA processes, adherence to scripts, perceived control

Service encounter stress is the difficulty in managing customer interactions. When agents were not permitted to personalize the interaction, or break from the script, in order to better help the customer, they became frustrated and service quality declined. Agents also addressed the need for more flexible breaks and time to “cool off” after an upsetting interaction. They stated that this would improve service quality for future interactions.

Example: “It should be, this is the customer, this is the problem. OK, next customer. Ok different issue, we’ll handle it a different way. We’ll use the verbatim a different way. We’ll use our opening and closing a different way.”

9. Managerial attitudes – managerial approach, accessibility, modeling service quality

Call center agents reported inaccessible managers, a lack of modeling of high service quality behaviors and lack of value placed on customer feedback. All affected their ability to deliver quality service.

Example: “Every time we deal with management, we should be treated as though we’re a customer of that management…they always tell us to treat them [customers] with respect, value what they have to say.”

Although this data was collected from one call center, findings can be generalized to any call center and used to inform managerial practices. Managers must take initiative to survey their own call center agents in an attempt to identify specific barriers and facilitators to delivery of service quality. This is the first step to improving the quality of service delivered and reaping the benefits of an enhanced customer experience.


Shauna Geraghty

As the first U.S. employee, Shauna helped to scale Talkdesk to over 1,000 employees in 7 offices globally. During her tenure, she has built Talkdesk's Marketing, Talent and HR functions from the ground up. Shauna has a doctorate in clinical psychology and has applied foundational knowledge from the field of psychology to help propel Talkdesk along its hyper-growth trajectory.