دانلود مقاله ISI انگلیسی شماره 935
عنوان فارسی مقاله

مدیریت ارتباط با مشتری در مراکز تماس: فرایند ناآرام اصلاح یا شکل گیری موضوع از طریق روش ( فرد با شماره)

کد مقاله سال انتشار مقاله انگلیسی ترجمه فارسی تعداد کلمات
935 2008 22 صفحه PDF سفارش دهید 11200 کلمه
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عنوان انگلیسی
Customer relationship management in call centers: The uneasy process of re(form)ing the subject through the ‘people-by-numbers’ approach
منبع

Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)

Journal : Information and Organization, Volume 18, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 29–50

کلمات کلیدی
- مدیریت ارتباط با مشتری - مراکز تماس -
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پیش نمایش مقاله مدیریت ارتباط با مشتری در مراکز تماس: فرایند ناآرام اصلاح یا شکل گیری موضوع از طریق روش ( فرد با شماره)

چکیده انگلیسی

Real-time technology has the capability of symbolising both customers and call center representatives (and the moment of interaction), purely by/as numbers, or forms. The pinnacle of this data processing is customer relationship management (CRM), where the digitised data is assembled so as to reproduce a mimetic model of the customer. This could be seen as a metamyth (Adams & Ingersoll, 1990) that, in its concealed appearance within corporate databases, seems to cuts loose from any critical inquiry. In this paper, we offer an embryonic form of such a critique through the analysis of a number of original call center case studies. It seeks to analyze the nature of abstraction at the heart of IT-based CRM practices, and the contradictions that such abstraction can foster.

مقدمه انگلیسی

In the UK alone, the call center industry now employs more people than the coal, steel and automotive sectors combined. Call or contact centers are the fastest growing new form of work organisation. ‘Estimates vary, but industry experts suggest there are around 5500 UK call centers employing almost 400,000 workers (DTI, 2004, p. 1). While the speed of this growth in both the UK and the US has slowed down as a result of the expansion of global off shore outsourcing (Mirchandani, 2003, Mirchandani, 2005, Noronha and D’Cruz, 2006, Odindo et al., 2004 and Taylor and Bain, 2005), call centers remain of considerable interest for students of new forms of work and especially those focusing on the use of advanced information and communication technology. In this paper, we address an aspect of call center activities that we believe has major significance for the future – the use of customer relationship management (CRM) and its effects upon customer service representatives (CSRs) and, more limitedly, customers. Our objective is to examine customer relationship management (CRM) in a call center in order to demonstrate its potential to colonise the identities of both call center workers and customers. We elaborate this later but briefly it is about how individuals’ sense of themselves can be appropriated in the service of management concerns to secure organisational objectives. Technologies of the self (Foucault, 1988a and Foucault, 1988b) are expected to transform call center staff into self-disciplined subjects of sales and service who, in turn, facilitate a parallel self-disciplined consumption on the part of customers. Overall, the paper seeks to analyze the nature of abstraction at the heart of IT-based CRM practices, and the contradictions that such abstraction can foster in a way not dissimilar to Kallinikos (1995) when he speaks about the architecture of the invisible. The paper is divided into two main sections the first of which describes how the pursuit of high levels of service quality and the use of data in managing relations has changed the nature of work for call center staff. It is clear that surveillance of staff continues through the electronic boards and the automatic distribution of calls (ADC). However, the content of the customer service representatives (CSR’s) activities and not just the framework of the activity has become the locus of management monitoring. The objective is to convert this content into electronic data that can be manipulated for the purposes of improving performance. Customer relationship management (CRM) involves a re-appropriation of management control over the sales activity in a way not dissimilar from how scientific management re-asserted control over shopfloor production through separating conception from execution in the early part of the 20th century ( Braverman, 1974 and Taylor, 1911). Since we are not IT specialists, we take an ensemble, multi-layered, multi-actor, and processual view of CRM. In doing so, we aim to avert the pitfalls of either an excessive focus on the technology-as-tool and information processing capacity with little reference to the social relations that are its condition and consequence, or a purely nominal view in which the technology is taken for granted and only invoked in name but not in fact (Orlikowski & Iacono, 2001, p. 128). Orlikowski and Iacono conceptualise the ensemble view of technology with four variants: technology as a development project, production network, an embedded system and technology as a structure but all converging on ‘the dynamic interactions between people and technology, whether during construction, implementation, or use in organisations’ (2001, p. 126). We pursue a conceptualisation of the interactions between the numerous material and human entities: CRM technologies, techniques, data, call center staff, managers and customers, and forms of monitoring and control. This monitoring and control could be seen as loosely allied to the technology as embedded system enmeshed with the conditions of its use. The second section focuses on some of the responses of management and CSRs to CRM and staff monitoring in our case study organisations. Questions are raised about the effectiveness of CRM and its inexorable pursuit of a technologically simulated, mimetic model of the customer. Space permits only a few examples of where the mimetic model would seem to deny or violate any reasonable knowledge of the situation as perceived by ‘front line’ CSRs. Although senior managers appear to be captivated by the competitive advantages of corporate branding that CRM makes possible, call center representatives and customers often resist its effects and even some managers, charged with its implementation, exhibit degrees of ambivalence about its utility. Part of the problem as we illustrate in the analysis is that, as Kallinikos (1999, p. 264) makes clear, ‘computer-based representations need to be comprehended (the issue of sense) and related to states or processes of the referential world (the issue of reference)’. In this section, we turn more closely to interview material from our case studies to illustrate where the magic of mimesis breaks down in practice and where some of the imperatives of the technology, though not the technology itself may be “ignored, resisted or reshaped” (Kallinikos, 2007, p. 2). This is partly to reverse Kallinikos’s (2007) point because he wants to resist the voluntarist or humanist view that technologies or systems can be readily overturned or resisted where there is the human will to do so. We say partly because overall we agree with him that technology is a “recalcitrant ally” in that systems of communication (e.g. telephone and media), transport (e.g. airlines, rail networks and road systems) and utlities (e.g. electricity, gas, the computer and the Internet) have become irreversible actor networks (Callon, 1991 and Latour, 2005). Their virtually indisputable and indispensable benefits render them universal and our transformation as subjects enrols us all into their networks and disciplines to comply with their standards even in advance of knowing what they are. They are, as Kallinikos (2007, p. 3) points out, beyond the level of “contextual encounters”. However, such systems do not preclude particular applications failing to meet cultural expectations or sufficient endorsements, enrolments and mobilisations of resources to secure ‘obligatory passage’ status, let alone the stability and obduracy of irreversibility. History is scattered with examples of such failures (e.g. the central vacuum cleaner, the waterless toilet, the electric car, the absorption (gas) fridge, the electronic purse) even when as in the latter two cases they were technically superior to the alternative compression (electric) fridge and physical cash (see Schwartz Cowan, 1985 quoted in Knights et al., 2007 and Vurdubakis, 2007). Although the jury is still out, customer relationship management (CRM) may be one such application.

نتیجه گیری انگلیسی

In this paper, we have sought to avoid being caught on the horns of a utopian/dystopian (Knights & Jones, 2007) dilemma in which call center staff are seen, on the one hand, as enjoying the benefits of autonomy and empowerment in creating quality service and special customer relations or on the other, suffering high levels of surveillance and management control. The use of CRM is perhaps closer to the dystopian than the utopian image but it in no way denies ‘the potential, the presence or the importance of resistance’ (Richardson & Howcroft, 2005, p. 77) nor of internal and external contradictions in the use of the technology. As the example of the screen prompt insisting on the CSR offering a loan to a customer with a £10,000 credit balance suggests, CRM can only produce a mimesis, a Shamanistic artifact (Taussig, 1993) representing a typical customer. Notwithstanding the efforts at capturing data on customer’s past behaviour, or present dissatisfactions, the attempt to colonise the identity of a customer through a computer profile can only produce a data double (Berry & Linoff, 2000) not necessarily an exact copy of the subject. Nonetheless, mimesis is invariably about ‘the power of the copy to influence what it is a copy of’ Taussig (1993, p. 250). Rather than this being concealed within the complexities of magic and ritual or of ‘Primitivist Parody’ (ibid. 10), CRM turns this into a virtue openly declaring that the artefact (i.e. the mimesis of the customer) enables the exercise of power over the subject that the mimetic model seeks to portray. The digital or statistical artefact (Bogard, 1996) or mimesis (Norris, 1987), is perceived to offer various selling opportunities. These can be a great improvement on simple segmentation strategies that are restricted to delivering services to loose categories of the customer, based on relatively fixed conceptions of class, residence, gender, ethnicity and age. CRM mimetic models have the potential to capture the very subjectivity of individuals so as to deliver products and services that match precisely the demand profile of their target customers. However, as we have shown, CRM often falls well short of this precision and only the CSR agent’s intervention can deflect the sometimes-nonsensical, demands of the CRM system from inflicting irreparable damage that could lead to the company being charged with a technology-induced misselling. The discourse of consumer sovereignty is equally as much targeted at front line CSR agents as important precursors or signifiers of the corporate image and good customer relations. As long as they believe that the customer is sovereign, they are not only able to take advantage of customer goodwill when things are running smoothly but also, in Goffman’s (1973) phrase to ‘cool the mark out’ and act as a buffer for the company when things go wrong. Through data mining, the complexity of the consumer is reduced to a manageable set of data that can be used to match up with particular products. While it is claimed that the large databases are managed so as to capture information on customers’ ‘needs’, in many senses the ‘needs’ are constituted by the producers and certainly the product offerings are linked to those that promise high levels of profitability (Noble, Knights, Willmott, & Vurdubakis, 2000; see also endnote xii). The technological/ virtual space in which the encounter takes place means that the customer appears as a mimesis, or simulation based only on very limited information captured by the communicating company. Even if this data is overlaid or enhanced by demographic/geodemographic and lifestyle data, s(h)e is still only an ideal type amongst a disaggregated and re-aggregated community of simulations. The objective underlying CRM would seem to be that techniques can be applied to the management of data that offer companies the opportunity to come up with formulae that will enchant the customer. But the other essential of CRM – service quality – may or may not forge the relationship that seduces the customer into a long-term relationship with the organisation. Managing the customer then, involves an ‘enchanting myth’ of customer sovereignty (Korczynski, 2000). This, however, assumes that the customer is fully present in the relationship. Occasionally or fleetingly, within the service or sales encounter, a full understanding of the customer may emerge. However, as in some of our examples, the mimetic models produced by CRM for purposes of targeting a product or service, may well be off the mark. It is probably, therefore, beneficial to companies that CSRs sometimes make their own judgements as to whether to follow the prompt directing them to promote a targeted product or service. The debate is open as to whether in using their own initiative, CSRs can be seen to exemplify resistance to their being configured as a principal vehicle for creating and sustaining the company’s brand image. An alternative interpretation is to see it as an example of CSRs securing their own self-image and identity in doing their job well – an unintended consequence of which might be to sustain the corporate image or brand. Since the major objective is to provide service quality as well as to increase sales, there are bound to be a number of tensions. Further research on how CRM works in call centers and beyond, not just in theory but also in practice could help to clarify what here remains somewhat speculative. Following Orlikowski and Iacono (2001), we have sought to examine CRM in terms of its construction as a structure embedded within work practices, and as subject to development and perhaps modification in processes of implementation and use. We have also drawn on Foucault (1991) to suggest how CRM could be seen both to extend and change the broad project of ‘governmentality’ designed to manage aggregated populations through the capture and manipulation of data. This project also plays on the individualising tendencies of contemporary consumerism by presenting its targets with the illusion of a tailored and personalised service and thereby may be seen as part of what Foucault described as a technology of the self in constituting individuals as subjects that are a suitable case for self management. Even so, the machine-produced individual that is the product of CRM information-gathering techniques can only be a re-aggregated model of the customer-at-a-distance. As we have indicated, these at-a-distance knowledge gathering and evaluation techniques are also applied to the work of call center staff. Where the CSR is concerned, the data collected from remote sources often appears to be a mismatch with the views on the individual held by themselves, but also by team leaders and line managers who are closest to the members of staff. A limitation of the study has been not having the resources to study the impact of CRM on customers directly. There are, of course, numerous surveys carried out by consultants but these are often extremely expensive to access and often do not meet the standards of academic research. We also recognise that consumer surveys are notoriously difficult and expensive to conduct but in any future research we would recommend this development and trust this paper will serve to stimulate such interest.

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