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How can I help you today? The knowledge work of call center agents


This paper reflects on an industry case study conducted in two outsourced call centers to explore the human side of their turnover problem. At the project’s onset, management did not consider it necessary to get input from their agents as they already had a thorough knowledge of their organization’s operations based on financial analyses and employee surveys. However when we brought back examples from the field showing agent work as complex, dynamic, stressful knowledge work, management began to see the value of soliciting input from their front-line employees. What started as a turnover investigation resulted in an organizational learning initiative to capture and propagate the “human” side of call center work. In the end, we shadowed agents through their shift to create “A day in the life of a call agent” video documentary so that organization-wide all could appreciate the complexity of call agent work.

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Szymanski, M. H.; Swenton-Wall, P.; Plurkowski, L.; Englert, J. How can I help you today? The knowledge work of call center agents. Proceedings of the Twelfth Participatory Design Conference (PDC2012); 2012 August 14-16; Roskilde, Denmark. NY: ACM; 2012; 2: 137-140.


Copyright © ACM, 2012. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Participatory Design Conference 2012 http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2348144.2348188