Promising Phenomenon Dissertation

Pages: 101 (26560 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 100  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Business

¶ … promising phenomenon that lends itself to call centers' ability to improve their own and their other business units' efficiency is the employment of crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is an online, distributed problem solving and production model already in use by for -- profit organizations such as Threadless, iStockphoto, and InnoCentive. Speculation in Weblogs and wisdom of crowds theory assumes a diverse crowd engaged in crowdsourcing labor. Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call. Furthermore, and as crowdsourcing is in some ways similar to open source software production, prior research suggests that individuals in the crowd likely participate in crowdsourcing ventures to gain peer recognition and to develop creative skills. However, there has been limited research on the most effective ways to apply crowdsourcing techniques to foster a collaborative environment between call center employees and customers. The goal of this study was to assess the effect that crowdsourcing techniques can have on the development of call center business strategies and functional area operational practices alignment that allows for the identification, socialization and alignment of customer-focused business strategies that create value for both the customer and the organization.

The Power of the Crowd: A Study of Applying Crowdsourcing Techniques in Developing Co-Value between Call Center Customers, Call Center Employees and the Overall Organization

Chapter 1: Introduction

Statement of the Problem

Call centers are critically important as they are a vibrant parts of the American business culture (Dawson, 20006). Since the opening of the first call centers by the aviation industry in the late 1960s, call centers have become a basic business requirement for customer support, service, and marketing for businesses, large and small (Hillmer, Hillmer & McRoberts, 2004). Indeed, in both the United States and Europe, call centers are growing in importance as employers, currently accounting for between 1 and 3% of the workforce, and these percentages are expected to increase in the future (Wiley & Legge, 2006). The introduction of computer-based information technology has further fueled unprecedented growth in the number and size of call centers in recent years (Wiley & Legge, 2006). While a number of services are clearly dependent on a local presence to support warranty service or other product support, other services, such as call centers, need not be located domestically; however, in recent years, some U.S. call centers that have outsourced operations to Asia and elsewhere have brought them back to the United States, finding that domestic operations provide a better customer experience (Kopitzke, 2008). The importance of call centers stems in large part from the fact that they are at the center of an organization's relationship with its customers. Case and point, call centers are the front door to a business; further, according to Dawson (2006) the call centers' front line position is even more important in today's global economy. In this regard, Griffin (2002) emphasizes that, "The key to growing a loyal customer rests first in creating an effective frontline employee. Increasingly, for many enterprises the employee front line is a customer contact center where agents interact with customers" (p. 112). For many organizations, the front-line employees frequently referred to as customer service representatives are the employees with the most direct knowledge of customers. They are familiar with the questions, concerns, and desires of their customers long before others in the organization are. Often, the call center representative is the sole personal contact available to customers and thus plays a significant role in shaping the customer's perception of the organization (Hillmer et al., 2004).

As with people, companies only have one chance to make a good first impression, but call centers are also essential to maintain customer loyalty. The performance of its frontline employees determines how judgments of the entire company are made -- and future sales made or lost. Indeed, many firms have traditionally considered call centers little more than a tactical, reactive point of contact for the customer. More visionary companies, however, are now looking at inbound calls as an all-important servicing function that retains existing customers, cross-sells new services, and helps increase the company's overall share of a customer's budget (Griffin, 2002). However, the link between how well call centers perform their mission and translating that into actionable plans for improving other business areas has not been fully capitalized on. This threatens an organization's competitive advantage and decreases efficiencies in both the call centers and the businesses functional areas.

Purpose Statement

A very promising phenomenon that lends itself to call centers' ability to improve their own and their other business units' efficiency is the employment of crowdsourcing. However, there has been limited research on the most effective ways to apply crowdsourcing techniques to foster a collaborative environment between call center employees and customers. According to Cole (2009), "Crowdsourcing is a new buzzword spawned by social media. It recognizes that useful ideas aren't confined to positional leaders or experts. Wikipedia is a powerful success story, showing how millions of contributors can build a world-class institution, crushing every hierarchical rival" (p. 8). Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call (Condron, 2010).

Crowdsourcing represents a potentially valuable addition to the manner in which call centers operate because it can provide a venue in which customers can offer their insights, views and opinions concerning what is important to them and as well as the quality of their experience. These are important issues for the vast majority of call centers operating today given the stressful environment that characterizes many of them, resulting in inordinately high levels of turnover and the enormous costs associated with unplanned employee attrition. Indeed, service environments such as telephone call centers can feature never-ending queues of customers and relentless pressure to handle calls (Kossek & Lambert, 2005). To the extent that technology controls the pace of work and is combined with discretion-reducing managerial practices, it can diminish workers' ability to engage, both physically and psychologically, in other life activities (Kossek & Lambert, 2005). The main purpose of the study is to assess the effect that crowdsourcing techniques can have on the development of call center business strategies and functional area operational practices alignment that allows for the identification, socialization and alignment of customer-focused business strategies that create value for both the customer and the organization.

Significance of the study

According to Doan (2008), crowdsourcing is "an innovative business trend taking collaborative project management online -- and to a whole new level. Around the world, individuals are using online communities to identify people with similar experiences or interests who can share ideas, offer feedback and collectively identify which projects hold the most promise" (p. 46). Although many people have never heard of crowdsourcing, consumers who have commented on an industry standard or test-run beta software has taken part in a crowdsourcing initiative (Doan, 2008). Using the technique, an organization can tap into the collective intelligence of the public at large to complete tasks it would normally either perform itself or outsource to a third-party provider. Crowdsourcing can include anything from gathering feedback on a new idea, asking for help to solve a product problem, or looking for contractors, investors or new employees interested in participating in a project (Doan, 2008). According to Cooper and Edgett (2008), "The advent of communities of users combined with the widespread availability of high-speed Internet has enabled some companies to tap into the creativity abilities of their customer base. They seek input, ideas and, in some cases, partially completed product designs. Whether you are a T-shirt maker in Chicago, a furniture manufacturer (such as Muji in Japan), or a household products company (e.g., P&G with its Connect & Develop system), opening your doors to external inputs and your customers' wishes via company hosted webpage and the Internet is an increasingly popular route in this trend toward open innovation" (p. 48). An article by Howe published in Wired magazine entitled, "The Rise of Crowdsourcing" (2006) notes that, "Just as distributed computing projects like UC Berkeley's SETI@home have tapped the unused processing power of millions of individual computers, so distributed labor networks are using the Internet to exploit the spare processing power of millions of human brains" (p. 37). According to McCluskey and Korobow (2009), "Viewing an institution from the perspective of networks is a key component of successfully managing modern, mission-driven organizations. The traditional hierarchical view of an organization fails to capture how information and knowledge are created and used in executing the organization's objectives. The network approach has the potential to more deeply inform decision making and outcomes. Moreover, the advent of social software tools embraces and complements the network view of an organization. Social software helps make existing networks explicit while creating avenues for forming new networks around mission exigencies and crowd-sourcing,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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