Nathalie Larsson defended her thesis “From performance management to managing performance: An embedded case study of the drivers of individual and group-based performance in a call center context” 14th October. Below you can find out more about Nathalie and her research, described in her own words.
When looking back, it is clear that certain things have dominated my life and always been very close to my heart. One such thing is the joy of writing. Another one is the curiosity of corporate reality. This has not only been evident in my bachelor studies (in Media Technology at Malmö Högskola, and in Business Administration at Lund University School of Economics and Management), but also when progressing my PhD. More specifically, my essays reflect a curiosity in understanding business strategies in managing external and internal challenges, which was accentuated during the PhD process and further developed into a profound interest in how to manage customer relations and performance.
Managing performance is critical for realizing certain economic benefits when managing customer relations in call centers. However, prior call center research is fragmented and under-analyzed, which contributes to a limited understanding of the underlying elements for performance and complexities in managing individual- and group-based performance in call centers. The purpose of this thesis is to further our knowledge of how to manage performance in call centers.
The findings from this qualitative study of four embedded cases in a Swedish company operating in the utilities sector provide empirical evidence of how call center agents and management manage performance. I propose that coping and the effects of coping strategies on performance constitute the primary link between contextual, control-based, cultural elements and performance outcomes. I found that call center agents handled their lack of knowledge of how to effectively solve (or not solve) a perceived problem by adopting various coping strategies. Such strategies were influenced by the amount of experienced coping over time and supported by dysfunctional prevailing performance-management systems. These coping strategies determined individual- and group-based performance in this call center setting.
Based upon these findings, I suggest a more proactive role for middle managers in handling the underlying causes of these coping strategies, rather than their consequences, in terms of performance impacts. I also propose suggestions to management for handling internal challenges generated by a dysfunctional performance-management system in these call centers. I also provide additional managerial guidelines for managing customer relations and performance in call centers, such as how to align call center operations with company vision.