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INTRODUCTION
The field of organizational behavior (OB) draws from the behavioral science disciplines of
psychology, social psychology, and cultural anthropology. The areas on which OB focuses are
individuals who will often be working within groups, which themselves work within
organizations. OB is as much a practical set of tools as an area of theoretical interest.
Organizational Behavior is field of study that investigates the impact that individuals, groups and
structure have on behavior within organization. It is the study and application of knowledge
about how people act within organizations. It is a human tool for human benefit. It applies
broadly to the behavior of people in all types of organizations, such as business, government,
schools and services organizations. It covers three determinants of behavior in organizations:
individuals, groups, and structure. OB is an applied field. It applies the knowledge gained about
individuals, and the effect of structure on behavior, in order to make organizations work more
effectively. OB covers the core topics of motivation, leadership behavior and power,
interpersonal communication, group structure and process, learning, attitude development and
perception, change process, conflict, job design and work stress.
Definitions
 According to Luthans
OB is directly concerned with the understanding, predicting and controlling of human
behavior in organizations.
 According to LM Prasad
The study and application of knowledge about human behavior related to other elements
of an organization such as structure, technology and social systems
 According to Stephen P Robins
Organizational behavior as a systematic study of the actions and attitudes that people
exhibit within organizations.
 According to Roman J. Alday
O.B as a branch of the social science that seeks to build theories that can be applied to
predicting understanding and controlling behavior in work organizations.
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HISTORY OF BPO
The concept of outsourcing started with Ross Perot when he founded Electronic Data Systems in
1962. EDS would tell a prospective client, "You are familiar with designing, manufacturing and
selling furniture, but we're familiar with managing information technology. We can sell you the
information technology you need, and you pay us monthly for the service with a minimum
commitment of two to ten years.
BPO is the act of transferring some of an organization's repeated non-core and core business
processes to an outside provider to achieve cost reductions while improving service quality.
Because the processes are repeated and a long-term contract is used, outsourcing goes far beyond
the use of consultants. If done well, BPO results in increasing shareholder value. The main
difference between BPO and more traditional IT outsourcing is that BPO offers companies a way
of achieving transformational outcomes much more quickly. In a typical BPO contract, a service
provider takes over a specific corporate function. Effective BPO encompasses much more than
just changing who is responsible for performing the process. In BPO, the outside provider not
only takes on the responsibility to manage the function or business process, but also re-engineers
the way the process has been traditionally done.
The next generation of Business Process Outsourcing has emerged as a priority for businesses
looking to better options in managing their application portfolios. The first wave offered low-
cost, off-shore development labor, but today firms are demanding new, less risky options for
applications that are strategic, complex, or mission-critical, while still taking cost into
consideration. Outsourcing has moved from a niche technology management tool to a
mainstream strategic weapon. Business Process Outsourcing leverages process driven
efficiencies in terms of organizational excellence, responsiveness & branding, financial
efficiency and customer relationship. BPO is emerging as a powerful and flexible approach that
business leaders can use to achieve a wide range of tactical and strategic aims. The most
common business process that gets outsourced is call centers. Call centers and Help Desks of
many multinational and fortune 500 companies are being outsourced to low waged, English
speaking countries such as Philippines and India. Countries like India with vast IT human
resources are also attracting outsourcing from American IT/Technology companies to outsource
their IT Help Desks. Many of these help desks are state of the art with latest Help Desk software
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and help desk hardware with technical savvy IT graduates behind them answering your
questions.
It can be defined as the transfer of an organization's entire non-core but critical business
process/function to an external vendor who uses an IT-based service delivery. By doing so, BPO
helps an organization concentrate on its core competencies, improve efficiency, reduce cost and
improve shareholders' value. Though IT outsourcing has been happening for so many years, an
increased momentum has been witnessed since the late 1990s due to the rise of Internet and
Communication technologies. Several global giants from various industries have begun to realize
the importance of BPO and have started outsourcing their non-core business functions. This has
given rise to many specialized BPO vendors across the globe, with India being a major hub
owing to its large computer-literate English-speaking population, low billing rates, strategically
favorable time zone and high quality. The BPO market in India is expected to grow
exponentially in the coming years.
Although the term "business process outsourcing" (BPO) has gained visibility in the IT services
industry only in the past four to five years, the service offering itself has existed for decades. For
example, several of the largest service providers have significant legacy revenue streams that are
derived from medical claims processing contracts. In many instances, these contracts include the
entire back-office function. The outsourcing of payroll administration, an accepted practice for
many years, is another illustration of the true age of the BPO market.
This market is now experiencing noticeable momentum in terms of wider user acceptance and
the emergence of new service offering categories, as well as a proliferation of providers from
which to choose. Service providers offer BPO for literally hundreds of business processes. Some
of these service offerings are very stable; some are just emerging and are, therefore, largely
untested.
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CALL CENTERS
Call center is a generalized term that embraces a number of activities like reservation centers,
help desks, information lines or customer service centers, irrespective of how they are organized
or what types of transactions they handle. Call center is generally referred to are fined voice
operations setting that provides a full range of high-volume, inbound or outbound call-handling
services, including customer support, operator services, directory assistance, multilingual
customer support, credit services, card services, inbound and outbound telemarketing, interactive
voice response and web-based services. Call centers are becoming increasingly popular in
today‟s business, where many companies have centralized customer service and support
functions. Call centers are generally large offices with representatives who either make or
receive phone calls. Depending on the type of work, call centers may have a single office
employing a few people or large office with thousands of employees. The main activity in some
call centers is answering inbound calls, such as a bank that gives out a toll-free number for
customers needing help. At the same time there are some call centers that focus on outbound
calls too. With increase in outsourcing, call centers are also becoming popular. By way of
outsourcing, companies‟ contract out some functions to other companies located mostly in cost
effective destinations like India. In this field India enjoys several advantages over a number of
developed counties. In India, we a have large pool of qualified people; English speaking
graduates and IT professionals. In addition to this India have some other advantages like cheap
labor, flexibility in working hours and time zone difference. This is the reason why a number of
MNCs are outsourcing their business activities to India. Call centers are comparatively a recent
introduction to the world of career options in India. The career avenues provided by Call centers
is one of the best suited and growing option which even a fresher can opt for. With the opening
up of the Indian economy and the advent of globalisation more and more companies from abroad
are basing or outsourcing their call center services to India, a trend started by GE when it
established a call center near New Delhi in 1998.A call center is a service center with adequate
telecom facilities, access to internet and wide database, which provide voice based or web-based
information and support to customers in the country or abroad through trained personnel. Call
centers exist in all sectors of business including banking, utilities, manufacturing, security,
market research, pharmaceuticals, catalogue sales, order desk, customer service, technical
queries (help desk), emergency dispatch, credit collections, food service, airline/hotel
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reservations etc. The wide area of services provided by the call centers makes it a lucrative
career with a range of opportunities.
UNDERSTANDING - THE CALL CENTER “INDUSTRY”
There has been some dispute amongst researchers as to whether it is appropriate to refer to such
a thing as the “call center industry”. As Bain and Taylor point out, “despite similarities in the
integration of computer and telephone technologies, centers differ in relation to a number of
important variables—size, industrial sector and market, complexity and length of call cycle time,
nature of operations (inbound, outbound or combined), the nature and effectiveness of
representative institutions including trade unions, and management styles and priorities”. To this
list of variables, Callaghan and Thompson would add the “degree of product complexity and
variability and the depth of knowledge required to deal with the service interaction”. Bain and
Taylor argue that it is more appropriate to use the term “sector”, as call Centers are found across
a wide range of industries and may be similar primarily in terms of their core technologies. They
do note, however, that there is a professional literature and a collective identity that is maintained
and developed through conferences and forums. Belt, Richardson and Webster (2000) agree that
call centers are not an industry as the term is generally defined, but rather represent certain ways
of delivering various services using the telephone and computer technologies across traditional
industry boundaries. However, these authors provide three strong reasons defending the practice
of referring to call centers as an industry: First, the call center community often defines itself as
an industry, with numerous national and international call center conferences and workshops
taking place each year, industry journals and call center forums organized at local levels. Second,
the labor force requirements of call centers are often the same across sectors. This means that
many, though not all, call centers share a common labor pool. Third, the organizational templates
and technologies used tend to be very similar, regardless of the sector. To this one might add the
remarkable similarities that international researchers have found between technologies used,
work practices and key issues including monitoring, control, training, and labor demographics
for workers in countries as diverse as Germany, Japan, Australia, Greece, Canada, the US, the
UK and the Netherlands.
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STRESS IN CALL CENTERS
Stress exists in every call center. Call centers are stressful work environments. The demands of
serving the customer in real-time helps to lay the foundation. Add to this factor things such as
job repetition, potential job dissatisfaction, poor ergonomics or low pay and the stress level
climbs higher.
If stress in the workplace (i.e. the call center) is not on the agenda the results of stress are
revealed through higher absenteeism than other parts of the company, higher Workers
Compensation claims and ultimately in reduced customer satisfaction.
This Operations Topic focuses on various approaches to managing stress. Raising the pay is not
necessarily the solution. There are many other creative means of managing stress in your call
center.
 Factors that Create a Stressful Call Center
 Emotional Labor
 Stress Levels Staff Turnover and Some Suggested Solutions
 Customer Centric Attitude and Stress
Recommended Solutions to Solving Stress in the Call Center
 Involve Front Line Staff in Creating Solutions
 Attention to Ergonomic Factors Helps Reduce Stress
 Develop an Internal Ergonomic Program
 Employee Assistance Programs Can Contribute
 Consider Massage Therapy Services or Yoga As Possible Solutions Resources
 Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanizing Your Interaction Hub
 Managing Workplace Chaos: Workplace Solutions for Managing Information, Paper,
Time and Stress
 Tele-Stress - Relief For Call Center Stress Syndrome
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HUMAN ISSUES IN CALL-CENTER INDUSTRY
STRESS
For many employed in the call center sector, "the daily experience is of repetitive, intensive and
stressful work, based upon Taylorist principles, which frequently results in employee "burnout".
Brown, more vividly, characterizes the work as "repetitive brain strain". These descriptions are
hardly surprising, in a way, given that call centers are established by organizations to "create an
environment in which work can be standardized to create relatively uniform and repetitious
activities so as to achieve economies of scale and consistent quality of customer service". This
means, in other words, that workplaces are organized in ways that weaken employee autonomy
and enhance the potential for management control, and "a loss of control is generally understood
to be an important indicator of work-related stress".
There is almost universal consensus that call center work is stressful. Even in studies that report
the observation that some staff actually enjoys their work, mention of stress is still the norm, and
a significant portion of the call center literature is devoted to detailing the sources of stress in call
center work.
FOUR KEY STRESSORS
'Can we get off the phone for a while?'
The primary source of stress reported is inherent to the nature of the job: spending all day on the
phone dealing with people one after another, day after day, is difficult. Doing it under constant
pressure to keep call volumes up, with no time between calls to "recover from an awkward call
or from 'customer rejection'" is even more difficult. And doing it with "very little authority or
autonomy to rectify problems" that arise is perhaps the most difficult of all. Many studies report
agents as wanting to 'just get off the phones'. For example, Belt and colleagues note "agents in all
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three sectors [financial services, IT, and third-party services] spoke of the phenomenon of
'burnout', caused by the pressure of working exclusively 'on the phones'". In the same study, the
authors mention that the issue of 'burnout' was also recognized by some managers: "It was
pointed out that managers face an inherent conflict between the need to reduce staff boredom
and labor turnover, and the pressure to concentrate staff energies on telephone based work".
"The question of how call center employees deal with stress is an important one, particularly in
view of evidence that a build-up of stress leads to illness, absenteeism and turnover," writes
Houlihan. Many authors agree, and there are a variety of individual coping mechanisms
described in the literature. Tricks to circumvent control mechanisms, such as those discussed
above are sometimes mentioned as attempts at stress reduction, although they are unreliable in
this role as they may also increase stress. Others mention social interaction squeezed into brief
moments--Callaghan and Thompson describe agents using humorous (or rude) gestures towards
the phone, or making faces at colleagues to defuse stress over angry or abusive callers, and
making jokes to combat the tedium of the day. Lankshear and Mason describe a similarly social
approach to reducing tension in one of the sites they observed, where staff often laughed and
joked with one another in intervals between calls, with management's approval. More formally,
some call centers include stress management as a component in training programs, and many
have, or claim to have, team de-briefings which permit staff to vent frustrations while discussing
difficult calls or dissatisfactions with elements of work.
Knights and McCabe takes a different approach to stress in the workplace. They note that
although much organizational analysis and most of the call center literature tends to
conceptualize stress as an individual problem, it is actually located within "a framework that
emphasizes the interrelationships between structural relations of power and the subjective
interpretations and actions of employees". This more nuance positioning may provide more
insight into call center conditions, as it allows a researcher to consider the response of employees
"forced to interpret the often contradictory demands management place upon them" including
"contradictions…over service quality versus the quantity of work output". "Clearly," these
authors write, "staffs face some fundamental contradictions over unity versus conflict,
uncertainty versus certainty, quality versus quantity and these are at the heart of the reproduction
of stress, resistance and control". This focus on the "contradictory" nature of demands strikes at
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the heart of the second inherent sources of stress in (primarily inbound) call center works: the
quality/quantity conflict.
QUALITY/QUANTITY CONFLICT
Typically, organizational rhetoric in inbound call centers is concerned with 'customer care', or
'keeping customers happy' (providing quality service), yet these goals are juxtaposed with an
ongoing pressure to keep call times down and call volumes up. Houlihan describes the difficulty
concisely:
Call centers are rooted in contradictory tensions and structural paradoxes, and confront a number
of trades-offs on that basis. These set a context for attitudes towards the organization and can
impose conflicting role requirements on agents. A core example is that of the pressure for
quantity versus the aspiration for quality, the guiding logic of which is the conundrum of trying
to get closer to the customer while routinising, centralizing, reducing costs and prescribing
standards.
The dichotomy is not completely straightforward, it is important to note. Part of providing
quality service from a management perspective is making sure customers do not wait too long
for their calls to be answered, even though the push to keep queue waiting times short is typically
categorized as part of the pressure towards quantity. As Bain points out, "efforts to attain what is
perceived to be the desired balance between the quantity and the quality of calls presents a
perennial challenge".
The practice of ongoing work practice modification and target revision as management swings
from one side to another of the quality/quantity debate is a major source of stress for call center
agents. As Houlihan notes: "The practice of putting a 'drive' on particular targets for
improvement (for example, the collection of renewal dates, the up-selling or cross-selling of
products, the quality of data input, or the intensity of sales push) and continual reprioritisation
means that the 'goalposts' are constantly shifting". Virtually all of the call center authors who
write about work conditions mention the difficulty of dealing with these competing goals.
Korczynski and colleagues suggest that this dilemma is particularly difficult for front-line
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workers because they may be likely "to identify with embodied individual customers, for
interactions with specific customers may be an important arena for meaning and satisfaction
within the work". They contrast this customer-as-individual orientation to the managerial goal of
balancing customer orientation with efficiency, which they suggest leads management to prefer
workers to identify with a generic category, 'the customer', since "such a disembodied image of
the customer will encourage workers to deal with individual customers efficiently because they
will be conscious of the concerns of other customers waiting in a queue".
INTENSITY
The third central stressor in call center work is its intensity. As Bain (2001) argues, "far from
being either in terminal decline or on the wane, Taylorism-in conjunction with a range of other
control mechanisms-is not only alive, well and deeply embedded in the call center labour
process, but its malevolent influence appears to be spreading to previously uncharted territory".
There is widespread consensus that "call centers are a new, and particularly effective,
manifestation of the increasingly capital intensive 'industrialization' of service sector work, and
work performed in them is highly intensive and routine".
Buchanan and Koch-Schulte quote one call center worker who describes the constant pressure
graphically: Ellen: It's almost like the army. It's much regimented. You punch in with a time
clock.
You come in and you sit down, and the numbers are all computerized. As soon as you finish a
call, the minute you hang up another call comes up just this constant, all day, repetitious…
constant sort of like beating on a drum, but day after day.
The pace of work is determined by the combination of technologies that deliver calls to the
headset and account details to the screen, and workers often have no control over this process.
Descriptions such as "exhausting," "robotic," "controlled," and agents discussing the nature of
their work often use "machine-like". Houlihan expands on the idea of controlled, machine-like
agents by suggesting that this is in fact exactly the way that the organization conceives of them:
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Call centers are information handling organizations. As currently characterized, the job of the
agent is to be the voice of the organization, interfacing with the client or customer. The
organization rehearses the things it wants said and feeds them through the agent. The agent is
largely constructed as a mouthpiece rather than as a brain.
Buchanan and Koch-Schulte spoke with a call-center worker who articulated her feelings about
the organization's expectations of its agents in very similar terms: Rosa: You are standing
waiting to be used by the technology, and it's a physical embodiment of that. You are standing,
waiting until that call comes in to use you to make money. And you are simply another part of
that machine. When this feeling of being a cog in a machine which never stops as it grinds on,
repeating the same actions over and over again, is combined with "the cumulative emotional
demands presented by the interpersonal nature of the work", stress is inevitable.
TARGETS
There is a fourth feature of some call center work that may engender stress: performance targets.
There are various types of targets, which may vary between inbound and outbound centers.
Inbound centers typically have targets for call duration, 'wrap time', and daily call volume.
Outbound centers often also have sales or 'completion' targets, which are closely monitored and
upon which pay may be partially based. In addition, in some sectors, inbound call centers are
attempting to introduce the practice of cross selling, where agents attempt to sell additional
products to the customers who call in for another purpose. In these centers, sales targets similar
to those in outbound centers are often in place.
Taylor and Bain argue that particularly in the financial services industry in the UK, targets are a
significant source of stress for workers as more and more importance is placed upon meeting
them in an increasingly competitive business environment. Sales targets, in particular, are
difficult to accept, or meet, for staff who often consider themselves as service personnel,
particularly when they are set centrally and implemented locally: "Cross-selling is seen by
employees, not as an opportunity to engage in creative work, but as an additional and acute
source of pressure". This is especially the case when sales targets are parachuted in on top of
service targets set originally when there was no pressure to produce sales.
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As a CSR in Taylor and Bain's study emphasizes: "When somebody phones in for a balance you
have to try to get a sale or get them interested as well as turning the call round in 155 seconds".
Even in centers that claim not to prioritize targets, researchers have found that staff often feels
significant pressure. Targets simply intensify the stress produced by the quantity/quality debate,
or, as one agent is quoted as saying, "They say that they're not really interested in numbers. They
say that they are more into quality. Well, that's a lie. They're usually more into numbers than
anything". It is important not to over generalize however. While most call centers do have some
targets, they are a source of stress that is directly under management control. Some call centers
are managed in such a way that targets are set to realistically reflect local conditions, are
interpreted in light of other, more subjective information, and are not used punitively or to
intensify work. In some they are even used effectively to motivate and encourage staff. For
example, Lankshear and Mason describe a series of conversations with managers in their call
center site where management consistently conceptualized their performance reports (for
example, one commented that it's 'human nature' for productivity to drop before and after a
holiday), and used their status as an excuse to praise good performance and coach those who
consistently had difficulty meeting targets: "Our best bet is to develop the people we have got"
one manager is quoted as saying.
OTHER HEALTH ISSUES
The result of intense, stressful work may be an effect on workers' health. There are often high
rates of absenteeism and sick leave reported in the literature, although there is relatively little
exploration of these issues, particularly when compared to turnover. Most often, authors provide
a brief list of known health issues. For example, Richardson, Belt and Marshall write that
"Health concerns have been expressed, including tension, sleeplessness, headaches, eye-strain,
repetitive strain injury (RSI), voice loss, hearing problems and burn-out", but they do not
develop the point. More detailed descriptions of the causes and effects of these ailments can be
found in industry and trades union reports. For example, the Trades Union Council (TUC) in its
brochure targeted at call center workers, cites the main illnesses to which call center staff are
prone: "back strain and RSI, stress, eyestrain, and voice and hearing loss".
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Also in the UK, regulators have been proactive in their examination of the industry, with the
Health and Safety Executive issuing a bulletin on call center regulations, health risks and best
practices in December 2001. They looked specifically at health issues including stress, noise
levels, musculoskeletal disorders (such as back problems) and voice loss, and also at display
screen issues, working environments, requirements for work stations, daily work routines,
training, organizational working practices and shifts.
SLEEPING DISORDERS
No prizes for guessing the most severe ailment afflicting people working in Indian call centers.
Since this is a unique Indian problem, again, no solution appears in sight. Obviously this affects
first timers more severely, as they take time to acclimatize their biological clocks, but even
experienced people or managers are not able to completely escape from it. Some call centers are
looking at devising innovative mechanisms like flexible shifts with sleeping arrangements in the
office premises as possible solutions.
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM RELATED DISORDERS
Working long and odd hours without any sleep, and eating food supplied by external caterers
every day, has led to 41.9% of the respondents suffering from digestive problems. Especially for
the large number of girls working in the industry, the problem is even more severe. Many call
centers are now taking additional care to ensure their caterers supply hygienic food; besides
stipulating strict conditions to maintain the quality of the food they serve.
DEPRESSION
In last year's survey, this was not among the top disorders, but this year it has climbed up the
chart, affecting nearly one-fourth of the respondents. Not surprising, since, as the industry
matures, the initial glitz and glamour wears away and the real problems come to the fore. Not
only are there several health related issues, but, on top of that, the gradual realization that there is
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limited scope in developing a career owing to fewer growth opportunities is increasing the
frustration levels. Coupled with growing mental fatigue and increasingly punishing physical
environments, depression is the obvious end result. Some call centers have now devised different
stress management programs mainly to counter depression.
SEVERE STOMACH RELATED PROBLEMS
Continuing digestive problems lead to severe stomach disorders like gastroenteritis, as endorsed
by more than 24% of the respondents. Even doctors in major cities agree-in recent times many of
the patients with various stomach ailments are from call centers.
EYESIGHT PROBLEMS
Globally call center industry employees are considered a high-risk group for eye-related
problems. While the quality of monitors might impact these disorders, sitting continually without
adequate breaks seems to be the truer reason. The number of people affected seems to be on the
rise-last year only 19% complained; this year it has gone up to 23%. At some point of time, this
problem might also afflict the IT services industry, but for the call center industry, no remedy
seems to be in sight.
EAR PROBLEMS
More than 16% of the respondents inform that they have hearing problems. Again, no surprises
here, since a call center job involves taking calls throughout the shift, sitting with headphones.
While quality of headphones does make a difference, it would not be correct to completely wish
the problem away by thinking that changing headphones will solve it. Some other Human Issues,
in Call-Centers, which need Immediate Attention
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PERSONAL HABITS
The young executives are getting more than five figure salaries per month in an early age. They
tend to develop certain bad habits such as alcohol, smoking etc. It is not easy to identify such
individuals. It is also very sensitive to talk to them. The professional counsellors can conduct
group-counselling, workshops, educative film shows in order to create awareness on effects of
bad habits. Such actions will enable individuals to realize the importance of good habits and they
could seek one to one Counselling sessions to solve their problems.
DISCIPLINE AND BEHAVIORAL ISSUES
Call centers provide excellent working environment, free food and transportation. There is
always a situation where individual or group of youngsters tend to commit mistakes and abuse
the freedom. They start behaving like in college campus where they have more freedom.
However, the call center executives have more responsibility and accountability, they need to
follow discipline and do well in the job. The most common behaviour is misuse of food, behave
erratically in vans, and smoke in public places, misuse of telephones and other resources of the
company.
The supervisors always concentrate on performance and achieving targets. They do not have
time or interest to go deep into these matters and find out the reasons for such behaviour. The
professional counsellor can play a major role in educating the youngsters on discipline; provide
advice to erring executives. The counsellors with their wisdom and experience can tackle such
issues tactfully and bring change within the individuals. As said earlier, to majority of them this
is the first employment and they are fresh out of the colleges. Few tend to behave differently and
they have the "do not care" attitude. Such executives will not take their job seriously, they
indulge in teasing, and joking, talking over mobile phones, have friction within the team. These
aspects may go noticed or unnoticed by the supervisors.
The fact remains that such unacceptable behaviours will cause disturbance to others and overall
it affects the productivity. Sleeping while on duty, reading novels and playing games on the
computer during working hours brings down productivity and quality suffers. The HR
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representatives and professional counsellors jointly have a role to bring behavioural change
starting from the training days. Continuous education and Counselling will help to mitigate such
problems and it is possible to prevent serious problems.
INTER-PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP AND FRIENDSHIP
Executives develop friendship quickly and sometime the friendship breaks and there will be
misunderstanding among the team members and naturally affects the team performance. The
supervisors and counsellors can play a major role to sort out the interpersonal relationship and
develop team spirit. Healthy relationship among the team members has always helped the team
to outperform. When the relationship fails the individuals will also break down mentally. They
either absent for duties or fall ill or the performance will come down. It is also true that due to
misunderstanding and break in friendship they change jobs quickly.
LOVE AFFAIR AND MARRIAGES
Few of the boys and girls fall in love quickly. They maintain the healthy relationship, behave in a
matured manner, plan the future course of action and such persons have got married with the
consent of their parents. They work together in the same organization for longer duration. There
are instances, where lovers fall apart, start disliking, creating troubles to each other and vitiating
the atmosphere. They are immature, take instant decisions to break or unite and sometimes go to
an extent of damaging others reputation. The professional counsellors can play an important role
in explaining the importance of marriage, preparation required for marriage, how to enter the
institution of marriage, which is acceptable to both parents and society and about the new role
and responsibility after getting married. Counselling services can definitely give emotional
support to individuals.
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ABSENTEEISM
Absenteeism is very high in calls centers. Employees tend to be very irregular to the duty due to
various reasons. The professional counselling services to such irregular employees on one to one
basis will help to bring down the absenteeism. The counsellor can educate and explain the
importance of attending duties to earn the salary and also to meet the organizational goals. Each
individual are unique and the problem they face are also different in nature. Only the
professional counsellors can understand, analyze and provide long lasting solutions for the
individuals.
HIGHER EDUCATION AND PART TIME JOBS
It is possible to do higher education while working in BPO units. Few organizations encourage
and offer support services to pursue higher education. However, the time management by the
executives is crucial to go forward in education as well as to maintain the performance and
career growth. Programmes on time management, tips to study, tips to keep fit and such other
programmes can be offered. These steps would help to seek the loyalty of employees to the
organizations and helps greatly for the retention of employees.
Organizations do not grant permission to pursue part time jobs while working in BPO units. In
order to make quick money and to have options open to change the jobs in future will drive the
employees to do part time work. Human body does not permit to stretch beyond one's capacity.
The executives need to take sufficient rest in the daytime so that energy levels are maintained.
Either due to lack of experience or due to compulsions, the executives keep their one foot in call
center and another in part time jobs. In the long run this would affect individual‟s health. The HR
executives must identify such persons and offer professional Counselling services to them.
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REMEDIAL MEASURES FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT
Understanding that the “Stress” is a major concern for all Call-Center Employees, it is a duty of
HR-heads of Call-Centers to address it properly.
Some of the Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Although we all experience stress in different ways, there are certain signs that are most
frequently reported. These signs fall into two major categories; physical/behavioral signs and
emotional signs. If we become aware of our own stress symptoms, we will be more effective in
dealing with them sooner rather than later. What follows is a list of some of the most experienced
symptoms of stress.
The physical/behavioral symptoms include; muscular tension, muscle spasms and tics, rapid
heart-beat, shortness of breath and high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, backaches,
headaches and neck aches, stomach problems, indigestion, irritable bowel and ulcers, feeling
fatigued, irritable, decreased ability to concentrate, insomnia and changes in eating behavior.
Since these physical symptoms may be related to physical problems, you should consult with
your medical doctor before you assume that your symptoms are purely stress-related.
The emotional symptoms include; anxiety in a variety of situations not limited to the stressful
situation, depression, hopelessness and a strong urge to cry without specific incident, withdrawal
from social interactions and avoidance of previously enjoyed activities, powerlessness and
decreased self-esteem, hostility, anger and resentment, fears, phobias and unwanted thoughts.
Learning to become more aware of your own stress symptoms is the first major step in the stress
management and healing process. It is often helpful to monitor your daily symptoms in a stress
diary where you match the stressful events with the symptom experienced. For example; you
made find that if you are stuck in early morning traffic you may experience irritability and
headaches. In this case it will be important to use these symptoms as a cue that you have to begin
managing that stress more effectively when it happens.
19
What are the Consequences of Unmanaged Stress?
We all know that stress is something that doesn‟t feel good to us physically and emotionally.
What is even more compelling is what happens below the surface each time we experience
stress. Stress researcher Hans Selye, determined what happens internally each time we
experience something as threatening or stressful. According to Selye, when we perceive a threat
in the environment the thinking part of the brain sends an alarm message to the nervous system
via the hypothalamus. The nervous system then makes changes in the body that prepare you to
handle the perceived danger ahead. These changes include increases in heart rate and blood
pressure as well as pupil dilation. In addition, there are hormones and chemicals secreted such as
adrenaline, that give the body the necessary push to be able to manage the threat a head.
Although there are situations in which these adrenaline surges are very helpful in helping us
mobilize, the constant adrenaline surges due to repeatedly perceived threats, have a toxic effect
on the body. For example, recurrent adrenaline surges inhibit some of the other important
functions in the body including growth and tissue repair, digestion and the immune response.
Just as the thinking part of your brain is responsible for turning the stress response on, you can
turn it off by changing the threatening appraisals you are making. Once you are able to determine
that a threat does not exist or that it can be effectively managed, you thinking brain stops sending
panic messages to the nervous system. As a result of this reappraisal, the hormones and
chemicals cease to be released and the body returns to normal.
Bringing the body back to an "un-stressed" state is very important since almost every system in
the body can be damaged by stress. Although our bodies are adaptive and can recover from
periodic stressors, chronic stress has serious consequences. We experience the consequences of
stress on three important levels; physically, emotionally and behaviorally. What follows is a
description of the specific consequences in these three categories.
Physically, the body is likely to develop a stress-related disease as a result of the stress toxins
that are released. For example, chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular disease by elevating
blood pressure, damaging the heart and arteries and increasing blood sugar. Respiratory
conditions such as asthma and bronchitis can result from stress-triggered changes in the lungs.
20
When stress inhibits the body‟s digestive functions, diseases such as ulcers, colitis and chronic
diarrhea can occur. In addition, stress contributes to inhibited growth of tissue and bone which
can lead to decalcification and osteoporosis. The immune system is also inhibited by the reduced
efficiency of the white blood cells, making the body more susceptible to disease. Increased
muscle tension, fatigue and headaches are additional consequences of chronic stress.
The Second Category of Consequences of Chronic Stress is the Emotional Consequences
Depression can result from chronic stress due to the constant release and depletion of no repine
prime. What also contributes to the depression is the thought that life is terrible and that it is
never going to get better. What then results is a feeling of helplessness and ineffectiveness,
feeling like a failure and a reduction in self-confidence. Individuals who are depressed are also
likely to withdraw from relationships and isolate themselves which often increases the intensity
of the depression. In addition, anxiety and fearfulness are commonly felt emotions if someone
constantly perceives threats around the corner. In addition, individuals who are chronically
stressed are likely to exhibit increased cynicism, rigidity, sarcasm and irritability since they
believe that their situation is not likely to improve. Chronic stress also has significant behavioral
consequences. Behavioral consequences often result from innate survival urge we have to seek
relief, to fight or to flee. Unfortunately, these relief-seeking behaviors eventually become
problematic. For example, "addictive behaviors" can result from the repeated efforts to soothe or
escape the painful stress. Alcohol, drugs, smoking and overeating are often seen as tools to help
manage the stress even though their effects are short lived and the consequences of chronic use
are destructive to the body and mind. Unfortunately the mind‟s ability to deny the long-term
consequences in order to fill short-term need to escape perpetuates the problem and increases
excessive use behavior. Similarly, procrastination, poor planning, excessive sleeping and
avoidance of responsibility are examples of behaviors used by stressed individuals to temporarily
flee from the pain. What is most significant about these behaviors is their ability to generate
additional problems that are as severe as the original stressor. For example, procrastination or
avoidance of the management of a stressor only serves to increase anxiety and exacerbate the
stress experience. Stress consequences reviewed above suggest that in addition to being
physically and psychologically distressing, they reduce the likelihood of effective goal reaching.
21
Rationale for properly managing and coping with the stress is for health protection in future as
well as making present more productive and satisfying.
MANAGING STRESS
Since stress is an inevitable fact of life that we can‟t always prevent, our efforts need to be
focused on coping with stress more effectively. What follows is a description of a three pronged
approach to stress management which includes behavioral/practical techniques, relaxation
techniques and cognitive/thinking techniques.
The behavioral/practical approaches to stress management include exercise and eating a healthy,
balanced diet, which includes selections from the basic food groups. In addition, it is
recommended that one avoid the excessive use of alcohol, caffeine and sugar, which contribute
to fatigue and vulnerability to mood swings. It is also important to allow the body to rest and
replenish to help inoculate the body against future stress. Building this stress resistance also
includes scheduling time for leisure and pleasure, which provides for a more balanced, fulfilling
life. Anticipating and preparing for recurrent stressors by managing time, setting priorities and
limits, delegating responsibility, and not procrastinating are helpful stress reducing strategies.
These techniques are effective stress management tools because their utilizations within our
control.
The relaxation approaches to stress management include a variety of techniques designed to help
you effectively manage the body/mind tension. Progressive muscle relaxation is an active form
of relaxation where you individually contract the major muscle groups of your body for about
five seconds and then you relax the individual muscle groups for a five second holds. The
contrast experienced by this exercise relieves muscle tension and relaxes the body. Some of the
more passive relaxation approaches include listening to music, reading and using saunas and hot
tubs to relieve tension. Techniques used to relax the mind include meditation and visual imagery.
Meditation teaches you how to clear the mind of stressful and distracting thoughts by focusing
the mental energy on positive coping thoughts. Visual imagery is designed to help the individual
visualize him/herself coping effectively with a stressor that was previously experienced as
overwhelming. The behavioral and relaxation approaches described above are necessary but not
22
sufficient conditions for stress management. The third prong to stress management, the cognitive
or thinking approach, is essential to effective coping with stress.
The cognitive or thinking approaches are an integral part of coping effectively with stress and
now the primary focus of many stress management programs. Since it has been determined that
we can turn off the stress response by changing our threatening/dangerous event appraisals to
appraisals that help us view these events as manageable challenges, we have a direct link to
controlling the stress response. The first step in the cognitive approach is to identify our thoughts
or internal dialog that is negative, perfectionist, black and white, rigid and demanding. In other
words, you are more likely to experience stress if you believe that you, the world and other
people "should or must" behave in a manner consistent with your demands and standards. For
example, you are likely to experience stress if you believe that the world and your life should be
stress free and that you do not have the resources to handle stress if it does occur. In addition,
demands of perfection on yourself and on others important to you, increases the chance of
feeling stressed since these expectations are unrealistic and rigid. After identifying your stress
producing thoughts you are then able to move onto the second step in the cognitive approach;
recognizing the consequences of this negative, rigid dialog.
The motivation to change the stress-producing dialog comes from the determination that there
are serious consequences that result form these negative, rigid thoughts. When you talk to
yourself in a defeated, pessimistic or rigid way, you deny your ability to cope and are not likely
to manage situations effectively or meet goals you set. In addition, perfectionist demands are
experienced as appropriately unrealistic and contribute to a "why bother" attitude. This attitude
reduces the likelihood that you will address these demands since it is a realistic fact that no one
or nothing is ever perfect. Once you are convinced that the dialog is negative and
counterproductive, you are ready to move on to the third step in the cognitive approach;
challenging and replacing the negative internal dialog with a healthier, more productive internal
dialog.
This important step in the reappraisal process requires that you challenge your rigid dialog by
asking yourself a series of questions about that rigid dialog. For example, "Why must I perform
perfectly in order to believe I am a valuable human being?" In addition, "Does that demand for
perfection increase my anxiety and reduce the likelihood that I perform well at all?" "What
23
would I feel like and would I be more motivated if I changed my demand for perfection to a
desire to do well?" Another example of this reappraisal process can be seen in the area of
criticism and rejection.
A negative internal dialog that would create stress in this area is "I am worthless because I was
rejected and this proves that no one will ever love me." A healthy challenge to this belief would
be, "How does the opinion of this person reflect my personal worth?‟ "How does it follow that
this rejection will lead to future rejections?" It is also important to add, "Even if I were to get
rejected repeatedly, could I work to make desired changes in my personality without condemning
myself or feeling worthless?" By replacing the negative, rigid dialog with more realistic, flexible
dialog, you are more likely to feel healthier emotionally and behave more rationally and
productively.
The behavioral, relaxation and cognitive techniques described above have been determined to be
effective ways to manage and cope more effectively with stress. The techniques give the control
back to the individual and empower him/her to manage the inevitable stressors that will occur in
life.
FACTORS THAT CREATE A STRESSFUL CALL CENTER
Stress in the Call Center will affect the agent, manager, director, or anyone in the call center
when they let stress gain control. When this happens, they lose self-control and have the feeling
of being overwhelmed. The first step in gaining control is and identifying what the stressors are
and understanding the causes and effects. Stress is caused by many things. Time pressures, high
expectations, lack of communication, high call volume, inexperience, ill-prepared, to name a
few. The effects are decreased productivity, anxiety, low morale, poor customer service levels,
and increased turnover. When faced with these stressors, training is the tool to resolve the issues.
You must go to your training programs and processes and ask yourself if the training you are
providing the call center employees delivers the tools required for them to accomplish their goals
without the negative stress. Approach dealing with the stress in the Call Center with
assertiveness and confidence. One of the most effective things I have done, in my own call center
experience, as well as seen in other call centers, is to have a specific workshop covering stress.
Let employees voice their specific stressors and develop actions to overcome them and resolve
24
what is inhibiting their performance. Their minds are then clear and mentally prepared. It will
then be motivated for training to make them a more confident and capable call center employee.
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
This is a call center disease that some call centers just gravitate to simply because everyone is
too busy with their job duties and with doing someone else‟s jobs that we simply forget to
communicate. Sounds harmless but if you dont address it could slowly but surely drag down
your centers morale, employees self-esteems, work life balance, job security, employees
productivities, etc.
HIGH VOLUME
This one is a little tougher because the causes could be variety of different issues. The more
common symptom of high volume is poor workforce mgmt. Put, workforce team needs to be
very proactive in correctly forecasting your volume two weeks in advance(within 98% of the
actual volume) and be ready with a staffing analysis of how efficient CSR schedules are by day
for you. If this is every week from your workforce team, you will be well aware of your holes
every day for the next two weeks and you can make staffing decisions before the day happens. If
your workforce team is good, then you will better prepare to handle spikes/lull in your volume.
Another symptom of high volume is poor attendance/retention - if you consistently don‟t have
the reps that you planned for, then you might as well stay home too. Issues like these are harder
to address because the root causes are never the same. You have to go the employees and find
out why they are not coming to work or why they are leaving you. Once you have an idea of the
root causes, then you and your team can creatively find solutions or create new policies to
address them.
High volume is a self-feeding animal - if you dont get control of it, it will surely bring down your
operation. Your frontline supervisors will have to help out on the phones all the time and they
can‟t work with their CSRs. Employees are constantly going from one call to the next without
much breaks in between. Your boss is constantly on you for high ASAs and Abandon %, blah -
the story goes on and on and the picture doesn‟t look pretty.
25
COMMON CAUSES
It includes understaffing, impossible service levels, inappropriate or oppressive management
style, mis-match between agent skills and job requirements, mis- match between the stated aims
of the job and the actual work being done (e.g. a sales center that is swamped with technical
service complaints), jobs that require no thought on the part of the operator and that could/should
be automated (directory enquiries, bank balance requests etc).
EMOTIONAL LABOUR
"Emotional labor is defined as the effort expended (and the concomitant physiological arousal) to
manage or regulate one‟s emotional reactions at work. This effort is necessary for exhibiting
those performance behaviors valued by the organization, and suppressing the expression of less
acceptable behaviors. Service employees are particularly vulnerable to a demand for emotional
labor, because their jobs generally require maintaining a friendly and positive demeanor despite
job characteristics that may engender negative emotional reactions(e.g., irate customers, complex
problem solving, or hectic work pace). Any work setting which engenders negative emotional
reactions from employees, while requiring the suppression of certain behaviors associated with
these emotions (e.g., yelling, abruptly hanging up the phone, or scowling), is fertile ground for
emotional labor. The stereo typical customer service call center is such a work place."
26
CONCLUSIONS
SUGGESTIONS
 HANDLING THE ABUSE
Agents handle an average of 110 calls a day, and 80 percent of the calls that come in have
some level of emotion. Usually a caller is calling in because they are frustrated, angry,
upset, concerned—something has happened and they are not happy. Therefore, it is
crucial that agents and especially the call center manager note these occurrences and
become better prepared and informed on handling them for the sake of their workers and
their callers. In these situations the task should become how to handle this type of
emotional call rather than instantly labeling it "abusive" and not acceptable.
 JOB ROTATION
We instituted job sharing/intern program in our call center. CSRs who meet or exceed job
expectations are eligible to do a rotation for three months in other groups. CSRs work
half a day on the phones, the other half in the Correspondence department, or in the
Research department, Work Force Management, or Quality Assurance. This breaks up
their day, teaches them new skills, & provides us with a pool of trained staff whenever
we need it have a job rotation program that alternate telephone staff to do administrative
tasks to break up the day to day grind.
 SPORTS ACTIVITIES
In call center, what we followed recently is that we organised a sports week where we
asked the agents and their supervisors to organise and also take part in the same. This has
brought a change in their working performance as far as we can see. I personally feel that
you should organise something that will allow the agents change their daily routine and
do something routine.
 BUDGET FOR ACTIVITIES
If employee turnover is a major problem, you may want to budget money for employee
activities / incentives. I have a activity committee that plans birthday decorating, holiday
potlucks, contests, etc. Involve the staff to join and participate in the committee.
27
 WEEKLY EMPLOYEE FOCUS GROUP
Any employee can come to a weekly or bi weekly focus group with the call center
manager and human resource manager. Questions from the employees are posted publicly
and the date that the issues were addressed. Over time, I have seen focus groups that
started with very serious issues slowly evolve to sessions that become more like rap
sessions - more fun and less serious.
 MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FROM THE COMPANY
Yes, this is a time consuming endeavor but if done right and done consistently, could be a
great medium to communicate new/revised policies, reward employees/teams, train your
employees, and build strong team spirits.
 DAILY DEPARTMENT HUDDLE
Each team/department should be highly encouraged to have this quickly huddle daily
with their employees. This goes a long way in building that strong bond between
employees and supervisors and yes, you can also use this time to communicate.
 MONTHLY LETTER FROM THE BOSS
It could be from the VP of Ops, or it could be from the CCM. The point is, the company
will have an opportunity every month to speak to the workforce.
STEPS TAKEN BY COMPANIES TO HANDLE STRESS FACTORS
“Good Call Center Training Alleviates Stress”
1. Acknowledge the Emotion:- Listen to the caller and acknowledge that something has
happened to make them emotional. Acknowledge it and move on to the next step before it
escalates to an abusive call.
2. Take Control of the Call:- Strong words choices will immediately diffuse the emotional
aspect of the call. By using strong "I can" statements and proper word choices such as
"Absolutely, I would be glad to help you with …", "I can look that information up for
you” instead of emphasizing the "you" in statements like, "can you tell me what
happened?"--where the customer immediately feels like they are speaking with the wrong
person—after all they wouldn‟t be calling if they knew what was wrong.
28
3. Transition into the Problem Solving Pat:- Finally, to get the caller out of their
emotional state, transition them into a problem solving path. Once they have had a chance
to get through the emotional part, move on so their issues can be resolved.
BPOs HELP STAFF COPE WITH STRESS
MUMBAI:- Blame the nature of the job, deadline pressure or customer expectations. BPO jobs
undoubtedly involve high stress. Prashant Chawla, COO, Integreon, a Mumbai-based KPO, says
that there are three types of stress an employee may experience — tight deadlines, repetitive
nature of the job and late night shifts.
Aashu Calappa, VP-HR, ICICI OneSource, says, “Everything gets measured and this puts
employees under pressure.” Companies are now making efforts to help their employees cope
with stress because it is an occupational hazard. For example, night shifts are rotated on a regular
basis. However, deadlines can‟t be controlled.
Most of the BPOs arrange „feel good‟ activities like an outdoor picnic or an official dinner once
in three months. This helps employees talk to their senior management in an informal
environment. Employees are also given recognition by being designated as „employee of the
week‟ and „employee of the month‟. Vineet Mittal, president and MD, Stream, says that they
conduct in-house workshops at frequent intervals in which employees play games and indulge in
activities like dumb charades and scrabble.
Mr Calappa says they organise various events like family gatherings and Valentine‟s Day
celebrations to lighten the atmosphere in the office. According to him, an employee could be
stressed because of a tough supervisor or if he is not able to perform well in his job. So, there is a
lot of emphasis on the training of team leaders (TL) and supervisors to avoid a strained
relationship between the employee and the TL.
BPOs like Stream have appointed „fun officers‟ whose job is to arrange a party or a movie for the
entire office once in a month. Similarly, ICICI OneSource has an executive who is required to
spend at least two hours daily at the shop floor talking to employees about their day-to-day life.
3Global, a Hutchison-Whampoa BPO, has also appointed an executive to arrange sports events
on a monthly basis.
29
Shirish Kerkar, general manager, HR, 3Global, says, “We organise sports events like cricket
tournaments to ensure that our employees are engaged in physical activities.” The company
recently concluded a cricket tournament where 300 employees participated (10 people perteam).
Shilpa Shetty, a BPO employee, who heads a 200-member team says, “Our deadlines are in
hours and not days or weeks. So the stress is obviously high. I‟m heading a large team. So,
managing it is a big challenge, which at times, may stress me out.” She has adopted an
interactive way of dealing with workplace stress. She makes sure that she talks to her team
members on a daily basis, which may not necessarily be about work. “I do a lot of catching up
with my team members, which helps me to understand them better,” she adds.
Another BPO employee, Prashant Warrier, who interacts with the company‟s clients across the
globe says, “People at my level are the first ones from the company to interact with the clients,
so its puts pressure on us to present our company well because clients are demanding.” Sanjay
Salooja, a Delhi-based counsellor visits BPOs to counsel the employees.
He says generally, front-line employees and team leaders talk to him about both professional and
personal problems like long working hours and family demands. Besides teaching them
breathing exercises and yoga, the employees are taught to look at things from a different
perspective. They are encouraged to take ownership and be accountable for their job in the
organisation
Traditionally, call centers meant only voice-based customer support. But now most call centers
are more of a contact center, offering E-CRM services, that include voice based customer
support as well as e-mail response, web-based text-chat services and other customer interaction
channels. The call center services can be inbound where in calls are received from customers
enquiring about a service or product that an organisation provides. The call center services can
be outbound where in calls are made to customers to sell products or collect information/money
etc. Call center services can also specialised say in business processing where in calls are made
from one company to another company.
Some call centers stick to only domestic businesses dealing with customers within the country
called domestic call centers while others such as an International call center mainly deal with
clients from abroad say from US, Europe etc. There is a great scope for Call centers in India,
30
with a large population of educated English speaking people. The wide range of opportunities,
comparatively well-paid jobs for the minimum qualification it requires and the facilities the
companies provide like to and fro transport, subsidized meals and medical facilities makes Call
centers a good option.
Experts point out that continued high growth in an industry can be an issue because it strains
systems and governance processes that need time to mature and to be institutionalized. Indian
BPO industry is currently facing the challenges arising out of its stupendous growth. The major
challenges being faced by the ITES or BPO industry in India can be classified into internal and
external challenges. The internal challenges include shortage of competent managers for the
middle and senior management and the high attrition rates. The external challenge is in the form
of opposition from the US politicians and the UK labor unions against shifting of the BPO
operations by local companies to India. We suggest to do physiological analyse in BPO sector by
HR and do steps accordingly.
It is desirable to employ professional HR Professionals with knowledge of Human Psychology in
BPO units/call centers. The services offered by professionals may not be felt in the initial stages.
Companies like Tata, L&T, MICO and few others have employed professionals in their factories.
The professionals can do wonders in BPO sectors as well. People are the backbone of BPO
industry and it is certain that professional HR or Human Psychologist can make inroad in this
emerging organization and facilitate the growth of organization in an immense way.

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ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR PROJECT ON BPO

  • 1. 1 INTRODUCTION The field of organizational behavior (OB) draws from the behavioral science disciplines of psychology, social psychology, and cultural anthropology. The areas on which OB focuses are individuals who will often be working within groups, which themselves work within organizations. OB is as much a practical set of tools as an area of theoretical interest. Organizational Behavior is field of study that investigates the impact that individuals, groups and structure have on behavior within organization. It is the study and application of knowledge about how people act within organizations. It is a human tool for human benefit. It applies broadly to the behavior of people in all types of organizations, such as business, government, schools and services organizations. It covers three determinants of behavior in organizations: individuals, groups, and structure. OB is an applied field. It applies the knowledge gained about individuals, and the effect of structure on behavior, in order to make organizations work more effectively. OB covers the core topics of motivation, leadership behavior and power, interpersonal communication, group structure and process, learning, attitude development and perception, change process, conflict, job design and work stress. Definitions  According to Luthans OB is directly concerned with the understanding, predicting and controlling of human behavior in organizations.  According to LM Prasad The study and application of knowledge about human behavior related to other elements of an organization such as structure, technology and social systems  According to Stephen P Robins Organizational behavior as a systematic study of the actions and attitudes that people exhibit within organizations.  According to Roman J. Alday O.B as a branch of the social science that seeks to build theories that can be applied to predicting understanding and controlling behavior in work organizations.
  • 2. 2 HISTORY OF BPO The concept of outsourcing started with Ross Perot when he founded Electronic Data Systems in 1962. EDS would tell a prospective client, "You are familiar with designing, manufacturing and selling furniture, but we're familiar with managing information technology. We can sell you the information technology you need, and you pay us monthly for the service with a minimum commitment of two to ten years. BPO is the act of transferring some of an organization's repeated non-core and core business processes to an outside provider to achieve cost reductions while improving service quality. Because the processes are repeated and a long-term contract is used, outsourcing goes far beyond the use of consultants. If done well, BPO results in increasing shareholder value. The main difference between BPO and more traditional IT outsourcing is that BPO offers companies a way of achieving transformational outcomes much more quickly. In a typical BPO contract, a service provider takes over a specific corporate function. Effective BPO encompasses much more than just changing who is responsible for performing the process. In BPO, the outside provider not only takes on the responsibility to manage the function or business process, but also re-engineers the way the process has been traditionally done. The next generation of Business Process Outsourcing has emerged as a priority for businesses looking to better options in managing their application portfolios. The first wave offered low- cost, off-shore development labor, but today firms are demanding new, less risky options for applications that are strategic, complex, or mission-critical, while still taking cost into consideration. Outsourcing has moved from a niche technology management tool to a mainstream strategic weapon. Business Process Outsourcing leverages process driven efficiencies in terms of organizational excellence, responsiveness & branding, financial efficiency and customer relationship. BPO is emerging as a powerful and flexible approach that business leaders can use to achieve a wide range of tactical and strategic aims. The most common business process that gets outsourced is call centers. Call centers and Help Desks of many multinational and fortune 500 companies are being outsourced to low waged, English speaking countries such as Philippines and India. Countries like India with vast IT human resources are also attracting outsourcing from American IT/Technology companies to outsource their IT Help Desks. Many of these help desks are state of the art with latest Help Desk software
  • 3. 3 and help desk hardware with technical savvy IT graduates behind them answering your questions. It can be defined as the transfer of an organization's entire non-core but critical business process/function to an external vendor who uses an IT-based service delivery. By doing so, BPO helps an organization concentrate on its core competencies, improve efficiency, reduce cost and improve shareholders' value. Though IT outsourcing has been happening for so many years, an increased momentum has been witnessed since the late 1990s due to the rise of Internet and Communication technologies. Several global giants from various industries have begun to realize the importance of BPO and have started outsourcing their non-core business functions. This has given rise to many specialized BPO vendors across the globe, with India being a major hub owing to its large computer-literate English-speaking population, low billing rates, strategically favorable time zone and high quality. The BPO market in India is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. Although the term "business process outsourcing" (BPO) has gained visibility in the IT services industry only in the past four to five years, the service offering itself has existed for decades. For example, several of the largest service providers have significant legacy revenue streams that are derived from medical claims processing contracts. In many instances, these contracts include the entire back-office function. The outsourcing of payroll administration, an accepted practice for many years, is another illustration of the true age of the BPO market. This market is now experiencing noticeable momentum in terms of wider user acceptance and the emergence of new service offering categories, as well as a proliferation of providers from which to choose. Service providers offer BPO for literally hundreds of business processes. Some of these service offerings are very stable; some are just emerging and are, therefore, largely untested.
  • 4. 4 CALL CENTERS Call center is a generalized term that embraces a number of activities like reservation centers, help desks, information lines or customer service centers, irrespective of how they are organized or what types of transactions they handle. Call center is generally referred to are fined voice operations setting that provides a full range of high-volume, inbound or outbound call-handling services, including customer support, operator services, directory assistance, multilingual customer support, credit services, card services, inbound and outbound telemarketing, interactive voice response and web-based services. Call centers are becoming increasingly popular in today‟s business, where many companies have centralized customer service and support functions. Call centers are generally large offices with representatives who either make or receive phone calls. Depending on the type of work, call centers may have a single office employing a few people or large office with thousands of employees. The main activity in some call centers is answering inbound calls, such as a bank that gives out a toll-free number for customers needing help. At the same time there are some call centers that focus on outbound calls too. With increase in outsourcing, call centers are also becoming popular. By way of outsourcing, companies‟ contract out some functions to other companies located mostly in cost effective destinations like India. In this field India enjoys several advantages over a number of developed counties. In India, we a have large pool of qualified people; English speaking graduates and IT professionals. In addition to this India have some other advantages like cheap labor, flexibility in working hours and time zone difference. This is the reason why a number of MNCs are outsourcing their business activities to India. Call centers are comparatively a recent introduction to the world of career options in India. The career avenues provided by Call centers is one of the best suited and growing option which even a fresher can opt for. With the opening up of the Indian economy and the advent of globalisation more and more companies from abroad are basing or outsourcing their call center services to India, a trend started by GE when it established a call center near New Delhi in 1998.A call center is a service center with adequate telecom facilities, access to internet and wide database, which provide voice based or web-based information and support to customers in the country or abroad through trained personnel. Call centers exist in all sectors of business including banking, utilities, manufacturing, security, market research, pharmaceuticals, catalogue sales, order desk, customer service, technical queries (help desk), emergency dispatch, credit collections, food service, airline/hotel
  • 5. 5 reservations etc. The wide area of services provided by the call centers makes it a lucrative career with a range of opportunities. UNDERSTANDING - THE CALL CENTER “INDUSTRY” There has been some dispute amongst researchers as to whether it is appropriate to refer to such a thing as the “call center industry”. As Bain and Taylor point out, “despite similarities in the integration of computer and telephone technologies, centers differ in relation to a number of important variables—size, industrial sector and market, complexity and length of call cycle time, nature of operations (inbound, outbound or combined), the nature and effectiveness of representative institutions including trade unions, and management styles and priorities”. To this list of variables, Callaghan and Thompson would add the “degree of product complexity and variability and the depth of knowledge required to deal with the service interaction”. Bain and Taylor argue that it is more appropriate to use the term “sector”, as call Centers are found across a wide range of industries and may be similar primarily in terms of their core technologies. They do note, however, that there is a professional literature and a collective identity that is maintained and developed through conferences and forums. Belt, Richardson and Webster (2000) agree that call centers are not an industry as the term is generally defined, but rather represent certain ways of delivering various services using the telephone and computer technologies across traditional industry boundaries. However, these authors provide three strong reasons defending the practice of referring to call centers as an industry: First, the call center community often defines itself as an industry, with numerous national and international call center conferences and workshops taking place each year, industry journals and call center forums organized at local levels. Second, the labor force requirements of call centers are often the same across sectors. This means that many, though not all, call centers share a common labor pool. Third, the organizational templates and technologies used tend to be very similar, regardless of the sector. To this one might add the remarkable similarities that international researchers have found between technologies used, work practices and key issues including monitoring, control, training, and labor demographics for workers in countries as diverse as Germany, Japan, Australia, Greece, Canada, the US, the UK and the Netherlands.
  • 6. 6 STRESS IN CALL CENTERS Stress exists in every call center. Call centers are stressful work environments. The demands of serving the customer in real-time helps to lay the foundation. Add to this factor things such as job repetition, potential job dissatisfaction, poor ergonomics or low pay and the stress level climbs higher. If stress in the workplace (i.e. the call center) is not on the agenda the results of stress are revealed through higher absenteeism than other parts of the company, higher Workers Compensation claims and ultimately in reduced customer satisfaction. This Operations Topic focuses on various approaches to managing stress. Raising the pay is not necessarily the solution. There are many other creative means of managing stress in your call center.  Factors that Create a Stressful Call Center  Emotional Labor  Stress Levels Staff Turnover and Some Suggested Solutions  Customer Centric Attitude and Stress Recommended Solutions to Solving Stress in the Call Center  Involve Front Line Staff in Creating Solutions  Attention to Ergonomic Factors Helps Reduce Stress  Develop an Internal Ergonomic Program  Employee Assistance Programs Can Contribute  Consider Massage Therapy Services or Yoga As Possible Solutions Resources  Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanizing Your Interaction Hub  Managing Workplace Chaos: Workplace Solutions for Managing Information, Paper, Time and Stress  Tele-Stress - Relief For Call Center Stress Syndrome
  • 7. 7 HUMAN ISSUES IN CALL-CENTER INDUSTRY STRESS For many employed in the call center sector, "the daily experience is of repetitive, intensive and stressful work, based upon Taylorist principles, which frequently results in employee "burnout". Brown, more vividly, characterizes the work as "repetitive brain strain". These descriptions are hardly surprising, in a way, given that call centers are established by organizations to "create an environment in which work can be standardized to create relatively uniform and repetitious activities so as to achieve economies of scale and consistent quality of customer service". This means, in other words, that workplaces are organized in ways that weaken employee autonomy and enhance the potential for management control, and "a loss of control is generally understood to be an important indicator of work-related stress". There is almost universal consensus that call center work is stressful. Even in studies that report the observation that some staff actually enjoys their work, mention of stress is still the norm, and a significant portion of the call center literature is devoted to detailing the sources of stress in call center work. FOUR KEY STRESSORS 'Can we get off the phone for a while?' The primary source of stress reported is inherent to the nature of the job: spending all day on the phone dealing with people one after another, day after day, is difficult. Doing it under constant pressure to keep call volumes up, with no time between calls to "recover from an awkward call or from 'customer rejection'" is even more difficult. And doing it with "very little authority or autonomy to rectify problems" that arise is perhaps the most difficult of all. Many studies report agents as wanting to 'just get off the phones'. For example, Belt and colleagues note "agents in all
  • 8. 8 three sectors [financial services, IT, and third-party services] spoke of the phenomenon of 'burnout', caused by the pressure of working exclusively 'on the phones'". In the same study, the authors mention that the issue of 'burnout' was also recognized by some managers: "It was pointed out that managers face an inherent conflict between the need to reduce staff boredom and labor turnover, and the pressure to concentrate staff energies on telephone based work". "The question of how call center employees deal with stress is an important one, particularly in view of evidence that a build-up of stress leads to illness, absenteeism and turnover," writes Houlihan. Many authors agree, and there are a variety of individual coping mechanisms described in the literature. Tricks to circumvent control mechanisms, such as those discussed above are sometimes mentioned as attempts at stress reduction, although they are unreliable in this role as they may also increase stress. Others mention social interaction squeezed into brief moments--Callaghan and Thompson describe agents using humorous (or rude) gestures towards the phone, or making faces at colleagues to defuse stress over angry or abusive callers, and making jokes to combat the tedium of the day. Lankshear and Mason describe a similarly social approach to reducing tension in one of the sites they observed, where staff often laughed and joked with one another in intervals between calls, with management's approval. More formally, some call centers include stress management as a component in training programs, and many have, or claim to have, team de-briefings which permit staff to vent frustrations while discussing difficult calls or dissatisfactions with elements of work. Knights and McCabe takes a different approach to stress in the workplace. They note that although much organizational analysis and most of the call center literature tends to conceptualize stress as an individual problem, it is actually located within "a framework that emphasizes the interrelationships between structural relations of power and the subjective interpretations and actions of employees". This more nuance positioning may provide more insight into call center conditions, as it allows a researcher to consider the response of employees "forced to interpret the often contradictory demands management place upon them" including "contradictions…over service quality versus the quantity of work output". "Clearly," these authors write, "staffs face some fundamental contradictions over unity versus conflict, uncertainty versus certainty, quality versus quantity and these are at the heart of the reproduction of stress, resistance and control". This focus on the "contradictory" nature of demands strikes at
  • 9. 9 the heart of the second inherent sources of stress in (primarily inbound) call center works: the quality/quantity conflict. QUALITY/QUANTITY CONFLICT Typically, organizational rhetoric in inbound call centers is concerned with 'customer care', or 'keeping customers happy' (providing quality service), yet these goals are juxtaposed with an ongoing pressure to keep call times down and call volumes up. Houlihan describes the difficulty concisely: Call centers are rooted in contradictory tensions and structural paradoxes, and confront a number of trades-offs on that basis. These set a context for attitudes towards the organization and can impose conflicting role requirements on agents. A core example is that of the pressure for quantity versus the aspiration for quality, the guiding logic of which is the conundrum of trying to get closer to the customer while routinising, centralizing, reducing costs and prescribing standards. The dichotomy is not completely straightforward, it is important to note. Part of providing quality service from a management perspective is making sure customers do not wait too long for their calls to be answered, even though the push to keep queue waiting times short is typically categorized as part of the pressure towards quantity. As Bain points out, "efforts to attain what is perceived to be the desired balance between the quantity and the quality of calls presents a perennial challenge". The practice of ongoing work practice modification and target revision as management swings from one side to another of the quality/quantity debate is a major source of stress for call center agents. As Houlihan notes: "The practice of putting a 'drive' on particular targets for improvement (for example, the collection of renewal dates, the up-selling or cross-selling of products, the quality of data input, or the intensity of sales push) and continual reprioritisation means that the 'goalposts' are constantly shifting". Virtually all of the call center authors who write about work conditions mention the difficulty of dealing with these competing goals. Korczynski and colleagues suggest that this dilemma is particularly difficult for front-line
  • 10. 10 workers because they may be likely "to identify with embodied individual customers, for interactions with specific customers may be an important arena for meaning and satisfaction within the work". They contrast this customer-as-individual orientation to the managerial goal of balancing customer orientation with efficiency, which they suggest leads management to prefer workers to identify with a generic category, 'the customer', since "such a disembodied image of the customer will encourage workers to deal with individual customers efficiently because they will be conscious of the concerns of other customers waiting in a queue". INTENSITY The third central stressor in call center work is its intensity. As Bain (2001) argues, "far from being either in terminal decline or on the wane, Taylorism-in conjunction with a range of other control mechanisms-is not only alive, well and deeply embedded in the call center labour process, but its malevolent influence appears to be spreading to previously uncharted territory". There is widespread consensus that "call centers are a new, and particularly effective, manifestation of the increasingly capital intensive 'industrialization' of service sector work, and work performed in them is highly intensive and routine". Buchanan and Koch-Schulte quote one call center worker who describes the constant pressure graphically: Ellen: It's almost like the army. It's much regimented. You punch in with a time clock. You come in and you sit down, and the numbers are all computerized. As soon as you finish a call, the minute you hang up another call comes up just this constant, all day, repetitious… constant sort of like beating on a drum, but day after day. The pace of work is determined by the combination of technologies that deliver calls to the headset and account details to the screen, and workers often have no control over this process. Descriptions such as "exhausting," "robotic," "controlled," and agents discussing the nature of their work often use "machine-like". Houlihan expands on the idea of controlled, machine-like agents by suggesting that this is in fact exactly the way that the organization conceives of them:
  • 11. 11 Call centers are information handling organizations. As currently characterized, the job of the agent is to be the voice of the organization, interfacing with the client or customer. The organization rehearses the things it wants said and feeds them through the agent. The agent is largely constructed as a mouthpiece rather than as a brain. Buchanan and Koch-Schulte spoke with a call-center worker who articulated her feelings about the organization's expectations of its agents in very similar terms: Rosa: You are standing waiting to be used by the technology, and it's a physical embodiment of that. You are standing, waiting until that call comes in to use you to make money. And you are simply another part of that machine. When this feeling of being a cog in a machine which never stops as it grinds on, repeating the same actions over and over again, is combined with "the cumulative emotional demands presented by the interpersonal nature of the work", stress is inevitable. TARGETS There is a fourth feature of some call center work that may engender stress: performance targets. There are various types of targets, which may vary between inbound and outbound centers. Inbound centers typically have targets for call duration, 'wrap time', and daily call volume. Outbound centers often also have sales or 'completion' targets, which are closely monitored and upon which pay may be partially based. In addition, in some sectors, inbound call centers are attempting to introduce the practice of cross selling, where agents attempt to sell additional products to the customers who call in for another purpose. In these centers, sales targets similar to those in outbound centers are often in place. Taylor and Bain argue that particularly in the financial services industry in the UK, targets are a significant source of stress for workers as more and more importance is placed upon meeting them in an increasingly competitive business environment. Sales targets, in particular, are difficult to accept, or meet, for staff who often consider themselves as service personnel, particularly when they are set centrally and implemented locally: "Cross-selling is seen by employees, not as an opportunity to engage in creative work, but as an additional and acute source of pressure". This is especially the case when sales targets are parachuted in on top of service targets set originally when there was no pressure to produce sales.
  • 12. 12 As a CSR in Taylor and Bain's study emphasizes: "When somebody phones in for a balance you have to try to get a sale or get them interested as well as turning the call round in 155 seconds". Even in centers that claim not to prioritize targets, researchers have found that staff often feels significant pressure. Targets simply intensify the stress produced by the quantity/quality debate, or, as one agent is quoted as saying, "They say that they're not really interested in numbers. They say that they are more into quality. Well, that's a lie. They're usually more into numbers than anything". It is important not to over generalize however. While most call centers do have some targets, they are a source of stress that is directly under management control. Some call centers are managed in such a way that targets are set to realistically reflect local conditions, are interpreted in light of other, more subjective information, and are not used punitively or to intensify work. In some they are even used effectively to motivate and encourage staff. For example, Lankshear and Mason describe a series of conversations with managers in their call center site where management consistently conceptualized their performance reports (for example, one commented that it's 'human nature' for productivity to drop before and after a holiday), and used their status as an excuse to praise good performance and coach those who consistently had difficulty meeting targets: "Our best bet is to develop the people we have got" one manager is quoted as saying. OTHER HEALTH ISSUES The result of intense, stressful work may be an effect on workers' health. There are often high rates of absenteeism and sick leave reported in the literature, although there is relatively little exploration of these issues, particularly when compared to turnover. Most often, authors provide a brief list of known health issues. For example, Richardson, Belt and Marshall write that "Health concerns have been expressed, including tension, sleeplessness, headaches, eye-strain, repetitive strain injury (RSI), voice loss, hearing problems and burn-out", but they do not develop the point. More detailed descriptions of the causes and effects of these ailments can be found in industry and trades union reports. For example, the Trades Union Council (TUC) in its brochure targeted at call center workers, cites the main illnesses to which call center staff are prone: "back strain and RSI, stress, eyestrain, and voice and hearing loss".
  • 13. 13 Also in the UK, regulators have been proactive in their examination of the industry, with the Health and Safety Executive issuing a bulletin on call center regulations, health risks and best practices in December 2001. They looked specifically at health issues including stress, noise levels, musculoskeletal disorders (such as back problems) and voice loss, and also at display screen issues, working environments, requirements for work stations, daily work routines, training, organizational working practices and shifts. SLEEPING DISORDERS No prizes for guessing the most severe ailment afflicting people working in Indian call centers. Since this is a unique Indian problem, again, no solution appears in sight. Obviously this affects first timers more severely, as they take time to acclimatize their biological clocks, but even experienced people or managers are not able to completely escape from it. Some call centers are looking at devising innovative mechanisms like flexible shifts with sleeping arrangements in the office premises as possible solutions. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM RELATED DISORDERS Working long and odd hours without any sleep, and eating food supplied by external caterers every day, has led to 41.9% of the respondents suffering from digestive problems. Especially for the large number of girls working in the industry, the problem is even more severe. Many call centers are now taking additional care to ensure their caterers supply hygienic food; besides stipulating strict conditions to maintain the quality of the food they serve. DEPRESSION In last year's survey, this was not among the top disorders, but this year it has climbed up the chart, affecting nearly one-fourth of the respondents. Not surprising, since, as the industry matures, the initial glitz and glamour wears away and the real problems come to the fore. Not only are there several health related issues, but, on top of that, the gradual realization that there is
  • 14. 14 limited scope in developing a career owing to fewer growth opportunities is increasing the frustration levels. Coupled with growing mental fatigue and increasingly punishing physical environments, depression is the obvious end result. Some call centers have now devised different stress management programs mainly to counter depression. SEVERE STOMACH RELATED PROBLEMS Continuing digestive problems lead to severe stomach disorders like gastroenteritis, as endorsed by more than 24% of the respondents. Even doctors in major cities agree-in recent times many of the patients with various stomach ailments are from call centers. EYESIGHT PROBLEMS Globally call center industry employees are considered a high-risk group for eye-related problems. While the quality of monitors might impact these disorders, sitting continually without adequate breaks seems to be the truer reason. The number of people affected seems to be on the rise-last year only 19% complained; this year it has gone up to 23%. At some point of time, this problem might also afflict the IT services industry, but for the call center industry, no remedy seems to be in sight. EAR PROBLEMS More than 16% of the respondents inform that they have hearing problems. Again, no surprises here, since a call center job involves taking calls throughout the shift, sitting with headphones. While quality of headphones does make a difference, it would not be correct to completely wish the problem away by thinking that changing headphones will solve it. Some other Human Issues, in Call-Centers, which need Immediate Attention
  • 15. 15 PERSONAL HABITS The young executives are getting more than five figure salaries per month in an early age. They tend to develop certain bad habits such as alcohol, smoking etc. It is not easy to identify such individuals. It is also very sensitive to talk to them. The professional counsellors can conduct group-counselling, workshops, educative film shows in order to create awareness on effects of bad habits. Such actions will enable individuals to realize the importance of good habits and they could seek one to one Counselling sessions to solve their problems. DISCIPLINE AND BEHAVIORAL ISSUES Call centers provide excellent working environment, free food and transportation. There is always a situation where individual or group of youngsters tend to commit mistakes and abuse the freedom. They start behaving like in college campus where they have more freedom. However, the call center executives have more responsibility and accountability, they need to follow discipline and do well in the job. The most common behaviour is misuse of food, behave erratically in vans, and smoke in public places, misuse of telephones and other resources of the company. The supervisors always concentrate on performance and achieving targets. They do not have time or interest to go deep into these matters and find out the reasons for such behaviour. The professional counsellor can play a major role in educating the youngsters on discipline; provide advice to erring executives. The counsellors with their wisdom and experience can tackle such issues tactfully and bring change within the individuals. As said earlier, to majority of them this is the first employment and they are fresh out of the colleges. Few tend to behave differently and they have the "do not care" attitude. Such executives will not take their job seriously, they indulge in teasing, and joking, talking over mobile phones, have friction within the team. These aspects may go noticed or unnoticed by the supervisors. The fact remains that such unacceptable behaviours will cause disturbance to others and overall it affects the productivity. Sleeping while on duty, reading novels and playing games on the computer during working hours brings down productivity and quality suffers. The HR
  • 16. 16 representatives and professional counsellors jointly have a role to bring behavioural change starting from the training days. Continuous education and Counselling will help to mitigate such problems and it is possible to prevent serious problems. INTER-PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP AND FRIENDSHIP Executives develop friendship quickly and sometime the friendship breaks and there will be misunderstanding among the team members and naturally affects the team performance. The supervisors and counsellors can play a major role to sort out the interpersonal relationship and develop team spirit. Healthy relationship among the team members has always helped the team to outperform. When the relationship fails the individuals will also break down mentally. They either absent for duties or fall ill or the performance will come down. It is also true that due to misunderstanding and break in friendship they change jobs quickly. LOVE AFFAIR AND MARRIAGES Few of the boys and girls fall in love quickly. They maintain the healthy relationship, behave in a matured manner, plan the future course of action and such persons have got married with the consent of their parents. They work together in the same organization for longer duration. There are instances, where lovers fall apart, start disliking, creating troubles to each other and vitiating the atmosphere. They are immature, take instant decisions to break or unite and sometimes go to an extent of damaging others reputation. The professional counsellors can play an important role in explaining the importance of marriage, preparation required for marriage, how to enter the institution of marriage, which is acceptable to both parents and society and about the new role and responsibility after getting married. Counselling services can definitely give emotional support to individuals.
  • 17. 17 ABSENTEEISM Absenteeism is very high in calls centers. Employees tend to be very irregular to the duty due to various reasons. The professional counselling services to such irregular employees on one to one basis will help to bring down the absenteeism. The counsellor can educate and explain the importance of attending duties to earn the salary and also to meet the organizational goals. Each individual are unique and the problem they face are also different in nature. Only the professional counsellors can understand, analyze and provide long lasting solutions for the individuals. HIGHER EDUCATION AND PART TIME JOBS It is possible to do higher education while working in BPO units. Few organizations encourage and offer support services to pursue higher education. However, the time management by the executives is crucial to go forward in education as well as to maintain the performance and career growth. Programmes on time management, tips to study, tips to keep fit and such other programmes can be offered. These steps would help to seek the loyalty of employees to the organizations and helps greatly for the retention of employees. Organizations do not grant permission to pursue part time jobs while working in BPO units. In order to make quick money and to have options open to change the jobs in future will drive the employees to do part time work. Human body does not permit to stretch beyond one's capacity. The executives need to take sufficient rest in the daytime so that energy levels are maintained. Either due to lack of experience or due to compulsions, the executives keep their one foot in call center and another in part time jobs. In the long run this would affect individual‟s health. The HR executives must identify such persons and offer professional Counselling services to them.
  • 18. 18 REMEDIAL MEASURES FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT Understanding that the “Stress” is a major concern for all Call-Center Employees, it is a duty of HR-heads of Call-Centers to address it properly. Some of the Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress Although we all experience stress in different ways, there are certain signs that are most frequently reported. These signs fall into two major categories; physical/behavioral signs and emotional signs. If we become aware of our own stress symptoms, we will be more effective in dealing with them sooner rather than later. What follows is a list of some of the most experienced symptoms of stress. The physical/behavioral symptoms include; muscular tension, muscle spasms and tics, rapid heart-beat, shortness of breath and high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, backaches, headaches and neck aches, stomach problems, indigestion, irritable bowel and ulcers, feeling fatigued, irritable, decreased ability to concentrate, insomnia and changes in eating behavior. Since these physical symptoms may be related to physical problems, you should consult with your medical doctor before you assume that your symptoms are purely stress-related. The emotional symptoms include; anxiety in a variety of situations not limited to the stressful situation, depression, hopelessness and a strong urge to cry without specific incident, withdrawal from social interactions and avoidance of previously enjoyed activities, powerlessness and decreased self-esteem, hostility, anger and resentment, fears, phobias and unwanted thoughts. Learning to become more aware of your own stress symptoms is the first major step in the stress management and healing process. It is often helpful to monitor your daily symptoms in a stress diary where you match the stressful events with the symptom experienced. For example; you made find that if you are stuck in early morning traffic you may experience irritability and headaches. In this case it will be important to use these symptoms as a cue that you have to begin managing that stress more effectively when it happens.
  • 19. 19 What are the Consequences of Unmanaged Stress? We all know that stress is something that doesn‟t feel good to us physically and emotionally. What is even more compelling is what happens below the surface each time we experience stress. Stress researcher Hans Selye, determined what happens internally each time we experience something as threatening or stressful. According to Selye, when we perceive a threat in the environment the thinking part of the brain sends an alarm message to the nervous system via the hypothalamus. The nervous system then makes changes in the body that prepare you to handle the perceived danger ahead. These changes include increases in heart rate and blood pressure as well as pupil dilation. In addition, there are hormones and chemicals secreted such as adrenaline, that give the body the necessary push to be able to manage the threat a head. Although there are situations in which these adrenaline surges are very helpful in helping us mobilize, the constant adrenaline surges due to repeatedly perceived threats, have a toxic effect on the body. For example, recurrent adrenaline surges inhibit some of the other important functions in the body including growth and tissue repair, digestion and the immune response. Just as the thinking part of your brain is responsible for turning the stress response on, you can turn it off by changing the threatening appraisals you are making. Once you are able to determine that a threat does not exist or that it can be effectively managed, you thinking brain stops sending panic messages to the nervous system. As a result of this reappraisal, the hormones and chemicals cease to be released and the body returns to normal. Bringing the body back to an "un-stressed" state is very important since almost every system in the body can be damaged by stress. Although our bodies are adaptive and can recover from periodic stressors, chronic stress has serious consequences. We experience the consequences of stress on three important levels; physically, emotionally and behaviorally. What follows is a description of the specific consequences in these three categories. Physically, the body is likely to develop a stress-related disease as a result of the stress toxins that are released. For example, chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular disease by elevating blood pressure, damaging the heart and arteries and increasing blood sugar. Respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis can result from stress-triggered changes in the lungs.
  • 20. 20 When stress inhibits the body‟s digestive functions, diseases such as ulcers, colitis and chronic diarrhea can occur. In addition, stress contributes to inhibited growth of tissue and bone which can lead to decalcification and osteoporosis. The immune system is also inhibited by the reduced efficiency of the white blood cells, making the body more susceptible to disease. Increased muscle tension, fatigue and headaches are additional consequences of chronic stress. The Second Category of Consequences of Chronic Stress is the Emotional Consequences Depression can result from chronic stress due to the constant release and depletion of no repine prime. What also contributes to the depression is the thought that life is terrible and that it is never going to get better. What then results is a feeling of helplessness and ineffectiveness, feeling like a failure and a reduction in self-confidence. Individuals who are depressed are also likely to withdraw from relationships and isolate themselves which often increases the intensity of the depression. In addition, anxiety and fearfulness are commonly felt emotions if someone constantly perceives threats around the corner. In addition, individuals who are chronically stressed are likely to exhibit increased cynicism, rigidity, sarcasm and irritability since they believe that their situation is not likely to improve. Chronic stress also has significant behavioral consequences. Behavioral consequences often result from innate survival urge we have to seek relief, to fight or to flee. Unfortunately, these relief-seeking behaviors eventually become problematic. For example, "addictive behaviors" can result from the repeated efforts to soothe or escape the painful stress. Alcohol, drugs, smoking and overeating are often seen as tools to help manage the stress even though their effects are short lived and the consequences of chronic use are destructive to the body and mind. Unfortunately the mind‟s ability to deny the long-term consequences in order to fill short-term need to escape perpetuates the problem and increases excessive use behavior. Similarly, procrastination, poor planning, excessive sleeping and avoidance of responsibility are examples of behaviors used by stressed individuals to temporarily flee from the pain. What is most significant about these behaviors is their ability to generate additional problems that are as severe as the original stressor. For example, procrastination or avoidance of the management of a stressor only serves to increase anxiety and exacerbate the stress experience. Stress consequences reviewed above suggest that in addition to being physically and psychologically distressing, they reduce the likelihood of effective goal reaching.
  • 21. 21 Rationale for properly managing and coping with the stress is for health protection in future as well as making present more productive and satisfying. MANAGING STRESS Since stress is an inevitable fact of life that we can‟t always prevent, our efforts need to be focused on coping with stress more effectively. What follows is a description of a three pronged approach to stress management which includes behavioral/practical techniques, relaxation techniques and cognitive/thinking techniques. The behavioral/practical approaches to stress management include exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet, which includes selections from the basic food groups. In addition, it is recommended that one avoid the excessive use of alcohol, caffeine and sugar, which contribute to fatigue and vulnerability to mood swings. It is also important to allow the body to rest and replenish to help inoculate the body against future stress. Building this stress resistance also includes scheduling time for leisure and pleasure, which provides for a more balanced, fulfilling life. Anticipating and preparing for recurrent stressors by managing time, setting priorities and limits, delegating responsibility, and not procrastinating are helpful stress reducing strategies. These techniques are effective stress management tools because their utilizations within our control. The relaxation approaches to stress management include a variety of techniques designed to help you effectively manage the body/mind tension. Progressive muscle relaxation is an active form of relaxation where you individually contract the major muscle groups of your body for about five seconds and then you relax the individual muscle groups for a five second holds. The contrast experienced by this exercise relieves muscle tension and relaxes the body. Some of the more passive relaxation approaches include listening to music, reading and using saunas and hot tubs to relieve tension. Techniques used to relax the mind include meditation and visual imagery. Meditation teaches you how to clear the mind of stressful and distracting thoughts by focusing the mental energy on positive coping thoughts. Visual imagery is designed to help the individual visualize him/herself coping effectively with a stressor that was previously experienced as overwhelming. The behavioral and relaxation approaches described above are necessary but not
  • 22. 22 sufficient conditions for stress management. The third prong to stress management, the cognitive or thinking approach, is essential to effective coping with stress. The cognitive or thinking approaches are an integral part of coping effectively with stress and now the primary focus of many stress management programs. Since it has been determined that we can turn off the stress response by changing our threatening/dangerous event appraisals to appraisals that help us view these events as manageable challenges, we have a direct link to controlling the stress response. The first step in the cognitive approach is to identify our thoughts or internal dialog that is negative, perfectionist, black and white, rigid and demanding. In other words, you are more likely to experience stress if you believe that you, the world and other people "should or must" behave in a manner consistent with your demands and standards. For example, you are likely to experience stress if you believe that the world and your life should be stress free and that you do not have the resources to handle stress if it does occur. In addition, demands of perfection on yourself and on others important to you, increases the chance of feeling stressed since these expectations are unrealistic and rigid. After identifying your stress producing thoughts you are then able to move onto the second step in the cognitive approach; recognizing the consequences of this negative, rigid dialog. The motivation to change the stress-producing dialog comes from the determination that there are serious consequences that result form these negative, rigid thoughts. When you talk to yourself in a defeated, pessimistic or rigid way, you deny your ability to cope and are not likely to manage situations effectively or meet goals you set. In addition, perfectionist demands are experienced as appropriately unrealistic and contribute to a "why bother" attitude. This attitude reduces the likelihood that you will address these demands since it is a realistic fact that no one or nothing is ever perfect. Once you are convinced that the dialog is negative and counterproductive, you are ready to move on to the third step in the cognitive approach; challenging and replacing the negative internal dialog with a healthier, more productive internal dialog. This important step in the reappraisal process requires that you challenge your rigid dialog by asking yourself a series of questions about that rigid dialog. For example, "Why must I perform perfectly in order to believe I am a valuable human being?" In addition, "Does that demand for perfection increase my anxiety and reduce the likelihood that I perform well at all?" "What
  • 23. 23 would I feel like and would I be more motivated if I changed my demand for perfection to a desire to do well?" Another example of this reappraisal process can be seen in the area of criticism and rejection. A negative internal dialog that would create stress in this area is "I am worthless because I was rejected and this proves that no one will ever love me." A healthy challenge to this belief would be, "How does the opinion of this person reflect my personal worth?‟ "How does it follow that this rejection will lead to future rejections?" It is also important to add, "Even if I were to get rejected repeatedly, could I work to make desired changes in my personality without condemning myself or feeling worthless?" By replacing the negative, rigid dialog with more realistic, flexible dialog, you are more likely to feel healthier emotionally and behave more rationally and productively. The behavioral, relaxation and cognitive techniques described above have been determined to be effective ways to manage and cope more effectively with stress. The techniques give the control back to the individual and empower him/her to manage the inevitable stressors that will occur in life. FACTORS THAT CREATE A STRESSFUL CALL CENTER Stress in the Call Center will affect the agent, manager, director, or anyone in the call center when they let stress gain control. When this happens, they lose self-control and have the feeling of being overwhelmed. The first step in gaining control is and identifying what the stressors are and understanding the causes and effects. Stress is caused by many things. Time pressures, high expectations, lack of communication, high call volume, inexperience, ill-prepared, to name a few. The effects are decreased productivity, anxiety, low morale, poor customer service levels, and increased turnover. When faced with these stressors, training is the tool to resolve the issues. You must go to your training programs and processes and ask yourself if the training you are providing the call center employees delivers the tools required for them to accomplish their goals without the negative stress. Approach dealing with the stress in the Call Center with assertiveness and confidence. One of the most effective things I have done, in my own call center experience, as well as seen in other call centers, is to have a specific workshop covering stress. Let employees voice their specific stressors and develop actions to overcome them and resolve
  • 24. 24 what is inhibiting their performance. Their minds are then clear and mentally prepared. It will then be motivated for training to make them a more confident and capable call center employee. LACK OF COMMUNICATION This is a call center disease that some call centers just gravitate to simply because everyone is too busy with their job duties and with doing someone else‟s jobs that we simply forget to communicate. Sounds harmless but if you dont address it could slowly but surely drag down your centers morale, employees self-esteems, work life balance, job security, employees productivities, etc. HIGH VOLUME This one is a little tougher because the causes could be variety of different issues. The more common symptom of high volume is poor workforce mgmt. Put, workforce team needs to be very proactive in correctly forecasting your volume two weeks in advance(within 98% of the actual volume) and be ready with a staffing analysis of how efficient CSR schedules are by day for you. If this is every week from your workforce team, you will be well aware of your holes every day for the next two weeks and you can make staffing decisions before the day happens. If your workforce team is good, then you will better prepare to handle spikes/lull in your volume. Another symptom of high volume is poor attendance/retention - if you consistently don‟t have the reps that you planned for, then you might as well stay home too. Issues like these are harder to address because the root causes are never the same. You have to go the employees and find out why they are not coming to work or why they are leaving you. Once you have an idea of the root causes, then you and your team can creatively find solutions or create new policies to address them. High volume is a self-feeding animal - if you dont get control of it, it will surely bring down your operation. Your frontline supervisors will have to help out on the phones all the time and they can‟t work with their CSRs. Employees are constantly going from one call to the next without much breaks in between. Your boss is constantly on you for high ASAs and Abandon %, blah - the story goes on and on and the picture doesn‟t look pretty.
  • 25. 25 COMMON CAUSES It includes understaffing, impossible service levels, inappropriate or oppressive management style, mis-match between agent skills and job requirements, mis- match between the stated aims of the job and the actual work being done (e.g. a sales center that is swamped with technical service complaints), jobs that require no thought on the part of the operator and that could/should be automated (directory enquiries, bank balance requests etc). EMOTIONAL LABOUR "Emotional labor is defined as the effort expended (and the concomitant physiological arousal) to manage or regulate one‟s emotional reactions at work. This effort is necessary for exhibiting those performance behaviors valued by the organization, and suppressing the expression of less acceptable behaviors. Service employees are particularly vulnerable to a demand for emotional labor, because their jobs generally require maintaining a friendly and positive demeanor despite job characteristics that may engender negative emotional reactions(e.g., irate customers, complex problem solving, or hectic work pace). Any work setting which engenders negative emotional reactions from employees, while requiring the suppression of certain behaviors associated with these emotions (e.g., yelling, abruptly hanging up the phone, or scowling), is fertile ground for emotional labor. The stereo typical customer service call center is such a work place."
  • 26. 26 CONCLUSIONS SUGGESTIONS  HANDLING THE ABUSE Agents handle an average of 110 calls a day, and 80 percent of the calls that come in have some level of emotion. Usually a caller is calling in because they are frustrated, angry, upset, concerned—something has happened and they are not happy. Therefore, it is crucial that agents and especially the call center manager note these occurrences and become better prepared and informed on handling them for the sake of their workers and their callers. In these situations the task should become how to handle this type of emotional call rather than instantly labeling it "abusive" and not acceptable.  JOB ROTATION We instituted job sharing/intern program in our call center. CSRs who meet or exceed job expectations are eligible to do a rotation for three months in other groups. CSRs work half a day on the phones, the other half in the Correspondence department, or in the Research department, Work Force Management, or Quality Assurance. This breaks up their day, teaches them new skills, & provides us with a pool of trained staff whenever we need it have a job rotation program that alternate telephone staff to do administrative tasks to break up the day to day grind.  SPORTS ACTIVITIES In call center, what we followed recently is that we organised a sports week where we asked the agents and their supervisors to organise and also take part in the same. This has brought a change in their working performance as far as we can see. I personally feel that you should organise something that will allow the agents change their daily routine and do something routine.  BUDGET FOR ACTIVITIES If employee turnover is a major problem, you may want to budget money for employee activities / incentives. I have a activity committee that plans birthday decorating, holiday potlucks, contests, etc. Involve the staff to join and participate in the committee.
  • 27. 27  WEEKLY EMPLOYEE FOCUS GROUP Any employee can come to a weekly or bi weekly focus group with the call center manager and human resource manager. Questions from the employees are posted publicly and the date that the issues were addressed. Over time, I have seen focus groups that started with very serious issues slowly evolve to sessions that become more like rap sessions - more fun and less serious.  MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FROM THE COMPANY Yes, this is a time consuming endeavor but if done right and done consistently, could be a great medium to communicate new/revised policies, reward employees/teams, train your employees, and build strong team spirits.  DAILY DEPARTMENT HUDDLE Each team/department should be highly encouraged to have this quickly huddle daily with their employees. This goes a long way in building that strong bond between employees and supervisors and yes, you can also use this time to communicate.  MONTHLY LETTER FROM THE BOSS It could be from the VP of Ops, or it could be from the CCM. The point is, the company will have an opportunity every month to speak to the workforce. STEPS TAKEN BY COMPANIES TO HANDLE STRESS FACTORS “Good Call Center Training Alleviates Stress” 1. Acknowledge the Emotion:- Listen to the caller and acknowledge that something has happened to make them emotional. Acknowledge it and move on to the next step before it escalates to an abusive call. 2. Take Control of the Call:- Strong words choices will immediately diffuse the emotional aspect of the call. By using strong "I can" statements and proper word choices such as "Absolutely, I would be glad to help you with …", "I can look that information up for you” instead of emphasizing the "you" in statements like, "can you tell me what happened?"--where the customer immediately feels like they are speaking with the wrong person—after all they wouldn‟t be calling if they knew what was wrong.
  • 28. 28 3. Transition into the Problem Solving Pat:- Finally, to get the caller out of their emotional state, transition them into a problem solving path. Once they have had a chance to get through the emotional part, move on so their issues can be resolved. BPOs HELP STAFF COPE WITH STRESS MUMBAI:- Blame the nature of the job, deadline pressure or customer expectations. BPO jobs undoubtedly involve high stress. Prashant Chawla, COO, Integreon, a Mumbai-based KPO, says that there are three types of stress an employee may experience — tight deadlines, repetitive nature of the job and late night shifts. Aashu Calappa, VP-HR, ICICI OneSource, says, “Everything gets measured and this puts employees under pressure.” Companies are now making efforts to help their employees cope with stress because it is an occupational hazard. For example, night shifts are rotated on a regular basis. However, deadlines can‟t be controlled. Most of the BPOs arrange „feel good‟ activities like an outdoor picnic or an official dinner once in three months. This helps employees talk to their senior management in an informal environment. Employees are also given recognition by being designated as „employee of the week‟ and „employee of the month‟. Vineet Mittal, president and MD, Stream, says that they conduct in-house workshops at frequent intervals in which employees play games and indulge in activities like dumb charades and scrabble. Mr Calappa says they organise various events like family gatherings and Valentine‟s Day celebrations to lighten the atmosphere in the office. According to him, an employee could be stressed because of a tough supervisor or if he is not able to perform well in his job. So, there is a lot of emphasis on the training of team leaders (TL) and supervisors to avoid a strained relationship between the employee and the TL. BPOs like Stream have appointed „fun officers‟ whose job is to arrange a party or a movie for the entire office once in a month. Similarly, ICICI OneSource has an executive who is required to spend at least two hours daily at the shop floor talking to employees about their day-to-day life. 3Global, a Hutchison-Whampoa BPO, has also appointed an executive to arrange sports events on a monthly basis.
  • 29. 29 Shirish Kerkar, general manager, HR, 3Global, says, “We organise sports events like cricket tournaments to ensure that our employees are engaged in physical activities.” The company recently concluded a cricket tournament where 300 employees participated (10 people perteam). Shilpa Shetty, a BPO employee, who heads a 200-member team says, “Our deadlines are in hours and not days or weeks. So the stress is obviously high. I‟m heading a large team. So, managing it is a big challenge, which at times, may stress me out.” She has adopted an interactive way of dealing with workplace stress. She makes sure that she talks to her team members on a daily basis, which may not necessarily be about work. “I do a lot of catching up with my team members, which helps me to understand them better,” she adds. Another BPO employee, Prashant Warrier, who interacts with the company‟s clients across the globe says, “People at my level are the first ones from the company to interact with the clients, so its puts pressure on us to present our company well because clients are demanding.” Sanjay Salooja, a Delhi-based counsellor visits BPOs to counsel the employees. He says generally, front-line employees and team leaders talk to him about both professional and personal problems like long working hours and family demands. Besides teaching them breathing exercises and yoga, the employees are taught to look at things from a different perspective. They are encouraged to take ownership and be accountable for their job in the organisation Traditionally, call centers meant only voice-based customer support. But now most call centers are more of a contact center, offering E-CRM services, that include voice based customer support as well as e-mail response, web-based text-chat services and other customer interaction channels. The call center services can be inbound where in calls are received from customers enquiring about a service or product that an organisation provides. The call center services can be outbound where in calls are made to customers to sell products or collect information/money etc. Call center services can also specialised say in business processing where in calls are made from one company to another company. Some call centers stick to only domestic businesses dealing with customers within the country called domestic call centers while others such as an International call center mainly deal with clients from abroad say from US, Europe etc. There is a great scope for Call centers in India,
  • 30. 30 with a large population of educated English speaking people. The wide range of opportunities, comparatively well-paid jobs for the minimum qualification it requires and the facilities the companies provide like to and fro transport, subsidized meals and medical facilities makes Call centers a good option. Experts point out that continued high growth in an industry can be an issue because it strains systems and governance processes that need time to mature and to be institutionalized. Indian BPO industry is currently facing the challenges arising out of its stupendous growth. The major challenges being faced by the ITES or BPO industry in India can be classified into internal and external challenges. The internal challenges include shortage of competent managers for the middle and senior management and the high attrition rates. The external challenge is in the form of opposition from the US politicians and the UK labor unions against shifting of the BPO operations by local companies to India. We suggest to do physiological analyse in BPO sector by HR and do steps accordingly. It is desirable to employ professional HR Professionals with knowledge of Human Psychology in BPO units/call centers. The services offered by professionals may not be felt in the initial stages. Companies like Tata, L&T, MICO and few others have employed professionals in their factories. The professionals can do wonders in BPO sectors as well. People are the backbone of BPO industry and it is certain that professional HR or Human Psychologist can make inroad in this emerging organization and facilitate the growth of organization in an immense way.