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In this chapter, we draw on a comparative international survey of management strategies and employment practices in U.S. and Indian customer contact call centers. We compare these practices across three types of centers: U.S. in-house, U.S. outsourced, and Indian outsourced- offshore operations. We consider two questions. First, how similar or different are call center management strategies and employment systems in each type of establishment? Second, what are the implications of variation in management practices for outcomes such as turnover, which is a major problem for service quality and productivity in the industry. We find that U.S in-house centers tend to adopt a more professional approach to service management, while U.S. outsourced centers adopt the most cost-driven approaches. Indian offshore operations represent a contradictory pattern of management practices, with the use of a highly educated workforce, but with highly standardized work processes that lead to under-utilization of human capital. Both U.S. and Indian subcontractors experience high turnover rates, compared to U.S. in-house locations, and these are explained by the high levels of scripting and standardized processes found in these worksites. We conclude with a discussion of policy implications.


Suggested Citation
Batt, R., Doellgast, V. & Kwon, H. (2005). Service management and employment systems in U.S. and Indian call centers (CAHRS Working Paper #05-12). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.