n Journal of Contemporary Management - Balancing agent performance and customer service in contact centres

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1815-7440



Contact centres have sometimes been called "21st century sweatshops", yet the South African government has made them a strategic target for job creation. This paper explores whether a balance can be achieved between the often conflicting goals contact centre management set for agent performance and customer service, examining this from the perspectives of both agents and their managers. Semi-structured interviews and questionnaires were used to gain an understanding of issues relating to agent performance metrics and customer service. Data came from seven call centre managers and 91 agents within different industry sectors in the Western Cape region of South Africa. All centres were found to have a range of suitable measures and activities, but some experienced difficulties in aligning metrics with contact centre objectives to provide superior customer service. Overall, the centres studied were found to possess management approaches that predominantly favoured agent empowerment as opposed to a production line process. While both utopian and dystopian elements were present, the environment was different from that of the publicized "call centre sweatshop", providing agents with the flexibility to be customer-centric.

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