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With the development of economy, call centres have played an important role in the companies' operation (Patel & Broughton, 2002). However, in recent years, the economic challenges have made the increasing number of corporations which from developed countries moved their call centers to developing countries (Keith, 2001).
This paper will evaluate the journal article of Taylor and Bain's “India calling to the far away towns: the call centre labour process and globalization” critically. This paper is organized as follows: firstly, it will have a comprehensive understanding of the authors' aim, and evaluate in terms of the research methods briefly. Secondly, it will use a series of research method literatures to find the drawbacks or limitations of the journal's research design and approach. Furthermore, a number of studies in the literature of call centre will be presented to strengthen the author's claims. The essay will conclude by giving some suggestions about any other alternative research methods that can prove the authors' ideas.
2 Research design and methods used
Taylor and Bain (2005)'s article argues that the increasing number of prominent UK-based companies have migrated operations to India. Scotland and India both were main call centres in the world, but now “there would not be a call centres in Scotland in five years” (Donoghue, 2003).The authors attempt to though an investigation of the Indian call centre labour process to prove the assumption that the offshoring of call centre is unproblematic. Furthermore, the authors provide a range of adequate academic literatures for the proposed research, and reveal a clear framework though the study of Indian development (Taylor & Bain, 2005). Several issues that authors reported in the research had been raised in the critical review. The central one is tensions of operators that because of the Indian context, all employees from call centre must be both customers-oriented and cost-efficient. As Korczynski (2002) says customers-oriented and cost-efficient are two main logics that should be infused by operators. Another issue is comparing with British, Indian has different culture and working style, whether can Indian operators accept the routinized workflow has become a question.
In order to solve those questions, the authors use a series of research methods to explore that situation about offsourcing practices, including: case study, semi-structured interview, formal and informal interview, sectoral audit conducted by questionnaires analysis (Taylor & Bain, 2005). Basing on collecting the quantitative data, the authors mainly use the qualitative methods to tackle the issues. Qualitative research methods are valued in concept understanding (Hodges et al, 2007), and combining the quantitative research methods, the research study will be more convictive (Saunder et al, 2009: 151).
The authors access seven call centres in Indian by virtue of National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM). Nasscom presents that as third-party operations, call centres have become various sectors of companies, and Nasscom also provides several useful materials about Indian call centre to authors. It cannot deny that using the secondary date which from other organization is really helpful, because of it is hard to search information of other countries. However, relying on Nasscom, the information that authors can select and evaluate is limited.
Taylor and Bain (2005) get the detailed information such as recruitment, culture capability, and workflow about call centres by having semi-structured interviews with senior management. Semi-structured interview is one of the greatest methods to obtain specific qualitative information from a person, and gain insight into specific issues (Davis, 1990). And the interviews will be recorded by audio-recording (Saunder et al, 2009: 321) in order to provide convenience to further researchs.
Additionally, the authors have formal interviews with Nasscom senior personnel, industry leaders and trade union officials. Authors also find opportunities to communicate with personnel from across the industry though participating in three industry conferences (Taylor & Bain, 2005: 266). Researchers may gain unexpected achievement from informal interview. The authors also can learn more information that cannot be directly observed by using the interviews.
Scotland provides useful materials for evaluating UK trends to complement the Indian data which extracting from questionnaires. The questionnaires were distributed to 290 call centres, and conducted between February and July 2003. Finally, 250 full questionnaires were collected (Taylor & Bain, 2005: 267). The questionnaire is one of the most widely used methods to collect data, and “it provide an efficient way of collecting responses from a large sample prior to quantitative analysis” (Saunder et al, 2009: 361). Saunder et al (2009) also says comparing with face to face interviews, questionnaires can give people deep impress. It is very useful in large sample size and wide areas' data collection. Questionnaires are easy to analyze and easy to complete. It is familiar to most people. And the most important advantage is the respondents will not be influenced by the researchers' ideas.
3 Literature review, discussion and findings
Having a critical review of Taylor and Bain's journal, it is can clearly find that Indian has advantaged factors to become a major region of call centres. The key advantage is India has cheap labour forces. In order to reduce cost, the increasing numbers of companies remove their call centres to India. A study by McKinsey, Indian can ahead of China, France in call centres rely on the labour pool, costs and skills. And Indian operators also have high-quality in professional knowledge. According to Keith (2001), Indian can catch the computer skills faster than any others because India has large resource of computer technologies. Indian can think independently and critically. Another similar study by O2I (2009) says that comparing with China, Philippines, Malaysia and other Asian countries, most of international companies choose India for their call centers, because of “Call centres in Indian offer cost-effective customer support services without compromising on quality” (O2I, 2009). With low-cost in labours, and high-quality call center outsourcing services, Indian call centres can save half cost that if performed in the US or UK.
In addition, Taylor and Bain (2005: 268) say “Indian government commitment to economic reform and the tenets of the Washington consensus - liberalization, privatization and globalization - have facilitated migration”.The Indian government has raised some policies to support the offshoring, such as reducing the tax of companies. The Indian government also helps compaies to build facilities and infrastructure in order to make India become the world's most preferred call center (O2I, 2009).
Taylor and Bain (2005: 272) mention that comparing with UK counterparts, Indian operators work in more pressurized environment. And Indian workers cannot have normal sleep because of the time different. Furthermore, working in a narrow space and breathing foul air under a long time, Indian workers will have healthy problems. Other researchers have similar findings in this field. A research by Patel and Broughton (2002) presents that people work in call centres will has a risk of hearing damage, the noisy from headsets will higher than regular level. A survey by Boyce et al (2007) reveals that the operators who have worked in call centres for 8 months gain the same average weight for males and females at 5.1 kg. Obesity has become another healthy problem for call centres workers.
Indian call centres also encounter such problems: denial of identity, working in tensions, and long commuting distance. Cornell (2009) mentions that distance and isolation between clients and workers is a main problem of call centres, so that operators must adapt the culture of west countries.
Indian call centres provide a range of activities to avoid those problems, selecting workers in attitudinal characteristics: positive attitude, personal skills and the work efficiency under the high pressure. And providing training to operators to improve their skills and English pronunciation (Taylor & Bain, 2005: 274). In order to avoid the risk of hearing damage, call centres hold trainings about using the headset and how to protect their ears regularly (O2I, 2009)
4 Limitations and drawbacks
This research by Taylor and Bain achieves success. However, there still have some limitations and drawbacks. The information that authors gain from Nasscom may be limited and unuseful. Secondary data may not be accurate, and the data maybe out of date (Borders et al, 2000). The authors are hard to find valued information from the limited data.
This research also has drawbacks in the interviews of Nasscom supervisor, industry leaders and trade union officials. The number of interviewees is unknown, and the detailed questions are not mentioned. In order to get the information the researchers want, interviewees will be asked some directedness questions (Wimmer and Dominick 1997:162). And validity and reliability of the interview data may also be influenced by interviewee's consideration (Breakwell et al, cited in Oatey, 1999). Considering the relationship of other companies, the interviewees will give optimistic information rather than objective information. And it cannot reflect the information fully because of usually the sample size is small.
The questionnaire is directed to different cases has different types, including self-administered questionnaires, interviewer-administered questionnaires, and telephone questionnaires (Saunder et al, 2009: 363). However, in Taylor and Bain's essay, which type of the questionnaires is not mentioned. And the truth of the questionnaires might be doubted. In a similar survey (Boyce et al, 2007), the researchers distributed 1100 questionnaires to workers of the call centres, unfortunately, only 393 employees completed the questionnaires. The low response is in expectation, because employees had to find time during the work shift to complete the questionnaire. This research also not provides the detailed questions in the questionnaire. It has no strong data to persuade people to believe this analysis.
In conclusion, Indian have become the major call centre in the world, more and more companies remove their call centres to India, because of the low-cost, customer-orientated, the government supporting and the high-quality of Indian operators. However, Indian call centres also encounter difficulties. Indian workers must to adapt the western customer and work in tensions. And healthy problems have become the main emergency of call centres.
From taking a brief look at other researches, the qualitative research methods such as interview, case study are suitable methods in doing researches. Combining with qualitative and quantitative methods together is the best way to do researches. In most cases, researchers fall into researches because of only rely on one research method. Researchers like to use questionnaires but have not do a clear analysis, or only use qualitative methods. Most of readers are not experts, cannot understand the rationalistic analysis. Quantitative research methods are designed to ensure objectivity and reliability. The researcher uses this method to survey the external environment, and record the first data to further research. Qualitative research methods are designed to give the researcher with a clear view about the situation and result. Researchers also use this method to have a deep interaction with people who take part in this research. “Integrating quantitative and qualitative research methods lends depth and clarity to do researches” (Weinreich, 1996). This combination of approaches is necessary because of the range of data can help researchers have a deep impress of this situation. And then researchers should use qualitative methods to analyze the data in order to extract more useful information to support the arguments.
In this journal, the authors use both quantitative and qualitative research methods to analyze the issues. Taylor and Bain gain the secondary date from Nasscom, and have interviews with supervisors, analyze the questionnaires of call centres. The achievements should be acknowledged, however, it cannot deny that this research has a lot of limitations.
There are several suggestions that can improve further researches. Firstly, the secondary data should be checked, in the case study, authors did not mention that whether the data has selected. Because of some of the information from other organizations may not true. Secondly, authors should provide the data of how long the interviews lasted, and the details about the interviews. Thirdly, the researchers should give more data or tables of the research. With numerous data, the results of researches will more convincing. Furthermore, in the final of the research report, the authors should give more information about the difficulties they encountered when they did the researches, and how they overcame the difficulties.
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