How can I help you today? The knowledge work of call center agents


Szymanski, M. H.; Swenton-Wall, P.; Plurkowski, L.; Englert, J. How can I help you today? The knowledge work of call center agents. Proceedings of the Twelfth Participatory Design Conference (PDC2012); 2012 August 14-16; Roskilde, Denmark. NY: ACM; 2012; 2: 137-140.


This paper reflects on an industry case study conducted in two outsourced call centers to explore the human side of their turnover problem. At the projects onset, management did not consider it necessary to get input from their agents as they already had a thorough knowledge of their organizations operations based on financial analyses and employee surveys. However when we brought back examples from the field showing agent work as complex, dynamic, stressful knowledge work, management began to see the value of soliciting input from their front-line employees. What started as a turnover investigation resulted in an organizational learning initiative to capture and propagate the human side of call center work. In the end, we shadowed agents through their shift to create A day in the life of a call agent video documentary so that organization-wide all could appreciate the complexity of call agent work.

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