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Communication and distributed-knowledge in Call Centres. Sebastiano Bagnara. Phase 1 Late 60ties. ‘Free phone line’. Phase 2 70-80ties. ACD (Automatic Call Distribution). Phase 3 90ties. CTI (Computer Telephone Integration). Phase 4 End 90ties. Web-enabled and virtual call centre

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Presentation Transcript
the call centre evolution basic technologies

Phase 1

Late 60ties

‘Free phone line’

Phase 2


ACD (Automatic Call Distribution)

Phase 3


CTI (Computer Telephone Integration)

Phase 4

End 90ties

Web-enabled and virtual call centre

CMI (Contact Media Integration)

The call centre evolutionBasic technologies

Phase 1

Late 60ties

Standard answers for standard claims

Claim office

Phase 2


The customer’s number and typology increase

The claim factory

Phase 3


Demand of customer-oriented services

Dynamic and long-lasting communication processes

The organisation learns from its customers

Communication and listening place

Phase 4

Late 90ties

‘Show and tell’

Marketing, negotiation and selling node

The call centre evolutionThe functions


Phase 1

late 60ties

Individual ownership of limited knowledge

Low communication skills

Repetitive tasks

Telephone operator-like workstation

Focus: short call and one call solution

Individual ownership of specific knowledge

Low and specific communication skills

Tolerance to high workloads

Isolated and secluded workstation

Focus: short call and one call solution

Fase 2

anni 70-80

The call centre evolution



Fase 3


Managing distributed-knowledge systems

Handling internal and external knowledge

Understanding and interpreting questions

Managing unexpected events

High communication skills

Coping with stress

Coping with colleagues

Focus on the continous and dynamic relationship with the customer

Phase 4

late 90

Developing distributed-knowledge systems

Negotiation skills

Managing unexpected events

Coping with stress

Working in team

Focus on relationship, trustbuilding and selling

The call centre evolution

Know how


Knowledge about:

  • Competitors
  • Diffused know-how
  • Regulation
  • Other actors
  • Marketing and communication actions
  • General knowledge
  • Needs
  • Shared practices
  • Organization memories



Cognitive artefacts

  • Data base
  • Knowledge management tools

The Call Centre: a distributed knowledge system

In the call centre knowledge is in the agent’s, in the colleagues’ and in the customers’ mind and in the cognitive artefacts


The call centre operator (REP) is a Knowledge Worker

“The service does not work? Have you re-charged the card?”

“Caterina, have you ever done a transfer?”

“ Which is the coverage of Florence? I check in the DB”

Knowledge in the customer’s mind

Artefacts knowledge

Knowledge in other people’s mind”

Knowledge of the socio-cultural context

He preserves, creates and communicates knowledge and he uses and re-elaborates distributed knowledge


Learning how to act within a distributed-knowledge working system


Wider concept of interface meant as access and interaction

Design of cognitive artefacts

Collecting, maintaining and sharing knowledge and information developed into experience

Design of organizational artefacts

(organization memory)

The rep: from the “blue collar ” of the services to the Knowledge Worker

Area of action



REP: distributed-knowledge manager

  • Developing ‘navigation’skills within the knowledge systems rather than heaping up inner information and knowledge
  • Building up communication and interpretation skills
  • Coordinating and managing the temporary dynamics of relationships
  • Learning on the job

Planning of cognitive artefacts

  • Different media integration (Contact Media Integration)
  • Design of ‘user friendly’ access and interaction

Eg: An IVR easy to access allows the customer to autonomously enter the distributed system, leaving the rep to manage difficulties.

Eg: System integration and an unique interface allow the rep to move easily through different applications


The call centre is a ‘fragile’and distributed -knowledge


High turnover

Part-time and seasonal work

Fast evolution of cognitive artefacts

Constant and continous change of products/services and customers

Designing the organisational


Improving the communication flows within the team and among teams

Systematic collection of knowledge

Encouraging and facilitating the experience feedback

Designing cognitive and organisational artefacts to support the communication and the knowledge-sharing among the agents

Design of organizational artefacts: memory

the empowerment of the rep


Fluent communication among the different parts of the distributed- knowledge systems


Building up, navigating and managing the distributed-knowledge systems

The empowerment of the rep