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Work Organization, Technology, and Performance in Customer Service and Sales

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  • Rosemary Batt

Abstract

The author analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of Total Quality Management and Self-Managed Teams, as compared to mass production approaches to service delivery, among customer service and sales workers in a large unionized regional Bell operating company. Participation in self-managed teams was associated with a statistically significant improvement in self-reported service quality and a 9.3% increase in sales per employee. When combined with new technology, teams boosted sales an additional 17.4%. These effects persisted over time. Total Quality Management, by contrast, did not affect performance. This study represents a “strong test†of the efficacy of teams because theory predicts weak outcomes for self-managed teams among service and sales employees in establishments where technology and organizational structure limit opportunities for self-regulation, the nature of work and technology do not require interdependence, and downsizing creates pervasive job insecurity—conditions found at the company studied here.

Suggested Citation

  • Rosemary Batt, 1999. "Work Organization, Technology, and Performance in Customer Service and Sales," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(4), pages 539-564, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:52:y:1999:i:4:p:539-564
    DOI: 10.1177/001979399905200403
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    Cited by:

    1. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2004. "Using "Insider Econometrics" to Study Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 217-223, May.
    2. Brent Boning & Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2007. "Opportunity Counts: Teams and the Effectiveness of Production Incentives," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(4), pages 613-650.
    3. Sergio Salis & Allan M. Williams, 2010. "Knowledge Sharing through Face‐to‐Face Communication and Labour Productivity: Evidence from British Workplaces," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(2), pages 436-459, June.
    4. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2003. "Beyond Incentive Pay: Insiders' Estimates of the Value of Complementary Human Resource Management Practices," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 155-180, Winter.
    5. Yang, Yefei & Lee, Peter K.C. & Cheng, T.C.E., 2016. "Continuous improvement competence, employee creativity, and new service development performance: A frontline employee perspective," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 171(P2), pages 275-288.
    6. Kiu-Sik Bae & Hiroyuki Chuma & Takao Kato & Dong-Bae Kim & Isao Ohashi, 2011. "High Performance Work Practices and Employee Voice: A Comparison of Japanese and Korean Workers," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 1-29, January.
    7. Derek C. Jones & Takao Kato, 2011. "The Impact of Teams on Output, Quality, and Downtime: An Empirical Analysis Using Individual Panel Data," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 64(2), pages 215-240, January.
    8. Hiroyuki Chuma & Takao Kato & Isao Ohashi, 2004. "What Japanese Workers Want: Evidence from the Japanese Worker Representation and Participation Survey," Discussion papers 04019, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    9. Stephen R. Barley & Gideon Kunda, 2001. "Bringing Work Back In," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(1), pages 76-95, February.
    10. Cottini, Elena & Kato, Takao & Westergaard-Nielsen, Niels, 2011. "Adverse workplace conditions, high-involvement work practices and labor turnover: Evidence from Danish linked employer–employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 872-880.
    11. Rosemary Batt & Hiroatsu Nohara & Hyunji Kwon, 2010. "Employer Strategies and Wages in New Service Activities: A Comparison of Co‐ordinated and Liberal Market Economies," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(2), pages 400-435, June.
    12. Shaw, Kathryn, 2009. "Insider econometrics: A roadmap with stops along the way," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 607-617, December.
    13. Peter Cappelli & William H. Carter, 2000. "Computers, Work Organization, and Wage Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Yang, Yefei & Lee, Peter K.C. & Cheng, T.C.E., 2015. "Operational improvement competence and service recovery performance: The moderating effects of role stress and job resources," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 134-145.
    15. Neumark, David & Reed, Deborah, 2004. "Employment relationships in the new economy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 1-31, February.
    16. Adam Seth Litwin, 2013. "Not Featherbedding, but Feathering the Nest: Human Resource Management and Investments in Information Technology," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 22-52, January.
    17. Francesco D. Sandulli & Paul M.A. Baker & José I. López-Sánchez, 2014. "Jobs mismatch and productivity impact of information technology," The Service Industries Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(13), pages 1060-1074, September.
    18. Stock, Ruth Maria, 2016. "Understanding the relationship between frontline employee boreout and customer orientation," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(10), pages 4259-4268.
    19. Mustafa Kesen, 2016. "The Impact of Employee Training and Innovation on Turnover Intention: An Empirical Research," International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, vol. 6(1), pages 174-185, January.
    20. Kathryn Shaw, 2004. "The Human Resources Revolution: Is It a Productivity Driver?," NBER Chapters, in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 4, pages 69-114, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Kato, Takao & Shu, Pian, 2011. "Competition, Group Identity, and Social Networks in the Workplace: Evidence from a Chinese Textile Firm," IZA Discussion Papers 6219, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    22. Kato, Takao & Shu, Pian, 2008. "Performance Spillovers and Social Network in the Workplace: Evidence from Rural and Urban Weavers in a Chinese Textile Firm," IZA Discussion Papers 3340, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    23. John Boudreau & Wallace Hopp & John O. McClain & L. Joseph Thomas, 2003. "On the Interface Between Operations and Human Resources Management," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 5(3), pages 179-202, September.

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