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Analysing interpersonal relations in call-centre discourse

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dc.contributor.advisor Holmes, Janet
dc.contributor.advisor Marra, Meredith
dc.contributor.author Hui, Sai Y.
dc.date.accessioned 2014-03-28T00:28:35Z
dc.date.accessioned 2022-11-03T00:54:42Z
dc.date.available 2014-03-28T00:28:35Z
dc.date.available 2022-11-03T00:54:42Z
dc.date.copyright 2014
dc.date.issued 2014
dc.identifier.uri https://ir.wgtn.ac.nz/handle/123456789/29438
dc.description.abstract In the late twentieth century, call centres began to play what is now perceived as an essential role in the provision of customer services. Their birth and growth owes much to the rapid advancement of telecommunications and computer technologies that make it not only feasible, but also economical, to centralise customer services. Verbal communication is an integral component of these call-centre operations; customer service representatives (CSRs) primarily interact with customers by telephone. The quality of the exchanges between customers and CSRs directly influences organisational efficiency, customer satisfaction and professional reputation. Finding the best ways to interact with customers can therefore bring tremendous benefits to organisations. However, little research has yet been undertaken to study the language used in this new type of workplace. This thesis investigates interpersonal relations in call-centre discourse from three perspectives: first, through the exploration of the structure of calls and the functions of the components of calls; secondly, by examining the way in which CSRs and their callers establish, build, and maintain rapport throughout the course of their exchanges; and thirdly, by analysing the construction of social identities and enactment of power that emerges within the interactions. Analysing over one hundred calls from a New Zealand call centre, the study focuses on the discourse features and language used in authentic telephone exchanges between CSRs and their customers. The call data, totalling 770 minutes of telephone exchanges, was supplemented by ethnographic data including fieldnotes, training materials, and interview recordings, using a range of data collection methods. Analysis of the transactional dimension of calls identified a distinctive four-stage generic structure: opening, request for assistance, solution negotiation, and closing, with obligatory and optional elements at each stage. While there is not much variation in the largely routinised opening and closing stages, considerable variation was evident in the request for assistance and solution negotiation stages. On the relational front, rapport-building strategies are present in all stages. The analysis suggests that CSRs adapt their interactional responses to the caller’s style and the various requirements of the call. These strategies are categorised as: initial rapport-building, cooperative meaning-making, engagement, and exceeding customers’ expectations. Some of these strategies are common to conversational interactions, but some pertain specifically to the call-centre context. In spite of the wide range of strategies, the outcomes can all be analysed as appealing to the caller’s quality face and respecting their association rights; the transactional objectives of the callers are thereby met, and simultaneously good rapport is established, built and maintained throughout the exchange. The enactment of power through social identity is also evident in interactions. The most relevant forms of identity are institutional and professional identity, and these are typically achieved by indexing an organisation, or displaying institutional or professional knowledge. The undercurrent driving force for these constructions of identity and enactments of power seems to be the contextual demands and interactional goals of the call-centre interaction. Hence, these facets of identity and associated power dynamically change as the interactions unfold, adding a further degree of complexity to the interpersonal relationships in call-centre discourse. Overall, this thesis contributes to research on telephone interactions, relational work, power and identity construction, and professional discourse. The research outcomes have the potential to inform the development of academic and professional training courses and curriculum design. en_NZ
dc.language.iso en_NZ
dc.publisher Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
dc.rights Access is restricted to staff and students only. For information please contact the library. en_NZ
dc.subject Call-centre en_NZ
dc.subject Telephone conversation en_NZ
dc.subject Rapport management en_NZ
dc.title Analysing interpersonal relations in call-centre discourse en_NZ
dc.type Text en_NZ
vuwschema.contributor.unit School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcfor 200401 Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcseo 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture en_NZ
vuwschema.type.vuw Awarded Doctoral Thesis en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline Applied Linguistics en_NZ
thesis.degree.grantor Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
thesis.degree.level Doctoral en_NZ
thesis.degree.name Doctor of Philosophy en_NZ

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