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Links between service climate, employee commitment and employees service quality capability
Marie Mikic Little
Monash University, Churchill, Australia, and

Alison M. Dean
The University of Newcastle, Callghan, Australia
Abstract
Purpose Studies have demonstrated that the service climate in an organisation, as perceived by employees, is positively related to service quality, as perceived by customers. However, no studies appear to have tested the link to service quality from an employee perspective. Hence, the major aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between service climate, employee commitment and employees service quality capability (SQC). Design/methodology/approach Data were collected by a cross-sectional eld study of frontline employees in a telecommunications call centre (n 167; 58 percent). A call centre was chosen because of the perceived poor service climate and the high levels of employee turnover. Findings Global service climate (GSC) in the call centre was found to be positively related to employees SQC, with partial mediation by employee commitment. Regression analysis showed that three factors: managerial practices, customer feedback and human resource management contributed to GSC but, unexpectedly, customer orientation did not. Research limitations/implications The ndings indicate that the service climate in a call centre affects employees, both in terms of their commitment, and their self-reported feelings about the delivery of service quality to customers. Unexpected ndings suggest that further work on service climate in call centres is warranted. Practical implications This study demonstrates the important effects of service climate in general, and HRM in particular, on frontline employees in call centres. Managers should benet from noting the links and the likely service quality outcome for customers. Originality/value This paper applies and extends theory developed in other contexts to call centres. Keywords Service climate, Job satisfaction, Customer services quality, Call centres, Australia Paper type Research paper

Managing Service Quality Vol. 16 No. 5, 2006 pp. 460-476 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0960-4529 DOI 10.1108/09604520610686133

Introduction In recent years the service sector has witnessed some extreme changes in the workplace. Companies have linked information technology advances with telecommunications to re-invent their customer service activities and sales via call and contact centres (Knights and McCabe, 2003). The call centre phenomenon suggests what some have described as a transfer from routine to knowledge work in employment (Blackler et al., 1993; Frenkel et al., 1995). Frenkel et al. (1995) highlight the appearance of a new form of info-normative control, where administrative procedures are one of the main media of work. This situation involves performance

benchmarks that allow automatic generation of performance data and managers can adopt practices to improve employees performance using specic objectives and targets (Knights and McCabe, 2003). Such efciency-focused practices generate questions about control and employee stress (Knights and McCabe, 1998) and the role and importance of the organisational climate in a centre set up with the specic goal of providing service to customers. In tandem with their recent growth worldwide, call centres have received negative publicity concerning how they are managed (Armistead et al., 2002). In general, researchers have found that managers do emphasise efciency goals and productivity targets (Singh, 2000), and that they frequently subject employees to high levels of monitoring and stressful working environments (Knights and McCabe, 1998; Taylor and Bain, 1999; Wallace et al., 2000). The reputed focus on efciency, at the expense of employee well-being, suggests that a poor service climate may exist in call centres, and that employees may have difculty delivering high levels of service quality to customers. However, there are few studies that have investigated employees perceptions about customer service in call centres (Armistead et al., 2002; Gilmore, 2001) or the climate that contributes to it. This study aims to address that gap. Service climate is dened as the shared perceptions of employees concerning the practices, procedures, and kinds of behaviours that get rewarded and supported with respect to customer service and service quality (Schneider et al., 1998, p. 151). That is, service climate is built on foundations of caring for both customers and employees (Burke et al., 1992; Schneider et al., 1992). The importance of the elements of service climate to customers and employees has been demonstrated in various studies. For example, Rogg et al. (2001) found that service climate facilitates the delivery of customer satisfaction, while Schneider et al. (1998) demonstrated a positive link between the way employees perceive service climate and customers perceptions of service quality. More recently, Schneider et al. (2002) showed that the strength of service climate has a moderating effect on the link between employees and customers. Additionally, service climate has been found to be related to employee commitment (Lux et al., 1996) and to increase the empowering leadership behaviours of a service workers supervisor, with ow on effects to the worker (Yagil and Gal, 2002). With its potential implications for both customers and employees, service climate is therefore of considerable interest in call centre research. Another issue of great concern in call centres is employee commitment, and the high levels of employee withdrawal and turnover (Deery et al., 2002; Malhotra and Mukherjee, 2004). In this study, employee commitment is dened in terms of employees beliefs in the goals and values of the organisation, their willingness to exert effort, and their intention to maintain membership of the organisation (Mowday et al., 1979, p. 226). Thus, employee commitment encapsulates both employees feelings about the organisation and their desire to remain with it. In a related call centre study, de Ruyter et al. (2001) found an inverse relationship between job satisfaction and employee turnover. Using a meta analysis of studies on employee commitment, Griffeth et al. (2000) found that employee commitment is a valid and reliable predictor of employee turnover. Hence, employee commitment is important in the call centre context of the study because it reects turnover intentions. Despite compelling ndings on the importance of managerial policy and practice to service climate (Schneider et al., 1998; Schneider et al., 1992), and the role of employee

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commitment in organisational success (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990), few studies appear to have explored the manner in which service climate affects employees and the resultant effects on their ability to service customers. Exceptions include studies which have demonstrated the partial mediation, by employee commitment, of the relationship between organizational characteristics and service climate (Lux et al., 1996); the mediation of the link between HRM practices and customer satisfaction by organisational climate (Rogg et al., 2001); and the role of service climate in empowering the service workers supervisor which, in turn, enhances the service workers sense of empowerment (Yagil and Gal, 2002). Thus, the major aim of this study was to investigate employees perceptions of, and responses to, the service climate with respect to frontline positions in a call centre. In particular, relationships between the service climate in the call centre, employees commitment to the organisation, and their ability to provide high levels of service quality to customers were proposed and tested. Service climate can be investigated in terms of global service climate (GSC), or its dimensions. Thus, a secondary aim of the paper was to investigate the direct relationships, if any, between the dimensions of service climate with employee commitment and service quality capability. GSC is distinguished from the dimensions of service climate by drawing on the explanation and scale development work of Schneider et al. (1998, p. 153). They describe global service climate (GSC) as a summary measure of the organizations climate for service and state that GSC is not a composite of the three scales (discussed below), but rather it is its own distinct scale designed to tap the molar aspect of service climate. Schneider et al. (1998, p. 157) showed that global service climate was signicantly related to each of three predictors: customer orientation (CO), managerial practices (MP) and customer feedback (CF), with the strongest link to CO. While Schneider et al.s (1998) managerial practices included some aspects of human resource management, other literature emphasises the role that human resource management (HRM) and, in particular, learning and development, has in inuencing service climate and customer service (Babin and Boles, 1996; Burke et al., 1992; Rogg et al., 2001). In the current study, global service climate is therefore expected to consist of four dimensions: CO, MP, CF, and HRM. Precise denitions of these dimensions are included towards the end of the next section. All four dimensions were expected to relate positively to the global service climate variable but their relative contribution is unknown and, apparently, untested. Development of hypotheses First, we test the relationship between global service climate and employee commitment. As stated previously, Schneider et al. (1998) describe service climate in terms of employees perceptions of the practices, procedures and behaviours that are expected, supported and rewarded with respect to customer service and service quality. That is, the service climate communicates a message to employees about what is valued by the organisation, and the attitudes and behaviours that are desired and will be rewarded. Thus, service climate can inuence employee attitudes, and some scholars have suggested that businesses must be concerned with improving employees perceptions of service climate because those perceptions help to dene employee attitudes (Lux et al., 1996). We propose that employee commitment is one

such attitude. However, few studies have examined organizational commitment in relation to employee perceptions of organizational climate for service (Lux et al., 1996). The existing studies have demonstrated various associations and links between elements of service climate and employee commitment. For example, Rogg et al. (2001) included employee commitment (the degree to which employees would support organisational goals and welfare) in their conceptualisation of service climate and found that it correlated with other components that are relevant to the denition of climate in the current study, for example, management practices (0.59) and customer orientation (0.68). In a call centre study, Singh (2000) found that boss support reduced employees burnout tendencies and enhanced their perceived commitment levels. Similarly, Lux et al. (1996) found strong support for the hypothesis that when management provides support and resources to overcome technical and social obstacles encountered by employees, employees will exhibit higher levels of commitment to the company. Finally, Schmit and Allscheid (1995) found that variables assessing climate (such as management support) were strongly associated with employees affective response to the organisation, which was strongly associated with service intentions. With the other studies mentioned above, Schmit and Allscheids (1995) link between climate and affect also supports the relationship hypothesised here. That is: H1. Global service climate will be positively related to employee commitment. The present study also tests whether there is a relationship between global service climate and employees service quality capability in a call centre. Service quality measures how well the service level received by customers matches their expectations (Parasuraman et al., 1985). In call centres, service quality is delivered by frontline employees during encounters with customers, and is inuenced by the extent to which the organisation supports employees in their endeavours (Singh, 2000). We are interested in employees responses to the service climate and, more specically, whether these responses inuence employees self-reported service quality capability. Schlesinger and Zornitsky (1991) dened service quality capability (SQC) as the extent to which employees are satised with their ability to deliver service quality to customers. We adopt this denition. As noted above, service climate is built on foundations of caring for customers and employees (Burke et al., 1992), and it is designed to empower, assist and motivate employees to provide superior customer service and high levels of service quality (Schneider, 1990). Various scholars, in linkage research studies, have found a relationship between the organisations attitude to its employees and outcomes for customers. Using empirical evidence from 29 studies that involved both employees and customers, Dean (2004a) provides a review of major links between organisational and customer variables in service delivery. The review shows studies that demonstrate relationships between organisational features and service quality (e.g. Parasuraman et al., 1992) or customer satisfaction (e.g. Johnson, 1996). While linkage studies use customer data to assess to service quality outcomes, it is alleged that where these outcomes are positive, employees will be relatively satised with their service quality capability. Hence, the second hypothesis is proposed: H2. Global service climate will be positively related to employees service quality capability. We now consider the possible relationship between employee commitment and service quality capability. As dened above, employee commitment is concerned with

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employees identication, involvement, and intent to remain with an organisation, and has been linked to employees attitudes and responses to their workplaces (Grebner et al., 2003; Lux et al., 1996; Mathieu and Zajac, 1990). Few studies appear to have investigated employee commitment and employees opinions about the service they deliver to customers (Malhotra and Mukherjee, 2004). However, scholars have found that service workers are more likely to deliver quality to customers when they perceive positive management approaches to them (Gronroos, 1984; Singh, 2000) and are likely to treat customers in the same way that they are treated by the organisation (Yagil and Gal, 2002). Bettencourt and Brown (1997, p. 39) stated:
Leading rms and scholars propose a possible relationship between the fair treatment of employees and excellence in service delivery.

Similarly, using a sample from six occupations, Eisenberger et al. (1990) reported positive relationships between employees feelings of perceived organisational support with their commitment, job attendance and performance. Finally, a recent study by Malhotra and Mukherjee (2004), conducted in four call centres of a UK bank, demonstrated that the organisational commitment of employees had a signicant impact on their self-evaluated service quality performance. Hence, we propose: H3. Employee commitment will be positively related to employees service quality capability. Figure 1 provides a summary of the variables and hypotheses guiding the study. As well as testing the hypotheses shown in Figure 1, the study investigates whether employee commitment mediates the proposed link between service climate and service quality capability. That is, we are interested in whether employees feelings about their organisation transmit the effects of service climate to their satisfaction with their ability to deliver a quality service to customers. Based on the logic of internal quality in the service prot chain, where employees attitudes are developed and reected in their delivery of value to customers (Heskett et al., 1997), we propose that this will be the case. Further, in a study closely related to the current one, Yoon et al. (2001) found that both service climate and supportive management contribute to employees job satisfaction and work effort, and indirectly impact on customers perceptions of employee service quality. Therefore we propose: H4. Employee commitment will mediate the relationship between global service climate and employees service quality capability.

Figure 1. Conceptual model guiding the study

Dimensions of service climate The secondary aim of the study was to investigate the proposed relationships between service climate and the dependent variables, using the dimensions of service climate, rather than global service climate. We used the four dimensions shown in Figure 1, essentially adopted from Schneider et al. (1998), and dened as follows. Customer orientation measures the degree to which an organisation emphasizes, in multiple ways, meeting customer needs and expectations for service quality. Customer feedback measures the solicitation and use of feedback from customers regarding service quality. Managerial practices reect those actions taken by an employees immediate manager that support and reward the delivery of quality service (Schneider et al., 1998). We have added a fourth dimension, human resource management, to be concerned specically with the policies, procedures and resources to support frontline staff. It emphasises training, problem-solving, and the role of on-line e-learning in call centres. When investigating the dimensions of service climate, we aimed to identify which dimension of service climate demonstrates the strongest relationship to each of employee commitment and service quality capability. Method The research setting for the study was an outsourced telecommunications call centre, which meets the three identifying requirements of a call centre provided by Taylor and Bain (1999). First, employees are dedicated to the customer service function. Second, they use telephones and computers concurrently and third, all the calls are processed by a computerised distribution system. The centre provides a 24-hour service for inbound customer enquiries. Frontline employees are divided into two departments. In one department employees respond to a variety of customer enquiries including billing, new products and telecommunications contracts options, and they are expected to complete calls within an average handling time of three minutes. In contrast, employees in the other department provide a routine messaging service and are expected to average 20 seconds for each call. The study had approximately equal numbers of respondents from each department. A cross-sectional survey design was utilised. An employee questionnaire was developed from the literature and pilot tested by 10 call centre staff prior to execution. Team Leaders in the call centre distributed surveys and covering letters (267) to frontline staff, and the number of respondents (167) provided a response rate of 58 per cent. The sample was mostly female (77 per cent) and relatively young (average age 29.5 years). Their work arrangements were predominantly permanent full time (71 per cent), and half the sample had only been with the organisation for 1 to 2 years (52 per cent). The human resources manager in the call centre considered the sample to be representative of the overall prole of frontline staff. Measures The survey used scales for global service climate, the dimensions of service climate, service quality capability, and employee commitment. Each item in the scales was measured using a seven-point Likert scale. Bipolar anchors of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) were used for all the scales except global service climate and service quality capability. In these cases, anchors of 1 (poor) to 7 (excellent) were used. In

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addition, items in service quality capability that assessed satisfaction used anchors of 1 (very dissatised) to 7 (very satised). Table I provides a summary of the measures, their source, and typical items. The denitions and scales for global service climate (GSC) and the dimensions of service climate are drawn predominantly from the work of Schneider et al. (1998). The scale for GSC by Schneider et al. (1998) was adopted in its entirety. The measure for human resource management drew on work facilitation issues (Schneider et al., 1998) and relevant HRM practices (Rogg et al., 2001). Four new items were included in HRM to encompass e-learning. Three items of the service quality capability measure were developed based on areas noted in Schlesinger and Zornitsky (1991), namely employees satisfaction with their ability to meet customers needs, their assessment of the service quality delivered, and their evaluation of customers satisfaction with service quality. Three new items were added to encapsulate specic elements of capability relevant to call centres (Dean, 2002). These three items covered job knowledge and skills, the time to perform tasks, and the authority to perform tasks. Other scales were adopted as shown in Table I. Alpha values for the scales are provided in Table II. Prior to performing the regression analyses to test hypotheses, items and scales were checked for normality. Exploratory factor analyses of several variables together were used to identify cross-loading items and to demonstrate discriminant validity between major variables. Varimax rotation with Kaiser Normalization was used and

Variable and source Global service climate (Schneider et al., 1998)


a

No. of items

Typical items How would you rate the job knowledge and skills of employees to deliver superior quality work and service? We maintain a high level of commitment to our customers This company informs us about customer evaluations of the quality of service that we deliver My immediate manager/team leader puts a lot of emphasis on giving good service to customers Policies and procedures in the organisation contribute to the delivery of excellent service. E-learning provides me with adequate training on new products I talk up this company to my friends as a great organisation to do business with On average how would you rate your delivery of service quality to your customers? How satised do you think your customers are with the service that you provide?

7 Customer orientationa (Schneider et al., 1998) Customer feedbacka (Schneider et al., 1998) Managerial practicesa (Schneider et al., 1998) Human resource managementa (eight items customized from work facilitation issues in Schneider et al., 1998; four new items) Employee commitment (Mowday et al., 1979) Service quality capability (three items from Schlesinger and Zornitsky, 1991; the other three developed for the study) Table I. Measures used in the study 6 5 5

12 9

6 Note: Specic items provided by the lead author


a

Inter-correlations Scale Mean SD alpha Global service climate (GSC) Customer orientation (CO) Customer feedback (CF) Managerial practices (MP) Human resource management (HRM) Employee commitment (EC) Service quality capability (SQC) Notes: *p , 0.01; * *p , 0.001 4.42 4.96 4.34 5.01 4.16 4.35 5.37 0.97 1.02 1.00 1.43 0.97 1.15 0.78 0.86 0.86 0.82 0.94 0.88 0.88 0.80 GSC CO CF MP HRM EC

Service climate

1.00 0.52 * * 1.00 0.58 * * 0.60 * * 1.00 0.61 * * 0.50 * * 0.45 *

1.00

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Table II. Means and inter-correlations for all major variables

0.63 * * 0.62 * * 0.59 * * 0.52 * * 0.49 * * 0.39 * 0.43 * 0.45 * 0.51 * * 0.41 * * 0.36 * 0.40 * 0.31 * 0.44 * 0.38 *

items loading greater than 0.32 (10 per cent variance) were retained (Tabachnick and Fidell, 2001). Pearson correlation coefcients and multiple regression analyses were used to test the hypotheses outlined in the previous section. Results and discussion Preliminary analyses An exploratory factor analysis was performed on the items constituting the dimensions of service climate. Cross-loading items in customer orientation and customer feedback were deleted, reducing those scales to four items (from six), and four items (from ve), respectively. Managerial practices constituted a separate factor with all ve items loading between 0.77 and 0.95. The 12 items in HRM split into three factors, representing policies and procedures, training and resources, and problem solving. However, together the 12 items demonstrated a reliability of 0.88 so they were retained as one scale in the current study. Other scales demonstrated the expected factor patterns. Table II provides a summary of all major variables arising from the scales, their means, standard deviations, Cronbach alpha values, and intercorrelations. Scales were considered adequate if they exhibited a Cronbachs alpha of 0.8 or higher (Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994). The dimensions of service climate as predictors of global service climate Table II shows that global service climate is positively associated with the four dimensions of service climate adopted in the study (r values ranging from 0.52 to 0.63). To test the simultaneous associations of the dimensions with global service climate, the dimensions were used as independent variables in a multiple regression. Table III provides the results. Table III shows that all dimensions of service climate except customer orientation demonstrated a signicant relationship with global service climate. The Adjusted R-squared value indicates that 52.3 per cent of the variance is explained. Since customer orientation is concerned with understanding and satisfying customers, and was the best predictor in Schneider et al.s (1998) study, this was an unexpected nding. It is possible that the unique nature of call centre work and call centre

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environments changes the emphases that employees perceive with respect to service delivery. A study by Dean (2004b) found that services theory is different in call centres. This possibility is reinforced by Grebner et al. (2003) who, in their comparative study of call centre agents with workers in traditional jobs, found that working conditions differ for call centre agents. The dimension: managerial practices, is the best predictor of global service climate in the current study. Managerial practices consisted of items that measured the emphasis managers place on high quality work and service, their commitment to improving quality and the example they set in doing so. Consequently, this nding reinforces the role that managers play in establishing the service focus of the call centre. Relationship between service climate and employees service quality capability (H1) Table II shows the correlation between global service climate and service quality capability was 0.41 ( p , 0.001). A regression conrmed this relationship (F1; 151 30:6, p , 0.001) with a low adjusted R-squared value of 0.164. Hence H1 was supported but the effect was smaller than expected. It appears that other factors are contributing more to employees service quality capability than are expectations and rewards with respect to customer service and service quality (that is, global service climate). In order to investigate the relationship further, the dimensions of service climate were used as independent variables in a regression with service quality capability as the dependent variable. Human resource management (b 0:25, p , 0.05), emerged as the only signicant predictor of employees service quality capability, explaining 21.7 per cent of the variance. Hence, specic activities with respect to HRM (policies and procedures, training and resources, and facilitation of problem solving) appear to have the most important inuence on service quality capability in this call centre. Relationship between service climate and employee commitment (H2) Table II shows an inter-correlation of 0.49 ( p , 0.001) between global service climate and employee commitment. As expected, a regression involving these two variables showed that 24.8 per cent of the variance in employee commitment is explained by global service climate (F1; 149 48:3, p , 0.001). Thus, the second hypothesis is supported. As for service quality capability, the relationship between service climate and employee commitment was investigated further by performing a regression analysis using the dimensions of service climate as independent variables and employee commitment as the dependent variable. Again, human resource management

Dimensions of service climate Table III. Regression analysis for global service climate against the dimensions of service climate Constant Customer orientation Customer feedback Managerial practices Human resource management

Beta 0.03 0.21 0.36 0.29

t-value 3.20 0.35 2.54 4.83 3.29

Sig. 0.00 0.73 0.01 0.00 0.00

(b 0:37, p , 0.001), was found to be the only predictor of employee commitment, explaining 28.2 per cent of the variance. These ndings suggest that employees feelings about overall service climate and, in particular, elements of HRM, are likely to inuence employee commitment. Given the emphasis placed on concern for employees in service climate studies (Borucki and Burke, 1999; Schneider et al., 1998) this nding makes intuitive sense. It also seems to indicate that employee commitment is inuenced neither by the extent of customer orientation and feedback in the call centre, nor the priorities and leadership that managers demonstrate with respect to customer service and service quality.

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The relationships between service climate and employee commitment with service quality capability (H3 and H4) Hypothesis three proposed that employee commitment would be positively related to service quality capability. When regressed against service quality capability, employee commitment had a beta value of 0.38 ( p , 0.001) for F1; 161 27:13, p , 0.001. Hence H3 was supported but the adjusted R-squared value indicated that only 14.0 per cent of the variance was explained. To compare the effects on service quality capability due to global service climate and employee commitment, these latter two variables were entered together in a regression with service quality capability as the dependent variable. Table IV provides the results. Table IV shows that global service climate and employee commitment are both related to service quality capability, jointly explaining 27.4 per cent of the variance (F2; 149 29:11, p , 0.001). H4 tested for mediation by employee commitment and was partially supported. Using the logic of Baron and Kenny (1986), the three requirements for mediation are met. That is, the independent variable (global service climate) is related to both the dependent variable (service quality capability) (H1) and the mediator variable (employee commitment) (H2). When the independent variable and the mediator are regressed together (Table IV), the strength of the relationship between the independent variable and dependent variables decreases. In this study, the beta value for the global service climate to service quality capability link changed from 0.41 (Table II) to 0.30 (Table IV). However, Table IV shows that global service climate still demonstrated a signicant relationship with SQC, suggesting only partial mediation. Rogg et al. (2001) found that service climate mediates the relationship between human resource practices and customer satisfaction in small business franchises but has no direct effects on customer satisfaction. This study seems to suggest that the indirect effects may work, at least in part, through employee commitment and service quality capability.
Table IV. Regression analysis for service quality capability against global service climate and employee commitment

Beta Constant Global service climate Employee commitment 0.30 0.23

t-value 12.76 3.50 2.77

Sig. 0.36 0.00 0.01

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Summary In applying the service climate concept, we tested relationships in terms of both global service climate and the four dimensions: CO, MP, CF and HRM. The hypothesised relationships shown in Figure 1 were supported, with partial mediation by employee commitment of the global service climate to service quality capability link. This means that the way the organisation treats employees and emphasises customers, affects the feelings and attitudes of employees, and their capability to deliver service quality. In contrast to the hypotheses, the dimensions of service climate did not demonstrate relationships as expected. Figure 2 provides a summary of associations found in the current study. The ndings shown in Figure 2 may indicate that managerial practices and human resource management take precedence over customer factors (customer orientation and customer feedback), in inuencing employees and determining their ability to provide quality service to call centre customers. Managerial practices contribute to the service climate in the call centre but human resource management appears to have a greater inuence on employees commitment and capability to provide high quality service. Limitations and future research This study was conducted in one call centre in the telecommunications industry where service consultants receive inbound calls only. While the call centre met the denitional requirements of Taylor and Bain (1999), the denition could be applied to frontline employees in call centres representing vastly different types of service climate. For example, employees may be relatively low skilled and low paid service workers who respond to customer requests within a tightly controlled, heavily monitored and time-restricted system as in the current study. In contrast, they may be highly skilled

Figure 2. Findings with respect to the dimensions of service climate

employees, such as information technology assistants, who respond to customer calls in an environment where quality of service and interaction are emphasised (Dean, 2002). It seems likely that the type of call centre (and its corresponding service climate) will affect employees abilities to deliver high levels of service. Therefore the ndings from the research would be strengthened by further testing and validation in different types of call centres, preferably located at different ends of the call centre quality/quantity continuum provided by Taylor et al. (2002). Literature on previous studies involving the constructs of service climate, employee commitment and service quality capability is available but very little of it has been developed or tested in call centres. Therefore, the theoretical foundation of this study had to be primarily derived from other frameworks. It is possible that the lack of services theory from call centres resulted in omissions, and has contributed to the unexpected ndings and low R-squared values of the relationships. Further, the study used only regression analysis to test hypothesised relationships. A more comprehensive model using structural equations would be desirable, following further preliminary studies to identify major variables that are necessary to specify alternative structural models for testing. More research in call centres is warranted because their frontline employees work in unique circumstances. They work in isolation, continually managing customer interactions over the telephone; they are generally expected to adhere to strict efciency targets, and they are subjected to high levels of monitoring and control (Knights and McCabe, 1998; Singh, 2000). At the same time, employees are expected to provide quality customer service. Therefore gaining a greater understanding of the factors that produce a positive service climate and help employees to feel committed, when compared to other service encounters, would be useful. This includes identifying factors, other than those in the current study, that increase employees feelings of capability to provide service quality to customers. Additionally, Yoon et al. (2001) found that work effort plays a central role in customers perceptions of service quality so inclusion of this measure in future research may help us to better understand the means by which organisational and employee factors lead to positive customer outcomes. Some limitations with respect to the measures used in the study are noteworthy. Consistent with their theoretical bases, the scales for the main variables have been developed and tested in contexts other than call centres (Mowday et al., 1979; Schlesinger and Zornitsky, 1991; Schneider et al., 1998). Further, the inclusion of three new items in the measure for service quality capability means that its psychometric properties have not been previously tested. It would be useful to see the scale further developed. Common method variance may have caused ination of correlations because all data were collected in the same form at the same time (Lindell and Whitney, 2001). Finally, all the measures were self-reported which may have resulted in self-selection bias (Burns and Bush, 2000). Future researchers may wish to gather data on service climate and service quality capability from sources other than employees, providing a degree of triangulation to the method. Practical applications Two major ndings emerge from this research. First, global service climate is a predictor of both employee commitment and employees service quality capability in

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the call centre of the study. Second, managerial practices, HRM, and customer feedback all contribute to global service climate. Hence, improving global service climate, and its dimensions, is likely to benet the workplace by contributing to a more involved and stable frontline; and to benet customers who will be served by employees who are trained and rewarded in the service endeavour. The two major ndings highlight several specic areas for managerial attention and are now discussed in turn. Global service climate (GSC) was dened in terms of expecting, supporting and rewarding employees for providing high quality service to customers. The relevant measure consisted of items that included ratings of the job knowledge and skills of employees to deliver superior quality work and service; the tools, technology and resources provided to employees to support them, efforts to measure and track the quality of work and service, and the overall quality of service provided. As GSC was directly and indirectly related to the outcome variable, employees service quality capability, each of the above areas provides a practical focus that managers can use for checking and improvement activities. As well as service quality capability, GSC demonstrated a relationship to employee commitment (Table II). Employee commitment was dened in terms of employees identication and involvement in the organisation, and measured by items reecting employees feelings about the company, the work, and the likelihood that they will remain in the rm. Increasing employee commitment is therefore likely to contribute to employees feeling valued and consequently delivering good service to customers. Other items in the GSC measure, which may contribute to such outcomes, include evidence of leadership in service quality, the effectiveness of communication efforts to both employees and customers, and the recognition and rewards that employees receive for the delivery of superior work and service. Recognition and rewards for employees may be particularly important to employee commitment in the current context because of the nature of call centre work, discussed previously. This study seems to suggest that a managers emphasis on recognition and rewards via a positive service climate may be linked to higher levels of employee commitment. The second major nding concerns the dimensions that contribute to global service climate (Table III). These dimensions are rst, managerial practices: emphasising and recognising high quality work and service, providing denite quality standards and setting a personal example. In call centres, team leaders have a role that appears to be driven by time-based key performance indicators. Managers may wish to rethink the emphasis on time and commit to improving the quality of work and service, with the goal of enhancing GSC and, subsequently, service quality. To achieve this, the current study indicates the importance of providing front line staff with more autonomy and discretion in dealing with customer enquiries, for example, less stringent, more exible talk times and more emphasis on customer satisfaction, discussed next. The second dimension contributing to GSC is customer feedback: seeking evaluations of the quality of work and service, informing frontline staff of feedback and informing customers of changes that affect them. Providing employees with customer feedback should facilitate changes to practice, increased productivity, and satisfaction from positive reports. Similarly, developing systems to ensure that customer feedback is received and acted upon is likely to enhance customer service and satisfaction.

Finally, human resource management emerged as a predictor of GSC (Table III) and demonstrated separate links to employee commitment and service quality capability (Figure 2). Hence, HRM is worthy of special consideration by managers. HRM was measured by items addressing organisational policies and procedures, training in new products, development of interpersonal and problem-solving skills, technology and resources to support employees, the role of e-learning in the call centre, and employees attitude to it. The ndings suggest that improved HRM would contribute to service quality levels and organizational effectiveness via more committed employees. Comments from respondents indicated that e-learning has a negative impact on employees ability to learn and then to help the customer. The employees noted that training should be facilitator lead and give adequate time for staff to practice, understand and comprehend the new knowledge, prior to service delivery. In conclusion, many businesses use call centres as their only customer interface, and call centres have the potential to provide a competitive basis for rms. Hence, understanding the delivery of service quality from call centres is important for managers. This study has identied specic challenges and highlighted opportunities for managers to create a positive service climate. Service climate has been shown to contribute to the commitment of employees to the organisation, and to employees service quality capability, potentially improving the service that the customer experiences. Improved quality of service contributes to the overall consumer benet package and should prove benecial to rms in the long term.
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About the authors Marie Mikic Little is a PhD student in the Department of Management, Monash University, Australia. She is currently investigating service climate and employees commitment, service quality capability and work effort in several call centres. Maries interest has been stimulated by prior employment in the call centre industry. Marie Mikic Little is the corresponding author and can be contacted: marie.little@buseco.monash.edu.au Alison M. Dean, PhD is Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Newcastle, Australia, specialising in services marketing and management. Her research has been published in a variety of journals including the International Journal of Service Industry Management, the Journal of Services Marketing, Managing Service Quality, Health Marketing Quarterly, and Knowledge and Process Management. Additionally, Alison has served as a guest editor of Managing Service Quality.

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