In our current 'service economy' delivery of services is a major task for industry. Organizations are looking for ways to be accessible to their customers, to be able to promptly answer questions customers may have, or to provide reliable and up-to-date information. This has resulted in the creation of specialized departments for customer contacts: the call centre. Call centres can harbour jobs of different levels of qualification, ranging from unskilled people who are providing standard information (sometimes even reading from prescribed scripts) to frequently asked questions, to highly qualified personnel who deal with unique complex problems.
Most articles compiled in this Special Issue are concerned with the working conditions at call centres. Zapf et al. report results of a comparison of a variety of variables between call centres and different kinds of jobs (service jobs, non-service jobs). Bakker et al. show that different kinds of working conditions have different kinds of effects; whilst job demands affect absenteeism via health problems, job resources affect turnover via involvement. Grebner et al. show how a great variety of resources and stressors including aspects of emotion work, which Zapf et al. have identified as particularly high in call centre jobs, are related to health outcomes in call centres. Dollard and Lewig found similar results in Australian call centres, showing that the effects are similar across countries and cultures. Finally, Shah and Bandi present a case study from India (a country where, given the low level of wages and high level of people's qualifications in ICT, many organizations have set up call centres), in which the demand for personnel development in high-knowledge customer-contact-centres is vividly described. This study explicitly shows that there is no technological determinism since the work of the agents in the study is relatively enriched.