Applying systemic functional linguistics: Understanding the choices of quality in the workplace
Outsourcing of customer and other services to developing countries is a significant aspect of global commercial activity, and an area of explosive employment growth in many locations, such as India and the Philippines. The present paper investigates what is meant by the term ‘quality’ and the language choices made by Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) in outbound credit collection calls. The data is based on a case study undertaken in a call centre in the Philippines. We focus specifically on an analysis of authentic calls and how the language choices relate to calls being assessed within the industry as ‘good’, ‘average’ and ‘poor’. The analysis of the transcribed data revealed that the speech functions and the choice of ‘Mood’ – i.e. whether a clause is a declarative, interrogative or imperative – were important features of the call, and that these choices were related to the assessment of calls being labelled as ‘good’ or ‘poor’ calls. An understanding of what a ‘good’ call looks like can help inform the quality assurance and training practices within the industry.
Author: Gail Forey, Marvin Lam
Adolphs, S., Brown, B., Carter, R., Crawford, P. and Sahota, O. (2004) Applying corpus linguistics in a health care context. Journal of Applied Linguistics 1: 9–28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/japl.22.214.171.124871
Bain, P., Watson, A., Mulvey, G., Taylor, P. and Gall, G. (2002) Taylorism, targets and the pursuit of quantity and quality by call centre management. New Technology, Work and Employment 17 (3): 170–185. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-005X.00103
BusinessDictionary.com (2012) Quality. Retrieved on June 28 from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/quality.html
Bolton, S. C. and M. Houlihan (2005). The (mis)representation of customer service. Work, Employment and Society 19 (4): 685–703. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0950017005058054
Candlin, C. N. and Sarangi, S. (eds) (2011) Handbook of Communication in Organisations and Professions. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9783110214222
Carter, R. A. and McCarthy, M. J. (2006) Cambridge Grammar of English: A Comprehensive Guide to Spoken and Written Grammar and Usage (CR-Rom Version). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cowie, C. (2007) The accents of outsourcing: The meanings of ‘neutral’ in the Indian call centre industry. World Englishes 26 (3): 316–330. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-971X.2007.00511.x
Cowie, C. and Murty, L. (2010) Researching and understanding accent shifts in Indian call centre agents. In G. Forey and J. Lockwood (eds) Globalization, Communication and the Workplace, 125–146. London: Continuum.
Davies, A. (2010) Language assessment in call centres: The case of the customer service representatives. In G. Forey and J. Lockwood (eds) Globalization, Communication and the Workplace, 242–250. London: Continuum.
Forey, G. (2009). Marked interpersonal Themes: projecting clauses in workplace texts. In G. Forey and G. Thompson (eds) Text Type and Texture, 151–174. London: Equinox.
Forey, G. and Lockwood, J. (2007) ‘I’d love to put someone in jail for this’: An initial investigation of English in the Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) industry. English for Specific Purposes 26 (3): 308–326. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2006.09.005
Forey, G and Lockwood, J. (eds) (2010) Globalization, Communication and the Workplace. London: Continuum.
Friginal, E. (2007) Outsourced call centres and English in the Philippines. World Englishes 26 (3): 331–345. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-971X.2007.00512.x
Friginal, E. (2010). Call centre training and language in the Philippines. In G. Forey and J. Lockwood (eds) Globalization, Communication and the Workplace, 194–203. London: Continuum.
Gilmore, A. (2001) Call centre management: Is service quality a priority? Managing Service Quality 11 (3): 153–159. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09604520110391315
Halliday, M. A. K. (2004 ) The ontogenesis of dialogue. In The Language of Early Childhood: The Collected Works of M. A. K. Halliday, Volume 4, ed. J. J. Webster, 144–152. London: Continuum.
Halliday, M. A .K. and Greaves, W. S. (2008) Intonation in the Grammar of English. London: Equinox.
Halliday, M. A. K. and Matthiessen, C. M. I. M. (2004) Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Hodder Arnold.
Hamp-Lyons, L. and Lockwood, J. (2009) The workplace, the society and the wider world: The offshoring and outsourcing industry. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (ARAL) 29: 145–167. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0267190509090126
Hasan, R. (1999) Speaking with reference to context. In M. Ghadessy (ed.) Text and Context in Functional Linguistics, 219–328. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hasan, R. (2005) Language and society in a systematic functional perspective. In R. Hasan, C. M. I. M. Matthiessen and J. J. Webster (eds) Continuing Discourse on Language: A Functional Perspective Vol 1, 37–54. London: Equinox.
Hood, S. and Forey, G. (2008) Co-constructing emotion: The interpersonal dynamics of call-centre interactions. Discourse and Communication 2 (4): 389–409. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1750481308095937
Jeffreys, A. (ed.) (2012) The Report: The Philippines 2012. Manila: Oxford Business Group
Liddicoat, A. J. (2007) An Introduction to Conversation Analysis. London and New York: Continuum.
Lockwood, J. (2010) Consulting assessment for the BPO industry in the Philippines. In G. Forey and J. Lockwood (eds) Globalization, Communication and the Workplace, 221–241. London: Continuum.
Lockwood, J. (2012) Developing an English for specific purpose curriculum for Asian call centres: How theory can inform practice. English for Specific Purposes 31 (1): 14–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2011.05.002
Lockwood, J., Forey, G. and Elias, N. (2009) Call centre communication: Measurement processes in non-English speaking contexts. In D. Belcher (ed.) English for Specific Purposes in Theory and Practice, 143–164. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Michigan University Press.
Matthiessen, C. M. I. M., Kazuhiro, T. and Lam, M. (2010) Key Terms in Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Continuum.
NASSCOM. (2009) Perspective 2020: Transform Business, Transform India, New Delhi: Magnum Custom Publishing. Retrieved June 17 2009 from www.nasscom.in
Porter, L. J. and Tanner, S. J. (2004) Assessing Business Excellence. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Robinson, G and Morley, C. (2006) Call centre management: responsibilities and performance. International Journal of Service Industry Management 17 (3): 284–300. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09564230610667122
Sañez, O. (2006) Driving Breakthrough Growth in BPO/IT-Services. Manila: Business Processing Association Philippines. Retrieved June 17 2007 from http://www.bpap.org/bpap/research/SanezBPAPgoals.pdf
Sarangi, S., Polese, V. and Caliendo, G. (eds) (2011) Genre(s) on the Move: Hybridisation and Discourse Change in Specialised Communication. Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane.
Subramanian R. (2005) Soft-skills training and cultural sensitization of Indian BPO workers: A qualitative study. Soft-skills Training and Cultural Sensitization of Indian BPO workers 5 (2): 11–24.
Taylor, P. and P. Bain (2005) ‘India calling to the far away towns’: The call centre labour process and globalization. Work Employment and Society 19: 261–282. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0950017005053170
Taylor, P., Cruz, P., Noronha, E and Scholarios, D. (2012) The experience of work in India’s domestic call centre industry. International Journal of Human Resource Management 23 (1): 1–17.
Wan, J. Y. N. (2010) Call centre discourse: Graduation in relation to voice quality and attitudinal profile. In G. Forey and J. Lockwood (eds) Globalization, Communication and the Workplace, 106–124. London: Continuum.
Xu, X., Wang, Y., Forey, G. and Lan, L. (2010). Analyzing the genre structure of Chinese call-center communication. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 24 (4): 445–475. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1050651910371198