Customer-induced stress in call centre work: A comparison of audio- and videoconference


Correspondence should be addressed to Prof. Dr Jürgen Wegge, TU Dresden, Fakultät Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften, Arbeits und Organisation Psychologie, 01062 Dresden, Germany (e-mail:


Call centre work was simulated in an experiment with 96 experienced call centre agents. The experimental design comprised two factors. First, agents communicated with customers either via phone, pc-videoconference or pc-videoconference with additional instructions increasing time pressure. The second experimental factor varied customer behaviour: half of the customers were friendly whereas the other half were rude. Several indicators of strain (e.g. emotional dissonance, tiredness) were assessed by self-reports. Moreover, the levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in salvia were determined at three sampling points and specific behaviours of agents (e.g. smiling to customers) were assessed using video data. It was found that unfriendly customer behaviour led to more strain and lower call performance than friendly customer behaviour. Inducing time pressure increased IgA-levels and reduced talking-time with customers. However, contrary to the expectations, the availability of video data did not enhance strain of agents. Instead, it was found that videoconferencing increased activation of agents if customers were friendly. Since higher levels of activation can counteract boredom and because customers often prefer to see their service providers, adding videoconference facilities in call centres seem to be a fruitful way of enriching routine call centre work.