Quotation Tovar, Johanna. 2020. Call center agents’ skills: Invisible, illegible, and misunderstood. Journal of Sociolinguistic Studies. 14 (4), 437-458.




This article follows previous research arguing that skills of call center agents, which often include emotional labor, communication, procedural and substantive knowledge, and articulation work, are mostly invisible. Moving beyond previous analyses linking call centers to low-skilled standardized work, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork and transpositional analysis in the Philippines and the UK to show which real-world processes and written practices make agents’ skills not only invisible and illegible to industry outsiders but also to their managers. I argue that textualization practices such as data entry and script work are important, and that deemphasizing quantification in favor of qualitative assessment could produce better outcomes for agents and skill appreciation by others.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Journal of Sociolinguistic Studies
Language English
Title Call center agents’ skills: Invisible, illegible, and misunderstood
Volume 14
Number 4
Year 2020
Page from 437
Page to 458
Reviewed? Y
URL https://journals.equinoxpub.com/index.php/SS/article/view/437-458
DOI https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.39555
Open Access N


Tovar, Johanna (Details)
Institute for English Business Communication (Köster) (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5927 Ethnography (Details)
5930 Cultural anthropology (Details)
6604 Applied linguistics (Details)
6611 Linguistics (Details)
6623 Sociolinguistics (Details)
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