Cornell University

Global Call Center Project

169 Ives Faculty Building, 607-254-4437

NetherlandsResearch Center for Education & the Labour Market (ROA)

National Country Report

Sieben, I., de Grip, A., and van Jaarsveld, D. 2005. Employment and Industrial Relations in the Dutch Call Center Sector. ROA-R-2005/4E. Maastricht: ROA.

For more information on the Dutch Call Center Project, see www.roa.unimaas.nl or contact Dr. Inge Sieben at i.sieben@roa.unimaas.nl.

The Dutch project focuses on employment and industrial relations in the Dutch call center sector. The report is based on extensive field work, site visits, interviews, and a large-scale survey (the National Call Center Benchmarking Survey).

Highlights of National Report

Dutch Call Center Sector

The Dutch call center sector is relatively new, yet employs the second largest percentage in Europe (after Ireland) of its working population: 2.5 percent. The vast majority of Dutch call centers are in-house operations, while one-quarter are subcontractors who specialize in providing outsourced services. In-house call centers typically provide customer services by handling inbound calls, whereas subcontractors also deal with sales and with both inbound and outbound calls. The Dutch call center sector can be characterized as mature and technologically advanced. Most call centers are relatively small organizations (60 percent has less than 100 employees). Subcontractors are on average twice as large as in-house call centers. The majority of call center agents is female, between 25 and 50 years of age, and works part-time (26 hours per week on average).

In-house Centers and Subcontractors HR Practices

We measured call center investments in three areas of human resource management practices: skills and training; personnel management and work design, and incentives.  Using these measures, we distinguished three groups of call centers – those with low, medium, and high-quality or high-involvement systems:

  • Low-quality HRM system: 20 percent of in-house call centers and 33 percent of subcontractors;
  • Intermediate HRM system: 61 percent of in-house call centers and 56 percent of subcontractors;
  • High-involvement HRM system: 19 percent of in-house call centers and 11 percent of subcontractors.

By these measures, investments in human resource systems are more substantial in in-house centers compared to subcontractor centers. Moreover, in-house call centers offer higher wages, more fringe benefits (such as pensions and tax-free savings), and better working conditions than subcontractors.

Training

Agents dealing with inbound calls on average receive more initial training than agents dealing with outbound calls: 72 versus 46 hours. A large part of this training is on product knowledge and on conversation skills. On average, it takes 37 working days before inbound agents are proficient in their job. For outbound agents, it takes only 19 days to become adequately productive. On-going training averages 40 hours per year for inbound agents and 21 hours for outbound agents. About half of the call centers have personal development plans for individual agents.

Turnover

Unlike the situation in many other countries, turnover is not a major issue for Dutch call center managers. Quit rates are highest for agents working in subcontracting call centers (19 percent). Lower quit rates are found in call centers with high involvement HRM systems (12 percent).

Temporary Agencies

Temporary work agencies (uitzendbureaus) play a significant role in call center employment, with 19 percent of Dutch agents employed by these agencies.  The unique nature of Dutch employment laws explains part of this phenomenon, as short term contracts are converted, by law, into open-ended contracts if the contract is extend three times or continues for three years. In addition, a collective agreement for temporary agency workers exists.

Industrial Relations

Industrial relations in Dutch call centers have several layers. First, company or sector level agreements define the working conditions in in-house call centers. Second, temporary agency workers are covered by the temporary agency sector agreement. Third, workers employed by a subcontracting call center have their own collective agreement. This is quite unique compared to other countries. The in-house call centers are represented in the employers’ organization, VCN, which is not a partner in collective bargaining as in-house call centers have their own company or sector level agreements. The employers’ organization for subcontractors, WGCC, on the other hand, is involved in collective bargaining.

Publications

Sieben, I, A. de Grip & D. van Jaarsveld (2005). Employment and Industrial Relations in the Dutch Call Center Sector. ROA-R-2005/4E. Maastricht: ROA
(national country report in English; see pdf file “netherlands country report.pdf”).

Sieben, I. & A. de Grip (2004). Training and Expectations on Job Mobility in the Call Centers Sector, Journal of European Industrial Training: 28, 257-271.
(scientific article in English; hard copy available on request)

De Grip, A, I. Sieben & D. van Jaarsveld (2006). De callcenterbranche in de Nederlandse arbeidsmarkt en arbeidsverhoudingen. Tijdschrift voor Arbeidsvraagstukken, 22: 71-83.
(scientific article in Dutch; hard copy available on request)

Sieben, I & A. de Grip (2003). Competenties en skill gaps van callcentermedewerkers. Tijdschrift voor Arbeidsvraagstukken, 19: 34-47.
(scientific article in Dutch; hard copy available on request)

De Grip, A. &  I.Sieben (2001). Klantcontact. Rekrutering, competenties en perspectieven van medewerkers in callcenters, ROA-R-2001/9, Maastricht: ROA.
(report in Dutch; see pdf file “ROA-R-2001_9.pdf).

Dutch Research Team

Andries de Grip,
Head Division Labour Market & Training
Research Center for Education & the Labour Market (ROA)
Maastricht University
P.O. Box 616
6200 MD Maastricht, the Netherlands
a.degrip@roa.unimaas.nl

Danielle van Jaarsveld
Sauder School of Business
University of British Columbia
2053 Main Mall
HA 558 
Vancouver, BC  V6T 2G3, Canada
danielle.vanjaarsveld@sauder.ubc.ca

Dr. Inge Sieben
Research Center for Educationand the Labour Market (ROA)
Maastricht University
P.O. Box 616
6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands
i.sieben@roa.unimaas.nl

Jan Sauermann
Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA)
Maastricht University
PO BOX 616
6200 MD Maastricht
The Netherlands
j.sauermann@roa.unimaas.nl

Co-Sponsors of the Report: Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs, NCCBP; Russell Sage Foundation

For more information, contact Dr. Inge Sieben at i.sieben@roa.unimaas.nl.