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Why Do You Ask?The Function of Questions in Institutional Discourse$
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Alice Freed and Susan Ehrlich

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306897

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306897.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 May 2021

“How May I Help You?”

“How May I Help You?”

Questions, Control, and Customer Care in Telephone Call Center Talk

15 “How May I Help You?”
Why Do You Ask?

Anna Kristina Hultgren

Deborah Cameron

Oxford University Press

This chapter, written by Ann Kristina Hultgren and Deborah Cameron, is concerned with questions in telephone interactions between customers and service personnel (“agents”) in a Scottish call center that is part of a large insurance company; the data involve inbound calls initiated by the customers. The company imposes standards on the agents relating to both efficiency and customer care, applying the same closely controlled strategies to both. The inherent tension between the two sets of objectives puts agents in the position of constantly trying to determine what balance will be acceptable to their superiors. The chapter considers how these conditions affect the use of questions between agents and customers. The authors conclude that power in this interaction belongs to neither of the participants but is located rather in the call center system. [129 words]

Keywords:   call center, customer care, interactive efficiency, inbound calls, question use, power and interaction, call center system

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