The purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the relationship between customer satisfaction and preferred conflict management styles of call center representatives. Ninety-seven (49 males and 48 females) inbound telecommunications representatives from the United States Pacific Northwest completed the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict MODE Instrument which is based on a model by Blake and Mouton. The TKI assesses the preferred style of handling conflict (Competing, Collaborating, Compromising, Avoiding, and Accommodating). Customer Perception and Satisfaction (CPS) data for each representative was provided by the organization studied. Participants were between 18 to 66 years old with less than 1 year to 28 years of call center experience.
Measures of association between TKI and CPS results were determined using Cramer's V analysis (p < .05). Using distributive pairings of conflict management styles and CPS ratings, the strongest association involved the Accommodating and Collaborating styles (V = 0.345), which was nearly twice as strong as the next pairing of styles, Accommodating and Competing (V = 0.195). None of the other conflict style/CPS score pairings resulted in strong relationship coefficients.
The most frequently reported conflict style was Accommodating, followed by Competing, Compromising, Avoiding, and Collaborating. Two-thirds of the participants indicated Accommodating as their primary or secondary conflict management style. Using Pearson correlation coefficients, no significant differences between gender and CPS ratings were found. No significant relationship between age and CPS ratings or experience and CPS ratings was found using t-test analysis.
Based on the strong association between higher customer satisfaction ratings and the Accommodating/Collaborating conflict style combination, using either of these styles or a combination of both to resolve inbound customer problems would likely result in increased customer satisfaction. Likewise, use of the other three conflict modes (Competing, Compromising, and Avoiding) would likely produce decreased customer satisfaction.
Assessing conflict management styles during the pre-hiring process could aid management in skills-based routing of calls, reduced training costs, decreased turnover, and increased customer satisfaction. Further studies are recommended for both inbound and outbound call representatives, as well as for organizations involved in face-to-face customer service interactions.