Call-center labor cross-training: It's a small world after all

Seyed M.R. Iravani*, Bora Kolfal, Mark P. Van Oyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


It is well known that flexibility can be created in manufacturing and service operations by using multipurpose production sources such as cross-trained labor, flexible machines, or flexible factories. We focus on flexible service centers, such as inbound call centers with cross-trained agents, and model them as parallel queueing systems with flexible servers. We propose a new approach to analyzing flexibility arising from the multifunctionality of sources of production. We create a work sharing (WS) network model for which its average shortest path length (APL) metric can predict the more effective of two alternative cross-training structures in terms of customer waiting times. We show that the APL metric of small world network (SWN) theory is one simple deterministic solution approach to the complex stochastic problem of designing effective workforce cross-training structures in call centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1102-1112
Number of pages11
JournalManagement Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Average path length
  • Call-center labor management
  • Cross-training
  • Operational flexibility
  • Queueing
  • Small world networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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