Nowadays we can see an increased share of information based businesses, i.e. businesses where the delivered product or service do not constitute a tangible product. A growing organisational solution for information based businesses is call centres (Stoltz and Moberg, 2002; forthcoming). As information based products and services can be transported easily and at a low cost over geographical distances (cf. Litan and Rivlin, 2002), geographical proximity should not be of importance for call centre organisations. Technological advances lead organisations to consider alternative locations for their information processing, sales and service work (Larner, 2002). One general assumption is that spatial proximity internally within an organisation as well as proximity to customers and other business partners should not be of significant importance for call centre businesses. Following this reasoning, call centre business establishments can be located almost anywhere (cf. Wilson, 1995 and Gillespie et al., 2001).
In practise, a considerable number of regions in Sweden, especially in sparsely populated areas, are active and work to attract call centre businesses. This applies to new business establishments as well as organisations relocating business activities. In this development, certain regions seem to excel themselves as call centre regions. In other words, clusters are emerging for this type of business in form of geographical agglomerations of call centre organisations to specific delimited areas.
The aim of this paper is to reach an increased understanding for call centre establishments trough reaching an understanding of the importance of clusters and networks, i.e. proximity to other organisations and actors, for this type of business. With this aim in mind, we put questions like: What importance do clusters in terms of geographical concentrations have for businesses that are regarded as mobile and not delimited in space when it comes to choice of location? Is the local or regional dimension of importance when you are acting nationally or even globally? Can these businesses be located anywhere or are there more locally based conditions that are of importance for growth and sustainability of call centre organisations? What importance do clusters and networks have for entrepreneurship and new business establishments for call centres businesses? What similarities and differences can be distinguished comparing clusters of call centre organisations with clusters of more traditional manufacturing organisations?
Our findings show that the geographical concentration, which a cluster means, of similar business activities seems to be of importance for supporting and encouraging both existing call centres and new establishments. This applies to leaming, knowledge sharing and expansion of the local knowledge base. Cluster formations facilitate access to and development of resources in terms of available training programs, tailored infrastructure, educated personnel and pool of workers. We have also noted positive knowledge spill-over and spin-off effects, where certain organisations are acting as role models for entrepreneurs starting up new business establishments. Finally, we have found evidence for a so-called "call centre spirit" that fosters innovations and sprit of enterprise.
In the paper, we discuss different types and views of cluster to interpret our findings. Two examples are an evolutionary perspective with different stages, or types, of clusters; locational, market, labour division, innovative, full-fledged industrial district government and techopoles (Dijk, 1999) and Porter's (1998) analysis of clusters with horizontal respectively vertical relations as well as Porter's (1990a and 1990b) diamond of factors for national or regional competitive advantages.
17th Nordic Conference on Business Studies, NFF 2003, Reykavik, August 14-16 2003.