Managing for quality and performance excellence

MANAGING FOR QUALITY 10

Delivering quality services to customers is a challenge that manycompanies deal with daily. Zeron a local cable Company has had itsfair share of problems with high levels of customer complaints in thepast few years. Despite having had a monopoly on cable services inthe country and the customers growing significantly, constantcomplaints about customer services have become a major threat to thecompany’s image and ultimate business success. Reports reveal thatthe highest complains include long hold times, complaints againstagents, inaccurate billing and extra fees. Failed scheduledappointments, disruptions of services and unacceptable levels ofunsolved complaints on first call are other challenges. The list ofcomplaints raised against Zeron seems endless with many articles andlocal papers writing about the company’s employees and staff negatively.

To improve Zeron’s service structure and overall level of service,the company has to transform its leadership. According to Baldrige(2013), the performance system of a company or organization revolvesaround six categories. The six processes namely leadership, strategicplanning, customer focus, measurement or analysis, workforce andoperations focus determine the company’s result (Baldrige, 2013).Leadership is the first category forming a triad with strategicplanning and customer focus. The leadership is directly connected tothe company’s success strategy and customers. They stipulateguidelines and regulations to employees who in turn work to deliverthe company’s objectives to customers. If the company’sleadership is weak and ineffective, the staff and employees arelikely to perform poorly and treat the customers inappropriately,greatly hindering performance excellence in the company. Leadersshould always set the correct direction by being good examplesemployees to deliver the company’s strategy and focus on customers.Zeron needs transformational leadership to change the company’stainted image and restore its former glory.

The first problem that Zeron may be experiencing is not havingleaders who can be able to offer a strong service structure to thefast growing company. Being a monopoly company, there are vastopportunities for it and thus having a large client base is an addedadvantage. However, the increasing number of customers can becumbersome if the company’s leadership does not know how to dealwith customers. There is a need for Zeron to allocate capable leadersin the company’s department with an aim of heading a team ofemployees. The division of labor will help leaders and team leadersdeal with individual employees and supervise them for the benefit ofthe company asserts Pielstick (1998). All departments for examplecustomer service agents, billing, call department, technical staffand management need a leader who matches with the company’s visionfor the company to succeed.

Most complains appear to be from customers meaning that customerrelations is a great challenge for the company. Customer relationsproblems can be corrected by taking employees through customerservice training. The training will instill in them virtues thatallow them to treat customers well and be prompt to respond to theircomplaints. According to Handerson and Tolloch (2008), trainingemployees is a crucial step towards improving customer relations andimproving work performance. The training will also help eradicateapathetic, unprofessional, unresponsive and not knowledgeablebehavior amongst employees.

Work ethics are also questionable and appear missing in the company.No wonder employees can afford to charge extra fees and haveinaccurate billing and failing to meet appointments. Strict codes ofwork ethics are vital for Zeron to progress. Speed is another issuein Zeron as customers complain of long hold times and unacceptablelevels of complaints not being solved on first call. Implementingeffective machineries like fast internet to facilitate promptresponse to the customers is crucial. The technical department’sneeds to ensure that all electronics are up to date with technologythus making that not a reason delayed response. Not meeting thecustomer’s needs and staff absenteeism are attitude and behaviorchallenges that the company can deal with through instilling toughdisciplinary measures against negligent employees. With goodleadership, work ethics, disciplinary measures in place, customercomplaints will significantly reduce. Assistance from a consultingfirm is a suitable idea that will help improve service quality andpossibly win back lost customers.

I would recommend a step-to-step approach in creating a customercentric culture throughout Zeron starting with the company’sgrassroots level.

Change in leadership

Transformationalleadership recommended for Zeron

Leaders influence employees positively

Employeesimprove customer’s services are polite, friendly, responsive,professional, fast to solve complaints

Respect and regard is developed in Zeron

Eventually a customer centric culture is created

Culture centric culture explained

Grass root level, means that all employees need to understand why itis important to deal with customers appropriately. Once employeesrealize the value of customers to the company, it will be easy forthem to treat customers politely in a friendly manner. A customercentric culture is one that revolves around the customers who arecrucial for the company’s progress. The company’s management andleadership can best teach this understanding to employees throughsetting impressive examples. According to Pielstick (1998), ifleaders treat the employees well, are prompt to respond to theirqueries, employees will feel the need to reciprocate that treatmentby doing the same to customers. On the other hand, proud,unresponsive and rude leaders do not inspire employees to performexcellently or treat customers well. Managing quality and performancein an organization is a two-way thing. The employees learn by exampleand are most likely going to follow what they see their leadersdoing.

According to Alimo and Alban (2001), good leaders aretransformational and do not view themselves as bosses. They inspirethe change they want to see and are role models to their employees.Leaders who motivate employees to perform exceptionally well haveself drive are capable of bringing change to the organization. Withtransformational leadership, change in employees is possible. Suchleaders are able to influence employees positively and thus create aculture that centers on customer needs. Good leadership inspiresmotivation, morale and excellent performance as it challengesemployees to have a greater sense of responsibility in their workasserts Pielstick (1998). Inspired employees become respectful,friendly, responsive, professional and quick to respond.

Some factors would be considered to build a better customer supportand customer relationship management based on Baldrige’s criteria.Customer focus is for instance an exclusive way of dealing withcustomer support and relationship management. Customer focus asksabout the engagement of the organization with its customers forlong-term success. It includes looking at the building customerrelationships, listening to the customer’s voice, using thecustomer’s information for improved innovation and opportunities.Better customer support can be obtained through listening to thecustomers complaints as that is how they voice the problems theyexperience. Customers include current customers and those who arealso potential customers.

Current customers have firsthand experience with employees and thuscan give immediate feedback or complaints while potential customershave observed the firm and noticed the feedback they will give.Customer relationship management should be able to receive customercomplaints and handle them amicably for customer’s satisfaction tobe obtained. Apart from listening to customers, it is important todetermine their satisfaction and the engagement level of customers.Satisfied customers remain loyal and are less likely live the companywhen challenges arise. Dissatisfied customers on the other hand willwalk out the minute they feel that they are not being served well.Companies gain information about customers through various platforms.Blogs, social sites, customer data are a few examples of customerengagements (Baldrige, 2013).

Better customer support and relationship management can be developedthrough encouraging customers to be frank about their experienceswith the company. This is the only way that the relationshipmanagement can be able to get feedback on the services received. Whenone of the customers in Zeron reported that had not had any servicefor phone, cable or internet since putting their service call on inApril 17, it became obvious that the company was very slow torespond. As a result, the customer said that they attempted to calldifferent answers but had no service from the three service agents.They were frustrated and said they would not continue being customersand thanked Zeron for the worst service award. From the customer’sfeedback, it is easy to see their dissatisfaction. In this case,better customer support would have been built through a quickresponse to the frustrated customer.

According to Baldrige (2013), customer engagement is imperative forcustomer support. Engagement involves the investment that customersmake or commitment to the brand and product. Customers who areengaged possess characteristics like loyalty, retention, will andreferral to other customers. The best way to assure customers that acompany appreciates their loyalty is by offering customer support andgiving them quality customer care. Customer relationship managementshould be supportive to customers and ensure that their demand aremet in a timely manner. That strengthens the relationship andincreases loyalty.

Specific actions to improve the overall morale, spirit of serviceand commitment of Zeron’s employees is enrolling them for customerservice and ethical training. Effective training will cover topicslike customer care services, how to relate with customers and respectfor customers. To improve the overall morale, employees need to beinvolved in outdoor activities like hiking, camping or retreatsargues Hendersonand Tulloch (2008). When employees are away from thetight work place environment, they will feel at ease and morecomfortable to air their grievances. Some of those grievances includewhat makes them feel unhappy in the workplace. It becomes easier tosolve workplace challenges outside than when in the office with tightwork schedules. The fatigue and workload also makes it impossible foremployees to interact and solve organizational challenges. Involvingemployees in outdoor activities makes it possible for them tointeract, exchange ideas and relate better thus improving workperformance.

The spirit of service amongst Zeron’s employees can be revivedthrough implementing strict rules that govern customer servicedelivery. A recent customer survey proved that Zeron was at its worstwith the last average score of 2.2. There is an urgent need toresearch on why the employees spirit of service and job satisfactionwas very low. Employees give reasons for less work motivation as latepayment, lack of incentives, unfriendly work environment, too muchworkload, and no work leave amongst others. Ensuring that employeeshave all their needs met before expecting them to give qualityservices to customers is almost vital. It will enhanceprofessionalism and commitment to work argues Pielstick (1998). Thespirit of service can be improved through setting higher workstandards for the company. Zeron should ensure that it hiresemployees who are knowledgeable on customer relations services havinghad past experience with academic qualifications. Interviewing alloutsourced service agents should also be necessary if the company’sstandards are expected to improve. To get the best employees, Zeronhas to set high standards for its employees.

Commitment is the will to continue doing something for a specificreason. There are many ways of improving employee commitment to work.When dealing with customer service delivery, employees are able tonote committed employees through their ability to meet theirresponsibilities in a good and timely manner. Positive customerfeedback indicates that employees are committed to their work whilenegative feedback and complaints as in Zeron’s case indicates thatemployees are not committed to their work. One of the best ways ofimproving commitment would be giving best performing employees awardsto improve commitment in quality customer service. As other employeessee committed employees get awarded for exceptional customer servicedelivery, they will be motivated to work harder. According toHanderson and Tulloch (2008), commitment to better service deliverycan be done through increasing the salary, job promotions and givingbonuses. Another strategy of improving commitment amongst employeesin Zeron would be demoting, sacking, firing or forcing members whoare not committed to quality service delivery. Through getting rid ofuncommitted employees, the committed ones remain and aspire to workharder.

References

Alimo-Metcalfe, B. &amp Alban-Metcalfe, J. (2001). ‘Thedevelopment of a new Transformational Leadership Questionnaire,’The Journal of Occupational &amp Organizational Psychology, 74, 1-27

Baldrige Performance Excellence programme. (2013). 2013-2014Criteria for performance excellence, Gaithersburg MD: USDepartment of commerce, National Institute of standards andtechnology

Henderson, L.N., &amp Tulloch, J. (2008). “Incentives for retaining andmotivating health workers in Pacific and Asian countries.“&nbspHumanresources for health,6(1),18.

Pielstick, C.D. (1998). ‘The transforming leader: Ameta-ethnographic analysis.’ Community College Review,26(3), 15-34.