A TQM Structure in Call Centres through Information Technology
Deming (1988) was the inventor of the Total Quality Management (TQM) principle with the aim of improving quality in the manufacturing and service sectors worldwide. Thus, Deming (1988) defined TQM defined TQM as “Management practices designed to improve the performance of organizational processes in business and industry. ” Specifically the TQM concept focuses on reducing errors during manufacturing and servicing process by 1 per 1,000,000 units. Various manufacturing and processing organizations apply TQM of a fitness of good basis.
However, all these organizations have common characteristics of TQM that cut across the industry divide. The common grounds are in planning, assessment, implementation and new product development (Jablonski, 1991). This paper is a dissertation on the implementation of a TQM structure through information, with special focus to the customer service call centres. The customer call centres have various functions such as attending to customer queries on products and services, operations, costs and others. Due to globalization factors, most organizations have resorted to outsourcing the call centre services across their national borders.
Ostensible, these organizations have the primary aim of optimizing operational costs whenever they outsource cal centre services from other countries (Bateman et al. , 1999). Many first world nations have experience rapid rise in the number of call centre outsourcing over the last decade alone. However, massive challenges exist ranging especially in the area of quality of service (Batt and Moynihan, 2002). Various studies have been on how organizations implement TQM in the service industry, but less effort was in ascertaining how IT can aid in these processes.
Thus, Yasin et al, (2004) confirmed that TQM implementation in the service sector that is IT oriented was very beneficial in service delivery. 1. 1 Aim of this study The fundamental aim of this study is to identify quality issues in customer call centres service delivery then provide TQM structure recommendations with Information Technology background. Most call centres are already delivering services that are IT founded, yet more efforts needed in evaluating and improving the IT structures (Au and Choi, 1999).
Most IT structures used in call centres are fragmented and collaboration of knowledge is hampered (Davenport, 1993). The following are the persistent problems that customers raise as complains as far as quality service delivery is concerned: • Utilization of old and traditional call lines yet the customer calls are increasing. • Delayed transfer of calls to the right person or department. • Poor internal knowledge sharing leading to un-level reception and perceptions of the customer account or information between the departments.
• Poor motivation and empowerment of the staff to offer quality services that meets the customers’ expectations. • Barriers arising from outsourcing locations and inherent languages of communications. • Poor quality of voice with the increasing use of VOIP. (Gilmore, 2001 ; Dean, 2002). 1. 2 Objectives of the study The cited problems in call centre quality service delivery arise from real life experience, perceptions and implications to the affected customers. Thus, this study is divided into two major aims; the customers and the call centres staff.
This major categorization of aims will help in better problem identification, statement and solution as: • Enquiring from the customers on the quality of services, delivery of service and possible solutions. • Enquiring from the staff the problems, they encounter while attempting to solve customer problems. The objective of this study is to highlight all the problems that exist within and between each of these two major stakeholders then recommend a TQM structure that can proactively solve these problems in future. It is established that most customer call centres apply many IT levels to deliver services.
However, these IT levels are not by TQM principles, which preliminarily explain why many service delivery problems arise. Various researchers have noted that the customer call centres are IT related even though they do not rely on IT. These studies highlighted service delivery and quality management as the core problems at the call centres. Even though many organizations feel that investment in modern and expensive customized IT solutions, there is no guarantee that the problems will not recur (Aksin et al. , 2007). 2. 0 RESEARCH METHODS: This research used of qualitative methods.
The qualitative method was justified because the problem statement was not very clear and the area of study is new with further needs for exploration. The qualitative research approach is widely regarded as less bias when compared to other alternative approaches since the researcher is merely expressing the other study views (Patton, 1990). The major aim of this study is to use semi structured and informal interviews while the focus groups from the customer, and call centre staff will ease the setting and analysis of the problem statement and recommendation for solutions.
Interviews are justified because they give the researcher a fresh perspective of the problem while avoiding preformed responses. Interviews also offer factual ideas, transparent and fair problem solution approaches (Kvale, 1996). The data was collected from 10 interviews and 2 focus groups in total. 5 interviews were conducted with the staff of the call centres and 1 focus group. The same amount of interview and focus group was planned for the end users. This information collection method was considered primary research while the secondary research was by journals, website and books in the academic field.
The interview questions are in Appendix I A and B. 2. 1 PROJECT PLAN: This project has taken two months to complete. The first 15 days of the project was spent gathering secondary data in relation to TQM and IT structures in the call centres. This study explored existing journals, paper and books that describe problems existing at the call centres. Thus, the secondary source of information helped in building background for this study. The next 15-20 days were on gathering primary information through interviews and focus groups.
These interviews resulted in huge amount of data that that aided in compiling results and recommendations. This project, being exploratory in nature is not bound by the deadlines of completion, rather, is based on milestones achieved in outlining the facts and issues at stake. 3. 0 RESULTS, FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS 3. 1 Quality issues in customer call centres service delivery 3. 1. 1 Utilization of old and traditional call lines yet the customer calls are increasing. 3 out of 5 interviewed call centre staff confirmed that their organizations use old lines even with the increasing number of customer calls.
4 out of 5 interviewed staff also confirmed that their call connectivity and sustainability was just above average satisfaction possible due to use of old lines. Another 3 out of 5 interviewed customers reported the call centre staff cleared congestion in the network forcing them to either redial or cue as the call traffic. The average wait in cases of congestion was 3 minutes possible due to use of old lines with the scenario worsening during peek times. Upal (2008), noted that call centre service must offer the customer assurance and reliability.
Thus, the adoption and utilization of old lines at call centre may lead to compromise of quality services aside from unreliability. When services are unreliable, the customers’ loose confidence and this may dent the image and subscription bases in the short or long run (Gilmore, 2001). 3. 1. 2 Delayed transfer of calls to the right person or department. 4 out of 5 interviewed call centre staff reported delays in transferring calls to the right departments possible due to the state of IT at the call centre. The average waiting time for call transfer reported was 3 minutes with calls going through after the average 2 attempt.
4 out 5 interviewed customers reported and average wait of 2. 5 minutes before their calls went through to the right department. 3 out of 5 interviewed customers believe that the state of IT can improve the service quality and improve their customer satisfaction. Upal (2008) noted that poor responses to customer call ranging from delays to wrong transfers affect the services quality in call centres. This issue is also a reflection of whether the call centre staffs are prompt and efficient in assisting the customers.