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Telecommunication Essay

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Telecommunication

Regarding the importance of call centers to companies and the best practices in the industry of call centers, it is important to measure the performance of call centers especially in a telecom company as it is the front line of customer service, sales, and survey and field research among other support services. Accordingly, Phelps (2003: 57-60) examined that by centralizing services based on telephone and support in one location, telecom companies as well as other companies with call centers demonstrate an easy adjustment of staffing in a bid to match the rates and volumes of both inbound and outbound calls. From this understanding, call centers can be situated almost anywhere thus allowing the companies to take a corporate advantage and enjoy
the call rates based on the time zones.

The company’s technology needs become centralized allowing telecommunication set up to be installed in various call center locations in a more upgradable and easy to train formats (Sulkin, 2002: 103-105). While based upon research in the benefits and advantages of this communication approach, Fraser and Simkins (2000: 145-147) underscore that many call centers employ a wide range of technologies in a bid to improve not only the issues of customer experience but also the overall performance of the organization’s business. Drawing from the example of inbound calls, Brendan (2005: 231-232) further asserts that call centers can use automatic call distributions such that the incoming calls are sorted in order in which they are received therefore making the call center to manage to utilize call monitoring.

In light of this, customer calls can be monitored by the quality assurance departments to make sure that the needs of the customers are met by the customer care representatives in the organization. Bapat et al (1999: 35-37) articulates that call center offered by telecom companies world wide evolve in their technology to help representatives in the call centers to offer valid and efficient assistance to customers. As a result, call centers are an advantage to numerous companies since the business environment in the contemporary business community depends on call centers as far as outsourcing is concerned. With outsourcing, it’s evident that companies can contract out certain jobs that are to be done by other companies. Besides, the need for a call center is augmented by the fact that the customer plays a leading role in the corporate environment that is typically mechanical with business outsourcing and transactions. Accordingly, the customer is believed to be always right and as such, companies emphasis on the satisfactions of customers that is why there is a compulsory need for every company to have a call center and in a case where a company does not have a call center for reasons based on cost and logistics, it can outsource an external call center where certain issues of its customer care are handled (Cleveland and Mayben, 1997: 176-179).
Bonham (2008: 179-181) further portends that the main prospect of a company is to generate huge profits and inarguably, the success of this goal depends on the customer. Therefore, it is evident that producing an excellent customer care operation should be the primary goal for every company. One of the tools that a company can use is the Servqual model (Parasuraman et al (1986: 86-108). This model was developed by Zeitamal, Parasuraman and Berry in the eighties. It is a service quality framework that is meant to measure the quality of service. The ten dimensions as formulated by Parasuraman et al (1988: 14-40) were:

Reliability
Responsiveness
Responsiveness
Competence
Access
Courtesy
Communication
Credibility
Security
Understanding/knowing the customer
Tangibles.
However these ten aspects were later narrowed down to five in the nineties to

Graph 1 Servqual Dimensions. (Donnelly and Dalrymple, 1996:15-18).

According to Parasuraman et al (1988: 14-40) the reliability aspect examines the ability of a company to perform the services accurately and dependably. The assurance examines the structure for credibility, security and courtesy. Tangibles concentrate on physical amenities for providing the service.  Empathy examines the affability and efforts put forth to understand the customer’s needs. Responsiveness examines the ability and willingness to offer timely service. The model evaluates customer expectations before service is given and the customer’s perception as to the actual delivery of the service (Curry 1999: 180-190; Parasuraman et al, 1994: 111-124).

As such the interplay between the company expectations and service and the customers’ expectations and perception are presented as:

Figure 1 Model of service quality gaps (Parasuraman 1988 and Curry 1999)

The gaps that exist (Parasuraman et al, 1988: 14-40) 1990) are defined as:

Gap 1 (positioning gap) – pertains to managers’ perceptions of consumers’ expectations and the relative importance consumers attach to the quality dimensions.

Gap 2 (specification gap) – is concerned with the difference between what management believes the consumer wants and what the consumers expect the business to provide.

Gap 3 (delivery gap) – is concerned with the difference between the service provided by the employee of the business and the specifications set by management.

Gap 4 (communication gap) – exists when the promises communicated by the business to the consumer do not match the consumers’ expectations of those external promises.

Gap 5 (perception gap) – is the difference between the consumers’ internal perceptions and expectations of the services. The gaps in the expectations and perception of delivery can be narrowed so as to exceed or at least meet customers’ expectations (Parasuraman et al, 1994: 111-124).

Although the model has been used in many instances, it has also been criticized as subjective, complex, subjective and unreliable statistically. The RATER model though is a useful and simpler tool for assessing the quality of service as perceived by the customers. Buttle (1996: 8-32) critiques SERVQUAL on operational and theoretical ground. He pointed out that the dimensions of SERVQUAL have not been determined to be universal. Therefore its application would vary depending on particular environments. According to him the model has some limitations. Theoretically the model is not based on an attitudinal paradigm but rather a disconfirmation paradigm. However, quality that is perceived by the customer is best judged as an attitude. There is also no solid evidence that customers rate service quality depending on perceived service level and their expectations. In addition the model concentrates on service delivery rather than the results of the service experience. As the Servqual dimensions are contextualized direct relation to the factors might not be what is expected. There is ample inter-correlation within the dimensions. In terms of operations customers use other standards and not just their expectations in the evaluation of quality of service they receive. Servqual as a toll can not measure in full the customers’ service quality expectations. Customers assessment of service quality is not static and as such not a dependable element in the assessment. The model use of scores leads to an unreliable proportion of item variances.

Lages and Fernandes (2005: 1562-1572) propose that customers’ ultimate decisions are more abstract. According to Bryslan and Curry (2001: 389-401) the Serqual Model can be effectively use and is helpful is used correctly. In a research they conducted in a catering company, they sent a total of 140 questionnaires to the companies previous year’s customers. Out of these 52 were used for analysis. Bryslan and Curry (2001: 384-401) found that all the responses to the questionnaire were negative. The departmental Serqual score was – 1.6. This was interpreted as a considerable shortfall in company’s ability to meet the customers’ expectations. The scores for particular dimension were recorded down as shown:

Table 1 SERVQUAL Scores for Catering Service (Bryslan and Curry 2001)

Dimension      Expectation    Perception       Gap scores      Weightings     Weighed Average

Tangibles             5.66                4.26                 -1.40                 19.8                     -0.28

Reliability            6.06                4.36                 -1.70                 29.6                      -0.5

Responsiveness    5.74                4.05                -1.69                  19.9                     -0.34

Assurance            6.13                4.58                 -1.55                  15.2                     -0.24

Empathy              5.97                4.45                 -1.52                  15.7                   -0.24

Note: Average weighed SERVQUAL score = -1.6

The highest score gaps were for the Responsiveness and Reliability dimensions. The company would need to reduce the gaps in these dimensions to ensure more customer satisfaction. The highest level of customer expectation is in the Reliability dimension. The least expectation is in the tangibles dimension.  Customers gave the least weighting to the Assurance dimension even though they had the most expectation in this dimension. This could be because customers assume that employees are aware of the services rendered and as such expect this dimension to be achieved thus they give it lowest weighing.

As this statistics reveals, assessing service quality has mainly centered on how to meet or exceed customer’s expectations. This is achieved by analyzing how service delivered compares with customers’ expectations. The model can also be used to measure the service quality of internal customers.

Like the SERVQUAL model the Service Personal Values (SERPVAL) model uses several dimensions (Lages and Fernandes 2005: 1562-1572). The three values are

Peaceful life,
Social recognition,
Social integration.
The SERPVAL model uses the three dimensions in relation to customer satisfaction (Lages and Fernandes 2005: 1562-1572). The service value in relation to social integration impacts customer loyalty while the service value in relation to peaceful life impacts customer loyalty and intention of further purchase by customer (Lages and Fernandes 2005: 1562-1572; Getty and Thomson  1994: 3-22). As a result, though the SERVQUAL model has shortcomings, it is still widely used after modifications by telecommunication companies in different settings.

To facilitate effective and efficient customer service, the company factors in the call centers department and as in the case of telecom companies worldwide, it is apparent that the call
centers staff demonstrate a structured positive body language endowed with characteristics of perseverance, patience as well as effective communication with customers. In light of this, Polishuk (2004: 83-85) reinforces that Telecom call centers come out as invariable with good
listening not only on meeting the needs of the customers but also satisfying them. Accordingly, Telecom China has excelled with its call center operations by recording over 8000 employee in numerous organizations under their belt to effect fruitful customer care proposition (Simons, 2006: 24-25). A recent survey showed that customers sometimes find it inappropriate
to find information about products of the company hence they opt for making a conversation of the telephone nature with the call centre staff. As such, several multinational companies as well as business organizations find it imperative to have a well equipped call center for what is arguably called telemarketing thorough the help of sales support and customer service (Hillson, 2007: 141-142). Depending on the nature of companies and organizations, a call enter can function in a varied of ways. It can purpose to advertise newer products and thus help the company to lead in its competitive advantage. Evidently, a call center provides effective means of business communication and in a well diversified strategy; it helps the company to deal with
customer oriented problems as well as their solutions. Best Practices in the Industry of Call Centers With a myriad of benefits and advantages of call centers to business organizations and companies, the fundamental question that companies should ask themselves is how to enhance their call center roles within the numerous pools of strategy and practices that should be employed. Particularly, these practices should combine profitability with service excellence. Notwithstanding, Selig (2008: 98-99) postulates that in the contemporary business environment that is challenging, call centers must look out for methods and approaches of transforming
their customer contact relations from a point where they think of profitability to a point where they become strategic value center. Bonham (2008: 115-117) reinforces this by citing a survey that was carried out in 2003 by Aberdeen Group on customer satisfaction. Accordingly 83% of those interviewed reported that a call center that is structured to add value to the needs of the customers equally adds value to the business and hence, best practices as well as strategies
of call centers should be employed to raise the companies to a higher notch where their service operations are guide by the principles of strategic value o the customer as well as the company itself. It is relatively easy to measure performance of the company through what is called return on investment. Hiles (2004: 191-193) notes that in the sales department, call center still see many of technological and support teams recording loses to the organization. It is plausible to note that even though the support team may not contribute a direct capital to the organization, they determine the success of the organization by providing services to the organization. In retrospect,
Telecom India has at the very least provided a communication channel where they monitor the interaction between their products and customers and finally reinforcing the product brand of their company. As the most strategic practice of call centers, Telecom India has candidly employed this practice and has in the end ensured that their customers are satisfied with the experiences of their call support thus making the customers loyal to the company. These customers have extensively told their friends about the positive experiences they often get and hence reinforce the reputation of the company (Polishuk, 2004: 53-55). In addition, DiMarsco (2005: 43-44) underscores that the management of the call center determine the practices in the entire field of customer contact service and as such, the application of the best practices ensures not only the profitability and customer relationships but also facilities an effective way of meeting the company’s goals. In fact, knowing the company’s goals determines the performance management indicator of any call center. As such, many organizations uphold to the metrics commonly used in the call centers to basically measure their performance. Similarly, Telecom call centers world over have understood what they want to measure as far as the business operations is concerned and hence, they are guided with what they want to achieve. According to Fraser and Simkins (2000: 137-139), these metrics in light of call centers act as pointers to
inform the organizations about its practices and lay the pedestal on how the company will reach its goals. The principle global trend in Telecom call center services lies within the precincts of reevaluating their call center solutions to help them reorganize their call center performance metrics. As a practice, call centers of whatever organization can render their maximal contribution to the overall performance of the company by aligning the call center strategies with
the goals of the company. When managers bring in a collaborative schema with other departments, the end result is that the direction of the business is gauged and thus the expectations of their market niche are met (Brendan, 2005: 312-313). Useful information that provide insight to the actual customer value gears towards making the customer a long term asset in the organization by enhancing the exiting relationship and attempting to make the customer loyal to the company. In the words of Selig (2008: 267-269), a call center that bases its operations on this useful customer information help the entire support department on structuring
models that can facilitates a better approach of handling customers who constantly call for the organizations for inquiries. In light of this, a significant call center service practice should aims at collaborating with marketing to outrightly develop future customer relationships. In the same vein, Phelps et al, (2003:287-288) examines that Telecom companies have used this model in the service provision to project a more cohesive and reputable public image simply because the communications of the call centers are aligned with marketing brands. Essentially, the considerations of the infrastructural logistics to be used in the call centers become vital factor in the best practice of call centers. According to Sulkin (2002: 378-379), the traditional digital infrastructure famously called VoIP infrastructure continue to offer customization and monitoring capacity coming with reduced monthly costs of hosted services. With regard to this, VoIP should be integrated with digital architecture based on computer cards fitting in a server to a software solution that can provide a wider capacity of telephone data service systems in the call center. The flexibility offered by the combined digital infrastructure enforces the capacities
of digital lines that make VoIP technologies a success. In addition, it is important to manage a work force especially in a small call center for purposes of efficiency. With regard to this,
Bapat et al (1999: 119-121) contends that supervisors in the call center can through cubicle walls keep track of all employees. As a result, call centers should adopt a CRM work force management in a bid to structure schedules and simulate agent workloads thus ensuring that
clients stick to the laid down schedule. The management of a work force should encamps the database where inbound and outbound call can be assessed later to ascertain whether the customer issues were resolved. As such, research shows that it is important for team work
in the call center to be encouraged and issues that affect the representatives are addressed in a supportive ways (Cleveland and Mayben, 1997: 156). Evidently, the supervisor of the call center
should hold weekly meetings where representatives can discuss the problems they encounter and hence work out solutions in a team spirit thus generating recommendations on how to handle the future call center based services. Regarding best practices in call center, it appears that opening
multiple channels of customer contact ensures a mutually and effective customer service and other support functions. For example, the use of text messaging or email chats, companies and telecom companies extensively reduce the amount of time representatives spend with a
given customer or address the preferences of the customer (Bonham, 2008: 223-224). Plunkett (20007: 413) demonstrates that while text messaging as well as email chats are not commonly used in call centers, the continually technological changes and advancement may create room for their relevance and usage. The use of text messaging and email chats leads to a scenario where customer feedback system is promoted thus facilitating a mechanism through which the company
measures its own success. Accordingly, surveys, which become an integral part of customer centers, may help the company to ascertain how the about as well as outbound calls and other support communications contribute to the service of the customer. In so doing, customer satisfaction will be measurable and the resulting customer retention may be translated into the value for the wider company. Using benchmarking as well as quality assurance forms a milestone in positioning the sets practices of call centers industry. Companies can entirely create sense out of their metrics by carrying out a comparative analysis with the industry’s benchmarks as well as those of the competitors. Hillson (2007: 78-79) in a research done to establish the basis of call center in business discuses that on top of monitoring calls, other separate events in the call center can be compared. This requires an on going management schema which breaks
down the departmental needs in the company and extensively yields a better performance index. The benchmarking process can help inn the strategic consultation an Interactive Intelligence in the call center solutions. With quality assurance practice, companies should develop a
dedicated quality management group all in a bid to create what is called a friendly rivalry and completion in the company (Fraser and Simkins, 2000: 145-146). Dangers of Key Performance Index According to Selig (2008: 198-199), although Key performance index {KPI} serve to eliminate the complex nature in the performance of the organization, this comes with a host of dangers which fall in the wider paradigm of measuring performance in small piece. Using Telecom Kenya for example, KPI can be overused to create an environment where the company uses piecemeal metrics to measure the performance of the business. Hiles (2004: 17-110) points out that KPI brings a scenario whereby instead of managers identifying the clear information needs of the company and consequently design clear and appropriate indicators in assessing performance, the organization extensively concentrate on and observe everything that easy to measure. This may not be able to give a true picture of the performance of call center companies and reinforced by the tendency of collecting as well as reporting data on what can easily be measure, the business scenario that is created leaves managers without a clear plan of analyzing, assessing and measuring call center performance in the organization. Moreover, it always raises a never ending question among the executive management of companies because; KPI can not be effectively defined on the performance dashboard. As a result, Hillson (2007: 154-156) the
reason behind this question is the eminent dangers associated with KPIs and using them may provide false efficiency in governing how employee carry out their jobs but does not entirely measure their levels of performance. KPIs can plunge the organization into confusion and chaos because, if they do not conform and articulate to the strategy of the company and translate the goals into the daily actions of the organization, it is imperative that the business will have
difficulties. As such, care and caution must be taken because a blind use of KPIs may lead employees to work at cross purposes thus make them impede each others progress and leave everybody in the organization frustrated and tired with very little to show for their hard work.
Further more. Creating KPIs come with a host of challenges that include lifecycle management, activity measurement and process nuances. In view of this, KPIs do not accurately capture the nuances process in the business operation. As such, the project team gets it difficult to make out what data to capture, use and how to calculate it (Bonham, 2008: 213-215).

Conclusion

From the foregoing discussion, it is evident that there are numerous advantages and benefits of partnering with call center. From outsourcing call center and BPO, companies have extensively
facilitated a scenario where business succeeds through an easy and efficient customer service. Regardless of the size and type of the business, call center draws many human resource managers and strategic departments in many organizations to enhance performance measurement
and improvement by virtue of employing numerous staff in sales, customer service and other support departments. While based upon research in the benefits and advantages of this communication approach, it is evident that many call centers employ a wide range of
technologies and best practices in a bid to improve not only the issues of customer experience but also the overall performance. Drawing from the example of inbound calls, call centers can use automatic call distributions such that the incoming calls are sorted in order in which they are received such that the call center utilize call monitoring. Key performance index, which serve to eliminate the complex nature in the performance of the organization, may come with a host of dangers which fall in the wider paradigm of measuring performance in small piece. KPI can be overused to create an environment where the company uses piecemeal metrics to measure the performance of the business. If not correctly structured, KPI can bring a scenario whereby instead of managers identifying the clear information needs of the company and consequently design clear and appropriate indicators in assessing performance, the organization extensively observe everything that easy to measure.

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