Over the past few months, the Customer Service department is facing a serious challenge in filling up the growing need for Customer Service Representatives (CSR) positions. This situation, if sustained much longer, may negatively impact on the superior quality that the company is providing its customers to support its high-quality products. The problem appears to be multi-faceted, which can only be determined until a thorough review of the job, the work flow, and job requirements (i.e., CSR knowledge, skills, and experience), in relation to current workloads and expectations, has been conducted. To insure an effective and efficient problem determination and solution formulation, a thorough review of job design and job analysis approaches are explored and recommended herein.
Three approaches for CSR job analysis
Job analysis has been classified into many ways. Morgeson (2007) classified it into three methods: work-oriented; worker-oriented; and hybrid methods. Meanwhile, Dessler, Cole, Goodman, and Sutherland (2004) classified it into two methods: conventional (i.e. qualitative) and quantitative methods. The three specific approaches included in this section are selected based both on the commonality of the methods and their respective appropriateness in the current recruitment issues for CSR in the Customer Service department.
1.1 Task analysis by interview (TAI): The most commonly used work-oriented method is the task analysis (Morgeson, 2007); while the most commonly use data collection approach is the interview (Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). Schwind, Das, and Wagar (2000) even considered the best method due to its ability to probe employees. The TAI creates a comprehensive list of all tasks that a CSR performs with specific focus at achieving specific job objectives after which these tasks are subject to a thorough job analysis (Morgeson, 2007). This involves the interview of an individual CSR or a group of CSR employees (or both) and of the supervisors. The most knowledgeable and objective CSR and supervisor should be chosen for the interviews. Advantages: Due to the less structured characteristic of the interview survey, the TAI can gather a highly comprehensive picture (e.g. allows probing) of the CSR job than any other structured method, including the negative aspects of the job characteristics (Morgeson, 2007). It can also be quick, simple, highly flexible, and inexpensive, particularly the group interviews (Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). It also allows CSRs to vent their frustrations and express opinions about the job. Disadvantages: It is highly dependent on rapport between CSRs and the interviewer. Due to the face-to-face implementation of the method and to the sheer volume of details about the job, it had been misunderstood as an efficiency assessment; thus, mentally constraining the employees from describing the tasks accurately (Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). Moreover, incumbent employees have very low reliability as outright falsification or honest misunderstanding can distort disclosed job information (Dierdorff & Wilson, 2003). Moreover, particularly the group interview, it can lead to disagreements among individual employees.
1.2 Functional job analysis (FJA): The FJA is a quantitative work-oriented job analysis method (Morgeson, 2007; Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). It rates the CSR job according to its responsibilities in relation to information (data), people, and equipment as well as competencies required in the job (e.g. reasoning, judgment, and verbal ability). Each rate lists worker behavior hierarchically (Schwind, Das, & Wagar, 2000). Advantages: The FJA can identify performance standards and training needs (Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). Disadvantages: Like TAI, it is prone to be misconstrued as a performance evaluation (Moore, 1999). Oftentimes, past assessment abuses may minimize the importance of the study.
1.3 Position analysis questionnaire (PAQ): The PAQ is a quantitative worker-oriented job analysis method, which focuses on specific worker behaviors as a CSR (Morgeson, 2007; Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). Advantages: The PAQ can be performed across any positions or job types unlike task surveys in examining their cross-similarities and differences (Morgeson, 2007). Thus, it can compare the CSR job with other jobs in the company. It also provides a quantitative score or job profile that will be useful in job classification and valuation for compensation or incentive structuring purposes (Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). Disadvantages: Due to its relatively high requirements for reading (e.g. comprising 194 items) and inherent complexity (e.g. highly structured) of the questionnaire, trained job analysts are preferred to conduct this approach. Moreover, it can be time-consuming.
1.4 Recommended approach: Since the current CSR problem potentially revolves around job characteristics and performance standards, the FJA method is recommended as an initial approach to job analysis. It has the quantitative capability of analyzing the CSR job responsibilities, which makes it possible to establish better and more appropriate performance standards that both insures the attainment of job objectives while ensuring that the workloads are highly rationalized and congruent with expected CSR competencies. Once the problems are isolated, a PAQ may be utilized for making companywide adjustments.
2.0 Two approaches to job design
2.1 Behavioral approaches: Behavioral job design aims to counteract the ‘dehumanizing’ impact of specialization by broadening CSR activities. It has the advantage of reducing monotony and fatigue (job enlargement), of creating opportunities to achieve, increase autonomy and responsibility (job enrichment), and of increasing task variety and motivation (job rotation). However, its challenges center on implementing it across CSR personnel with diverse competency levels. One challenge this approach will encounter is resistance from CSRs who do not prefer additional responsibility or challenge with or without additional compensation (Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). The approach will be disadvantageous to employees lacking the needed physical or psychological competencies to perform the expanded job. Another challenge involves its inability to correct job dissatisfactions resulting from inequitable compensation, unsatisfactory benefits, or job insecurity. In fact, job enrichment without proportional increase in compensation or benefits can worsen the dissatisfaction levels. A CSR, for instance, with a 3-minute time handling metric for inbound customer calls may resist a new requirement for chatting with the customers to increase customer satisfaction because it will risk going beyond the handling metric requirement. Moreover, as the pressure increasing with the added activity, no satisfactory compensation or benefit is coming up.
2.2 Human engineering (ergonomics): This job design approach added physiological needs as well as health and safety considerations into the work structure of behavioral job design. It adapts the corporate job infrastructure to match human strengths and weaknesses. It has the advantage of eliminating, or at least minimizing, worker injuries (or illness), product defects, and damage to equipment, which are often outcomes of “poor work design” (Dessler, Cole, Goodman, & Sutherland, 2004). It also has the capacity to meet the work requirements of CSRs with special needs (e.g. aging, physically impaired, etc.). For example, CSR jobs often involve graveyard shifts as the department caters customer services 24/7 to maintain its high quality customer service reputation. Aging CSRs, such as those in their forties and fifties, can no longer sustain night shifts, which are best filled with young recruits. Thus, to reengineer these jobs means to either reserve morning shifts to these aging CSRs or reassign them to exclusively morning jobs with minimal physical requirements, including shorter walks.
3.0 Proposed job design strategies to increase CSR recruitment
3.1 Team-based strategy: The CSR function may be broken down into three areas handled by different teams, such as non-technical issues, technical issues, and ultimate resolution (resolves service issues that were unresolved by the non-technical and technical teams). Each team will have a specialized and specific job description and customer service objectives to accomplish, which somewhat vary between teams. All teams, however, in a special way, shares in accomplishing the ultimate department objectives, such as issue resolution and customer satisfaction. In order to empower each CSR with autonomy, variety, and task identity (Schwind, Das, & Wagar, 2000), they will be individually allowed to decide on which team they prefer to be part of. This approach will also allow each CSR to choose, which job can best satisfy specific competency level as well as satisfaction expectations. Thus, job applicants who know they can choose the job assignments (i.e., in the specific CSR teams) they most love be with will be encouraged to work with the company and stay longer than earlier recruits.
3.2 Inclusive strategy: This strategy aims at satisfying employees’ needs for inclusion and increased job security even among aging and physically challenged employees. Minorities and majorities will be treated equally within the organization, not just within the Customer Service department. CSRs who are mothers may be allowed shorter and more frequent breaks to allow them time to call their children, or check their children in the day care facility of the company. Aging CSRs may be assigned exclusively daytime shifts as their bodies may not sustain the demands of night shifts. Physically impaired but superior technicians or customer rapport builders may be assigned cubicles that accommodate a wheeled chair and ramps in the building entrance to accommodate them. Applicants with these talents and physical limitations will be encouraged to work with the company and help fuel its growth.
4.0 Proposed three job-analysis ways to measure CSR performance
4.1 Establishment of time standards: Each element (e.g. handling time, technical resolution, complaint resolution, record keeping, etc.) of the CSR job will be analyzed using time study involving CSRs with standard customer service quality performance for benchmarking objectives. This strategy will insure that each job element receives a time standard reasonable to its specific characteristics and work demands.
4.2 Establishment of allowable time ranges: Since each CSR is a diverse component of the entire department workforce, each works differently from each other. This variation must be accounted for when establishing time standard policy for each job element. This objective is accomplished by establishing time allowances for each job element using work sampling data.
4.3 Establishment of specific performance metrics: The job analysis data obtained through FJA provides ratings for each functional responsibilities across four dimensions (e.g. data, co-employees, and equipment). Specific ratings can act as bases for the minimum performance requirements for each metric identified. Each performance metric must also have its specific performance objective against which CSR performance is assessed.
High turnover rate and low recruitment rate are both indicators of unattractive job offers, which can mean varied things to diverse people. It may mean issues in job description or design. It may also mean perceived inequities in compensation and related incentive issues. The FJA incorporates the detailed attention of TAI and the quantitative techniques into a job analytical method that can effectively uncover the problems behind the current CSR recruitment issues. However, job design must insure that job applicants will be motivated to work and stay guarantee adequate CSR personnel to achieve customer service objectives.
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