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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Staffing, Waiting, and Analyzing as Three Aspects of Customer Service


Proper staffing, customer comfort, and operational effectiveness is important for creating strong service delivery. With proper staffing organizations can covered needed service and production aspects of running the business. All operations should have in mind the customer needs as they are going to be purchasing the products and services. This requires the ability to move customers efficiently and quickly throughout the organization without reducing the potential for future purchases. Likewise, the method of effectively improving slow spots in service and operations can be found using a critical path map or analysis.

Projection and Staffing:

Management has the responsibility to ensure that workers are covering the required volume of production in order to meet demand. The scheduling of the workers is an important function of management and can lead to all types of efficiencies or inefficiencies in labor costs. To do this well managers often project or forecast demand. It is possible to create efficiencies in scheduling using a formula:

The sum of half hour increments times (number of operators required minus the number of operators assigned in a period). It is beneficial to see the staff scheduling formula below.



The purpose of such a formula is to reduce the amount of waste in schedules as often seen in organizations that suffer from higher labor costs. The more efficient a manager can project need and schedule accordingly the less cost to the product or service and more profit that can be made. However, one doesn’t need to get this complex to have strong staffing. Staffing is primarily concerned with effective coverage despite the methodology.

The key is to balance the need for full-time and part-time employees in order to ensure that all of the needs of the organization are being met. Part-time workers come with advantages in terms of cost but are also limited in their knowledge and commitment to the organization. Therefore, full-time workers often make up a larger percentage of the employees due to their institutional and career knowledge. 

Waiting Lines:

Waiting lines create problems for companies. As people wait they become annoyed by the inactivity. This inactivity not only reduces the perceived quality of the service but it stops customers from shopping, buying products, or browsing which leads to higher sales. It also holds up organizations that could better put their time toward serving other customers. A number of methods can be used to deal with the frustration of waiting in line (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2010):

Animate: Keep waiting fun.

Discriminate: Offer preferred services

Automate:  Simple problems and questions can be automated.

Obfuscate: Reduce the perception of wait time. 

Critical Path Method:

The critical path method offers an opportunity to determine the start and finish times for certain projects. It also may be used to determine the activities and paths of services and customer actions. The basics of the path method are (Armstrong-Wright, 1969):

1.)    A list of all activities required to complete a project. 
2.)    The time that each task takes to complete 
3.)    The relationships between the activities. 



When outlined it is possible to use such methods to determine the amount of time, resources, and staffing needed for activities. It provides for a mental schematic for people who want to see how customers are moving and areas where there may be regular service delays. For example, if an analysis has shown that consistent service delays are occurring at a particular node it may be necessary to adjust, divert, or offer additional support to the path. 

Armstrong-Wright, MICE, A. T. Critical Path Method: Introduction and Practice. Longman Group LTD, London, 1969

Fitzsimmons, J. & Fitzsimmons, M. (2011). Service Management: Operations, Strategy, Information Technology (Seventh Edition). NY: McGraw-Hill. 

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