Dbs Bank Customer Centre Business Essay

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In the management research project, it focuses to investigate on the impact of motivation on performance and productivity of staffs in DBS Bank Customer Centre which is their call centre. It views on the challenges faced by the call centre agents which often results in low morale and negative psychological effect on staffs.

Motivation is one area in an organisation that has no right or wrong practice and it will either have a positive or negative results depending on the mentality and quality of employees. It may act as driving factor towards positive or negative performance and productivity of staffs which varies from individual to individual. To bring out the best in the staff's willingness on completing a task and broaden their skill set to enhance their capabilities depends on how well the motivation plan is being carried out by the organisation.

To end the report, recommendations and conclusion are to be made in order for improvements on the current situation. This will be done with inter-linking some of the motivation theories and research on the factors causing the problem.

Company and Organisation Background

Back in 1968, was the early years since Singapore gain its independence, a medium was needed towards Singapore's economic development and DBS Bank Ltd was founded and recognized at Development Bank of Singapore.

To date, the bank has successfully turned itself into a strong and stable financial institution with a wide and comprehensive range of financial products and solutions to reach customer needs. DBS Bank is committed to empowering, educating and engaging its people to further achieve the company's performance.

DBS Bank Ltd is a big company and the organisation that is focused on is their Customer Centre which is their call centre.

DBS Bank Customer Centre has evolved to be one of the most competitive call centre in Singapore. The focus of DBS Bank Customer Centre is mainly on customer service and motivating their staffs to keep up with performance and productivity is a challenge due to the nature of environment of the job which can easily pull down its staffs with low morale and negative psychological effect.

1.2 Problem statement

As of current, staff selection has not been the root causing problem because the customer centre has a strict and comprehensive selection model which eliminates job seekers without the needed basic capabilities. Refer to illustration 1 to have a visualisation on the flow of their recruitment process for customer service officer.

Illustration 1 - Flow chart of DBS Bank Customer Centre recruitment process

So if the staff selection is not the root causing problem of staff's performance and productivity, then it points towards the direction of staff's motivation which might be driving their willingness to work and having positive customer service attitude.

1.3 Rationale & Selection

Motivation is not the only way to bring up performance and productivity but it is one of the way possible to implement and acquire results. The question here is, how can it be implemented and how effective will it be?

Motivation in definition as the process that account for an individual's intensity, direction and persistence of effort towards attaining a goal. (Robbins & Judge, 2012). From here, is the reason for the selection of topic on motivation as one of the key factor towards positive results of performance and productivity.

The author is a member of the workforce management team for DBS Bank Customer Centre and by deciding to do a research on this is beneficial towards the author in terms of further understanding and finding out the impact of motivation on performance and productivity of the human capital in the centre.

1.4 Objective & Research Questions

The objective of this report is to identify how can an effective motivation plan of an organisation can have an impact on staff's performance and productivity which may lead to understanding staff's job satisfaction which may be another topic.

To stay focus and aligned to the report objectives, this report will research on motivation theories and inter-linking them to the potential root-causing problems in the organisation and the following research objective in point form:

To find out if western motivational theories can be applied to DBS Bank Customer Centre.

To identify the origin causing problems of negative customer service performance and productivity.

To discover the potential solutions to improve customer service performance and productivity.

Literature Review


It is a heavy challenge to motivate and retain staffs in an environment of constant uncertainties. (Mitchel, 1982). Current market and economic conditions, topped with highly aggressive business situations sets a highly energetic and unpredictable working environment. Thus, improving methods on planning and implementing motivation program by DBS Bank customer centre towards their staffs is inevitable to achieve improvements on customer service performance and productivity.

In terms of motivation, the range of literature review available in books, online and offline is huge. One of the books that is first reviewed by the author for this report is "Essentials of Organizational Behavior", Eleventh Edition by Stephen P. Robbins & Timothy A. Judge (2012). There are three key elements in terms of motivation and they are intensity, direction and persistence (Robbins & Judge, 2012). Intensity is considered as quality of efforts. Direction is how the efforts are directed, towards and aligned with organisation's and company's target. Persistence is a dimension that measures the time frame that an individual can maintain effort. A highly motivated individual can focus on a job long enough to attain the goal.

Under the subject of organisational behavior, topic of motivation is part of it. It covers the study of organisations from multiple view points, methods and level of analysis into three perspective; modern, symbolic and post modern (Robbins, 2004).

The survival of an organisation and for it to be effectively and efficiently functioning draws down to the needs of different types of motivation practice for different types of staffs' behavior is very important (Bauer & Erdogan, 2009).

The rationale of this literature review is due to four reasons:

The importance of motivation in customer service industry.

The level of impact of staff motivation on organisation performance.

Evaluation of earlier theories and modern motivational theories that can be used to motivate staff.

Review best motivation practice that impacts performance and productivity.

Importance of Motivation and its Impact on Performance

Individuality and intricacy can be the terms to be used to categorise motivation. It is a must for managerial policies and strategies to be opened and "out of the box" way of thinking to tackle the motivation relating to individual staff (Mathis & Jackson, 2008). Interrelation between motivation and performance is inevitable which results in staff the performs better due to motivation. Profitable organisation comes from productive staffs and in order for them to be productive, they have to perform better and that can be due from motivation. This is supported by a research article written by Singh Satyendra Kumar, "Motivation as Strategy to enhance Organizational Productivity", 7th July 2012.

Motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction and the sense of achievement falls under intrinsic whereas rewards, penalty, punishment and goal accomplishment falls under extrinsic.

A better reward system is something that DBS Customer Centre can look into as a motivating factor as well as staff recognition. The force that moves or shifts the performance of an organisation points towards motivation of staffs. The factor that differentiates an organisation from another is their human capital. Human capital, the staffs, is not an object or rather things, policies, processes or structures that can be copied or duplicated from one organisation to another. Poor rewards system and motivation practices often succumbed in high turnover rate and this is not regarded as a positive outcome because present routines will be disrupted and this will have an alternating disadvantage in performance.

The opposite of motivation is demoralisation. Demoralisation is easier to succumb to and it can have a viral effect from one staff to another. Continuous motivation and rewarding performing staff is one of the effective methods to retain them (Heracleous, 2003)

Motivation is a must in order to uphold optimum level of ingenuity and inventiveness in staffs and it is very important to sustain a diamond-like quality of performance to motivate excellent service (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2010).

Motivation Theory

The theoretical basis of research studies on motivation which have been undertaken by industrial psychologist and behavioral experts, draws from schools of management discourse of modern motivation theory (McGregor, 1960; Hofstede, 2001; Maslow, 1954).

Motivation theory is classified into two sections:

Content Theory

Contemporary Theory

Content Theory

Discovering what actually motivate individuals. Example theories like Maslow's (Hierarchy of Needs), McCelland's (Theory of 3 Needs) and Herzberg's (Two Factor Theory).

Maslow's (Hierarchy of Needs)

Maslow hypothesized that within every individual, there exists a hierarchy of 5 needs: Physiological, Safety, Social, Esteem and Self-Actualization (Robbins & Judge, 2012). The lower needs are Physiological and Safety needs and the higher needs are Social, Esteem and Self-Actualization needs. The difference between the lower needs and higher needs is that lower needs can be fulfilled by external factors like salary and tenure, the higher needs can only be fulfilled by internal factors which is within the individual.

Illustration 2 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

McCelland's (Theory of 3 Needs)

McCelland's theory of needs focuses on three needs (Robbins & Judge, 2012):

Need for Achievement - The drive to excel, achieve and succeed in relation to ordinary goals.

Need for Power - The need to command or make others behave in a certain way.

Need for Affiliation - The need for sociable, friendly and close interpersonal relationship.

Herzberg's (Two Factor Theory)

Herzberg's (Two Factor Theory) believes that individual's relationship to work is basic and that attitude towards work can very well conclude success or failure (Robbins & Judge, 2012).

Contemporary Theory

Represents the current state of thinking in explaining staffs motivation. Example theories like Goal-Setting Theory, Equity Theory and Expectancy Theory.

Goal-Setting Theory

When goals are made specific, accepted by staffs even though it is tough and feedbacks are welcome, it may points towards the direction of increase performance.

The contingency planning in goal-setting theory is deciding on public goal is better, making simple and familiar task characteristics and the national culture.

Goal settings has positive outcomes but some goals may be too effective (Latham & Locke, pp332-340). It views behavior as an environmental cause and ignores the inner-self of staff and stresses strongly on what had happened and what is going to be done.

Unclear job expectation will most likely result in tendency from staffs to reduced their efforts to attain the preferred behavior.

Equity Theory

This theory was developed by J. Stacey Adams. Staffs see and compare their input-output ratio with the input-outcome ratio of relevant others. The relevant others that the staff decides to compare with adds on to the complexity of Equity Theory (Goodman, 1974, pp170-195).

It causes staffs to believe that relationship is unbiased if ratios are balanced. If ratio is biased then there is an existence of unfairness and unhappiness is inevitable.

Illustration 3 - Equity Theory

Expectancy Theory

This theory is by Victor Vroom. Expectancy Theory is one of the most accepted elaboration of motivation, even with the existence of critics on this theory, most evidence supports it (Vroom, 1964)

It stresses on three relationship:

Effort-Performance Relationship > Exerting a given amount of effort will lead to performance.

Performance-Reward Relationship > Performing at a particular level will lead to the achievement of a preferred result.

Rewards-Personal Goals Relationship > The magnetism of the potential rewards for the individual.

This theory states that the force of a predilection to do something in a certain way is directly related with the force of the potential or the rewards that are anticipated from the steps taken (Geoff & Drucker, 2005).

Illustration 4 - Expectancy Theory

Limitations and Integrating Western Motivation Theory into Asian Culture

Since the development of most motivation theories arises from the west, mainly from Great Britain and United States of America. Most likely it might be based and set upon the cultural settings from the west and it might not be applicable in a practical manner towards Asia and the rest of the world (Adler & Gundersen, 2008; Robbins & Judge, 2004; Hofstede 2001)

Many aspects of organisation motivation theory that is developed in one culture may not be totally applicable towards another culture (Adler & Gundersen, 2008). Each organisation has their own culture and culture is the factor that will partially directs on the behavior of how an organisation moves and staffs' behavior.

In DBS Bank Customer Centre, it practices more on chain reaction strategy. In another words, it is practicing the organisation behavior which is not self-centered but team focused. A practice that harmonize one another's work instead of contradicting, towards the goal. This can be seen as a similar concept from Taoist philosophy called the, "Ying and Yang" (Lopez, 2004).

In DBS Bank Customer Centre, a collective behavior is a norm where esteem needs and social needs seems to overrule self-needs and self actualisation (Hofstede, 2001; Robbins & Judge, 2012). Individual goals seems less important compared to team harmony. Similarities within jobs scope does not mean there are not differences in the understanding of what is being received from the job (Shenker, 1991).

The western motivation theory like Maslow's (Theory of Needs), McCelland's (Theory of 3 Needs) and Herzberg's (Two Factor Theory) may not necessary apply to all culture. This is supported by a research article written by Yan Zhu and Frederick K. S. Leung, "Motivation and Achievement: Is there an East Asian Model?", 25th February, 2010.

Maslow's theory, provided no experimental confirmation and several studies that sought to authenticate the theory found no support for it (Lawler III & Suttle, 1972, pp265-287) There is little evidence that need structures are prearranged along the dimension by Maslow.

Herzberg's theory, has not been well supported in literature and to top of it off, it has many detractors (House & Wigdor, 1967, pp369-389). The procedure Herzberg used is limited by its methodology. Example: People take credits for themselves when things are good and well but on the perversely, on an extrinsic situation, they fault failure. The consistency of the methodology is uncertain where raters have to make interpretations and this might taint the findings by interpreting one answer in one way while treating a similar answer in a different way.

McCelland's theory, might have the best research support among the early western theories of motivation but sadly it has less realistic outcome compared than the rest of the western theories of motivation. McCelland states that the three needs are subconscious (Robbins & Judge, 2012). The process is time consuming and expensive.

Staffs were seen as objects, just like another contribution into the production line of goods and services but this was before Hawthorne studies which was conducted by Elton Mayo during 1924 to 1932 (Dickson, 1973) and this tremendously changed on how it was though. The study resulted with findings that staffs are not only moved by monetary rewards, their behavior has a linkage to their attitudes (Dickson, 1973) Since then, the needs and motivation of staffs started to be as the primary focal point of managers which is term as human relations approach to management (Bedeian, 1993).

Research Framework

Illustration 5 - Research Framework

Research Methodology

Research Question and Research Objective

Research Question

How does effective motivation impact on performance and productivity in DBS Bank Customer Centre (Call Centre)?

Research Objective

Weighing the significance of motivation plan in DBS Bank Customer Centre.

Review the impact of staff motivation on organisation performance.

Review between earlier theory and development of modern motivational theory where managers can apply to their staffs.

Research Design

The research will be design to conduct on customer service officers in DBS Bank Customer Centre and determine the level of their motivation and whether there is any effect or correlation to their performance and productivity. The methodology towards the research will be both quantitative and qualitative where quantitative data is any data that can be represented by numbers (Example: Age, Years of Working, etc) and qualitative data is data that cannot be expressed by number (Example: Name, Gender, Race, etc).

Mixing quantitative and qualitative with no cautious thought of a certain assumptions or rules and prospect regarding the manner, altered form of those methods can happen such that results obtained may become topic to query. Mixing quantitative and qualitative studies in which just a few comments or interviews are conducted to add-on quantitative data collection "lower the tone" qualitative methods (Patton, 1988). The altered form may be out of unawareness and ignorance because by mixing quantitative and qualitative for investigation take shortcuts in order to cope with the greater time commitment required (Bryman, 1988).

Case studies or situational examples will be part of the research design, to be used in focus study to address and obtain information that has the same direction to the research problem. Management will then use the outcome of the research to look at the factors touching the topic on motivation and design a motivation plan towards their staffs.

Operation Observation

Observation is chosen instead of survey questionnaire to view the almost real and frank day to day operations. How they are moving, working, reacting in the culture, environment, work flow and processes. Compared to survey questionnaire, participants might just give a brief or inaccurate reply to due time constrains and sensitive issues. By observing, it is also possible to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. A given time frame will decided on to conduct this observation and the time of day and day of week will also be taken into consideration due to mood swings which is natural factor in a human being (Robbins & Judge, 2012).

Focus Groups (Interview)

Decision on conducting focus group sessions compared to individual interviews, it is to lighten the mood. Staff might feel pressured during individual interview and decides to have a close discussion rather than having an open conversation which defeats the purpose of this research. If they are in a group, they might not feel pressured and feeling more relaxed A semi-structured style of interview coupled with open discussion and feedbacks will be used during the focus groups. Each group will made up of staffs of mixed tenure ship and new staffs, gender, race and age. This is give a fair data during the sessions.

Investigative, Practical and Experimental Research

After the collection of primary data of both quantitative and qualitative is done, the next step of the research process will be doing investigative, practical and experimental research on the collected data. Investigative Research will assist on identifying new potential problem areas, Practical Research will assist on developments of solutions to the current problem and Experimental Research as in the term experiment, it will be testing on the practicability of the solutions.

Data Collection

Operation Observation

All instances, qualitative observational research involves formulating a thoughtful and well understood relationship between the researcher and participants (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). The practice of observing is nothing new in the science field and the outcome of collecting data can be helpful. The downside of this research is the interpretation of the person conducting the research, the researcher needs to have a good grasps of segregating personal reactions to observations. A good practice or approach to this research is that the researcher conducting it notes down what is actually being observed and topped with interpretation.

Focus Groups (Interview)

The session will be a 45mins session with a group of 3-5 staffs. First 5 minutes will be a simple introduction to break the ice. The next 20 minutes will be a semi structured interview style and participants will give a collative response. The last 20mins will be an open discussion and feedbacks like how they feel about the work place, what are they looking forward to, any changes they would like to see, is there any problem areas that they can see and etc. This session alone will collate enough quantitative and qualitative data to be crossed examine with the data from observation.

Investigative, Practical and Experimental Research

Examining secondary data will be an resourceful way to take on investigative research. A structured and planned design is needed in order to maximise reliability (Kinnear and Tayor, 1996). If the quality of the secondary data is good, there will be not a need for further research to be conducted.

Next will be the practical research where practical theory and case studies will be applied, in another words, theories will be put into a test and examined.

Lastly, experimental research will show if the tested theory works or not. This will be the period where facts and figures will be thrown into place to get it going. The outcome of it will no longer be a theory or hypothesis but classified under facts, it determines whether it is workable or not. The only downside of this is that it takes a lot of time and effort which leads to high cost.

Data Analysis

Operation Observation

Kutsche (1998) states that, "When one is trying to analyze interview information and observation field notes, he/she is trying to develop a model that helps to make sense of what the participants do."

An outline of data will be set and data to be organized in a narrative manner as if a story is being unfold according to the time of day and day of week following the outline and then moving the points around for analysis.

The next process will collating the data with other involved researchers to ensure that the data is as accurate as possible. Why this step? It is mentioned earlier that data will be an interpretation of the researcher and the tendency of getting personal opinion might get in the way (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

The final report on the analysed quantitative and qualitative findings is to be written, a way to blend and summarising it.

Focus Groups (Interview)

Data will be analyse by grouping the participant's responses to each question. By labeling each of the group responses, information will be developed. Further probing into this will result in answers towards the research objectives. Theories will be based on the findings and interpretations will be made.

The outcome of the research might suggest some hunches and may give directions for further probing. More than one researcher will be tasked to do analyse the data because different person will provide different perspectives and a combined perspectives may result with a little more information.

Investigative, Practical and Experimental Research

Researcher will now start data processing and separate it into two parts, graphical and quantitative. Graphical will be the primary use for investigative data analysis. Data collected will then be put up for testing against theories and resulting in possible solutions. Results will be used in quantitative and qualitative analysis. This will then be followed with experimental research where the results are being quantified and sensible qualitative form. Then the experimental questions will be able to be addressed with clear definitions and answers.

Ethical Consideration

The objective of this research report is transparency and uncomplicated for ease of perception by receiver and respondent and avoidance of any doubt on the author's end. Ethical consideration includes:

Informed consent - Participants will be informed and made aware of the purpose of the research and how the results will be used, in case there are any possible unpleasant impacts due to their participation and who will be given access to the results. The objective of informed consent is to give the participants the ability to make informed decision as to whether they will and want to participate or not.

Voluntary participation - Participants have the option and the right to withdraw from any session without being banned or criticized on future participation of future research. They do not have to provide any explanations for withdrawing.

Do no harm - This is applicable to both psychological and physical state. It as to be clear that the research sessions do not harm participants in the form of stress, pain, invasion of privacy in any way possible.

Confidentiality - Information will be strictly kept confidential. It will not be made available to anyone except to those involved in the research. Thus it is important on how reports are being constructed to ensure that there is absolutely no way possible for participants to be identified even is their names are not being used.

Only assess relevant components - Only relevant components to the research will be assessed. When conducting research on a lot of people, participants tends to ask questions from any and every angle but not all might be relevant to the research. Hence, it is vital to keep sessions as simple as possible and to stay focused on the objective of the research and what the data collected will be used for.

Discussion and Recommendations

Pointing towards the direction of staffs motivation, it has come to a belief that when staffs feel motivated to achieve better, that is the point when they are converted that their hard work to improve performance and productivity will be followed with a better appraisal. "The strength of a predisposition to act in a certain was is directly related with the strength of the expectations or rewards that are expected from this act (Geoff & Druker, 2005)."

The customer service officers in DBS Bank customer centre might not necessarily weigh their performance solely on salary and monetary rewards. They might be expecting something different, something like growth opportunity, job recognition or job responsibility and these might act as a motivation tool on them in a long run.

As a recommendation, the organisation to look into intrinsic motivation elements. Among all countries, they share the same basic elements and thoughts which is, they prefer rewards to be based on performance and job skill rather than seniority (Robbins & Judge, 2012).


Service industry has perpetuate into a very competitive industry in Singapore. It is no longer what it used to be 10 years ago. The level of expectancy has risen tremendously. Hence, customer service officers in DBS Bank Customer Centre has a very important role to play which is serving the customers. In order to give quality service standards, first, the customer service officers have to feel good in what they do. It is difficult to maintain oneself with high spirits daily when some customers can be really nasty towards them. So, how can they maintain the good feeling from within and staying motivated day-in and day-out, the employers which is the organisation can play a part.

Management need to put in effort to evaluate and understand basic needs theory which can possible help and provide reasonably solutions addressing these issues. Unmotivated customer service officers will most likely has a negative interaction outcome with a customer which will definitely result with a significantly decrease in service quality that leads to negative performance. Although motivation may not be the only answer but it definitely play a part to make customer service officers in DBS Bank Customer Centre achieve job satisfaction which will in turn also lead the level of performance and productivity to a higher level.