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REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Customer service is an organization's ability to supply their customers' wants and needs. The definition by ACA Group sums up what excellent customer service is: “excellent customer service is the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer's expectations”. Improving customer service involves making a commitment to learning what our customers' needs and wants are, and developing action plans that implement customer friendly processes. Bad customer services can affect the overall reputation of the bank, however reputed it may be. We have to realize that every aspect of our business has an impact on customer service. (“Source: www.mckinseyquarterly.com”)
How can banks improve the customer service experience?
Banks should begin by observing the everyday events that affect people the most, be it good or bad. These events represent important opportunities for banks to provide a proper investment plan according to customer's needs. Customers are satisfied when they know the bank personnel are accessible at all times. Small gestures such as thanking the customer, asking how they are and going an extra mile for them are examples of how you can create loyal customers. Many banks attribute their growth to excellent customer service. Customer service is one of the most important ways to make customers want to come back. Most bank employees are involved in some form of customer service.
Due to increased competition, banks are forced to become more customer - focused. Retaining existing customers is more profitable than getting new customers. Bank tellers and call center agents are the most important people for customer service. They are the first point of contact for the customers. The customers decide whether they would want to continue receiving a bank's service based on interactions with these employees. (“Source: www.infosys.com/finacle”)
Since IT Helpdesk is the first point of contact in the organization, it is very necessary to focus on improving the team's customer services, which will in turn improve the service level. Service level is the time period a desktop support engineer takes to resolve any issue faced by the customer. For IT Helpdesk, Service Level is also measured by the following factors:
- Percentage of incoming calls to totals calls received.
- Number of escalations.
- Amount of abandoned calls.
- Operational costs.
- Turn around Time.
- Follow up calls.
The thesis focuses mainly on how to improve the customer services and increase the service level of IT Helpdesk at ADCB. The different solutions applied, and the softwares developed for this purpose will be explained in detail. This chapter first explains about the industry in general, giving a brief about the history of banking and the current global banking situation. It also sheds light on the general information about the softwares and the Helpdesk functions and processes. It also focuses on the different tools used to analyze the performance improvement methods of IT Helpdesk.
3.1 Industry Study
UAE has around 25 local and 30 foreign banks. The UAE Central bank governs and licenses all the financial institutions in UAE. The main features of the banking sector in the UAE are high growth, consolidation, entry of new players and rise of Islamic banking. UAE Central bank governs all licenses of the banks present in UAE. Retail customers go to the commercial or Islamic banks. There are other types of banks as well, such as investment or merchant banks, and industrial banks. These banks deal with the corporate sector.
History of banking
The first records of banking activities dated back to around 2000 BC, in Babylonia. Merchants gave loans to farmers and traders who carried goods between cities. The Bardi and Peruzzi families ruled the banking industry in the 14th century in Florence. The most famous Italian bank was the Medici bank, set up by Giovanni Medici in 1397. The teller has a chair and a table, and a green table cloth as a sign of his trade. During the 20th century, telecommunications and computing resulted in a major change in the way in which banks operated. (“Source: Banking through the Ages by Hoggson N. F. “)
The primary role of banks is to accept deposits and lend money. Banks also provide loans, credits, investment products, and other payment services. Banking comprises of two parts: Central Bank and Depository Credit Intermediation. The different types of banks are:
* Commercial banks - They offer a variety of services for individuals, businesses and governments. They vary from large global banks to regional banks. They have various branches and ATMs located over different places around the world. Online banks provide services entirely over the internet.
* Savings banks - They are the “second largest group of depository institutions” and are also known as thrift institutions. They used to “finance mortgages for people to buy homes” and cater to the savings and lending needs of customers. Gradually, they have started to adopt the characteristics of commercial banks as well.
* Credit unions - They are formed by people with a common background. For instance, by people who work for the same company, or live in the same country. Only people having a common bond are allowed to become members. These are non - profit organizations.
* Federal Reserve banks - Federal government agencies that perform many financial services. They regulate the banking industry and implement the country's monetary policy to promote economic growth. They promote economic growth by lowering the interest rates it charges the banks for loans.
Banks are susceptible to many forms of risk such as liquidity risk, credit risk and interest rate risk. Declining home process was one reason for the financial crisis. As the prices declined, the borrowers stopped paying money to the banks for their loans. This led to large losses for the banks. The crisis led to a change in the banking services and it became more competitive. The stronger banks bought the other banks and expanded. The crisis has also helped commercial banks to increase their share of the investment banking industry. (“Source: www.bls.gov”)
3.2 IT Helpdesk process
The main function of IT Helpdesk team at ADCB involves user management activities and providing level one support to users in the organization. User management activities involve ID and password resets for all applications, and level one support involves desktop support by the engineers. Initially, all requests used to be processed manually. The users had to fill and submit a form which was routed to the Helpdesk team. The Helpdesk team checks the information of the user and processes the request accordingly. The entire process usually took around 20 to 30 minutes.
Once the request was completed, the Helpdesk engineer had to contact the user and provide the password. This also posed as an audit risk. Some requests, such as access to applications for new employees, required signature approvals by the line manager. For this, the form had to be printed and forwarded to the line manager. After the approval, the form was sent to IT Helpdesk. This process took an even longer time, since it had to go from table to table for the approval.
The different mergers and acquisitions that occur in the organization increased the number of users, applications and there were changes in the business processes as well. This led to a number of problems such as:
- Increase in idle time of the employee, which reduces productivity of the respective department.
- Increase in Turn Around Time (TAT) for the Helpdesk team.
- Wastage of paper and printer ink.
- Increase in incoming calls to the Helpdesk team, mostly to follow up on requests.
- Increase in outgoing calls to inform the resolution of requests.
Hence, it became necessary to develop software that helps in tracking the requests sent by the users. For this reason, BMC Remedy Action Request System was introduced in ADCB.
System downtimes were reported directly to the Helpdesk Team. When an application has any issue, the employee informs the Helpdesk team. If the priority of the system issue is medium, high or critical, the level two support engineers were informed. System downtimes led to an increase in the number of incoming calls since the users called to follow up on the status. Since there was no method of informing the users in one go, the engineers had to answer all the calls, informing the users the status. The downtimes were tracked in an excel sheet with all the details including the start time, end time, issue, cause and resolution. This was not accurate since the time was not put correctly in the excel sheet. CallIT is an Interactive Voice Response system, which was introduced to automate the broadcasting of system downtime and to provide accurate information about the downtimes.
FindIT is a web page, introduced to provide users an FAQ on the bank's applications and processes, which enabled them to solve trivial issues on their own. The Helpdesk at ADCB comprises of two teams, one at Dubai and one at Abu Dhabi. Coordination between the two teams to distribute the requests and update system downtimes were a problem. Finally, the two teams were integrated to a single business process. The integration process involved creating a single point of contact to the Helpdesk team.
Customer services cannot be achieved to its full limit in one go. It involves a continuous improvement process. The Deming Wheel is an appropriate quality tool to be used when starting a new improvement project. It is also known as the PDCA Cycle, and is a four step model (Plan-Do-Check-Act).
3.3 BMC Remedy Action Request System
BMC Remedy AR system provides a single, consolidated platform for automating and managing service management processes. This technology platform has helped in automating many business processes and has been deployed to millions of end users. It provides a comprehensive solution for designing, developing, customizing, deploying, and automating service processes from a single environment.
Its key benefits are:
- Contains workflow modules used in automating service processes, like notifications, escalations, approvals, and updates etc., which help in providing quicker solutions to users.
- Does not require programming skills or knowledge of development tools for developing applications in this system. Provides a broad range of business solutions like helpdesk service request tracking, inventory management, desktop support management, dashboards etc.
- Helps IT administrators to customize the applications as required by the organization, without programming knowledge.
- Used by more than 80% of Fortune 100 companies as an important service management application.
- You can have multiple language views of the same application, so it can also be translated to the local language.
- The front end platform in BMC Remedy AR System is user friendly and it is easy to develop, design and implement applications to create, modify, view and track service requests.
- You can run multiple BMC Remedy AR System servers in a single database and run several BMC Remedy AR Systems in a single server.
- It has a very secure authentication method, which permits only authorized users to enter the system. Group permissions allow only certain users to access a set of applications and records, as per the authorization level given to them.
- Since data is stored in a database, data input is required only once and it is easy to avoid occurrence of duplicate data.
- Helps organizations to cut costs, due to easier inventory management. Also, it is easier to keep a track of all services done by the IT department for the organization.
- Each profile created in BMC Remedy AR System is licensed. Each license has different level of authorization. The licensing categories in ADCB will be explained later in the chapter.
BMC Remedy AR System is a client-server software application from BMC Software, originally developed by Remedy Corporation. It uses a third-party database for storing data in tables. It also contains “metatables” that contain the source code which tells the application on how to interact with the users and data.
One or more client tools are required for users to interact with the AR Server. The client tools are:
- BMC Remedy User - a user can submit, modify and search records within the AR System. It must be installed locally on the user's profile. The user can also add or remove records, change passwords and make application preferences in this tool.
- BMC Remedy Administrator - to create and modify forms and workflows and manage system configuration. It reads and writes data to the metatable section of the AR System database.
- BMC Remedy Mid-tier - web based application for the users. The administrator does not have to design the web page. The forms in the Mid-tier are shown exactly as it is designed in the AR System Administrator.
- BMC Remedy Import - to import data to the system
- BMC Remedy Alert - to send notifications about the status of the service requests to the respective users.
Objects in AR System
- Active Links
- Packing Lists
Forms are used to enter, view or modify data in the Remedy system. There are different types of forms such as ‘Joint', ‘View' and ‘Vendor' forms. Joint forms link together different tables and View and Vendor forms are used to access external data.
Active links are workflows which are triggered when a form is accessed. They are used to depict some action when a condition is satisfied. They help in retrieving data from other tables and input data to other tables. They execute on the client-side of the application.
They have fewer actions than Active Links, but perform the same actions, and do not require permissions. They execute on the server-side of the application. They are used to act on certain business rules, i.e. filter data based on certain conditions.
These objects execute during a certain time period. They are used as reminders, or to forward approvals that are not actioned, to the next level. They are also called timed filters.
These objects help in grouping the Active links or Filters into functions, ignoring the conditions and order of execution.
They allow administrators to group Forms, Active Links and Filters to make it a deployable application. These applications are used by the end users to send in requests or queries.
It is customized by the administrator, to do certain functions for a business unit.
BMC Remedy AR System in ADCB has the below features
ADCB uses BMC Remedy AR System version 7.0.01. A user logs into the Remedy client using the login credentials created for the user to access the Remedy application. The type of access depends on the job profile of the user. Once a user logs a service request or a case in the application, it goes through different stages, which shows what is the status of the request, and who has actioned the same. The request starts at status “New”, goes through “Pending”, “On Hold” or “Work in Progress” and ends at “Closed” or “Resolved”. Once the request is closed, it moves out of the database and is kept in another database for tracking purpose. Once the request is closed, it is not visible to the user.
The Remedy Alert System is mainly used to help the users to keep a track of the status of their requests, and to inform the approvers of incoming requests required for approval. It also helps the IT support team to keep a track of the requests they are trying to resolve. It serves the purpose of a journal where the engineer can record any changes or improvements made to solve a particular issue. Once a request goes for approval, the approver will receive an email mentioning the same, and once the request is approved, the request will move out of the approval tray for further action. When the request is pending for approval, no changes can be made to the request by the user. When any change is made to the status of the request, the user will receive an email informing the same. The email addresses of the users are already stored in a database in the AR System server.
Each user in ADCB is given one of the below three licenses:
This type of licensing is given to Remedy administrators and to the Helpdesk team, for access to change permissions and profiles of users in the organization.
Floating licenses are like fixed licenses, but are given mostly to the users in the IT department. There are only a few numbers of these licenses, so it is given on a first come first serve basis.
This is given to all other users in the organization. This allows the user to login to BMC Remedy application and submit, modify and view requests.
(Source: Information about software taken from BMC Remedy Action Request System Administration Guide.)
3.4 Interactive Voice Response System
The Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) is a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice and DTMF keypad inputs. IVR allows customers to interact with a company's services via voice recognition or telephone keypad. The system provides a prerecorded list of options from which the user can choose, and the system will direct the users on how to proceed. IVR systems are deployed to handle large call volumes. IVR applications can be used to control any functions. The interface is broken down into a number of simple interactions.
IVR blueprint was developed in 1961, by Bell System. Bell came out with the first telephone which could dial area codes using DTMF technology. DTMF telephones transmit audible tones in the same frequency range as the human voice. In 1970s IVR systems were used mostly in call centers. The technology was complex and expensive, and was limited to small vocabularies, since the system used DSP technologies. By 1980s, IVR technology started to develop due to the rise in competition in the market, and the technology changes from DSP to client/server architecture. By 1990s, IVR became vital for call centers, and acted as an agent to the customers to collect their data and make intelligent routing decisions.
Uses of IVR
IVR systems are used to service large call volumes in the least possible time, thereby reducing cost and enhancing customer experience. IVR systems are used in areas of telebanking, televoting, credit card services etc. Organizations using IVR services are able to service their customer 24/7. In the IVR system, the caller's query can be resolved without the customer having to wait in queue over the phone. This also helps the agent deal with more demanding areas of service. If the caller does not find the required information, the customer will be directly routed to the agent. With the IVR systems, callers can be categorized and routed to the respective teams. A single, comprehensive IVR system can handle large number of calls at the same time.
IVR system enables customer prioritization. Customers are given services according to the criticality of the issue, or according to the status of the customer. For example, when a high profile customer is identified, the IVR directly routes the customer to the respective agent who handles calls from high profile customers. IVR systems can also log caller details into its database for reporting or further system enhancements. The system is also used by survey organizations, especially for more sensitive questions, where the caller might feel uncomfortable if asked by a human interviewer.
IVR systems are mainly used in the below fields:
- Mobile - mobile purchases, registrations, pay-as-you-go etc.
- Banking - payments, inquiries, transfers, updates etc.
- Retail and entertainment - bookings, payments, enquiries etc.
- Travel - bookings, enquiries, cancellations etc.
IVR systems use DTMF and speech recognition, to understand the caller's response. Two types of speech recognition are used, one based on predefined grammars and the other based on statistically trained language models. Text-to-speech is also used to provide complex and dynamic information, such as news, weather reports etc. IVR systems can be used to provide a more sophisticated voice mail to the user. IVR can be used in a front-end call center operation for obtaining information from the user and recognizing their needs. Information such as account number can be obtained from the caller. The information required for authentication is matched with the caller ID, and if no match is found, the system asks the caller for more information.
IVR call flows are created through scripts, and can be customized as per the need of the department using the system. A call flow diagram is drawn using a GUI tool. Call flows can also be developed using XML-driven applications. Audio Response Unit (ARU) is a device which provides synthesized voice responses by processing calls based on the caller's input, information in the database and information in the incoming call.
Why IVR is used in Call Centers
Call centers are also known as cost centers since they are expensive to run. Methods of reducing call center's cost include outsourcing and automation. Outsourcing to other countries reduces the operational expenditure, but the differences in culture and language can lead to customer dissatisfaction, and ultimately, loss in business. Automation technology such as CTI, IVR etc., which uses speech recognition, can also reduce the operational expenditure. However, this technology increases the efficiency, and call centers can be located in the same country. Customer survey through IVR can help in monitoring customer satisfaction, and the information obtained can be used to improve customer satisfaction.
Poor designing of the IVR call flow tree can sometimes render the technology and unhelpful and difficult to use. Some callers prefer talking directly to an agent, rather than to an automated voice response system.
IVR system in ADCB
The IVR system was used in the call center in ADCB. The system had a set of options, which the customer chooses, and the system guides the customer through the entire process. The IVR system in IT Helpdesk, known as CallIT, was implemented for the following functions:
- Broadcasting of system downtime
- Updates on system downtime
- System ID/password resets
- To store passwords of other applications requested via BMC Remedy
When the caller dials the IT Helpdesk number, the system first authenticates the identity of the caller. The application then guides the caller through the above options, and processes the request accordingly. The IVR call script and passwords are processed through a GUI interface. The caller is also given the option to speak to the agent directly, if the required query is not found, or for any follow ups.
(Source: Information about software taken from “Implementing Voice over IP” by Bhumip Khasnabish.)
FindIT is a webpage which only provides information about the banks applications and processes. It also provides an FAQ to the employees about several low-profile system issues, which enables the users to resolve those issues themselves, if they encounter any. The webpage also provides information about how different applications work and what are those applications used for. System downtime information and updates are also posted on the website. All announcements related to the IT department, such as process changes, updates etc. are uploaded on FindIT.
3.6 Integration of IT Helpdesk teams
The two Helpdesk teams handle different sets of applications. It has recently been difficult to coordinate on the work flow processes among the two teams, due to increase in the number of users and process changes. The two teams at Abu Dhabi and Dubai underwent an integration process, where the process flows and responsibilities of both the teams were merged, thereby reducing the work overload.
3.7 Continuous improvement process (Deming Wheel or PDCA)
Customer services cannot be achieved to its full limit in one go. It involves a continuous improvement process. Continuous improvement involves careful planning, which results in effective action, and move back again to careful planning in a continuous cycle. The PDCA cycle is a checklist of four stages, Plan, Do, Check, Act, which we should go through to get from “problem-faced” stage to “problem-solved” stage. It was developed by Walter Shewhart during the 1930's.
The PDCA cycle involves a set of tools and techniques in each stage, which is useful for its completion. Below is a detailed explanation of what happens in each stage:
- Plan - to first identify the problems faced and come up with ideas to solve the problem. The tools and techniques used can be:
- Customer/supplier mapping
- Pareto analysis
- Cause & effect diagrams
- Experiment design
- Conflict resolution
- On-job training
- Data checksheets
- Graphical analysis
- Control charts
- Key performance indicators
- Process mapping
- Formal training for standard processes
- Controlled reference information
(Source: Information is taken from “Quality and Operations Management” by Elearn Limited.)
Below figure is a flowchart showing the entire process of continuous improvement.