Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Customer Service as Viewed by Cooperative Employees

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Customer Service as Viewed by Cooperative Employees

Article excerpt

In late 1999 and early 2000, a survey was given to cooperative employees concerning their individual perception of customer service at their cooperative. It was administered at a one-day workshop entitled Thriving In A Restructured Industry. This workshop was presented 31 times at 15 locations in Texas. The survey represents the views of employees from 50 cooperatives. A total of 1568 surveys were analyzed. While these results may or may not represent a single cooperative, collectively they do represent the views of a large number of cooperative employees in Texas. Not every respondent answered every question; however, sufficient useable data did exist on all surveys analyzed.

Respondents were grouped into eleven functional areas as identified in Table 1.

Length of Service

Respondents were asked how long they have worked at their cooperative. Tenure was grouped as shown in Table 2.

The majority of respondents (58%) have been with their respective cooperatives for over 10 years. However, it should be noted that 28% of the employees have been with their cooperative for five years or less.

Commentary

The data suggests that Texas cooperatives have a good core of knowledgeable and experienced employees that will serve the customer well in the future. There is no substitute for experience. Cooperatives also appear to be adding employees, since over one-fourth have been with their cooperative five years or less. New employees bring with them several assets including new thinking, new skills and new enthusiasm. They sometimes bring liabilities that include lack of customer knowledge and grounding in the history and purpose of cooperatives. As cooperatives move toward a competitive environment, it will take a combination of experienced workers and the so-called "new blood" to weather the storm and reposition their cooperative. However, this combination will only have synergy if both groups appreciate what the other groups have to offer and work together for the success of their cooperative. Each must be open to learn from one another.

Question 1

How would you describe your understanding of customers' / members' expectations?

When asked how they would describe their understanding of customers'/members' expectations (Chart 1), the majority (51%) indicated they knew most of their customers' expectations. Thirty-six percent have some knowledge of customers expectations. Combined with the 3% in the "don't know" category, 39% of cooperative employees don't have a good working knowledge of customer expectations.

When reviewing this question by length of employment (Table 3), 54% of those with five years of experience or less indicated they either don't know the customers' expectations or only know some of the customers'/members' expectations. Responses by functional department provide further insight into employee confidence in their knowledge of customer expectations (Table 4). Those employees listing their functional area as customer service expressed the most knowledge of customer expectations. Eighty percent indicated they know most or all of the customers' expectations. This was followed by Engineering/ROW (70%), Billing (70%) and Administration/Accounting (61%).

Those employees in Construction are not as certain of their knowledge about customers as others. Fifty-three percent indicated they don't know many or only know some of their customers' expectations.

Commentary

It is encouraging knowing that 61% of cooperatives know most or all of their customers' expectations. This is a good foundation going into deregulation. Knowledge of the customers' expectations, assuming they are the same expectations the customer would list, is fundamental to providing what the customer wants and needs. While a good foundation is being laid, there is work left to do. From review of the data, employees that characterize themselves as "inside" seem to be more confident in their knowledge of customer expectations than "outside" employees. …

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