The change to be considered in the paper is improving customer service in a real estate tax law firm. The firm mostly deals with clients who own commercial, industrial and residential properties. It coordinates efforts between property owners and various counties. Consequently, the need for customer service is crucial in such an organization. The paper will examine the nature of this change through the five stages of the organizational development process. (Beckhard, 1999)
Whether the change was successful and why
The change under consideration was very successful. First, the firm registered less client migrations. Before instituting the change, the law firm employees would work so hard to get contracts with clients but their efforts would not yield tangible results. Customers were fond of transferring their businesses to other real estate tax firms. However, after instituting the change, this trend has drastically reduced as more and more customers are maintaining business with the company.
The change was also successful because a survey conducted among most of the clients indicated that they were happy with the new changes created within the organization especially in relation to customer care. The firm found out that the major reason customers were dashing off to their competitors was the fact that they had poor customer service in the past. Furthermore, clients asserted that they were now more satisfied with the firm’s services because they feel that the firm was treating them like respectable business partners and not just a means of earning the company some revenue. According to the client survey, the respondents felt that the firm was showing them how valuable their business was to them, as they seemed genuinely interested in understand their real estate needs.
Before instituting the change, many clients had problems with the firm’s communication systems. However, after improving the customer service, clients felt that they could transfer information to the firm very easily and this went a long way in ensuring good business between them.
How the change followed the Organizational development process
The first step in the organizational development process is ‘anticipation of the need for change’. The company applied this procedure in the process of improving customer service within the company. The company realized that it was loosing a lot of business to their competitors. Consequently, there was a need to find out why this was occurring. The company decided to conduct market research using the marketing department in the firm. The survey revealed that many clients were dissatisfied with the level of responsiveness within the company. They did not like the fact that the firm had poor communication systems and that it’s business approach was impersonal in nature. (Palmer and Akin, 2006)
After the company identified the problem or the need for change, it then began developing client-practitioner relationships. Since the company had anticipated future expectations, it began building on these changes by making each and every client as a priority within the firm. For instance, the firm would list down the kind of difficulties that a particular client was facing and then make prior arrangements before the customer reported. Once a client was in the building, he would meet all the different experts in sequential order. Also, the firm started preparing in advance for client needs. For instance, when the firm received queries about particular tax bills, the employees handling the phone call would access the tax bill on time and would be given information about the date, time and amount due. Such prompt reactions caused customers to be pleasantly surprised as the firm had exceeded their expectations.
The firm also passed through the diagnostic process. In this case, the company wanted to find out exact issues that would make their customer service improve. The company needed to familiarize their employees with the importance of customer service as some of them were not aware. The company also realized that there were problems with the telephone service handling. Also, it needed to improve its constructive feedback. The company suffered major setbacks due to its bulky paper work. The tax system is loaded with numerous legal processes and these had become quite tedious to the client yet they were only concerned with getting competent services from the firm. Poor management of the paper work was slowing down business. These issues had to be addressed thoroughly if the company had any hope of managing their customer service. (Murray and Schoonover, 1988)
The diagnostic phase was followed by the action plan and strategic actions. At that point, the company came up with a Customer Relationship Management system. The corporation found out that it had been treating each client as a small business rather than a larger contributor to the firm. None of the employees was looking at the bigger picture. Additionally, customers who were loyal to the company did so because of a particular attorney. As a result, when one attorney left the firm, he would do so with one client. Therefore, the company decided to give almost all employees within the firm access to client information. This encompassed the receptionists, lawyers, marketers and many other groups. Additionally, the company laid out a plan for training and development in customer service. This was to be done after every six months in order to keep up with industry trends. The training would involve teaching employees how to improve their telephone customer quality and it would also teach them how to give feedbacks to their clients. The action plan would not involve all the departments within the organization. The ones that were to undergo training in customer service were; the marketing department, receptionists and secretaries and the legal department. The latter departments were chosen because they dealt with clients directly.
The last part of the change was the ‘self renewal, monitoring and stabilization phase’. Here the company implemented all the changes suggested in the customer service and then decided to make it part of their routine. This involved analyzing the responses brought about by the changes. Monitoring was done through in house and outside customer surveys, conducting meetings with partners, having conversations with long term clients and reviewing the departments directly related to the changes.
How different parts of the organization were affected by the change according to the system’s theory
After the company decided which employees would take part in the change, they had to take them through the training programs. Afterwards, the marketing department improved their feedback mechanisms, receptionists increased customer personalization and the legal department improved their telephone responses, paper management systems through IT software and they also changed their procedures for dealing with clients. Because there was constant monitoring and evaluation, different parts of the organization had to make sure that they remained vigilante because there were benchmarks against which their customer service relations were measured. (Palmer and Akin, 2006)
Aspects of organizational culture that changed due to the process
The company had to undergo a huge paradigm shift. It was not accustomed to some of the changes because they involved a change in attitudes. Employees no longer considered aspects of the legal system as the only priority in service provision; the customer became central in the organization. Before improving customer service, most employees would defer decisions to upper management. However, after the change, employees were empowered to make their own decisions because prompt responses to client needs require devolved decision making. The company’s employees had to make time for conducting feedback with the clients since the company did not want to establish a reputation where they simply ask for suggestions but do not implement them. (Beckhard, 1999)
Recommendations for future change
While the company managed to successfully improve its customer service, there were some procedures that were overlooked in the process but could prove to be quite valuable in the future. For instance, the company did not conduct an internal audit. Most of the information gathering focused on the client yet it is quite important to understand some of the problems within the company. This assists the company in knowing its internal weakness as these could spoil their customer-business relationship. Additionally, the company should consider setting time lines for the objectives set in the action plans. Most of the changes were not time bound and this affected the manner of execution; employees within the organization were less efficient (Beckhard, 1999)
The organization development system involved improving customer service in a real estate tax law firm. The major changes instituted were; improvement of telephone customer services, conducting feedback mechanisms within the organization, better management of paper work through IT software and repetition of these changes to establish a dependable routine for the client.
Beckhard, R. (1999): Organization Development: Strategies and Models, Addison-Wesley; MA, p 34
Palmer, I and Akin, G. (2006): Managing organizational change; a multiple perspectives approach, McGraw Hill Irwin, 273-286
Murray, D. M. and Schoonover, S. C. (1988): Changing Ways: A Practical Tool For Implementing Change Within Organizations. New York, New York: AMACOM, A Division of American Management Association, p 67