Change is one of the most vital and frequent aspects of any field in the modern world. Technological intervention has broken the geographical barriers in the world and has increased competition to a great extent since customers can easily utilize global products and services. It is almost inevitable for any business to stay isolated from all the changes in the prevailing market trends and continue their business operations in a conventional manner. It is the need of the current times to align the vision and objectives according to the needs of the current environments to ensure success and profits.
In Saudi Arabia, Samba Bank is a major banking institution that has expanded its branches all over Middle Eastern countries. A few branches have been opened in London and in Asian countries. One of Samba Bank’s regional divisions has been selected to examine their methods for handling transition. The bank’s infrastructure is built on information management systems and other applications to include the latest online banking, internet and telephone banking features. The technical infrastructure, though, mainly consists of modules and events that are used by consumers. The bank’s internal infrastructure is not fitted with the new technical systems, such as the customer service department, which depends on manual procedures to collect the necessary data. Customer service department is considered to be amongst the most important departments since it ensures that customers are being provided with consistently commendable services.
Drivers of Change
3.1 Internal Drivers
The quality of customer service creates the image of any organization, especially banks.
The customers were not being provided with an effective customer service in the chosen organization. They were compelled to wait for their turn for elongated periods of time that frequently caused discontent. Along with the delay in the service, the quality of the service was often questionable due to the unavailability of required forms or information at the service stations. To improve the quality of the service, the service quality department had initiated a procedure that was expected to be followed by all the front desk officers. It was a manual entry of the time of the start of the customer’s transaction at the service station and its end time. These entries were required to be entered in Excel documents and submitted at the end of the day to the customer service department. This data was aimed to be analyzed by the service quality department to investigate the loop holes in the service and the average times that were being taken for every type of transactions.
This practice would have been fruitful if it had been followed religiously by the front desk staff. The front desk officers often forgot to mark the timestamp in the document before the initiation of the transaction that led to inaccurate entries. Upon investigation, it was found that some officers did not even maintain the data throughout the day, rather filled in erroneous and inaccurate entries to fulfill the formality of the practice. The erroneousness and invalidity of the data often proved to be a hindrance for effective analysis of the customer service and led to misleading decisions by the service quality department. It is due to these circumstances that the quality of customer service was being threatened to a great extent.
3.2 External Drivers
Mackenzie (n.d.) pointed out that external drivers also play a vital role in the introduction of changes in organizations. Banks have to ensure that they are able to cater the requests of the customers in an effective manner. The current market conditions are more competitive than ever; numerous banks come in the market every year and launch attractive campaigns to provoke the customers to switch banks. The chosen bank underwent similar competitive pressures from the market. The competitors started improving the quality of their customer service by adopting new technologies and systems. This resulted in loss of business for Samba bank since numerous discontented customers took their business to other bank.
Mowat (2002) stated that no change can be successful in any organization unless the top management provides continued support for the matter. The top management realized the need to improve their customer service and decided to deploy a suitable system to facilitate the analysis of the prevailing customer service. The innovative system, Transaction Tracker, was capable of tracking the duration of the transactions to provide an estimate about the time it takes customers to complete their transactions. This change was introduced to remove any manual entries in the Excel documents since the tracking was automated by the system. This transition was deemed necessary to provide the service quality department with accurate figures so that they would be able to plan corrective actions according to the actual status of the quality. Such estimates were expected to facilitate analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of their customer service.
Nature of the Change
Hard Change: Hard factors of any change constitute of the technicalities and requirements of the proposed change, for example, Sirkin, Keenan and Jackson (2006) declared duration of the project, number of resources required for the project and the financial costs as the hard factors of any change. The hard factors that were observed during the transition in the bank can be considered as the choice of the software vendor, the requirements of the system and the strategy that would be adapted to implement the system. It was decided to opt for off-the-shelf software, rather than promoting in-house development. The system, Transaction Tracker, was bought from a solution provider since the internal IT department was not skilled enough to develop such a large scale software application.
Soft Change: Sirkin, Keenan and Jackson (2006) defined soft changes as the aspects that constitute of human factors .i.e. motivating the employees and addressing their fears regarding the transition. At some occasions, soft changes are considered to be more difficult than hard changes since they constitute the human element. Changes are rarely accepted easily by individuals; they tend to resist the change as much as possible. Samba Bank also faced such challenges since the employees were being affected by the deployment of the new system. The new system provided accurate results about the service times for every customer and transaction. The earlier procedure provided avenues to hide one’s mistakes or incompetence by filling out erroneous data but the new system did not allow any such misconducts. It was feared that the new system would be able to monitor the performance of every front desk officer in a more effective manner. The employees had to be motivated to embrace the change in spite of the initiation of greater monitoring on their performance. IT department was also reluctant about the adoption of the new system since it would prove to be an additional responsibility in their job descriptions. The maintenance of a new system requires the knowledge of all the mechanisms and work flows of the system. Such knowledge can only be attained by extensive analysis of the systems and by attending its respective training sessions. This degree of additional work was being resisted by the IT department.
Change Management Strategy
Grizzell (2003) stated that individuals tend to behave differently when they experience changes in their environments. Therefore, changes need to be tackled in the presence of rational planning. Kritsonis (2004) stated that there are two types of forces that are witnessed in any change process of an organization; driving forces and restraining forces. Driving forces are the ones that direct the employees towards the acceptance of the change. Restraining forces work against the embracement of the changes in the environment. A successful transition can be achieved if a balance is maintained between both of these forces.
The change management strategy that was adapted by Samba Bank is similar to the Lewin’s model of change. Levasseur (2001) explained that Lewin advocated the introduction of the change in three phases; unfreezing, movement, refreezing.
Unfreezing Phase: First, the driving forces had to be increased by highlighting the gains that could be achieved by the system. The front desk officers were informed about the automated features that would reduce their work load of manual entries of the transaction timestamps. IT professionals generally show eagerness to learn about new concepts and technologies to stay updated with the constantly changing nature of their field, therefore IT department resources were communicated the on-going demand of the technologies in which the chosen system was being developed. Their interest for new technologies led to their motivation about the change. Then, the restraining forces had to be decreased to unfreeze the prevailing systems and procedures. The employees feared the usage of the system due to lack of skills; the bank reassured them that training programs would be arranged to get them acquainted with the system. The service quality department staff were insecure about their worth in the organization since most of the work was being automated with the new system. The bank also addressed this concern by stating that no lay-offs would be done in the organization due to the deployment of the new system. These activities are considered to be a part of the unfreezing phase. The IT department was ensured that the vendors would be assisting them with the maintenance activities of the system for certain number of days, after which they would be available to provide them support via email and telephone. Training sessions were also pledged for the IT department to help them embrace the change. The employees were communicated the need of the proposed change to make them comprehend the relevance of the change.
Movement Phase: Then, the bank began their efforts to implement the actual change in the organization, for example, new policies and procedures were regulated regarding the usage of the system, training sessions were arranged for the employees to get them acquainted with the system. This phase is termed as the ‘movement’ phase.
Refreezing Phase: Finally, the bank adapted strategies to make the system a part of the routine operations of the employees. The bank set short goals for the front desk employees so that they would get confident regarding its usage and would get an opportunity to witness the effective outcomes of the system. The service quality department was also asked to prepare weekly reports about the durations of different types of transactions to identify the transactions that needed to be improved. This phase can be considered as ‘refreezing’ phase since the activities were aimed to stabilize the changes in the bank.
Implications of the Change
After the successful transition, the service quality department is able to monitor the performance of the front desk officers and evaluate their efficiency in catering the requests of the customers. If any transaction is persistently recorded as taking the longest duration to complete then the transaction flow of the respective transaction is reviewed for any obstacles. The performance of every front desk officer is analyzed; any officer, who does not perform according to expected quality standards for an elongated period of time, is encouraged to attain greater training and knowledge about the transaction flows. These steps have resulted in the improvement of the quality of the customer service of Samba Bank. The reports and findings of the service quality department are also valuable for the top management since they can take corrective decisions to improve the customer service, for example, establish more service stations for a particular transaction or hire more resources at the front desk.
Analysis of the Adopted Strategies of Change Management
The regional office of Samba Bank was successful during the transition to the new system since they adopted a facilitating tone, rather than a dictatorial one. Woodruff (n.d.) pointed out that changes should be facilitated for the employees instead of commanding the adoption of the changes. The management of the chosen bank took effective steps for introducing the new system to replace the manual processes. The resistance of the employees was tackled in an appropriate manner by addressing their fears and insecurities regarding the transition. The implementation of another approach, however, may have proven to be much more successful in overcoming employee resistance; Kotter International (2010) indicated that few leaders could be persuaded of the value of change, and can inspire others to support the change. Employees prefer to listen rather than leadership to this leading coalition, since these people are considered to better understand the insecurities and concerns.
- Grizzell, J 2003, ‘Behavior Change Theories and Models’, California State Polytechnic University.
- Kritsonis, A 2004, ‘Comparison of Change Theories’, International Journal of Scholarly Academic Intellectual Diversity, Vol. 8, No.1.
- Kotter International 2010, The 8 Step Process, viewed 14 April, 2011, <http://www.kotterinternational.com/KotterPrinciples/ChangeSteps.aspx>
- Levasseur, R 2001, ‘People Skills: Change Management Tools- Lewin’s Change Model’, Interfaces, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 71–73.
- Mowat, J 2002, Managing Organizational Change, The Herridge Group.
- Mackenzie, M n.d., Senior Leadership’s Role in the Change Process, Townsend School of Business.
- Sirkin, HL., Keenan, P., Jackson, A 2006, ‘The Hard Side of Change Management’, Harvard Business Review.
- Woodruff, DM n.d., How to effectively manage change, Management Methods Inc., viewed 15 April, 2011, <http://www.managementmethods.com/forms/How%20to%20Effectively%20Manage%20Change.dmw.pdf>