Customer support is the heart and soul of any business. Excellent customer support helps the business to retain the business of old customers, and gain the business of new customers through word of mouth. Offering excellent customer service is the key to business growth and stability. In the area of customer support the importance of training and development cannot be overemphasized. Customer support is directly related to the ability to attain and maintain a competitive advantage.
No where is customer support more important than in the online world. Amazon .com is one of the biggest online retailers. Amazon began its venture on the Internet by selling only books, but soon it expanded its product offerings to more than just books and book related items. Now Amazon is one of largest retailers of general merchandise on the Internet. It has used its position as a bookseller to build its business in the general merchandise category as well. Amazon has used the customer service as a stepping stone to become one of the most trusted Internet retailers in the world.
Amazon was founded in 1994 by founder Jeff Bezos. The company was founded largely on a piece of information that the founder heard about the rapid growth of the Internet at that time. He saw potential in the Internet as a retail platform. Amazon began in his garage and soon and the business took off (Amazon.con, 2011). Now it is all history and Amazon is now a fortune 500 company and considered to be one of the most stable online retailers in the world.
Customer service is the heart and soul of the retail industry, whether online or offline. Training and development plays an essential role in the ability to make certain that employees deliver the best customer service possible to both existing and potential customers. Amazon could not have gotten where it is today without the realization that human resources are the most important asset that it has in its possession. The ability to capitalize on the potential of human resources depends on the continual attention to training and development of the employee base. This research will explore the need for a training and development program that will allow Amazon to remain at the top of the online retail market. This plan will be based on the most recent theories presented in academic literature.
Competition in the online retail industry continues to increase and retailers like Amazon must strive for continual improvement of their employees. This is necessary in order to remain competitive on the open marketplace. This means that the industry must be continually evaluated in reevaluated to keep up with the most recent trends. Training and development is a continual process that not only helps fill the needs of new employees, but helps to broaden and develop the skills of existing employees in a more in-depth manner. A Needs Analysis was performed. The results of demonstrate the need for the development of a new training and development program that suits the objectives and strategies of a new direction that company must take to remain competitive.
Training and development is the catalyst for continual growth and overall organizational effectiveness. Human resources are the most important capital assets that an organization has in its possession (Nwanoro & Kawamoto, n.d.). Currently, Amazon outsources many of its customer service functions. It outsources both ts fulfillment and its customer service functions (Dignan, 2001). One of the problems with outsourcing is achieving consistency in training. This can also make development of customer service personnel difficult because the parent company no longer has complete control of training and development functions. Addressing the needs of training and development in outsourced functions is the key problem for many organizations that must compete in the global marketplace, including Amazon. The need for consistency in training and development is a key need and requires the development of a solid training and development strategy.
Organizational Strategy and the Training Program
Training and development must be consistent with organizational goals and strategies. They must support the mission of the organization and have a strong commitment to the growth and development of the organization. The question that Amazon faces is whether outsources personnel have the same commitment to growth and development for their organization. Outsourced customer service representatives do not directly work for Amazon, instead they work for a different company and may not have the same sense of organizational loyalty as direct employees of Amazon. This is a question that must be addressed in the outsourcing of any function of the organization.
Many companies feel that outsourcing personnel is cost effective because they no longer have to support salary, benefits, and the overhead of housing the function. The outsourcing of basic business functions often means the closing of facilities and staff reductions. This can appear to be an advantage financially. However, there are hidden costs to the outsourcing of basic business functions. As stated previously, one of the primary disadvantages is retaining loyalty to the organization. If employees are not loyal to the brand and its development, it is unlikely that they will convey ideas that promote loyalty to the customer. Quality and consistency are a primary concern in outsourced personnel, as well as consistency with strategic goals of the organization. These concerns present key challenges in training and development of customer service related functions for outsourced personnel.
Building Credibility of the Training Function
Douglas (2008) conducted a study of the impacts of outsourcing in the aerospace industry. The findings of this study suggest that organizational communication about outsourcing intentions is an important factor in retaining employee loyalty among direct employees. The intentions of the organization must be clear to both primary and outsourced personnel. The outsourcing program must retain credibility with direct employees of the organization, or as Douglas pointed out, it can have a negative impact on the organization as a whole. The training and development strategy plays a key role in the ability to retain credibility of the outsourcing program.
Organizational learning can represent a key competitive advantage, but only if it addresses skill gaps, the ability to retain top performers, and the maintenance of a high performance organizational culture (Roy, 2010). Developing and maintaining expertise is essential in the retention of high performance personnel. Training and development is no longer a one-time a task. Research supports the investment in ongoing training and development to increase profitability of the organization (Hill, 2011). Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (2011) also supports the need for continual training and development of staff to retain a competitive advantage. The need for ongoing training and development is supported by research. However, achieving sufficient training and development in outsourced personnel represents a challenge that Amazon must overcome to retain its position in the marketplace. The key to retaining its position is to make certain that its staff delivers consistent quality to their customers.
Best Practices in Training and Development
The key to retaining customers and achieving consistent quality among outsourced personnel is the development of a training and development program that can be administered to outsource personnel. Regardless of whether training and development occurs among primary staff or among outsourced personnel, it must reflect best practices in training and development. The following will examine current best practices in the training and development of staff.
We live in a knowledge-based economy and transference of knowledge has become a definable function in our society. Training and development is a key medium for transference of knowledge within organizations. Affective employee training was found to be a key component of organizational commitment (Bulut & Culha, 2010). As outsourcing continues to grow in the business world, training and development will become an important method for the transference of knowledge outside of the company as well.
Nilsson (2010) explored the inefficiency of vocational education and training programs and found that it was largely due to the inability to provide sufficient institutional review of the program. E-learning is another avenue that has been chosen by many organizations as a route to training and development. This same finding was also found among different training systems and cultures. Vocational training was found to be inadequate for the transference of knowledge in today's business world (Smith, 2010).
Bondarouk & Ruel (2010) found that employees need to develop higher level thinking and reasoning as a result of the shift from a production economy to a knowledge-based economy. The authors found that e-activities are continuing to grow in the field of human resources. The authors feel that these trends will continue to increase in the future. Electronic human resources management faces many challenges, but continues to represent a viable alternative for the transference of knowledge within organizations (Bondaroul & Ruel, 2009).
Training and development is a key means for transferring information, but often learning that takes place in the classroom does not transfer to the work environment (Lai, 2011). This is especially true in…