Creating regulations, policy will help reduce attrition, protect staff
Standards introduction described as short-sighted, changing attitudes key
ONE of the more interesting developments that may happen with the Association of Customer Experience of Malaysia (ACE) is its attempt to become a regulatory body for the contact centre industry.
This was confirmed by current ACE president Mohd Irwan Rizal (pic), who sat down with Digital News Asia (DNA) to address concerns that some members have expressed about his leadership.
For the first 14 years of its life, ACE was known as the Customer Relationship Management and Contact Centre Association of Malaysia (CCAM). The new name is part of an overall effort to rebrand the association and the industry it represents.
Irwan, whose two-year term has ended, is offering to stay on as president and will contest in this month’s delayed elections to be held on April 26. He tells DNA that the move to reposition itself as a regulatory body actually came from members last year.
“Achieving this status is one of the plans for this year. The initial response from the Government is that it is supportive as long as ACE members support this move too,” he says.
With feedback from members, such a regulatory body would then be able to establish guidelines for the industry – for example, to control the rampant practice of staff-pinching. Irwan sees this being a helpful regulatory tool to control attrition.
“We can also come up with a blacklist to ensure staff rights are protected and confidentiality of customer data is secured,” he says, adding that the idea actually came from members.
While Irwan is standing for president for the sake of continuity, he says, his re-election will also mean that members see value in the move to become a regulatory body.
Addressing concerns that there are few attempts to provide professional skills upgrading for members, Irwan points to the introduction of NOSS or National Occupational Skills Standard.
While some members question the need for this certification when there are already international standards available, Irwan begs to differ.
“There are international certificates for staff quality but frankly, our members find them expensive to pursue for their staff and they are not entirely suited for the Malaysian market,” he counters, describing NOSS as a minimum certification level for the industry.
Yet critics call this move short-sighted. “I don’t suppose the world or marketplace needs standards as much as it needs effective implementation of existing standards. Customer service in Malaysia is abysmal and that needs to change. Standards are not the answer, attitude is,” says one leading industry voice who prefers anonymity.
However, Irwan argues that the push for NOSS came from members, adding that the Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) supported the move with some funding to develop the certification, while ACE helped facilitate the development of the certification.
“NOSS is targeted at agents and team leaders to enable them to reach higher professional standards,” says Irwan. It took three months to develop and receive the green light for NOSS to become an industry certification on Dec 31, 2013 by the MOHR.
Irwan acknowledges that there are weaknesses in the administration of ACE but also reminds members that those who chose to be part of the leadership team for ACE must also make the time commitments to help improve things.
“Everyone is busy but if you want to come into an industry body like ACE you must be prepared to put in some time to work and make the association and the contact centre industry stronger. You have to be genuine.”
On the criticism that the association does not produce any industry data, Irwan acknowledges that this is a major area of concern. “But recently we had two universities (University Utara Malaysia and University Teknologi Mara) approach us wanting to collaborate and produce an industry survey.”
While previous attempts have been very poor, this time, instead of an online survey, the universities plan to visit members on-site to conduct the survey and collect data.
Irwan is hopeful that this approach will bear better fruit and the industry will have some meaningful data that will be helpful to members and ACE, as it fights to stay relevant and better lobby to uplift the contact centre industry in the country.
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