Etisalat Telecommunication Corporation: Total Quality Management

Introduction

Total quality management is an approach used by companies to ensure high quality of their products and services. It is an essential aspect of any organisation that operates in a highly competitive environment, where the quality and consumer satisfaction distinguish a successful business from a failed one. Augusto, Lisboa, and Yasin (2014) claim that total quality management (TQM) focuses not just on the quality of the services and products provided by a business, but also on the responsibility of all the workers to contribute to the continuous improvement of the company. Besides enhancing the company’s competitive position by improving product and service quality, TQM thus contributes to morale and motivation of workers by increasing employee engagement. Therefore, one of the significant benefits of TQM is that it allows achieving both employee and customer satisfaction. Overall, TQM offers important benefits and opportunities for companies looking to improve their market share and business outcomes as it promotes business excellence. This paper will examine how a telecommunication company operating in the UAE applies the TQM approach, as well as explore the influence of TQM on customer service and customer satisfaction.

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The UAE telecommunication industry is rapidly growing. Bon and Mustafa (2013) stress that the sector showed a 6.57% increase in revenue in 2014, which is equivalent to Dh29.18 billion compared to Dh27.38 in 2012. Being one of the two leading telecommunication companies in the area, Etisalat achieved a profit of Dh2.2 billion in the first quarter of the year. In 2017, the company announced a profit of Dh4.2 billion, marking a 7% increase compared to the previous year.

Key Research Questions, Aims, and Objectives

The purpose of the study was to determine how Etisalat applies the TQM approach and to study the influence of TQM on customer service and customer satisfaction. There are two key aims of the study, as suggested by its scope and purpose:

  • To determine how Etisalat applies TQM to its business operations.
  • To analyse the effect of TQM practices guiding Etisalat’s customer service.

It is also crucial to set certain objectives for the study in order to ensure that all aspects of the proposed goals are addressed. Thus, the main study objectives are:

  • To describe the TQM techniques used in Etisalat to improve business outcomes
  • To study the relationship between TQM and customer service in Etisalat.
  • To study the relationship between TQM and customer satisfaction in Etisalat.
  • To offer recommendations for improving the TQM approach at Etisalat.

Finally, setting research questions is an essential step that guides data collection and analysis process. Effective and relevant research question ensure that the methodology and conclusions are connected to the main topic. The three most significant questions that this study will aim to answer are:

  • What TQM tools and techniques are used in Etisalat?
  • What is the relationship between TQM and customer service and satisfaction in Etisalat?
  • What could be done to improve the TQM approach used in Etisalat?

Literature Review

Global competition has put great pressure on firms to improve the quality of their services and products. In essence, TQM can help companies to enhance business outcomes and compete successfully. This research study is aimed at determining how Etisalat, a UAE telecommunication company, employs the TQM approach to increase customer satisfaction and provide high-quality customer service. The literature review will address four main research areas related to the key research questions, such as:

  1. Use of motivation theory in achieving and measuring employee satisfaction.
  2. Factors contributing to or impairing customer service.
  3. Assessment of the Serqual model and its prevalence.
  4. Customer satisfaction.

Employee Satisfaction

Bon and Mustafa (2013) also indicate that employee satisfaction is an important aspect that affects the performance and productivity of a company. Employee satisfaction can be defined as the worker’s perception of the company and their work. Although some may argue that employee satisfaction is an emotional state and thus can be influenced by forces outside of the organization, researchers say that employee satisfaction depends on various factors, such as training, management approach, rewards system, opportunities for development, and other organizational variables (Bon & Mustafa 2013). Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory is often used to improve employee satisfaction. The theory states that there are two different sets of factors affecting employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and thus eliminating the factors causing dissatisfaction might not help to increase satisfaction.

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Employing TQM in a firm could potentially help to improve employee satisfaction by improving the workers’ engagement and increasing their scope of responsibility (Bon & Mustafa 2013). However, as employee satisfaction represents the worker’s subjective perception of the company and the job, it is challenging to measure and analyse employee satisfaction. Research studies usually address the problem by using subjective data, such as employees’ responses to questionnaires or interview questions.

Customer Service

Customer service is the process of providing information, assistance, and products to customers. Bon and Mustafa (2013) state that there are seven gaps in the service quality concept, three of which are related to the customers. They point out that the first gap is that customer service is often defined by the customers’ expectations, which might not always reflect the internal organizational factors and challenges. Moreover, there is often a difference between the customer’s expectations and the worker’s opinion, which makes it difficult for front-line employees to provide service expected by the customer (Bon & Mustafa 2013). In order to provide better customer service, it is crucial for managers and workers to address all the dimensions of customers’ expectations. These include tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, competence, courtesy, security, access, communication, credibility and understanding customer needs (Bon and Mustafa 2013).

The Servqual Model

The Servqual model is used to depict factors and gaps affecting the quality of customer service. Applying the Servqual model is crucial to control the dynamics of customer satisfaction with service, as well as to undertake actions for improvement. The model stipulates that the relationship between the requirements set by the management, job satisfaction, and organizational factors affects customer satisfaction, thus allowing companies to focus on the specific issues causing low service quality and customer satisfaction.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is the customer’s perception of the quality of service, assistance, and the product provided. Customer satisfaction is closely associated with the ability of products and services provided by the firm to meet the consumers’ expectations (Bon & Mustafa 2013). Thus, meeting customers’ expectations crucial to business excellence. Moreover, customers’ expectations provide companies with a metric that can be used to organise and improve services or products.

Methodology

The study employs a qualitative research method. A qualitative methodology allows obtaining a deeper insight into the impact of TQM on the quality of service and performance of Etisalat within the UAE region. The data obtained from interviews with the management will then be analysed to determine the effect of TQM and employee satisfaction on customer satisfaction (Sadikoglu & Olcay 2014). The research used purposive sampling to choose subjects for the interview. The sample included managers working in various departments of the company, as they are likely to have extensive knowledge of the TQM approach used by the company and to be aware of any existing issues with regards to customer service and employee satisfaction.

Using interviews as the primary method of data collection allowed the study to fulfil its aims and objectives, as well as to answer the proposed research questions. Moreover, interviews with management allowed identify of the relationship between the different variables affecting customer satisfaction and service quality in the company. Structured interviews were used because of the tight schedules of the participants. Structured interviews allow researchers to use a set of open-ended questions, but limit the discussion to ensure that the responses are relevant to the subject. The data obtained from interviews were then analysed and used to compose recommendations that could help the company to improve employee satisfaction and customer perception of the products and services offered.

Data Analysis

Findings

Service quality can be described as the extent to which the company meets the needs of the clients while remaining economically viable (Gimenez-Espin, Jiménez-Jiménez & Martínez-Costa 2013). This model empowers managers to evaluate variances between customers’ awareness, expectations regarding the quality of service, and the service provided. The company applies ISO9001 Standards and the EFQM method to monitor and improve the quality of service. Figure 1 shows popular TQM tools used by businesses to enhance service. The key techniques used in Etisalat are the fishbone analysis, RADAR, and the Five Whys.

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Popular TQM tools.
Figure 1. Popular TQM tools.

According to the interview responses, the tools and models applied by Etisalat Telecommunication Corporation appear to be efficient in enhancing consumer centricity and service effectiveness. In particular, these tools help to ensure that the services are reliable in meeting customers’ demands. Additionally, the interview findings show that these tools assist in uphold and enhancing quality standards that contribute to improving customer satisfaction with service (Sadikoglu & Olcay 2014). All of the interviewees were pleased with the price structure, availability of services, and the compliance with consumers’ requirements. However, one of the respondents indicated that the approach used by customer care workers was rather weak, resulting in low customer satisfaction. Low satisfaction with the service provided by customer care workers implies that the tools and models used by the company to ensure service excellence are not sufficient to improve the work of front-line employees.

Training

The research established that at the end of each year, workers and managers of Etisalat complete mandatory training. After reviewing the training syllabus, each manager and team leader ensures that knowledge is passed over to other workers through meetings and internal training. Regular internal training appears to have a positive impact on employee motivation (Jiménez-Jiménez et al. 2015). However, the training did not contribute to the ability of front-line workers to resolve conflicts and handle complaints. There are three possible reasons for the weak performance of customer care workers:

  1. Inadequate training programs for front-line staff regarding customer relations.
  2. Front-line workers do not have the resources or knowledge needed to improve their work in accordance with the recommendations provided by managers.
  3. Low pay and inadequate experience impairs the performance of customer care workers.

Empowerment

The results of this research support previous theories and research findings, validating the positive impact of workforce empowerment on the quality of service provided. The managers of Etisalat Corporation involve the personnel in decision-making based on their scope of responsibility and experience. Moreover, interviewees noted that the company supports knowledge sharing and encourages workers to offer new concepts and ideas for the improvement of business processes. Nevertheless, the study also established that front-line workers are inadequately empowered, which affects their capacity to solve customers’ problems. Furthermore, customer care employees do not possess the necessary resources and individual skills that would allow them to offer better service and respond to the clients’ complaints efficiently. Clearly, the employee empowerment policy used by the company does not extend to front-line employees. There are three key explanations for this:

  1. Etisalat Corporation does not recognise the significant role played by the front-line staff in enhancing customer satisfaction.
  2. Strategies and approaches issued by managers impair the ability of customer care workers to deal with the clients’ issues effectively.
  3. Managers have failed to provide front-line employees with sufficient autonomy and authority, thus decreasing their engagement and ability to solve customers’ issues.

Reward Systems

Etisalat Telecommunication Corporation offers reward schemes for its workers, which consists of bonuses, credentials of obligation, and letters of gratitude from the senior staff (Sadikoglu & Olcay 2014). This practice is in line with the conclusions drawn in prior research that effective reward systems motivate workers to offer excellent services. Etisalat Corporation’s reward strategy has led to an improvement in the quality of service provided. Figure 2 outlines the approaches used in Etisalat to ensure management commitment to service quality (MCSQ).

MCSQ approaches used in Etisalat.
Figure 2. MCSQ approaches used in Etisalat.

Discussion and Conclusions

The present research has contributed to previous literature by analysing how Etisalat Telecommunication Corporation utilises the TQM approach to achieve business excellence by enhancing the quality of service provided, as well as employee and customer satisfaction. The results indicate that the company was successful in using TQM tools to improve employee performance and motivation. The findings further suggest that the MCSQ approach contributed to service quality, thus increasing customer satisfaction. Nevertheless, data analysis also indicated a weak performance of customer care workers, resulting from minimal lack of empowerment and sufficient training in customer relations. The failure of front-line employees in dealing with the customers’ problems effectively impairs the perceived service quality and client satisfaction. The corporation emphasises the traditional perception of the association between client satisfaction and service quality where client satisfaction is a product of service quality. Hence, low levels of client satisfaction concerning the work of front-line personnel pose a significant concern for the company and need to be addressed by targeted action.

Overall, Etisalat Corporation’s TQM approach is relatively efficient in enhancing the quality of the company’s products and services, thus contributing to business performance and excellence. However, significant gaps exist in the customer care employees’ work. This weakness could be addressed by applying the Servqual model, which outlines ways of indicating and filling gaps in service quality (Kahreh, Shirmohammadi & Kahreh 2014). For instance, addressing Gap 1 by the model could help to improve the management’s commitment to service quality, particularly with regards to employee empowerment. Addressing Gap 5, on the other hand, would assist in enhancing the performance of service providers. Finally, fulfilling Gap 6 would ensure the correct attitude of service personnel and front-line staff.

Recommendations

The research recommends the company to apply the Servqual Model to solve the problem with the front-line personnel performance, as this model will improve the engagement of workers in providing high-quality customer care. The model will also improve the autonomy and authority of front-line workers, thus enhancing their capacity to handle customers’ problems and increasing their role in local decision-making. Moreover, it would be useful for the company to utilize Randolph’s theory of employee empowerment, which promotes knowledge sharing, structured self-sufficiency, and team classification (Sadikoglu & Olcay 2014).

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This model would equip front-line workers with strategies to fulfil customer service requirements, thus allowing them to be more efficient in improving client satisfaction. The human resource managers should also provide individual evaluations to front-line staff in order to educate them on their strengths and weaknesses, thus promoting skills development. Furthermore, it would be useful to compose a specific training scheme for front-line workers with an emphasis on customer service and conflict negotiation. Adhering to the recommendations provided will enable the company to improve the satisfaction of clients with front-line employees’ service. Moreover, it would allow Etisalat to promote employee empowerment across all departments, thus improving employee satisfaction and motivation.

Reference List

Augusto, MCAG, Lisboa, JV & Yasin, MM 2014, ‘Organisational performance and innovation in the context of a total quality management philosophy: an empirical investigation’, Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, vol. 25, no. 9-10, pp. 1141–1155.

Bon, AT & Mustafa, EM 2013, ‘Impact of total quality management on innovation in service organizations: literature review and new conceptual framework’, Procedia Engineering, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 516–529.

Gimenez-Espin, JA, Jiménez-Jiménez, D & Martínez-Costa, M 2013, ‘Organizational culture for total quality management’, Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, vol. 24, no. 5-6, pp. 678–692.

Jiménez-Jiménez, D, Martínez-Costa, M, Martinez-Lorente, A & Rabeh, H 2015, ‘Total quality management performance in multinational companies’, The TQM Journal, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 328–340.

Kahreh, ZS, Shirmohammadi, A & Kahreh, MS 2014, ‘Explanatory study towards analysis the relationship between total quality management and knowledge management’, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 109, no. 1, pp. 600–604.

Sadikoglu, E & Olcay, H 2014, ‘The effects of total quality management practices on performance and the reasons of and the barriers to TQM practices in Turkey’, Advances in Decision Sciences, vol. 2014, no. 1, pp. 1–17.

Appendix 1: Operations Department

Does Etisalat use total quality management in its work? If so, what TQM tools do you use?

Yes, we use TQM in our work to ensure that our products and services are the best in the UAE market. The main tools we use are fishbone analysis, cause and effect theory, and the Five Whys.

In your opinion, how does the TQM approach help Etisalat in achieving excellence?

Each tool we use contributes to excellence in one way or another. For example, fishbone analysis allows determining the source of operational problems. If there is a problem with our product, we can use fishbone analysis to determine the exact stage of development that has to be corrected. The Five Whys allow dealing with more complex problems that seem to be too big to handle. By asking the Why’s, it is possible to determine the one small cause of a big problem.

How do you perceive the overall level of customer satisfaction with the company’s services? If there are any problems, what causes them?

Our levels of customer satisfaction are actually quite outstanding. We have many returning customers who chose our products and services because of great value and reliability. The support services are always available, and the products are reliable, so I cannot think of any significant problems with customer satisfaction.

What approaches are used by HR to increase worker performance?

We encourage the management commitment to service quality (MCSQ) scheme, which promotes the importance of training, empowerment, and rewards in motivating workers. Our HR managers are highly skilled in promoting better employee performance and use these methods to increase motivation and commitment.

Appendix 2: Finance Department

Does Etisalat use total quality management in its work? If so, what TQM tools do you use?

Using total quality management is crucial to ensure efficiency of all internal processes and to promote customer satisfaction. We use fishbone analysis and five whys to resolve any issues arising internally.

In your opinion, how does the TQM approach help Etisalat in achieving excellence?

Different departments use TQM tools differently. Product development workers use it to determine the sources of problems with products, whereas we use it to ensure compliance with the ISO9001 Standards and the EFQM. By upholding the high standards of products, services, and operations, we can maintain business excellence and compete with other companies in the telecommunications sector successfully.

How do you perceive the overall level of customer satisfaction with the company’s services? If there are any problems, what causes them?

Like any large company, we receive a lot of complaints from customers, which do not always indicate the presence of a problem. Most of the times, a brief talk with a technician can solve the client’s concerns. Our overall levels of customer satisfaction are good, which is mostly due to the front-line team and the quality of services we aim to provide.

What approaches are used by HR to increase worker performance?

The key tool used by the HR is training. Every team and department has to attend compulsory internal training once a year. The HR also provides useful guidance and instructions to every new employee to ensure that the induction is smooth.

Appendix 3: HR Department

Does Etisalat use total quality management in its work? If so, what TQM tools do you use?

Yes, we use TQM actively in our work. In the HR department, we use TQM to determine personnel-related problems and solve them. In particular, we apply RADAR to our HR initiatives to allow workers to explore their strengths and weaknesses and to improve productivity.

In your opinion, how does the TQM approach help Etisalat in achieving excellence?

By applying TQM tools to all stages of development, production, service, and operations, we can ensure that the services we provide are consistent and are reliable in meeting customers’ demands. Thus, TQM can improve our popularity among customers, as well as the levels of customer satisfaction. TQM also allows us to strengthen our workplace by improving the workers’ skills, motivation, and knowledge.

How do you perceive the overall level of customer satisfaction with the company’s services? If there are any problems, what causes them?

The overall customer satisfaction with our products is satisfactory. However, there is one weakness that we were not able to address yet. Questionnaire responses and reviews by customers indicate low satisfaction with the work of customer care employees. This is an important problem, as front-line workers are the face of our company. We are currently looking for ways to address the issue with more training and resources.

What approaches are used by HR to increase worker performance?

We are active users of the MCSQ model, which means that we focus on training, empowerment, and rewards for our workers. In the case of customer care workers, empowerment scores and training feedback are quite poor, which might be the source of the problem. However, in all other departments, our HR approach proved to be efficient. We consistently receive positive feedback about our training and rewards schemes, and employee performance has been improving since we adopted the MCSQ approach.

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