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Information Technology Assignment Question
Communications and Network Operations of Westpac:
The main companies to be evaluated under this essay are Westpac Ltd., a multinational banking giant based in Australia, and Foodland, a small retail chain based in South Australia. Regarding Westpac, one of the most important elements to consider when analysing its business communications and the network related elements, is that being a banking company in the financial sector, telephone banking and internet banking are two if the most important communication elements for the company in its interface with the customers. Telephone banking on the part of Westpac requires it to maintain a telephone hotline as well as toll-free telephone numbers for customer to have access 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. To ensure that a customer can always get through to the number without having to wait obviously requires a lot of investment from the company for the purpose of maintaining large numbers of telephonic conversation networks so that the phone lines do not get jammed. Telephone banking in Westpac comes under the department of 'Personal Banking Contacts' revealing the company's quest to personalise its communications networks with regards to customers and banking transactions (Westpac, 2015).
The requirement for business networks and transactions include a strong network system for monitoring of the communications between the authorised employees of the company and the customers. At Westpac the telephonic conversations between the customer service representatives and the customers are recorded for future training purposes. The company monitors how the customer service representatives communicate with the clients on the telephone and training chief handles reviews for the day and then provides feedback for the communication s executives. As has already been mentioned, the telephonic communications of the company fall under the self-declared category of the personal banking contacts. This nomenclature reveals two interesting features of the communications of the company. Personal indicates that the company communicates with each and every client on an individual basis and for this purpose the company ensures that customer queries and enquiries are handled on a personal basis and each customer is assigned an individual representative who maintains constant communication with them. Contacts include the fact that the customers with whom Westpac communicates are the 'contacts' of the company. 'Contacts' of the company means that these people are on the permanent contact list of the company, indicating the desire of Westpac to maintain a comparatively long-term relationship with the customers. Under the Personal Banking solutions and communications provided by the company fall the category of the company's constant communications for maintaining contact for upgradation and service enquiries for debit cards, credit cards, telephonic balance enquiries, etc (Westpac, 2015).
The second channel of the communication strategy and network operations include the corporate online support. This refers to the online communications of the company including the internet based operations and communications of the company. This also indicates the internet banking of the company and also the live chat that assists the customers. The online corporate support is also conducted on a personalised basis for the individually assigned 'relationship managers' of the company who keep in touch with the large corporate or business customers of Westpac's banking services via email, Skype, and live chat. In this context it is also relevant to refer to the fact that frequent 'webinars' are conducted by the company for the purpose of online communications with the target audience as well as for networks operations. Webinars are an innovative and interactive new online communications solution. It is composed of two words 'web' and 'seminar' indicating the requirement to make the conventional seminar hosted on the web, usually via video conferencing and live streaming technology and software applications such as Skype. The requirements for a webinar include the traditional utilisation of the features of a seminar that is web-enabled.
A seminar in the business context would include a mass gathering addressed by a few knowledgeable persons from the company who address the seminar with the intention of informing the audience about some useful facts and features. This is usually conducted by the company for informing the clients about how they can access the services of the company in a better manner. The seminar is usually an interactive session in which after each of the speakers finishes speaking, the audience has the option of asking questions to the speaker in order to clarify some points about what they spoke about. The speaker then notes down each question and answers them individually in order to clarify all doubts. This ensures that the seminar is an effective and interactive two-way communication process. The webinar is thus the online version of the seminar in which representatives of the company, Westpac, deliver speeches or information about some practical aspects to a large crowd around the world over Skype or some other video conferencing technology. The customers can then ask questions over the same video conferencing technology and the representatives answer them. Thus, this is the most recent and innovative form of online communications of Westpac.
Under the personal and corporate banking contacts, Westpac also incorporates the technical support solutions that are a necessity in the increasingly complex technological world of the finance business. Modern technology in this situation includes not just credit card technology but a wide variety of network technology which accompanies modern banking. The whole concept of plastic money is comprised of the use of plastic technology in which data is coded and after swiping, automatically connects to the user's bank account. This involves information technology and software, as well as electronics technology combined with financial management solutions. The data protection technology is also extremely important in this sector as it ensures that the use of the customer's sensitive data which means that highly secure access gateways have to be maintained for usage of PIN numbers, passwords, and other sensitive customer account information. Moreover, a large number of frauds often takes place at the time f swiping or using credit cards or debit cards.
Sometimes inadvertently mistakes happen during swiping of credit cards and debit cards, mainly due to technical errors either in the card or on the swiping machine. A similar situation can occur on debit cards at ATM machines/cash dispensing machines. In all of these wide variety of situations, thr customer care for technical support has to be called in and this requires a high level of communications both within the company as well as with its interface with customers. A customer might call Westpac's customer care and support without knowing what sort of problem it is and which department has the competency to solve it. Herein lies the role of the evaluation of the communications personnel as they have to transfer the call to technical support in case they identify the problem to be a highly technical one requiring the intervention of the technical support team. From then onwards, communicating with the client becomes the responsibility of the technical support division who have to keep in constant communication with the customer in order to ascertain the exact cause and nature of the problem he or she is facing, and then to start working on solutions to that problem.
A high level of communications is required because the technical support has to extract the necessary information from the customer in order to devise their solutions. Moreover, they have to calm down the anxious customers and assure them that their problem is being looked into and would soon be solved. This whole process of solving the technological problems of the customer would involve a significant level of inter-departmental communication and coordination as well because several departments would be involved in solving the problems of the customer. The initial grievance or complaint would be handled by the customer services team, who would inform the same to the technical support team. In the meantime, a copy of the complaint would be forwarded to the financial management team, the supervisorial team, as well as the public relations department, who would have to monitor the situation and how it is being addressed by the frontline executives. Thus, the entire process of technical support at Westpac is an example of how a large organisation conducts both internal and external communications and network operations for the purpose of responding to customer problems and inducing customer satisfaction (Westpac, 2015).
Another communication system and business process at Westpac is the mechanism for reporting lost and stolen cards. This is very important as the process usually involves communicating with the law enforcement agency as well as the Bank's central database. Westpac includes a toll-free number for immediate listing of a lost or stolen credit or debit card and the same is immediately blocked by the company. Aware that such a move could later cause legal complications, the company also communicates with the Law Enforcement agency in order to notify it of a lost or stolen card so that it cannot be later misused by unscrupulous criminal elements or terrorists. Thus, whenever a customer contacts Westpac on the emergency number for reporting a lost or stolen credit card, the company's customer service executives immediately block the card and begin the process of issuing a new one.
Information Technology Assignment Solution
Existing system and the need
At Westpac, multiple channels of communication with the customer exist, which encourage a speedier redressing of customer grievances. There is also multi-agency cooperation and connectivity within the organization that enables departments of different functional specializations to coordinate in order to give the appropriate service to the customer. However, further safety systems can be incorporated into the network elements of Westpac. It was revealed that the customer complaints are mostly handled manually by the customer service representatives and then it is forwarded to the respective departments which can examine the customer's problems thoroughly and address them at length. However, this system requires employing a significant number of employees as customer service representatives who will handle the initial phone calls or emails from the customer. At Westpac, telephone, fax, and email are the primary forms of initial submission of customer complaints. For some urgent reasons like hot-listing or blocking a lost or stolen credit/debit card, there is a toll-free 24-hour service line available. Though these systems have an operational significance, they raise some serious concerns in the form of (Guffey & Loewy, 2015):
· The requirement of a very large number of employees just to handle these phone calls and emails from the customers.
· A huge hierarchy of system just to examine the grievance, decide what to do, and then forward it to the department which can best handle the request leading to a huge service delay.
· Considering that Westpac has almost a million customers in Australia and New Zealand, this would involve the employment of at least 30-40 customer service assistants.
· Considering the high cost of skilled labor in Australia, this is sure to be a very high financial burden on the company.
If the company wishes to retain or maintain the same network elements and communications system and offer the same quality of service, it can be done at a lower cost and with a lower financial burden. This can be done by incorporating an automated software system to handle all customer queries and complaints, involving little to no human intervention.
The incorporation of such a system would involve a software that can accept the client queries, whether in email or phone calls and then evaluate them according to input given by the software programme developers. Following the acceptance of the request, the following changes would take place.
· The software would thoroughly understand the type of customer request based on a statistical study and advanced data analytics. Then there needs to be a generalization if the main types of customer complaints or issues that are likely to come, and these should be organized into several categories. The categories are to be cross-checked by the management and then, any customer complaint that comes into the system will be automatically evaluated and sorted by the software system (Harrington, 2012). The software system will then ensure that after evaluation regarding which category the complaint should be filed, it is automatically forwarded to the specialized department for processing and action.
· So, all of this would require absolutely no human intervention and can be achieved by the company through minimum investment. There would be a significant chunk of investment at the initial phase when ordering, developing, and installing the software system. However, that investment would likely be overcome in a matter of 6 months, and moreover, it would lead to handsome returns from the reduction in the payroll expenses (Dutton, 2005).
· Requests which cannot be fulfilled by internally would be transferred to the concerned third party, and after the closure and resolution, the client would be informed about the same.
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