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Is The Cross Training Of Customer Service Effective? The Case At The Nyc Dept Of Education

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Is Cross-Training of Customer Service Staff Effective?

The Case of Integrated Service Center at the NYC Department of Education.

ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND

Currently the organization I am employed with is the New York City Department of Education. The New York City Department of Education is made up of 1,200 schools and is increasing steadily as new public schools as well as charter schools are added each school year.

The school system is now organized into ten regions across the city, each consisting of approximately 120 schools. Each of the ten regions is organized into either three or four community school districts including the high schools geographically included within the boundaries of the region.

Each region houses a Learning Support Center which houses the instructional leadership team for the Region as well as a full service Parent Support Office. There are also six Regional Operational Centers, which provide operational support to schools. In July of 2007 the Department of Education will undergo reorganization in an effort to streamline management and move more money into the classroom. The Regional Operational Centers will still provide operational support to schools but will be called Integrated Service Centers. These centers will be five borough-based centers, supporting six to seven community districts.

The mission statement of the Integrated Service Centers is "to be the source of operational support for schools and programs in the New York City Department of Education. Our goal is to provide comprehensive business and administrative services in a systematic and efficient manner to principals; facilitate effective, smooth management of daily school operations; and build capacity for sustained high performance. Our continual focus is to align services and resources with instructional priorities and school based needs leading to high student achievement." (http://www.nycboe.net/Administration/Organization+of+the+DOE/ROC/)

The Integrated Service Centers will provide mandated and operational services to every public school. They will provide core supports that might otherwise divert principals' energy and focus away from instruction and student achievement. Personnel at the Integrated Service Centers also provide assistance to the Community and High School Superintendents in carrying out their responsibilities.

The services at the Integrated Service Centers will include support in human resources, for example hiring teachers in the correct licensing areas, proper procedures for hiring non pedagogical staff, payroll, budget and procurement, transportation, food services, facilities such as construction of school buildings, maintaining building safety codes, grant management, technology, for instance using smart boards, creating school websites, teaching principals and teachers the new and innovative methods of teaching in the classroom, health and safety, student suspensions when a student must be suspended outside of their home school, youth development and some elements of Special Education.

The service innovation I will be implementing will be at the Integrated Service Center (ISC) in Staten Island, New York. It will support Community School Districts 17, 18,20,21,22 and 31, which consists of 273 schools. The ISC will support 273 principals with their daily operational needs. The Integrated Service Centers will have as a senior management team, an Executive Director, Deputy Executive Director, Director of Operations, Director of Facilities, and the Director of Fiscal Management.

Under the Director of Operations, there will be three Lead Customer Service Representatives, and seven customer service teams made up of four people that will support the principals. The service innovation I will implement will be with one of the seven customer service teams. They are the front line people who answer the phones to support the principals.

By cross training the staff, I hope to decrease the amount of time principals spend on the phone when they call the ISC. I would like to survey the principals and ISC staff to find out the most common reasons principals call the ISC. Currently, phone calls to the ISC center last an average of eleven minutes, three of which are usually spent on hold. The ISC staff is currently made up of the previously listed departments; I would like to implement a customer service team of four people that will be crossed trained in the various service areas the ISC provides. The trainings will provide the staff with basic information in all the areas but the concentration will be in the high need areas once I survey the principals. From my own experience, I expect budgetary concerns will be a high need area. I will train the team that answers the phone in the systems we use called Galaxy and FAMIS so the team is ready to answer questions as opposed to transferring principals or putting them on hold until they find the information. This way the customer service team will be trained an equipped to answer questions. The most common questions are usually in the area of budgetary, human resources and Special Education.

STATEMENT OF RESEARCH

The purpose of the ISC is to support the principal as effectively and efficiently as possible. As an employee of the Department of Education, I know from personal experience that as someone seeking information or assistance of any kind, one can get lost in a web of automated phone systems, transferred calls, or being put on hold until one is disconnected. I also know the frustration of leaving messages that are never returned or the infamous "that is not my job, you have to call someone else."

Principals, who are already overwhelmed and short on time, need to be able to get the help they need so their attention can be on the children. I believe the most effective way to provide efficient and effective support services to the principal, is to train staff to have some basic knowledge in every service we provide so that every team member can answer questions without transferring the call or putting a principal on hold.

I believe that knowledge training to provide full information about every aspect of the service will improve customer satisfaction and shorten the time on the phone when calling for information. This leads me to the hypothesis of my research: Cross Training programs for the staff will decrease the amount of time principals spend on the phone when calling the Integrated Service Center.

Cross training program is the independent variable. The more training the staff receives in the different areas of support the ISC provides, the less time they need to spend on the phone finding

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