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Background of study
Interest in service delivery is increasing in the corporate world and especially in both public and private organizations. This is due in part, to changes in technology and emphasis on maximization of output through increased efficiency and effectiveness (Jerich, 2000). The interest could also be attributed to the competitive nature of business in the current global economy and improved awareness of individuals of their civic rights. Owing to the fact that the world is becoming a global village and people are demanding more and more of effective and efficient services in the ways they are treated as customers, the provision of better services to customers in an organisation remains a priority. According to the 1995 White Paper on Transformation of the Public Service in South Africa (Setsetse & Makansi, 2007), the need to meet customers’ basic needs through improved service delivery is advocated and justified on social and moral grounds, taking into consideration their past history. Improving the delivery of secretarial services in an organisation means addressing the imbalances of the past while ensuring continuity of service delivery with a view to ensuring that customers obtain effective and efficient delivery of secretarial services. Achieving meaningful service delivery is challenging in the combined efforts of attempting to meet the needs of customers within a changing work environment as well as ensuring timeliness under very limited and stressful situation.
Every profession has certain concepts associated with it. The same is true for secretarial services. Nwosu (1998) traced the word “secretary” to the Latin word secretarius meaning a person entrusted with secrets. In the business circle, the term has three broad connotations. Primarily, it is applied to a person:
(a) That is employed to prepare, preserve and transmit all forms of information as well as render stenographic services.
(b) One who serves in certain legal, administrative or accounting capacities as a secretary to a company or a statutory body; and
© someone in-charge of a Local, State or Federal Government department.
In an organisation, secretaries, in addition to the roles enumerated above, attend to administrators, staffs, customers. These categories of persons attended to by secretaries are referred to, in this research, as customers in a general sense. Customers are those who receive the an organisation’ services from secretaries.
For the present study the term “secretary” refers to any person who possesses a mastery of stenography, word-processing, and computer operations skills. In an organisation, this means specifically that the secretary must cover those aspects of service like attending to the needs of customers and is expected to perform to standards that are precise and measurable so that customers can judge by themselves whether or not their expectations are being met. Egboka (2009) described the secretarial profession as the life-wire of every organisation. Secretarial service delivery is an approach which puts pressure on secretaries’ sense of responsibility and commitment in creating and attending to the needs of customers (South African Government, 1997). This pressure makes secretaries put customers first and enables them to account for the services they render. Secretarial service delivery demands that secretaries must find new ways to deliver their services and it must surpass expectations of customers. Secretaries of an organization must address the converging challenges of customers’ sophistication, globalization, competition, and technological innovations while still taking advantage of the market opportunities as they arise (Draper, 2004).
Secretarial customer service involves all the activities which secretaries perform to satisfy customers. In a special way, the service looks at the speed and dependability with which secretaries in an organisation meet and/or exceed customer expectations in their service delivery. It means doing everything possible to satisfy the customer. What makes the job of the secretaries difficult is that they serve two masters, namely, the school customers and their employers (Management Development and Productivity Institute, Accra – Ghana, 2009).
Secretarial service delivery became too cumbersome that the Nigerian government had to introduce a social contract between the Federal Government of Nigeria and her people (SERVICOM) to assess services in all Federal Universities and Polytechnics. This is in line with the desire to ascertain the level of service delivery in all Federal Government agencies (SERVICOM, 2004) to enable such agencies to refocus on improving key areas of service where service deliveries are not satisfactory. As part of the process for commencement of the exercise, the office continuously gathers service charters from the Federal Universities among them, is “Customer’s Charter”. Customer’s charter is a written, voluntary declaration by service providers that highlight the standards of service delivery that they must subscribe to, the availability of choice for consumers, avenues for grievance redress and other related information (Economic Regulation Authority Perth, Western Australia 2006). In simple terms, a Customer’s Charter is an
expression of understanding between the customer and the service provider about the nature of services that the latter is obliged to provide. The Charter is a tool to improve the quality of services, to address the needs of customers’ rights and to set clear standards of performance.
SERVICOM was established in Nigeria because, the public offices for too long have become showcases for combined evils of inefficiency and corruption whilst being impediments to effective implementation of government policies (SERVICOM Document, 2004). SERVICOM is a social contract between the Federal Government of Nigeria and her people. It is an effort geared towards transformation and a dynamic, focused and relatively short-term process designed to fundamentally reshape the public service.
According to Management Development and Productivity Institute, Accra – Ghana (2009) customer service involves all the activities which businesses and employees conduct or perform to satisfy customers. Customer service is the speed and dependability with which an organisation can deliver what customers want. It means doing everything possible to satisfy the customer. Customer’s satisfaction is the hallmark of the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of services. They are interrelated and interdependent. Economic Regulation Authority Perth, Western Australia (2006, August) defines Customer Charter as published statement containing: a list of customer entitlements; details regarding a licensee’s services; and information relevant to the relationship between the customer and the licensee. In fact Customer’s Charters aims at
improving the level of satisfaction of the customer.
Statement of the Problem
Secretaries in the Nigerian public service, of which an organisation in the south eastern states of Nigeria is among, tend to fall short of the expectations of customers in the provision of services. Successive administrations in Nigeria have instituted various administrative reviews and reforms to re-invigorate the public service. Some of these administrative reviews and reforms predate Nigeria’s independence. From the Tudor Davis Commission of 1945 till date, the initiatives range from installing more appropriate structures and conditions of service to issues of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the service and, lately ensuring service delivery improvement.
William and Tiffany (2007) assert that an organisation world-wide face a growing gap between the level of services expected by customers and what customers believe they actually receive. There is also a growing concern that in large and complex organisations such as an organisation, the problem of secretaries’ inefficiency seems to delay the rate of operations and procedures.
Since there seems to be no clear evidence of effective performance of the secretaries this research is therefore an effort to ascertain the level of secretaries’ utilisation of service delivery skills in an organisation by office secretaries. The problem of this study, therefore, is to establish how adequately secretaries in the public service, including those of an organisation in the South Eastern States of Nigeria apply their professional skills to meet the expectations of their customers.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which secretaries in an organisation in the south eastern-states of Nigeria apply interpersonal and resource skills necessary for improving their service delivery. Specifically, the study sought to:
1. Determine the extent to which secretaries in an organisation in the south-eastern states of Nigeria apply interpersonal skills in their service delivery;
2. Assess the extent to which secretaries in an organisation in the south-eastern states of Nigeria apply resource skills in their service delivery;
3. Determine differences in the extent secretaries apply interpersonal and resource skills based on the ownership (Federal, State and privately owned) of their institutions; and
4. Determine differences in the extent secretaries apply interpersonal and resource skills based on their type (universities, polytechnics and colleges of education) of institutions.
The study was guided by the following research questions:
1. To what extent do secretaries in an organisation in the south-eastern states of Nigeria apply interpersonal skills in their service delivery?
2. To what extent do secretaries in an organisation in the south-eastern states of Nigeria apply resource skills in their service delivery?
The following null hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance:
1. Secretaries in federal, state and privately owned organization in the south-eastern states of Nigeria do not differ significantly in the extent they apply interpersonal skills in their service delivery;
2. Secretaries in an organization in the south-eastern states of Nigeria do not differ significantly in their application of resource skills in their service delivery based on institutional ownership;
3. Secretaries in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the south eastern states of Nigeria do not differ significantly in the extent they apply interpersonal skills in their service delivery;
4. Secretaries in an organisation in the south eastern states of Nigeria do not differ significantly in the extent they apply resource skills in their service delivery based on type of tertiary institution;
Significance of the Study
The findings of the study are considered vital in the present reforms for best practices in Nigeria. The outcome of the study should be beneficial to secretaries of an organization in identifying their needs for professional development in service delivery in line with the SERVICOM principles as that will enhance institutions reputation and increase profits.
The findings should sensitize secretaries on Government Reform process and its implications for their institutions. It will also provide an insight into the extent to which secretarial roles and responsibilities may have changed due to the changes in technology.
The findings of this study, if implemented, will help in curricular development of business education programs, plans and organisation of in-service training for secretaries in their areas of need.
Scope of the Study
This study was to assess the role of secretaries as tool for enhancing the quality of services rendered by government establishment in the five South-Eastern States of Nigeria, namely Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States. The study focused on interpersonal and resource skills of secretaries in an organization in the zone.
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