Developing Effective Customer Service Employees through Action Re-search: A Malaysian Local Authority Experience

  • Peter Songan Faculty of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, UNIMAS
  • Elizabeth Loh Faculty of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, UNIMAS
  • Abang Ehsan Abang Othman Faculty of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, UNIMAS
Keywords: Customer service, action research, on-the-job training, local authority


Launching a hotline service is just one stage in the process of dealing with customers.  Crucial to meeting its objectives is the development of human resources to implement the hotline.  This is to ensure that quality and standard are demonstrated in order to justify its existence.  This paper presents the findings and reflection of an action research intervention to improve the Hotline Complaint Service of a local authority, the Kuching City South Council in Sarawak, Malaysia.  The action research process in this study involved five mini cycles of planning, acting, observing and reflecting. Visits, participant observations, interviews and questionnaires were used in the data collection process.  The data were analyzed using content analysis, and the findings validated through triangulation methods.  The findings suggest that there was still room for improvement in the Council’s Complaint Service.  An on-the-job experience for the hotline staff was implemented during which a guideline called the “13 Basic Principles in Effective Telephone Handling”; a “Handbook” on services provided by the Public Cleansing Division; and “Form A” were created and implemented.  This study shows that action research is an important component of human resource development interventions that provides employees the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills through on-the-job experience to improve their performance and enhance the efficiency and productivity of their organization.


Altricher, H., Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R., & Zuber-Skeritt, O. (1990). Defining, confirming or refining ac-tion research. In O. Zuber-Skeritt (Ed.), Action research for change and development. Brisbane: CALT, Griffith University.

Abraham, S., Arnold, G., & Oxenbeery, R. (1996). The self-discovering organisation: Fusing action research to the learning organisation. Paper presented at a conference on "Building a Learning Organisation through Action Learning and Action Research," Singapore, 25-26 October 1996.

Bunning, C. (1994). Action research: An emerging paradigm. Brisbane: The Tertiary Education Institute.

Burns, R. B. (1997). Introduction to research method. Melbourne: Longman Publisher.

Cunningham, J. B. (1993). Action re-search and organisational devel-opment. London: Praeger Publisher.

Cook, S. (1992). Customer care: Im-plementing total quality in today's service driven organisation. Lon-don: Kogan Page Ltd.

Edvardsson, B., Thomasson, B., & Ov-retveit, J. (1994). Quality of ser-vice: Making it really work. Berkshire: McGraw Hill Book Co.

Fahim Huda. (1995). Service quality management in residential and nurs-ing care homes. The Total Quality Management Magazine, 7 (6), pp. 43-51.

Garcia, L. (1992). A 1992 profile of 800 numbers of customer service. SOCAP 800 Number Study, pp. 1-22.

Hart, E., & Bond, M. (1987). Action research for health and social care. Birmingham: Open University Press.

Hinton, T., & Schaeffer, W. (1994). Customer focused quality: What to do on Monday morning. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

IDS. (1995). The customer is always right. IDS Study, pp. 1-20.

Kearney, E. J., & Bandley, M. J. (1990). Everyone's a customer. Kuala Lumpur: Golden Books Centre Sdn. Bhd.

Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (1988). The action research planner. (3rd ed.). Melbourne: Deakin University Publisher.

LeBoeuf, M. (1987). How to win cus-tomers and keep and keep them for life. London: Piatkus Publishers.

Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems, in G.W. Lewin (Ed.) Resolving Social Conflicts. New York: Harper & Row (1948).

Lytle, J. F. (1993). What do your cus-tomers really want? Here's a sure way to find out. Kuala Lumpur: Golden Books Centre Sdn. Bhd.

Walker, D. (1990). A strategy for quality service. Hants: Gower Publishing Co. Ltd.

Williams, T. (1996). Dealing with cus-tomer complaint. Hampshire: Gower Publishing Co. Ltd.

How to Cite
Songan, P., Loh, E., & Abang Othman, A. E. (2016). Developing Effective Customer Service Employees through Action Re-search: A Malaysian Local Authority Experience. Journal of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, 2(1), 61-75.