The problems with an entire work force staffed from an agency

Posted by watchmen
July 10, 2017
Posted in OPINION

While recently shopping for sinks at a local mall, was reminded of one of the biggest culture clashes experienced when moving to the Philippines. Even first arriving and having to shop for household appliances, it became apparent that the customer service representatives at various stores across the city were all hired through a staffing agency and directly employed with the store. One employee indicated he signs for a few months at a time and, later, saw him selling at a different store in town – his contract was up with one and he was transferred to another location.
For a while, there did not seem to be an issue with the practice, however, it is a very different scenario in the United States.
Typically, if a company hires through an agency it is because there may be one or two positions that need to be filled, not to populate an entire staff. And the individual hired begins on a temporary basis, a “temp,” and, if they do a good job, it could land a permanent position with the company.
In the Philippines, it would appear employees just wait for their contract to run out before seeking work elsewhere, the employer does not look at the prospect of a permanent employee, they just prepare for a new batch of workers to stand around the store.
One of the first problems encountered was many employees were not knowledgeable of their own products. Besides the few hired as a promotions salesperson, many times, when inquiring about a product, the salesperson just reads from the box – any customer can do the same thing. The reason salespeople are there is to provide information the customer would not otherwise gather form merely observing what is written on the packaging. If all they are doing is reading from the box, or running to an associate, that person is completely useless in the field.
Another issue occurred during the most recent shopping trip when at a local hardware store was browsing the selection of sinks and not one salesperson approached. Even making eye contact with a few, nobody stepped forward. There were a couple a few aisles away, hidden towards the rear, chatting. There were a few more applying their makeup and giggling. Yet, nobody seemed to have the time to attend to customers – not that there were many in the store, they had just opened.
During a visit to Seoul, South Korea last year, visited a local mall and experienced an entirely different style of customer service – even beyond the United States.
Upon arrival at the Lotte Duty Free department store in the Myeongdong district at the store’s opening, even before entering, supervisory staff lined up along the door and offered a greeting and bowed before unlocking the doors. Once inside, the first stop was a visit to the cosmetics area, which was organized by brand. Had seen customer service scenarios in a Korean drama before, one of the characters worked in a department store and she stood in one spot with a colleague, waiting for customers – while standing at attention and looking forward, they would have conversations.
It was a bit of a surprise to see that is exactly how it operates; passing each section, customer service representatives would bow and greet “Annyeonghaseyo (Hello).” Got to the Chanel section and immediately received a similar welcome and was attended to by one of the associates – a far cry from the experience shopping for sinks.
There was another instance while shopping at a local mall for drinking glasses. The store seemed to have nobody walking around the vast sales floor. There were some cashiers and people working other sections, but in the flatware and dishware section, it was desolate. Browsed around and found an area filled with boxes. Looked around and found about four sale associates behind the boxes chatting – they had no idea they had been spotted and carried on with their conversation (or maybe they knew and just did not care).
The apparent laziness, or aversion to doing their job, is one of the side effects of hiring through an agency.
When hiring directly with the company, employees have a sense of commitment. They were hired with a specific task and if they work hard there is the potential of moving up within the company. The possibility of more influence and more money is what drives people to succeed at their job.
If a company hires purely out of an agency, there is none of that drive.
Workers know they will only be at a certain position for a few months then they will be transferred somewhere else. With those circumstances, there is no desire to be attentive because it is all based on a contract and not merit; hiding from customers to engage in conversation occurs because there is likely no repercussions since they are not full-fledged representatives of the company, those higher up will just wait for the next batch; and without the opportunity of long-term job security, the motivation to work hard in order to stay with the company is nonexistent.
At the root of it all, companies hire through agencies because it saves them a lot of money. Hiring direct requires them to invest in a more expansive human resources division that both does hiring and evaluates employee performance. These performance evaluations may lead to higher pay and promotions for their employees – all of it resulting in more overhead for the company.
Unfortunately, with most companies looking to their profits over providing satisfactory customer service, the country will be left with an unmotivated staff of customer services representatives and a retail sector offering no opportunity of mobility./WDJ

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