Assessing Product Knowledge of Frontline Staff in the ODL Institution: a Survey of How Much Knowledge ZOU Frontline Staff has about the Service they are offering to Learners
The aim of this study was to evaluate the level of product knowledge of the Zimbabwe Open University frontline staff. The study as well evaluated the information needs and resource requirements of the University frontline staff. It was hoped that the findings of this study would help to enhance the effectiveness of the University in responding effectively to stakeholder enquiries. It was also hoped that implementation of the study’s recommendations would enhance the image of the ZOU brand through quality frontline service. The study employed a descriptive research design. Questionnaires were used as the main data gathering instruments. Respondents were selected randomly from the 10 ZOU Regional Centres and the National Centre. The study revealed that ZOU frontline staff had a general appreciation of the institution’s products including the learner administration process. It was also discovered that the information frontline staff had was not always up to date. Students often received information before staff and staff frequently relied on outdated policy documents which often resulted in inconveniencies for both frontline staff and students. Service provision was also hampered by inadequate resources mainly stationery and communication infrastructure. The study also revealed that ZOU frontline staff had highly motivated individuals who shared the same vision with the institution and were willing to offer quality service consistently to their clients. They had basic education qualifications, but few had studied public relations and customer relationship management. The study recommends that the University should develop learner administration documents which cover frequently asked questions on Academic Registry procedures. The University should also develop standard customer relationship management and public relations policy documents and develop these skills in employees through workshops.
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