5.23.2011

Creating and Evaluating Informal & Social Learning Processes in a Call Center

I recently received this comment on my post, Using Kirkpatrick's Four Levels to Create and Evaluate Informal & Social Learning Processes:

“What do you do when the "learners" are new hires? And the "environment" is a real-time call center?”

Using the same process as in the last post (shown below), we start off with the main goal or objective:

Kirkpatrick's Backwards Planning and Evaluation Model

1. Results or Impact - What is our goal?
2. Performance - What must the performers do to achieve the goal?
3. Learning - What must they learn to be able to perform?
4. Reaction - What needs to be done to engage the learners/performers?

1. What is our Goal?

Training new hires is normally performed because proficient ones cannot be recruited. However, using training as the only performance solution is not a good choice as it is normally one of the more costly and time-consuming solutions if done correctly. Thus, when formulating your goal, don't think of training as being the solution or goal, but rather what are the benefits you are looking for. For example:

Our goal is to convert interested callers into extremely satisfied and delighted customers. We will achieve this by providing timely, accurate and professional service at each and every customer contact and answering their questions and inquiries in a timely and professional manner.

The benefit of our goal is to maintain/increase customer satisfaction, which will lead to higher sales.

2. What must the performers do to achieve the goal?

While there are several tasks the employees should be able to perform, a few of them that would lead to higher sales are:

  • Greet customers in a timely, cheerful and professional manner
    • The benefit is to jump start the customers' experience from the moment they call
  • Quickly and accurately find product information
    • The benefit is to show our customers that we are professionals who will take care of their needs
  • Understand the culture, mission and policies of the company in order to make wise and timely decisions
    • The benefit is to not only provide customers with our goods and services, but to also show them we can aid them with difficult problems

3. What must they learn to be able to perform?

In this example we need a Learning Environment (not just training) that will enable new hires to perform correctly in our call center so that it can perform its mission:

Star Diagram of the Continua of Learning

Star Diagram of Learning

click image for a larger version

Note: for more information on the above diagram see:

A number of experiences and activities are then designed for the learning environment that will enable the Customer Service Representatives to perform the three tasks:

Task One: Greet customers in a cheerful and professional manner

Social Learning: The learners will discuss with each other what makes a great Customer Service Representative.

Role Play: This activity will be performed in the classroom where the learners will take turns playing customers and Customer Service Representatives. When a learner is role playing the customer, he or she will be provided a number of scenarios that range from a happy to dissatisfied customer (some sample role playing activities may be found here).

Task Two: Quickly find product information

elearning: Explains the company's database and how to find product and service information.

eLearning Branching Scenarios: This course will take the learners through a number of scenarios for finding information that a customer requests.

Informal Learning: The learners are coupled with experienced employees in order to gain real experience.

Social Learning with Social Media: Employees are connected to a micro-blogging service (e.g. Yammer or Twitter) so that they may ask for and pass on information through a social network.

Task Three: Understand the culture, mission, and policies of the company in order to make wise and timely decisions

eLearning Branching Scenarios: This course is an extension of the last eLearning Branching Scenario in that once a learner finds information that customer requests, he or she then has to go through various scenarios to help the customer make a decision.

Informal Learning: The learners are coupled with experienced employees in order to gain real experience.

Social Learning with Social Media: Employees are connected to a micro-blogging service so that they may ask for and pass on decision making techniques through a social network.

Social Learning with Social Media: Employees are provided a blogging platform that will enable them to find and pass on decision making techniques that may require more detailed information than the micro-blogging service allows — the micro-blogging service is for quick and short bursts of information while the blog is for more complex and detailed information.

Wiki: For storing and retrieving lessons learned.

Note that the learning platform may start with traditional classroom training, but it is blended with elearning and informal learning. In addition it is transformed into a true learning process, rather than an event, in that it is implemented into their daily work flow so that they can continue to not only learn, but help others learn.

4. What needs to be done to engage the learners/performers?

Before the learners enter the learning environment, each learner's respective manager will ensure that the learner understands the importance of the training they are about to receive. In addition, the learners and managers will set goals and discuss potential problems. After the initial elearning and classroom learning programs are completed, the manager will follow-up with the learners and assign them coaches/mentors and follow their progress on a weekly basis.

Evaluating the Learning Platform

Since we know precisely what each part of the Learning Platform was designed to perform, our task of evaluating the program becomes much easier:

Kirkpatrick's Backwards Planning and Evaluation Model

1. Results or Impact (What is our goal?)

Did we achieve higher customer satisfaction? This can also be tied to a hard ROI , such as an increase in sales.

2. Performance (What must the performers do to achieve the goal?)

Can the employees now perform as expected?

3. Learning (What must they learn to be able to perform?)

This is assessed in the elearning programs and discussions with the experienced employees involved in the informal learning sessions.

4. Reaction (What needs to be done to engage the learners/performers?)

The learners managers can provided input on the level of the learner's reaction and engagement of the learning platform.

This backwards planning process can help you pinpoint problems. For example, let's say that you do not get an increase in sales. That means to go back one step and see if the learners are performing as desired. If they are, then that means your initial premise was wrong (greater customer satisfaction does not lead to higher sales) or something else is preventing it, such as your product is priced too high.

On the other hand, if they are not performing as desired, then you have to evaluate the working environment to determine if something is preventing the learners from using their skills, such as processes that are counter-productive to great customer service. If you determine that they should be able to perform, then evaluate the learners to see if they can perform or if something in the learning process is preventing them from learning, such as not enough practice time.

If the learning process is sound, then go back one more step and determine if the learners are engaged. That is, do the have the basic skills that will allow them to master the learning program and/or do they have the motivation and desire to complete the learning program (maybe they see it as a waste of time).

2 comments:

Richards Family said...

Hi Donald, thanks I like your definition of "reaction" as being less about whether learners "enjoyed" the experience and more about whether they are "engaged" because supervisors have clearly set out the importance of the training to the performance of their jobs.
Phil

Unknown said...

Hi Phil,
Thank you. One thing I've come to realize is that while it helps when the learners enjoy the learning experience, the primary driver is that they understand how the new skills and knowledge will be required for their job.