Don’t Forget the Learning Function in your Customer Experience Improvement Effort

Today, the customer experience is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In many industries, it is an elusive goal.  Industries where this is most challenging have a lot in common.  Most importantly, the work of their contact center is often complex.  The transactions are no longer, and maybe never have been simple.  Think healthcare.

Yet, the hardest part of is how to get there? What objectives and goals are achievable quickly, and which ones will take time.

Operational assessments are frequently done in contact centers to drive and move metrics like handle time.  Those assessments and the work that comes from such an assessment are important.

Assessing how a contact center adds or detracts from the member experience is a bit more complex.  Any assessment of the customer experience requires an operational performance thinking approach.

So where do you start?

Start by completing an assessment of your contact center. Look at performance metrics, agent centered metrics, processes, dependencies outside of the contact center, how technology enables the customer service function, and the learning function. I could write for days about each of these items you want to look at to create a comprehensive view, but let’s focus on one that is often an afterthought: the learning function.

The learning experience holds the key to creating meaningful change.

It’s not enough to think about learning as the vehicle to communicate the changes that come out of an assessment.  Spend time looking at the learning function itself.  It will be telling.  As you take a close look at your contact center training programs, look for these success indicators:

  • Engages agents more than 50% of the total timeframe
  • Dedicates at least 25% of total time to contact simulations performed by EVERY trainee
  • Articulates your industry with simplicity by teaching critical topics independently and in concert with each other
  • Creates building blocks that get broken down and put back together again and again
  • Focuses on how to translate knowledge into explanations that a customer can understand
  • Facilitates rather than lectures

If you aren’t seeing these indicators in your evaluation, it is likely that the learning function itself needs some focus and attention because it is likely contributing to the customer experience challenge.  Addressing these opportunities is good for operations on many levels. Namely, shoring up the learning function can produce an operational ROI that funds other improvements outside of the learning function including:

  • Reduction in training time
  • Reduced learning curve
  • Earlier identification of non-performers
  • Reduced attrition

Your measure of ROI should include performance measures improvements

  • Improved First Contact Resolution
  • Improved Net Promoter/CSAT
  • Reduction of complaints
  • Reduced Performance Penalties

To achieve your objectives and goals, create a roadmap that leverages ROI savings to improve needed tools and create a more positive employee and customer experience. Assessments that change the customer experience are complex, but critical.  As you proceed through your own assessment, don’t forget the learning function.  Time focused there will have a multiplier effect in your contact center, with your agents, and with your customers!

Jenny Graham, co-founder of Zelus LLC, is an expert in operational performance and excellence with over 15 years of experience developing and implementing innovative operational strategies to improve overall business performance and utilization. 

Translating Industry Jargon in the Contact Center begins with Learning Design

Organizations work tirelessly to create and operate contact centers that provide an exceptional member experience.  That exceptional experience is the face of their brand.  It’s never easy.  And it can be particularly challenging when the contact center is supporting a complex good or service.  Complex contact centers and the agents that work in them are usually subjected to increased levels of industry and technical jargon.  Our agents are almost always new to the industry and the task of ingraining industry jargon in how they understand the work they do is even more difficult.  In reality, you rarely want your agents to use that jargon on the customer.  So, to the agents we say: “Learn the jargon, understand it completely, and then make it sound much simpler to customer”.  If memorization isn’t the answer, what is?

Enter the learning design team.  It is the job of the designer to focus on helping agents absorb the industry jargon in the way they will be expected to use it on the job.

  1. Build the foundation. Teach the industry fundamentals and weave the vocabulary into the work the agent will do every day.
  2. Give them the words that get the job done. Provide tools and techniques to help agents communicate with customers without the jargon.
  3. Make it a package deal.  Don’t isolate industry fundamentals from communication when practicing. Allow the agents to practice the path for how the work should be done.

In Zelus’ PACE program, we do just this.  PACE teaches contact center agents in healthcare payer industry how to deliver an exceptional member experience.  As an example,  in PACE we use this approach to re-imagine how medical terminology is delivered for this audience.

First, we build the foundation.  We take the mystery of how to define medical terms by breaking down the words into smaller chunks; the prefix, root word, and suffix.  When the terms are broken down into smaller pieces, the definition of each part helps you to understand the term.  Do you know what Pericarditis is?  You can figure it out easily by reviewing the prefix, root word, and suffix.

Next, we give them the words. In PACE’s medical terminology training, we review medical terminology by system of the body. By covering the different system in a body (i.e. circulatory, nervous system, musculoskeletal, etc.), PACE provides what each system does for the body and provides context for what may be happening and needed by a healthcare provider to provide a friendlier message to the customer.

Finally, we tie it all together.  We deliver real-life scenarios, or episodes of care, from diagnosis to treatment.  The real-life scenario; include what the symptoms or scenarios members face with these diagnoses, the type of doctor the member would require treatment from and the common treatments that doctors recommend. This provides the agents with the ability to absorb what may be happening around the member and use friendlier terms that the individual would understand.

These three simple steps can work in virtually any industry.  Enhancing your contact center training should always be top of mind when looking at the member experience.  When it comes to removing industry jargon, it is absolutely critical.


Authors: Rita Reinhagen and Kristin Meyer

Evaluating Learning Programs

In the February issue of TD magazine (Talent Development by ATD), my article: “5 Signs that a Learning Program Needs to Go” was featured.  Here is the link to the article.

Only 5 signs made the cut in the article, but I wanted to share a few more that were left on the cutting room floor.

  1. The path to proficiency when training is completed is long.  This is another red flag that there may be misalignment in the design of the course as compared to business objectives.
  2. The course was built to support a new system implementation.  Chances are good that teaching the course in its original form will never meet the business need if it’s been more than three months since go-live.  In truth, this content should be integrated into training to align to the workflow once go-live is complete.
  3. The reality of the workforce’s geography does not match the delivery mode.  Course delivery modes need to shift to remain aligned to the workforce as it becomes virtual or distributed.  When shifting delivery modes, it is prudent to build content to fit the mode, rather than retrofitting content from another mode.

What are your other tell-tale signs?  I’d love to hear them!

Jenny Graham, co-founder of Zelus LLC, is an expert in operational performance and excellence with over 15 years of experience developing and implementing innovative operational strategies to improve overall business performance and utilization. 

Tips to Evaluate Your Training Program

Last fall, I facilitated a session titled “Kill a Bad Option: Stopping a Learning Program” at the Masie Foundations Annual Conference: Learning 2017.  The session was a dialogue about establishing a framework and barriers to ‘executing’ such a framework. The crowd agreed overwhelmingly, that killing a bad training program is necessary and hard to do.  I was thrilled when the Association for Talent Development reached out to me to author a ‘quick tips’ article on the same topic. Here is a link to the article.

Continue reading “Tips to Evaluate Your Training Program”

Business Architects Close Implementation Gaps

The Challenge
Businesses today are swept up in widespread change and market disruption. Technology changes including the advent of social media are forcing companies to embrace an ever-increasing pace of change. Communicating with customers can occur any time, any place, and any medium. Organizations must create broad new visions to keep up with this fast-changing environment. System implementations or enhancements are often used in the midst of prevalent change to help bring these new visions to life.

Continue reading “Business Architects Close Implementation Gaps”