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What I learned running 60 classes on CX values and Culture for one Client

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share what I learned running 60 classes on CX values and Culture for one Client – a major telecoms provider in Asia.

Some background

Three years ago I won a Corporate tender to deliver a customized CX values and Culture workshop cross every single employee of a telecoms provider in Asia.

I’ll start by saying the Client was terrific and focused on Customer-centricity.  Their mission for the workshops was to promulgate their newly selected values across each and every member of the company.

We decided to develop and deliver 2 versions of a full day workshop.

One designed specifically for the folks that dealt with Customers – ‘the Frontline’.   People who worked in Retail, the Contact Centre or specialty roles directly serving the Customer such as the VIP Queue.

We designed a second version specifically for the folks that worked in background or support functions – ‘the Backline’.  People from HR, Marketing, Operations, Legal, Procurement, IT, Finance and the like.

We kept class sizes manageable to allow for interaction and scheduled about 60 runs over a 2 year period.

Each and every workshop was super well received – there wasn’t one group where people didn’t respond positively and well.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t any questions or concerns.  As you’ll see we wanted questions and concerns.

Here are some of the things I learned.

 

Help folks be proud of where they work

The Client Team I worked with was amazing.  Amongst the many contributions they made to the success of the workshops was to develop an in-house video that shared the history, some of the famous advertising moments, the accomplishments achieved and the awards won.

As we tabulated the comments and themes across the sessions we found a regular comment (paraphrased) to be:

Thanks for reminding me of what a great place this is.  I was proud to see our accomplishments across the years.

I know I know.  You’ve got an Awards case that shows off all your trophies.

I know I know.  They could see your achievements in the newspaper or the company newsletter or even featured in an industry magazine.

But part of successful culture change is this.

You don’t go into the room to tell folks how ‘bad’ they are or how ‘bad’ things are out there.  That’s not a really great way to motivate change.

We took the approach that the world is changing and what brought us here wasn’t going to get us there.  But that didn’t mean we couldn’t celebrate who we were and what we had accomplished and take that forward.

Lesson learned:  We work in a great place – let’s take some time to celebrate that.  Culture change is part of our success for the future – not a reflection of a failure from the past.

 

Buzzwords are less understood than you might think

We set aside part of the session to cover some terms and let everyone talk about what they meant.

Terms like Omnichannel, Big Data, Digital Transformation.  Even terms like Customer Service and Customer Experience.

I think in some companies it’s just assumed that people have a common understanding of terms like these.

But that’s just not true.

Participants shared that they weren’t really ‘fluent’ in buzzwords and appreciated going through what these things mean – and their specific relevance to their company and even their specific job roles.

I think shared accomplishments require a shared vocabulary.  What is our definition and meaning around Big Data?  What is our definition and meaning around Customer Service?

If you just throw around buzzwords without having defined specifically what they mean to you and your organization you just leave people confused.

Lesson learned:  Buzzwords are just that.  You need to contextualize their meaning for your ambitions and your organization.  In this day and age we’re all a little tired of constant buzzword bombardment.

What behaviours do Customer Experience professionals display?

Give people a chance to express their concerns

I think one of the smartest things we did was build a formal way for Participants to express their their concerns.

We used the term ‘barriers’. As in, what specifically, in your job role, holds you back from achieving these values.

Over the course of nearly 2 hours. Participants worked together, documented and then formally presented their barriers to the entire group.

The best part of being a Facilitator is just that – facilitation.  The point was to let the experts in the company – the people who worked there – talk about their work lives and the values they had been asked to consider.

People got heated, passionate and a few of the Presenters should consider a career in public speaking – it was that well done.

It’s a fascinating process to watch Marketing people talk to Finance people about their challenges.  And Retail people sharing with Contact Centre people about how theirs.  And then sharing their viewpoints with their colleagues.

From an analysis standpoint we gathered and aggregated very single barrier expressed across the totality of the workshops – and organized them by department.  By the time the sessions were done we had a master list of barriers which allowed for analysis, prioritization and action.

Lesson learned:  Don’t avoid talking about what is going to get in the way.  Bring the barriers front and center.

 

As a Facilitator share what the values mean to you

I made it a point to only ‘commandeer’ the session for about 45 minutes in the morning – immediately after the morning warm-up.

Rather than blah blah on how important values are (boring) I used that time to shared my personal opinion on each value.

And with each opinion I attached a story.

So if the value was – let’s say – ownership – I expressed what ownership meant to me and then shared a funny story on ownership (or lack of it) that I’d experienced in my work.  Something that brought ownership to life.

What I learned a long time ago is that while loyal long-term Employees are great – their worldview is very company specific which can be inherently limiting.

While the Client could have clearly used internal Facilitators to conduct the  2-year engagement, one of their main decision points was the need to expand the worldview of their Participants – and that required someone from the outside.

If you’re a Facilitator who gets to work in values-based programs – be brave – share your own worldview.

And even if you work at X organization try to find stories that help Participants expand their worldview.  You’ll have plenty of time to focus back on your own organization throughout other parts of the workshop.

Lesson:  Earnestness and preachiness don’t work really well in values driven programs.  Storytelling and treating adults like adults works a lot better.

10 CCXP Exam Practice Questions

Be realistic about what happens in a values-based workshop

At the outset I was clear about what I expected would happen to people as they passed through our day together.

My main job was to help them understand the values.  Through storytelling, humor and reflection help them grasp and feel why these values were important.

But the next two ‘steps’ belonged to the Participants.

After understanding comes belief.  What I call the “I buy this” step.

But I’m very clear with Participants.  No one can make anyone believe anything.

I can’t force belief compliance. 

I had a very interesting tender presentation with another organization where they specifically asked me how I could make their people believe the prescribed values (in one day).  They kept asking me – “How will you do it?”

I said I couldn’t.  Because that’s true.

Do you really want a room full of people at the end of the day who ‘fake’ enthusiasm and give thumbs up in the group photo only to then roll their eyes and go back to work in the same old way?  I didn’t get that deal – but I think I dodged a bullet there.

But with that said belief matters.

I wanted the our workshop day to flow in such a way that belief had every opportunity to be considered. I had an objective that by the end of the day, the believers would beconfident in their beliefs and those a bit further down the scale – those mulling it all over – would be willing to consider their depth of belief anew.

The final step – and the one that all organizations want – is action.

Once I believe in something – let’s say ownership – I act that way.  I make it part of who I am and what I do.

It becomes a choice.  That’s where the magic lives.

Lesson:  Don’t walk into a values-based workshop with the mindset that you can force, preach or cajole people to believe.  Different people have different motivations.  Design the workshop in such a way that you encourage the willingness to believe.

 

In closing

It was an honor and one of the highlights of my career to have been part of such an important journey.  And to meet so many hundreds of people who care.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

daniel.ord@omnitouchinternational.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to help your Contact Centre Team Leaders do better

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share some ideas on how to help your Contact Centre Team Leaders do better.

Common barriers to Team Leader success

The Contact Centre Team Leader has arguably the most important job in a Contact Centre.  Their actions or inactions directly impact productivity, quality & culture.

But the cards tend to be stacked against their success.

Why?

As with any Pareto scenario, I think a few reasons account for most of the challenge:

  1. Senior Leadership sets or pursues the wrong KPIs
  2. Team Leaders are always busy but don’t know how to allocate their time to achieve results
  3. What made someone a great Agent doesn’t readily translate to making them a great Team Leader
  4. The job role requires endless conversations – but they don’t happen often enough or well enough
  5. There’s a fundamental lack of structured know-how for the Team Leader to draw on to make decisions

The mix and relative impact of these barriers varies from Centre to Centre.

So let’s look at each barrier along with some related suggestions.

 

1. Senior leadership sets or pursues the wrong KPIs

I see this challenge all over the world.  A lack of essential Operations know-how.

Chasing incorrect KPIs or KPIs that actually compete with each other.

The only way to close this gap is to ensure that the senior leadership in charge of the Centre has expressly mastered Contact Centre operations.  That most often happens through participation in formal external workshops or certification programs.

Don’t count on experience alone.  I hear that all the time as in “She’s an experienced Contact Centre Manager.”

Experience matters.  But success requires experience + know-how.

One Client I worked with globally established an in-house ‘certification program’ after adopting the various principles and practices learned via external training.  Their in-house certification ensures that what they learned about operations gets codified into their business practices across dozens of Centres.

Delivering on Productivity, Quality & Culture is the big part of the Team Leader job.

So it’s important that Centre leadership be clued in to how Centres ‘work’ and how to define and set appropriate Productivity and Quality measures for Frontliners & Team Leaders.

That’s not always the case.

How to help your Contact Centre Agents improve their Performance

 

2.  Team Leaders are always busy – but busy doing what?

I remember in my VP Operations days I had a Team Leader come into my office.

“Dan, I’m so busy…”  so I asked “OK, busy doing what?”

We then set about finding out the answer to this question – busy doing what?

To this day one of my favorite exercises in a room of Team Leaders is to conduct a time & motion study – across a typical week – of where their time goes.

The 5 Categories of the Team Leader job role

When I conduct a formal Team Leader time & motion study, I use 5 different categories to categorize and then analyze where their time goes.

  • Developing their staff
  • Supporting their staff
  • Doing administrative & management work
  • Developing themselves
  • Other roles such as taking on the role of committee head

I ask each Team Leader to consider everything they do, estimate a weekly time spent on each activity and then slot each activity into one of the 5 categories.

Then we sum up the time for each category and share the results on a whiteboard for everyone to see.

When you talk to Team Leaders (and their Managers) they all say that they spend a lot of time developing their staff – coaching, performance appraisals, developmental conversations.

But when the numbers are laid out – Team Leader by Team Leader in black and white – that’s not usually how it plays out.

What the results tell us

I’ve had time & motion sessions where we learned that nearly 50% of Team Leader time spent was spent on administrative & management work.   Is all this admin work really valuable?  Could some it be redesigned, reassigned or even eliminated?  I worry about turning Team Leaders into admins.

When it comes to personal development I tend to see 0% of Team Leader time spent in a typical week.  You can shout lifelong learning from the rooftops all day – but check out how many hours in a typical week your Team Leaders really learn something.   It’s an eye opener.

Another common opportunity that pops up is to help Team Leaders figure out if they’re offering too much Staff support. 

My definition of Staff support is helping the Frontliners to do their job.

Handling too many escalations or fielding the same questions over and over means the Team Leader is doing the Agent job for them.  And that takes away the Team Leader’s time for Staff development.

Sure – Staff support will always be intrinsic to the job.

But time invested in Staff support – over and above a tolerable minimum – isn’t going to move the Team forward.

Another interesting trend has popped out during these time & motion sessions.

Sometimes, when Staff development hours look low, we uncover that Team Leaders avoid having developmental conversations with their staff.

Not because they don’t see them as important.  But because they lack the self-confidence to coach or have those important people management discussions.

That can be addressed.

When you coach you’re either helping or keeping score

3.  Great performance as an Agent doesn’t readily translate into great performance as a Team Leader

It’s an irony of the Contact Centre ecosystem that the knowledge, skills & attitudes of a great Agent don’t readily translate into the knowledge, skills & attitudes required of a great Team Leader.

If you consider that the job of a former great Agent is to replicate their personal success across other people you can see what they need to know and be able to do is quite different than before.  Their job role becomes about ‘them’ – not about ‘me’ anymore.

There’s also a bit of psychology at play here as well.

We all like to do what we’re good at.

So sometimes the new Team Leader spends an inordinate amount of time handling escalations and engaging in Staff support – because that’s where their formery mastery lay.

Defusing angry Customers and using their product, systems and organizational know-how.

But as we covered earlier, Staff support – though an intrinsic part of the job role – doesn’t move the performance dial forward.

So evaluate your Team Leader hiring criteria on what it takes to be a great Team Leader.  Not on the fact that this candidate was a great Agent.

When I’m hiring for Team Leaders I always ask myself these questions:

1.  What are the specific competencies across knowledge, skills & attitudes I need from a new Team Leader hire?  And what are the minimum existing levels of each competency to be considered for hiring?  I have to be realistic here because – at hiring – nearly no one will come with all the competencies expected nor at the levels expected for a professional Team Leader.

2.  What is my defined developmental roadmap to raise my Team Leader competency levels  – across the identified competencies – to expectation within the next 6 months or year? 

I think a lot of Contact Centres struggle with this.

There seems to be an assumption that the Team Leader can just somehow pick this all up on the job.

Or perhaps it’s inertia – doing nothing is just easier than doing something.  Hope as a strategy.  I’ve been guilty of that one.

One common scenario involves corporate learning & development departments.

Contact Centres are unique and specialized environments.  Trying to graft generic service or people management or leadership training onto the Contact Centre delivers mixed results at best.  Because it’s not specific enough to the environment in which these Team Leaders operate.

More on competencies soon.

Funny things Contact Centre Managers ask their Agents to do

 

4.  Team Leaders need to have lots of great conversations

If the Agent job role is to have great conversations with Customers, then the Team Leader job role is about having great conversations with the folks that they lead.

What kinds of conversations?  Wow – there are a lot – but they can be learned.

I like to cover them in people management & coaching courses.

Here is a list conversations that are specific to the Contact Centre environment and which are most often conducted by Team Leaders:

  • Praise
  • Gratitude
  • Something ‘good’
  • Something ‘not so good’
  • It’s not getting any better
  • Transaction coaching
  • Performance appraisal
  • Team reviews
  • One on one reviews
  • Boss as Leader
  • Boss as Person
  • Boss as Manager
  • Things you don’t talk about (the un-conversation)

Each of these conversations is triggered by an event or is pre-planned into a calendar.  For example Team & One on one reviews and many coaching sessions tend to be pre-scheduled while Praise or Something Good conversations happen when the Team Leader either observes something or learns about something.

As you might have figured out – most of these conversations fall into the Staff development category we covered earlier in this article.

But when Team Leaders are ‘too busy’ – the first category that gets ‘cut’ is Staff development.  Exactly the category which typically needs more time spent – not less.

How Team Leaders can talk like Leaders

 

5. Team Leader know-how

The Contact Centre environment is complex.

I think that’s why folks like me – who fall into it by accident –  end up making the Contact Centre and Customer Experience, a life’s passion.  There’s only ever more to learn and it’s super interesting stuff.

It’s not easy.  But Tom Hanks says that it’s ‘the hard that makes it great’.

If you want to equip your Team Leaders to succeed you need to consider equipping them with know-how across these domains:

  • Contact Centre Operations – there’s simply no excuse not to equip Team Leaders with operations mastery
  • Monitoring & Coaching – this process is key to driving Quality, FCR, Employee Engagement, Customer Satisfaction and CX strategies
  • Leadership & Engagement – what does leadership look like as a Team Leader?  How can a Team Leader use proven engagement models in their Centre?
  • People Management – for me this is about having those great conversations with the people who work for you at the right times and in the right way
  • Customer Experience – if your Centre promotes itself as fulfilling the ‘Customer Experience’ your folks deserve training on what it is (and it’s not Customer Service)
  • Self-Management – stress management, personal fulfillment, working through change – these are life skills

When your Team Leader is able to bring out the best Productivity, Quality & Qttitudes of the folks that work for them that translates into better results all the way around for you.

Thank you for reading!

Contact Centre KPIs & The Green Jaguar

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Email Writing Tips for better Customer Experience – the Ritz Carlton, Santa Barbara

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article we share specific email writing tips for better Customer Experience and Service Recovery using a real case study at the Ritz Carlton, Santa Barbara.

The Ritz Carlton Hotels.

From their webpage:

100 years of history. Countless rewards. With an unshakeable credo and corporate philosophy of un-wavering commitment to service, both in our hotels and in our communities, The Ritz-Carlton has been recognized with numerous awards for being the gold standard of hospitality.

Santa Barbara, California.

The city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara’s climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city is referred to as the “American Riviera”.

So, the expectations for service at the Ritz Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, California are understandably high.

The situation

On a recent holiday in the U.S. I spent time with my sister Diana who lives and has her business in Santa Barbara.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

One evening she turned to us and said – let’s have a leisurely dinner at The Ritz Carlton Bacara tonight – to which we all emphatically nodded yes.

The following day, my sister sent a detailed email to the Ritz Carlton to share on our experience.

The purpose of this article is not to complain about service.

I’m not a fan of articles where Customer Service experts write to vent frustration or unhappiness under the guise of promoting Customer experience.

My intention in this article is to share email writing tips for better Customer experience and Service recovery efforts.

The email exchange with the Ritz Carlton provided a perfect and personal case study.

Here is the email my sister (the Customer) sent

Good Morning,

I am writing because I felt compelled after a bumpy visit to the resort yesterday in Santa Barbara and I thought it would be helpful for your managerial staff to be made aware of so many missed opportunities for our visit to have been special.

I have family in town from Singapore and Germany and felt a visit to the Bacara would cap off their trip spectacularly.

I made reservations for the Bistro at 5:30 to enjoy a leisurely time outside during a typically slow time for restaurants.

An hour after the reservation was made, Stephanie called from the Bistro and left a message to inquire whether we would want inside or outside, which I appreciated.

I called back a few minutes after her message and couldn’t reach anyone in the Bistro for a few tries (the PBX call bounced back to the operator).

When I reached her, I verified that we would be outside and see her in an hour and a half.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

We parked in valet and entered the lobby where an absolutely spectacular floral arrangement greeted us. This was going to be great.

We reached the Bistro and the hostess stand was empty.

We waited a few minutes and Stephanie came up and greeted us and led us to our reserved table for four which was only set for three.

We sat and several minutes later the fourth setting arrived.

Approximately 10 minutes later bread arrived but no bread plates, so we waited another 10 minutes to give our order and at that point asked for bread plates.

Our Server was sweet but only came to the table a couple of times in the two hours we were there.

When we ordered our food, she didn’t ask about drinks, and on our side, we forgot to order them.

Risotto

The food came 45 minutes later, and the chicken/risotto dish was amazing (my visitors had this and they loved it).

I was beginning to get frustrated because of the wait times between visits to our table so we asked for the bill and a person we hadn’t seen yet brought it.

We decided that rather than leave straight away, we would have a drink/coffee in the bar and get a change of scenery.

At the bar the bartender told us that there is no coffee available at their bar but that they would get one from the restaurant.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

We settled in front of the fireplace in the lobby and 30 minutes or more passed without any word or visit from the staff, so we left.

I was so disappointed because I felt like there were so many missed opportunities to be treated like welcome guests.

I truly hope this beautiful setting can be matched by top notch service soon.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our experience,

Best,
Diana

Here is the reply from ae Food & Beverage Director

From: “Lawrence Teatree”  (names are changed)
Date: April 16, 2018 at 1:50:17 PM CDT
To:” <Diana@123.com>
Subject: Your stay at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Dear Mrs. XX,

Thank you for choosing to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara and providing your honest feedback.

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority and we sincerely apologize for falling short of meeting your expectations.

We have shared your feedback with the Bistro and Bar team to ensure the necessary guidelines are in place to improve the restaurant experience. I have also passed your comments to our Chef regarding the risotto! Thanks!

I do appreciate you giving us the opportunity to restore your confidence in Food and Beverage by speaking to me directly. Please let me know the best contact number and time to reach you, or you can call me at any time at 805 XXX XXXX.

Once again, thank you for your valued feedback and we hope to serve you again whenever your travels bring you back to Santa Barbara.

Lawrence Teatree
Food and Beverage
The Ritz Carlton, Bacara Santa Barbara

Here are email writing tips for better Customer Experience –  documented within the body of the reply 

The Subject Line

From: Lawrence Teatree
Date: April 16, 2018 at 1:50:17 PM CDT
To:” <Diana@123.com>
Subject: Your stay at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

With regard to the Subject Line, we were not hotel guests at the Bacara. We were clearly dinner guests.

The Subject Line made it clear that Alex had not read our email or that he was simply following standard (and robotic) protocols.

The Subject Line matters.  It should be well crafted.

The Opening

Dear Mrs. XX,

Thank you for choosing to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara and providing your honest feedback.

We did not stay at the Bacara, we were dinner guests. So, the Opening line is irrelevant at best, tone deaf at worst.

The Apology

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority and we sincerely apologize for falling short of meeting your expectations.

Lawrence is a Director of Food & Beverage.

Based on his title, the restaurant where we had dinner and the bar where we later tried to get coffee would both fall under his purview.

The email would have sounded a lot more personal if he referred to himself – “I” and not “we”.

For example:

I apologize that I and our Team fell short of meeting your expectations and that of your dinner Guests…

And by talking about himself and/or his Team, he would have demonstrated that he took ownership of the experience.

This Empathy statement would have sounded more human and sincere than “we sincerely apologize”.

If you need to use the word ‘sincere’ in a Customer communication, that’s already a red flag.

If you have to sincerely apologize, does that mean you have insincere apologies too?

The Corporate Speak

Now let’s get to the Corporate speak.

How does the following phrase help matters?

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority…

Is that so? Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority?

The entire reason the Customer took the time and effort to write a long and detailed email is because that didn’t happen for her.

He might as well have written –

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority, except obviously what happened in your case…

When you make a mistake – you apologize first.

You don’t couch the apology in ‘corporate-speak’.

This statement, coming at the opening of the Empathy Statement, reduced the impact and sincerity of the apology.

It sounded robotic and scripted.

The Content

We have shared your feedback with the Bistro and Bar team to ensure the necessary guidelines are in place to improve the restaurant experience.

The Customer was very detailed.

She shared no less than 10 observations about the experience across both the restaurant and bar.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

She took effort and time to help the Ritz Carlton improve and even references at the end of her email that “I truly hope this beautiful setting can be matched by top notch service soon.”

Lawrence’s reply did not address a single specific point out of the 10 raised – nor did he share any details of “ensuring the necessary guidelines are in place.”

Lawrence could have done so much to restore the confidence of the Customer.

While it may not be necessary to address each of the 10 points raised by the Customer, Lawrence could have better matched her effort.

He could have specifically shared what he was going to do with that information that had been given.

As an example – and with better service recovery in mind – he could have said –

With regard to the number of settings at the table when you were seated (3 vs. 4), we have asked the Team that takes our reservations to indicate clearly to our Servers, the number of diners expected and the preferred seating location.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

I’m really glad you brought this to my attention.”

When you learn how to write an efficient & effective email, you learn that you need to address both the Tone of the Customer and the Content of the Customer.

This Customer deserved a better ‘Content Match’ than she received.  She put a lot of effort and detail into her email.

That was not reciprocated in the reply.

I have also passed your comments to our Chef regarding the risotto! Thanks!

This was a nice statement and showed that Lawrence read the email.

The Recovery

I do appreciate you giving us the opportunity to restore your confidence in Food and Beverage by speaking to me directly. Please let me know the best contact number and time to reach you, or you can call me at any time at 805 XXX XXXX.

This invitation to reach out to him is excellent and shows a personal touch.

The recovery would have been so much more effective if the overall email had been better.

The Closing

Once again, thank you for your valued feedback and we hope to serve you again whenever your travels bring you back to Santa Barbara.

The Customer is a long-term resident of Santa Barbara – making assumptions that all your Guests are tourists or visitors is not very welcome for locals.

Lawrence Teatree
Food and Beverage
The Ritz Carlton, Bacara Santa Barbara

In closing

If you attend to Customers by email, it’s important to –

Know what your brand ‘voice’ is – and confirm that it sounds human.  The days of Corporate speak and roboticism in email writing are over.

In this new world where chatbots and AI Assistants sound friendlier than a real human being does, humans should sound more human!

Understand  that email is a complex form of one to one communication.  Training and coaching really matter.

Ensure all your Customer channels are operating to the same, high standard.  

I hope this article has been helpful!

Daniel

Daniel Ord / daniel.ord@omnitouchinternational.com

How to write a professional Training Brief

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article we share how to write a professional Training Brief.

We receive a lot of inquiries for training.

Some of these inquiries are super clear.  They are well thought through and presented.

That enables us to make a clear and considered reply with a great set of recommendations.

But sometimes we get a one line emails

“We need to train people in Customer Service – send us your outline & rates.”

Or –

“We need our people to be trained in 2 hour shifts on alternate Fridays – send us your proposal.”  

Or –

“Send us a list of classes & rates.”

These types of inquiries aren’t easy to work with.

So we decided to see how we can help.

How to prepare a simple yet professional Training Brief

When problems – or opportunities – crop up in the workplace, it’s easy to assume that Training is the solution.

But as any Training expert will tell you – training is never the solution to everything.

We developed a simple infographic to show how to create a professional Training Brief.

 

On the left side we address the process that happens internally – within your Organization.

On the right side we suggest what you can provide to the external Training Partner so that they can help you better!

Let’s begin by looking at the things you can do internally

Step #1 – Identify & document the Problem(s) & Opportunities – we always recommend that you first identify and document the problem or opportunity that you’d like to address.

Usually two or three sentences should be enough (per problem or opportunity).

Think of it as your elevator pitch – it should be crystal clear to everybody.

Step #2 – Examine the root causes and determine if training is the best solution – once the problem has been identified & documented, continue by examining the root causes of the problem, or the potential barriers to the opportunity at hand.

Then decide if Training is the right solution.  If it’s not – then pursue the right solution.

When you believe that Training is the right solution – the next step is to decide if your internal Team has the experience & expertise necessary to achieve results.

If so – give them the brief.

If not, then consider an external Training Partner.

When you’ve decided to contact an external Training Partner

Typically we find that Organizations like to email their inquiries for training and that’s great.

You can easily address incorporate the following steps in a simple email without too much effort.

These 6 steps are described on the right hand side of the infograph.

Step #1 – Describe the job role(s) or functions that you plan to train

Be as clear as you can about ‘who’ will experience training.

For example:

  • Non-Customer facing job roles
  • Contact Centre Agents
  • Quality Assurance folks
  • Team Leaders in service
  • Team Leaders in manufacturing
  • The Organization at large

Step #2 – Estimate the number of Participants by job role or function

There are different facilitation approaches to working with a group of 5 pax vs. a group of 500.

When you can, provide estimates for the number of Participants and a short description of their job roles.

Step #3 – Share the problem(s) and/or opportunity(s)

What is the problem to be solved?  What are the opportunities to be unleashed?

Just pick this up from the work you did earlier.

If you’re concerned about sharing this information with an external party – just arrange to execute an appropriate non-disclosure agreement.

Step #4 – Share any ancillary or contextual information

What’s going in on your organization?

Are you new in the market or region? Is there a reorganization?  Are there new initiatives?  Has morale has fallen?  Are you looking for culture change?

The more that your Training Partner understands the situation, the better the recommendation that they can give.

Step #5 – List down your objectives for training

It’s always worth jotting down a few key objectives you want to gain from the engagement.

We suggest you use phrasing such as –

As a result of this training Participants should be able to _______________ should be able to understand___________should know _____________.

It’s expected that you won’t address everything – but it helps your Training Partner understand the scope – and come back with a set of well-rounded suggestions and competencies.

Step #6 is tactical in nature

Special requests about dates, days of the week, venue, catering and the like are tactical details related to the training.

It’s best not to start your inquiry with these details – generally these can be sorted out once the strategic objectives for training have been addressed.

Preparing a Training Brief is as much for your internal Team as it is for your external Training Partner

The benefits of organizing a professional Training Brief are significant for you:

  • The Brief ensures that internal Stakeholders are aligned
  • The Brief helps to ensure external Training Partners are assessed objectively and accurately
  • The Brief demonstrates how seriously your Organization views training.

The benefits of organizing a professional Training Brief are significant for your external Training Provider:

  • The Brief helps the Provider give you the best set of recommendations in the shortest span of time
  • The Brief helps guide the Provider in asking additional questions to flesh out the situation at hand
  • The Brief ensures that the Course Outlines or other submissions provided are in line with your needs & expectations.

It’s never fun for a Training Provider to have to guess at what it is that you want – risky business indeed.

We hope that this short article & infographic are helpful and thank you for reading!

If you’d prefer us to email you a copy of the infograph just let us know and provide us with your email address.

Thank you!

Daniel

 

How to implement a Skills Training program that works

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

There are few things to remember when you want your Skills Training program to work.

Remember when it was always about Customer contacts by phone?

Sure – phone matters (we’ve become channel resolution centres after all) – but so does email, live chat and social media.

Video chat? Coming soon.

Chances are your internal Trainers don’t have the exposure or expertise to help your Frontline folks exceed Customer expectations across channels.

So, if you’re looking to bring in an external Training partner to drive Customer experience, what considerations should you look at to ensure a roll-out that works?

In this short article I share a few ideas.

Start with the Management Team FIRST

After you’ve established your objectives and selected your provider – the first group of folks that need to go through ‘training’ is the Management Team.

There is sometimes an implicit belief that the Managers know it already.

But that’s absolutely not true.

In fact, one of the reasons that you decided to engage an external provider was because your internal Employees didn’t have the exposure or expertise needed to deliver on rising Customer expectations.

Your Managers have a lot to learn – and decide – before any roll-out of skills training to the Frontline.

Will monitoring forms change? What attributes matter more, which matter less? Do templates have to be rewritten? Do Customer survey mechanisms need to be updated?

Can Managers articulate what Productivity, Quality & Attitude look like for the channel?

If not, then they’re not in any position to move your improvement initiative forward.

All these items can be discussed and considered openly when a Management training session (or two) takes place before a roll-out to the Frontline.

It’s embarrassing – but here are things that happen when Organizations don’t begin a skills roll-out with Managers first

Managers attend for the first 30 minutes or hour of the skills training and then slip off – and don’t think your Team Members didn’t notice.

They did.

If you’re not going to bother to attend the entire session it’s better that you don’t show up at all (unless you are there to to introductions of course).

It’s equally painful to have a session where the Managers sit together and all the rest of the Staff is spread out on their own.

Frontline Team Members express confusion during the skills training (when the bosses aren’t around).

In Email writing classes it is quite common to hear Team Members express frustration that their Managers focus heavily on things like grammar or spelling vs. how to really enhance email writing skills.

In Live Chat training, many Frontliners tell us that their Managers don’t give much advice at all – so they conclude (correctly in most cases) that their Managers actually don’t know where or how to help with Live Chat.

Team Members go back from training knowing more than their Managers do. And that’s a guaranteed recipe for a fall-back to the status quo – or the dreaded ‘business as usual’.

Because if the Managers weren’t part of the change process for excellence they’ll actually end up blocking the change (whether passively or actively).

Make decisions about Monitoring Forms, Survey Questions, Quality Assurance protocols, Templates and the like before you roll-out training to Frontliners

Training is just one piece of the channel puzzle.

When well done, it informs and inspires.

But after training your Participants will go back to work – back to their eco-system.

Ask yourself – did we update the eco-system to reflect new learnings and objectives?

Or are things exactly the same as they were before?

Still missing good coaching? Monitoring forms are lame or non-existent? Customer survey questions about the channel experience aren’t updated? Performance mechanisms haven’t changed?

The best people are still broken by a bad process.

If there is one thing that’s worse than not training at all – it’s to train but not review and update the entire channel eco-system.

This sets people up to fail.

One of our Clients who approached training as a ‘system’ and not just as an event called their program an “Email Makeover” for their organization – and everyone’s on board.

That’s how it is supposed to be.

Consider follow-up processes including Digital Contact Audit & Mystery Shopper

So you’ve organized your eco-system and you’ve trained all the Team Members involved.

Cool.

Want to see how it’s going? Ensure that Team Members are pulling together to implement change?

Consider a follow-up Mystery Shopper or Digital Contact Audit.

Make it known that this will happen – involve folks in the design of the Mystery Shopper or Audit.

It makes a huge difference to the success of your implementation.

I hope these few tips are helpful and thank you for reading!

Daniel

daniel.ord@omnitouchinternational.com / www.omnitouchinternational.com

The Art of Conversation in a service setting

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

The ability to carry on a conversation in a service setting is a fine art.  A great conversation evokes the right Customer emotions.

(The sign in the photo is German word for dishwasher).

This past Christmas, the dishwasher at my mother-in-law’s house in Germany broke down.

So we spent a few days visiting appliance dealers.

I grew up in the U.S. and have lived the last 17 years in Asia, so my expectations of sales & service finesse at big box appliance stores is low.

 

In the big box appliance store in Germany they evoked my emotions with a great conversation

In the store a young lady approached us to see if she could help.

When she heard my American-accented German she switched immediately to English.

As I stood there silently analyzing the interaction, I realized that her competence went well beyond knowing her products & services.

It was marked by her ability to carry on a conversation with us.

Full and complete sentences, clarity, responding to input, articulating responses, a calm unrushed demeanor – wow.

I left the experience knowing more about dishwashers than I had expected.  And we knew which dishwasher was going to be ‘right’ for Mama.

It was so easy and my expectations were far exceeded.

The fact that the conversation was not held in her mother tongue was just an added bonus.

After years of working overseas, I don’t accept that someone can’t carry on a conversation because it is not in their mother tongue.

 

The German apprenticeship system

As we left the store I turned to my partner and asked – “so why is it that here in Germany, pretty much every time we  interact with a retail staff, a restaurant staff or a hotel staff that the experience is so, well, competent?”

And the answer was – the German apprenticeship system.

It seems that in Germany, before you can work as a hairdresser, waiter, retail clerk etc. you complete a formal apprenticeship program.

This means that you study and do on the job training for some period of time before you are considered ‘competent’ to do the job.  The time-frame for an apprenticeship typically runs 2.5 – 3.5 years.

So for most jobs this means that it is not just a job but a profession.

My mind goes immediately here to the Contact Centre industry where Agents are likely trained for 2 – 4 weeks, thrown on the phone and never trained again.

I’m not an expert in the German apprenticeship system – and I’m reading up on it all the time.

But each year I spend on average 3 – 4 months in Germany, and the retail and call centre experiences that I have there are in stark contrast to the experiences that I have back in Asia.

Something is definitely different and it shouldn’t be chalked up so easily to cultural differences.

Here is an interesting article on The Atlantic (2014) called, “Why Germany is So Much Better at Training Its Workers” which compares and contrasts the German and U.S. systems for workforce development.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/why-germany-is-so-much-better-at-training-its-workers/381550/

 

Competence in the service industry – the ability to carry on a conversation

Farmers grow things, tailors make clothes, bakers make bread – but in service we produce conversations.

When I run courses in quality or service, I remind the Frontliners that every day they produce conversations.

That’s their product, their output – that’s what they’re paid to do.

So in the same way we expect the tailor to make a nice fitting suit, or the hairstylist to give us a terrific cut, it’s valid and reasonable to expect a high quality of conversational ability from a Frontliner.

In Asia, many organizations believe these conversations should be highly scripted, or the staff is trained to adhere to a strict list of compliance behaviors in the hopes that these will magically coalesce together to create a conversation.

But that’s rarely the case.

And to be fair to the Frontliners – faced with the prospect of either going off-script or missing out on their compliance measurements – they retreat into polite silence – or act at best as ‘Google on 2 legs’ simply answering questions.

 

Times are changing

Sure – a lot is going digital.

But human interaction through voice, face to face – and even channels such as email and social media – are more complex and important to the overall experience.

The young lady in the big box store in Wiesbaden taught me that competence is beautiful – and that in service – the ability to carry on a conversation is where the power to create a great experience lies.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

daniel.ord@omnitouchinternational.com / www.omnitouchinternational.com