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How Pelephone was able to reduce onboard training while increasing the proficiency of new CSRs

Mobile operators around the world are facing great pressures from new regulations that strive to enhance competition and bring down prices. New competitors offering low fixed price packages have completely changed the business models for traditional players, forcing them to reconsider their current cost structures. Although these cost cuts run across the entire company and its activities, customer service is one of the main cost centers to be affected by this new trend. As a result, mobile operators are faced with a major dilemma - how to reduce customer service costs, while at the same time minimize the impact on customer service levels.

We talked with Yanay Zagury, former Head of Instructional Design and Learning Technologies at Pelephone Communications, Israel’s largest mobile operator, to learn how they have combined innovative training methodologies with advanced technology to achieve the impossible - reduce onboard training while increasing the proficiency of new CSRs.

Q: What were the main factors that created the need for a new approach?

New regulations in the Israeli mobile market have slashed mobile operators’ profits, forcing the entire organization to dramatically reduce costs. The training organization at Pelephone, as other departments in the company, was required to find new ways to dramatically reduce operating costs.

Basically, the cost of training is comprised of two main factors -

  1. Length of the training period - during the training the employees are not productive, yet they still receive a salary plus the cost of the training, including the trainers, the facility, and so on.
  2. Time to proficiency - how long after the on board training will the new CSR become proficient. By proficient we mean perform at the expected level.

Q: What was the objective of the cost reduction?

The goal that was set, in order to dramatically reduce the costs, was to shorten the training period by 30% and at the same time to increase the productivity after training (i.e. the time to proficiency) by another 30%. Now, since these two factors contradict each other (i.e. the longer the training the more productive they become), in essence this goal was twice as hard to achieve. I mean, it’s one thing to say reduce training without affecting performance, but here we needed to reduce training and improve performance, all at the same time.

Q:  What unique training methods did your contact center employ?   

As part of our research we found that one of the main problems that we had was the transfer of knowledge from the classroom to the field. This problem was caused by three main factors:

  1. Lack of support in the field - when the employees moved to the field they lost the supporting environment of the classroom.
  2. Knowledge retention - trainees would forget the knowledge that had been acquired especially during the beginning of the course.
  3. “Cognitive Load” – in a live contact center environment, CSRs must pay attention and operate as much as 5 different systems while providing the best care to the customer on call. This stressful and distractive environment makes it much harder for the agent to properly function on all fronts.

After considering several training methodologies, we came to the conclusion that the most suitable methodology for the effective transfer of knowledge and skills was “scenario based learning”. And in terms of the technological solution, after extensive research, we found that these requirements were addressed by Performance Support, also known as Desktop Automation and Guidance, solutions. You see, we had used learning solutions before, but they only focused on the transfer of knowledge. We understood that in order to solve the problems mentioned above, we needed a solution that could also assist in the transfer of skills. 

We have examined several solutions in this field and chose Kryon System’s LEO. Among the factors that influenced our decision were:

  1. Independence in operation - we needed a solution that would allow us to setup and operate the system independently, without having to rely on IT.
  2. Cross-systems - Almost all the business processes in the contact center involve multiple systems, such as CRM, Billing, OSS, and more. So we needed a system that would support cross-system processes/procedures without the need for lengthy/costly integration.
  3. Scenario-based learning - as I mentioned before, the solution must support our methodology and LEO was a perfect fit.  

Q: How did you combine the new methodology with this technological solution?

After acquiring LEO we mapped about 30 processes/scenarios, which were separated into two periods in the training life cycle:

  1. Onboard training period - this is the knowledge transfer period. During this period the trainee is not expected to be productive at all.
  2. Nesting period - a two-three week period in which the trainee is already in the contact center, but under the supervision of the training department.

After mapping the processes to these periods, we have analyzed the frequency or prevalence of these processes and divided them into two groups:

  • 10 less common scenarios - we have decided that the 10 less prevalent processes would not be taught at all. Instead, we built them into LEO and directed the trainees that when they encounter these scenarios they will use LEO during the call itself and simply go through the various steps, while receiving all the relevant knowledge and assistance from LEO. This of course reduced the training period and at the same time alleviate the “knowledge retention” problem. 
  • 20 most common scenarios - through LEO we have built training processes for these common scenarios for the onboard training period in the classroom. LEO ran through the process/script while providing explanations and asking questions. For example, a balloon appears with the background for the scenario, “a customer is calling and asking XYZ…” after which LEO guides the trainee through the process on the system itself, while asking relevant questions to test the understanding.

We then took these 20 common scenarios and adapted them to the nesting period. This meant making them leaner by taking out the testing questions and more in-depth training oriented explanations. Creating the processes with LEO for these different scenarios and then converting the learning processes into on-the-job support processes was extremely easy and quick. 

Q: What was the impact on operations?   

By combining the scenario based training with LEO, we were able to reduce the training period from four weeks to two weeks. That’s a 50% reduction, much more than our initial goal. This translates into huge cost savings of more than 1000 CSR training days each year! In addition, our survey results showed a dramatic increase in the proficiency of the trainees. They were able to perform their jobs with limited human assistance or supervision much sooner than before. The ability to focus only on what is extremely important solved the “knowledge retention” and the ongoing assistance was provided by LEO on the job solved the lack of support in the field.

Q: Did you continue using other E-learning tools?

We used Articulate's Storyline for policy training. For example, learning what to do when a reporter calls the contact center or other protocols which are related to regulations. We have created interactive learning modules which included the knowledge and questions. In this manner we created gaps in the training sessions in which the trainees independently learned these policies and then we tested them in the evening. By doing so we were able to reduce an hour and a half session to 10 minutes of independent training.

Q: What is the difference between the two systems?

LEO was used in the context of the systems. Whereas Storyline was used for policy training, where there were no systems at all; it was just related to the knowledge regarding the various policies. Of course, policies that involved the use of a system were taught using LEO.

About Yanay Zagury:

Yanay Zagury is an independent L&D consultant. Yanay has more than 15 years of experience in general education and organizational learning, focusing mainly for the last 10 years on learning technologies. Prior to becoming a consultant, he served as the Head of Instructional Design and Learning Technologies with Pelephone Communications, Israel’s largest mobile carrier; as the Head of Learning Technologies with HOT, a broadcasting provider; and as a Learning Manager at Meitav College where he redesigned and built the entire college core courses using eLearning. Yanay holds an MA degree in social psychology from Tel Aviv University and a BA degree in psychology and business administration from Tel Aviv Open University.

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