Experience Matters: A Call Center Conversion

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In the episode, Experience Matters | A Call Center Conversion, Bob Mosher and Chris King, Chief Learning Provocateur at CEEK LLC, discuss his latest 5 Moments project tied to the pandemic and spoiler alert—built in just over one week.

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In the episode, Experience Matters | A Call Center Conversion, Bob Mosher and Chris King, Chief Learning Provocateur at CEEK LLC, discuss his latest 5 Moments project tied to the pandemic and spoiler alert—built in just over one week.

Bob Mosher (BM): We are very excited about this particular episode. We know L&D is currently challenged like never before. As my dad always said, “There’s good in everything”, and we’ve seen some remarkable opportunities in acceleration when we talk to L&D leaders around what’s going on today. Which brings me to Chris King, joining us today.

Chris, let’s get right into this, give us some background and how The 5 Moments of Need and workflow learning have worked themselves into your journey.

Chris King (CK): I’ve been in the business now for twenty-plus years, but like many people in the training business, I was an accidental trainer. I was not working anywhere near training, and one day my college roommate called me up and said, “You know, I find myself the head of a training department and we’re hiring; I miss hanging out with you and I’ll pay you $10,000 more than whatever you’re making right now if you’ll come and work for me.”

And so, as a twenty-something, it’s like, “Uh, Yeah! When can I start?” He said, “I think you’ll be good at this.” And he was right, it was a good fit for me.

Since, I’ve done a little bit of everything. I taught myself instructional design. I’ve been an eLearning developer. I’ve been an LMS administrator. I was doing virtual delivery when I worked at Geico back in the early 2000s so was an “early adopter of virtual”. I then became a consultant proper in 2009.

And that’s when I first heard about The 5 Moments of Need. It was kind of back before you were even calling it that. A colleague and good friend of mine went to a conference and saw you and Con speak and she came back and said, “You should really look into this because it’s interesting.”

And she was absolutely right.

It kind of rocked my world as it does with many people when they first discover The 5 Moments of Need. I think that it has become kind of a guiding light for me.

You know, I knew I was on to something when I took an instructional designer to an RWA, Rapid Workflow Analysis, that I was conducting to start a course, and she was cold on it. She had never heard of The 5 Moments of Need or Rapid Workflow Analysis or anything like that. And I did the whole deal. When we walked out of that workshop, my instructional designer said, “I will never design a course another way again!”

That was so transformative for me. And that’s when I knew, we were really onto something here with workflow learning. And so, since then, I’ve been trying to find places to do it whenever I can. One of my challenges is that I’m not inside a company. I don’t have a team to work with to build it from the inside out. I’m a consultant that comes in, so I’m constantly trying to convince people, trying to talk people into this, trying to explain to them the benefits.

BM: My gosh, between kindred spirits, it just blows me away how we have to keep selling it. But darn it! In our industry, it’s been like turning an ocean liner around.

Walk us into what we’re going to talk about today. Give us bit about the comeuppance of this project and how it is different from other training projects you’ve done in the past.

CK: The pandemic is a chance to change the way we do business. I just want to say that out loud. It’s our chance to experiment with new things and I’ve been encouraging everyone that I talk to, “to change the way you’re doing business.”

For this particular project, the story begins back in April—right at the start of the lockdown.

A little background. We’re a certified implementation partner with Panviva and they brought us this opportunity to work with a company called Maximus. Maximus is a global outsourcing company that focuses on government-sponsored programs and they were working with a state department of health to stand up a contact tracing call center.

So really topical, very important work. The call center would be responsible for notifying citizens when they tested positive for COVID-19 and then collecting information about where they were and who they interacted with during their infectious period. They then would also conduct outreach to anyone who was designated as a close contact to notify them of potential exposure, ask them to quarantine themselves, and answer questions about where they could get tested or how they could get connected with state resources for help. So really a meaty, great outcome, great mission-driven project to work on.

What we were up against was these kinds of calls are long and heavy on both education and data collection. The script we received was 20 pages long and we’re not talking about a lot of white space in there either. We’re talking about 20-25 minutes per call on just the short ones with a lot of specialized terminology that needed to be translated from medical to plain language. Maximus’ hiring program focused on furloughed medical personnel to help with the communication challenges. So, we got a big complex script, we had a long workflow, but it was really the scale that was a little daunting as Maximus was hiring 500 agents to staff the center.

This was 500 people that would need to, from a cold start, be able to deliver a standard 20-page script and collect important—and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say—life-saving data.

So we have a complex workflow, long stretches of scripting, huge number of call center agents. But, Bob, let me tell you how it got “interesting.” The CRM tool that the health department was using was still being built.

BM: Wow!

CK: They had a workflow and they had questions and answers, but everything was in a state of flux. You know, the menus were changing all the time, the icons they were using, so we’re shooting at a moving target for our training.

But I don’t think I mentioned—we were brought in eight days before go-live.

BM: Oh, jeez!

CK: So, for the Maximus training team this whole thing was like planning a wedding with 500-person guestlist—in just three weeks.

BM: Yeah, wow! Perfect analogy!

CK: Yeah! So, you can imagine how everyone was feeling when you kick off a project like that with those kinds of time constraints. The list of unknowns was just amazingly long. And this thing had to launch on time.

What we wound up doing was create a workable performance support tool in Panviva over a weekend. We didn’t even have a chance to actually do a Rapid Workflow Analysis with the team. I mean, we had to take the script and the SOP—we had access to the test environment for the CRM—and we had several meetings with the state department of health SMEs. And that’s really what we had to work with.

After we got through that weekend we spent the rest of the week adding processes for software tools. We added resources for how to log into the eight different systems the agents needed to access. And we spent the time updating information as things changed. And then that call center went live, on time, at the beginning of May.

BM: Wow! So what parts of the EnABLE methodology worked in this really unique case for you?

CK: As I mentioned, there was no time to do the normal Rapid Workflow Analysis. And I have to admit we spent a lot of time fixing things that we would have worked out in that workflow analysis if we’d had the time to do it.

So at least we had a workflow. We were able to pull the workflow out of the SOP. And, Bob, I know you’ve talked in the past about how in your early days as an instructional designer, you didn’t really pay attention to workflow because it wasn’t what you would consider learning or what you were designing.

We were forced from the beginning to focus on that workflow. Because that was central to what we were doing.

The workflow focus of the EnABLE methodology really helped us out there. I think we did chunking right. We never had the chance to create a proper LEAP plan. But I did use the LEAP template to track the documents we were creating to make sure that we didn’t leave anything out, it helped us stay organized.

You know, I think another thing that was super important to us was writing style. Beth and Carol in The 5 Moments of Need Designer Course spent a lot of time talking about how to write for performance and—I have to emphasize this—it makes all of the difference, especially in this kind of call center, live performance kind of environment. I mean, we spent most of the month of August rewriting instructions and reducing the length of the documents to make them more focused, short and to the point, and easy to scan.

BM: Just incredible. So, hey, friend. Huge adoption here. Right?

CK: Yeah, eight days to “train” 500 agents on a 20-page script that supported a CRM that was still in the beta stage right in the middle of a pandemic? This is not something that ADDIE could even envision, much less support. Right? So typical systems training? “No way! We don’t have time for that!”

There was no way training in any conventional way could get this team on their feet in the time we had.

So really what we did was, we said, “We’re going to put all of our effort into building this EPSS. And then the training for your agents needs to focus on having them trust the EPSS. Trust the performance support tool that they are going to have. I think that’s one of the things the Maximus supervisor team did right. Day in and day out, they told their teams, “You have to follow what it says in the tool. You have to follow the script. You have to follow the questions that are being set up for you. Because the CRM is changing all the time. The questions are changing. The script is changing. Everything is changing.”

You want to talk about a “super-moment” of change? I mean, we were living that moment of change for 5 weeks. Every day.

We were publishing stuff in the middle of the day to the tool. So, there was no time for conventional training on this. This was, “I’m going to train you how to use the EPSS and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

That’s all we had time for was learning in the workflow.

BM: Wow. My friend, brilliant as always. I can’t think of a better ambassador. And we can’t thank you enough for your friendship, your partnership in this journey, your great work, and the voice that you have become. It’s just been wonderful.

Listen to the full episode to hear Chris’ advice and takeaways from the project.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

Lessons Learned Beginning a 5 Moments of Need Journey in a Pandemic

This blog is excerpted from the “Beginning a 5 Moments Journey” episode where Bob Mosher and Scott Schmoldt, training manager at UMR, discuss why the pandemic catapulted his team into a performance-first mindset and the lessons he’s learning along the way.  

Bob Mosher (BM): Today we have the privilege of talking with a wonderful gentleman, a young leader that Con and I admire and have watched grow in such a remarkable ways with his team, Scott Schmoldt, the training manager at UMR, which is a subsidiary division of United Health company.

We’re excited to hear your story, my friend. We get a lot of wonderfully experienced folks on this podcast, some a little further down the workflow learning journey than yourself and your organization. And that’s wonderful. They tell such a great story. But, at the same time, a vast majority of our listeners are new to the journey and to making the shift to workflow learning.

We’ve watched you do such a masterful job studying this, understanding it, and communicating it. While at the same time, nurturing and mentoring your team into it.

So excited for you to tell that story. Why don’t you start out with a little bit about yourself and what drew you into this area?

Scott Schmoldt (SS): I appreciate it, Bob. I appreciate the “young” reference. I feel like I’m getting older all the time, but I always knew that I wanted to be an educator. Growing up, playing sports, a lot of times my coaches would tell me that “You know what? You’re a better coach than you are an actual player.”

So I always knew that there was going to be some sort of educator track in my future. Being in the first class of the new millennium, I was encouraged to go into education because the theory was that if you graduated from high school in 2000, and then get your degree in 2004/2005, and Baby Boomer generations would start to retire, there would be a need for educators, especially for male educators, in the elementary grades.

And so that’s the track that I went down. As I went through school, got my degree and started to apply for positions, lo and behold, those generations really weren’t retiring. They were staying in their positions for a variety of reasons.

So, I spent a couple of years—a year and a half—doing some long-term sub positions, I was in a second grade class and a three-four multi-age class. I also did a stint in a sixth grade class. And the market was just super saturated.

My wife also graduated at the same time as I did, got a job in the city that we were living in and so we didn’t really want to move. I really wanted her to build her career so I started to look elsewhere and eventually ended up landing a position at was called at the time WASA Benefits. It’s a legacy organization of UMR.

I started out there as a trainer and was facilitating classes, a couple years after that I moved into an instructional design role, did that for several years, and then moved into a leadership role about a decade ago leading people here at UMR in the Learning and Development space.

BM: Wow! It’s amazing how similar our journeys are, friend. I was an elementary ed major myself. But similar to your background there was an influx of opportunities and I find myself, like you, here in this role. So remarkable—a lot of good educators in this business.

So, my friend, give us a little bit about your team. Give us an overview of your learning organization and those that you support.

SS: Sure. UMR is a third-party administrator section of United Health Care. United Health Care is one of the largest insurers, if not the largest insurer of health in the country. And UMR is this branch off from United Health Care that offers third-party administrative services. My team’s primary responsibility really is that of onboarding and helping to initially educate the front-line call agents and claim processors who are responsible for taking care of our members.

And I would say, in general, we have a pretty traditional L&D team. I have a mix of people who are technical writers who write policies and procedures. I have instructional designers who are creating a lot of the content. People who are in the classroom. And then we have coaches as well that are responsible for some after-class support. So pretty traditional in terms of our team and the overall support that we provide for our organization.

BM: So what brought you to this, Scott? Obviously, like you say, you’re kind of chugging along there. You’ve got a fairly traditional team. The content areas, onboarding and others, are fairly stable and traditional in a sense.

What turned the corner for you in how you got to this place? What motivated you to take the journey in the first place?

SS: It was March of 2020—I think everybody is going to remember this as the date that we pivoted. I believe what happened is that because of COVID, and all the awfulness, frankly, that it’s brought, there materialized a bright side to it. Which is, it ripped wide open and it exposed where I believe most traditional L&D teams—ours included—were deficient.

And, you know, we saw the business needed to pivot quickly, and because of the traditional approaches that we had taken, we weren’t able to meet the needs. And so that’s what really initiated this. It was primarily centered around the need to go virtual very quickly.

And another thing it did was, and I didn’t know the language at the time, I’ve learned this along the way—it exposed that we’re pretty good as an L&D enterprise at meeting the Moments of New and More of the 5 Moments of Need. 

But we’re not all that great at providing what they need at the Moment of Apply. And definitely not, at Solve and Change.

So that’s really where the journey started and why we went down this path.

BM: Yes, Con often says that this is probably the most remarkable Apply, Solve, and Change moments our industry has faced, right?

For the longest time, we were able to throw New and More at Apply, Solve, and Change, and just assume that it all blurred and people were fine. But to your point, when your support structures, literally the building you go into every day, is ripped out from underneath you, you are thrust into Apply in a sometimes terrifying and very lonely way.

Scott, can you tell us a little bit—if it’s okay—about the solution you journeyed into first. What area did you tackled, and in this new approach, what were some lessons learned in guiding a team through this kind of transformation?

SS: I mean, we really are in this first phase. And that literally is getting our programs “virtual ready.” Making sure they are adapted to this new virtual space.

And so that really was where the GEAR methodology has entered in around redesigning our ILT courses. And that’s still the phase that we’re in. We’re right now adapting all of our programs to the GEAR methodology and making sure that all of the facilitator guides that we have and the activities that we have—it’s all centered around that methodology. And so that really was the first step that we have taken. And we are still there.

One of the things that I’ve had to learn is patience and persistence.

I know that when I first started this, because the sense of urgency was so great, I wanted to just do it and do it quickly and get it done. And the reality is that it does take time. We’re turning the Titanic here, not the SS Minnow, so it’s going to take time and there needs to be patience to understand that it’s an iterative approach. As you embark on this journey, it’s not something that’s a “one and done.”

This is a long-term strategy of re-shaping what L&D does. You’ve got to take a step back, re-evaluate the bigger picture of where you’re trying to get to. And once I did that, I started to see the team embrace that as well. They started tackling tasks that were achievable today, that were achievable for next week, that were achievable for next month.

We’ve gotten to a really good place where we’re on track to have all of our programs completely converted over to this new GEAR methodology by the end of November.

BM: Wow! I applaud your transition. But that had to be tough for your team! They were fairly grounded in a more traditional approach. When they began this shift in mindset did you find them encountering certain challenges or things they had to overcome to get here?

SS: Yeah. So a couple of things again. This is all language that I’m learning from you and Con, frankly, and from other leaders in this industry who are farther down this journey. But the two words that I keep saying to my team is “methodology begets….”

I know that’s a phrase you’ve used before, Bob, and it’s so true. It’s “methodology begets the facilitator guide.” “Methodology begets how you deliver it.” “Methodology begets how you create the policy and procedure.”

And I think for so long what we’ve done, which is my second point, is we focused on content over context.

Listen to the full episode for additional 'aha' moments from Scott as well as his vision for his entire team and how he plans to get there!

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

Experience Matters: What We've Learned (and heard) Along the Way

This blog is excerpted from episode 40 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Bob Mosher reflects on the episodes to-date and curates a list of experiences that truly do matter when planning, building, and implementing a 5 Moments of Need solution. 

Our 40th episode and eleven thousandth download—these are milestones for us! 

We are honored that you’ve joined us throughout so many of these recordings. Because it’s our fortieth episode, what we decided to do was go back and listen to some of our most popular ones and pull out ten of the most prevalent and powerful best practices we’ve heard to-date. 

Number One: Workflow learning fixes the classroom. 

Unanimously, one of the most powerful things about The Five Moments is that there are Five Moments. For years, we were known as the performance support guys. Obviously, we talk an awful lot about the power of workflow learning and the impact it can have on the workflow by designing for the moment of Apply first. But the reality is that there are still all Five Moments. There’s New and More. And unanimously, from all the organizations who have tried this, when they focus on The Five Moments, they found was that it has a huge impact on the classroom itself. 

We over teach. People talked about the fact that we just do too much of a content dump. We overload our learners. There’s cognitive overload from all the information. We cover everything. And The Five Moments of Need design methodology allows you to let the classroom do what it does best. It lets us finally deliver on blended learning the way our industry’s always wanted to do blended learning. We’re allowed to blend the perfect amount of classroom learning with what we intentionally put into the workflow using the EPSS and the performance support that we design. 

So, Number One, workflow learning helps fix the classroom and finally allow it to do what it does best. 

Number Two: All tasks are not created equal. 

Number Two is a byproduct of Number One in many ways.  The classroom suffers because it’s born out of the idea that everything we’re asked to teach is important—and of course our SMEs, or subject matter experts, feel that same way. But the reality is that all tasks are not created equal. 

What about the criticality of failure? We’re pivoting on performance. So, when you look at tasks, when you look at supporting knowledge, when you look at the resources that enable both of

those through the lens of failure as the pivot, what’s the criticality of failure? If someone tries to learn something on their own, if someone tries to remember something on their own, if someone tries to learn New and More on their own, and they fail, even though they have support, if the outcome of failing is too severe, those are the areas that we need to teach.  That impacts Number One, the classroom in a significant way. 

Every organization we talked to came to the same conclusion.  Understanding the outcome of failure took all the pressure off the fact that “everything had to be trained=”.  It allowed our subject matter experts, our business matter experts, even the line of business, to see the power of an EPSS,  By showing them the power of workflow design, even though all things are important, criticality of failure helped us understand where things are best learned and where they’re best left to be learned in the context of experience. Workflow learning design lets us put things where they belong and support it holistically. 

Number Three: The Five Moments of Need design process makes the workflow visible. 

This has been a remarkable learning for me personally. When I’ve done my own design in this years ago—I am always amazed how little I understood about the actual workflow that my learners went back to. I understood what the SME wanted me to teach. I understood the content and the order and flow of information. But that is not the context of the workflow.

When you start doing Rapid Workflow Analysis with your stakeholders, it amazes me how the SMEs, the business owners, somewhere during the 2~3-day exercise always comes back and says, “Look. We had no idea what our people actually did from 8 to 5. We have SOPs, we have sales processes, we have leadership skills and competencies, but we didn’t realize how that translated into the workflow itself.” 

So, one of the most powerful gifts you’ll give to your organizations through creating and building a 5 Moments of Need solution is making the work being done within the workflow visible. Managers feel empowered by that because now they know what’s truly being done. They know how to manage to it, and probably more importantly, they see gaps. They see things that are broken. They see redundancies. They see things being done that, frankly, should not be done. 

What became apparent in each organization’s journey is that managers have never had an intentional and structured way to analyze and look into what was happening in the workflow itself. So, the Five Moments of Need design process—although the end game is workflow learning—helped every learning organization build a stronger relationship with the business because they helped them see what actually happened. It makes the workflow visible. 

Number Four: Content management is back and in a remarkable way. 

This is one of Dr. Gottfredson’s favorites. Content management is back and in a remarkable way. I remember going through this in the 90s - Content management, Learning Content Management Systems, Knowledge Management… We ran all of these disciplines and tools in a big way in the early days, and I think for many we fell short. Content management is a remarkable discipline, but it’s best done in the context of managing that content for an outcome. That was the big pivot for me. 

Often, we went into manage content because it was lying around, there was too much. We had a lot to get our arms around. So, our intent was that we were chasing a content problem or an overwhelmed problem, but we were missing context. Content management in the context of roles, the context of the workflow, the context of tasks, the context of knowledge, takes on a whole different light. And many of us are being asked to go into the content curation of not just our own content, or the content the organization owns, but also content that users are creating. 

Good performance support, good workflow learning, will broker and reach into assets that a learner may be managing at an individual level. So, content management takes on a remarkable role in migrating to workflow learning. And in many organizations, it was the tipping point they needed to do it well. It put the methodology of content management ahead of the technology of content management, which, I think, for a lot of us in the early days was where we missed the mark. 

We had it wrong. We were buying LCMSs. We were seeing content messes. Our LMSs were causing us to create these huge libraries. SharePoint was causing us to create huge content libraries. We ran at the technology overload, the content overload, and we were lacking context. 

Workflow learning will allow you to begin the journey of tackling content management in a manageable way—one outcome, one project at a time. 

Number Five: Methodology begets technology. 

This is my favorite. Methodology begets technology. I have been in this business for over thirty-six years, and I’m a technology guy. I had one of the earlier mobile phones. It was the size of a shoe box. I’ve been all over every technology when it comes out. E-learning, smart boards, the internet, virtual instruction… I was often, and tried to be, one of the first ones using and testing these. But friends, when you chase technology for learning ahead of methodology to design using that technology it gets you in trouble. 

So, every organization we talked to, somewhere in their lessons learned, shared that either they had already bought technology and were trying to “square-hole-round-peg” it, or that they were already using technology and were trying to get ahead of things like SharePoint, and fix it so that it worked. 

The power of The Five Moments of Need is that it is a methodology first. Workflow learning is a methodology first. And if you run at the problem, if you analyze the tasks, if you design for the workflow, if you understand the amazing amount of resources that need to be brokered based on the Performance Support pyramid, the technology will follow once that design architecture is in place. 

And it is an evolutionary journey. Many did not go out and buy a formal authoring EPSS system. They had to crawl, walk, run into it. They might have used SharePoint. We’ve heard of a bunch of different technologies that have been used but as long as the principles of the methodology were applied, even some of the lower end technologies—i.e., a PDF— it could still work. 

Ultimately, they grew into the right technologies, or a more powerful technology, or a better use of the technologies that they may have already purchased. But they got there in an intentional way, understanding the needs of the organization, the kinds of workflow learning they had to build, and the methodology that drove it. 

So, methodology always begets and will direct you toward the right technology. 

Halfway there, friends! For the top 5 best practices we’ve heard, learned, and experience, listen to the full episode.