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.

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