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Simulations Can Shorten the Path the Mastery

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We all know that hands-on experience is one of the best ways to learn a new skill but don’t just take my word for it. In an article featured from Laurdal they state three reasons why simulations accelerate learning and retention:

  1. Simulations increase engagement – By placing students into an immersive environment, they are ACTIVELY vs. passively engaged in the learning
  2. Simulations maximize retention – One of my favorite reasons why simulations are important. How many times have you put people through a training program and the knowledge is lost within a short amount of time
  3. Simulations ensure that learning is transferred to the job – This should really matter to the executive suite, when employees can accelerate their level of applying their skills directly into their work and shorten their path to mastery, this goes directly to the bottom line.

Think of it in this way, if I gave you a manual to learn how to conduct a step by step process, this is an explicit approach to learning something. It’s easily repeated and more commoditized but not as effective. On the other hand, if I gave you access to the equipment and/or placed you into a simulation which immersed you in learning this process, it’s an implicit experience but much more valuable in giving you first-hand experience in learning this new task.

Finally, in a study conducted by Roger S. Taylor and Micheline T. H. Chi at the University of Pittsburgh, they conducted a study comparing students who studied using a textbook and those who used a computer simulation. This was the summary of their findings “the Simulation condition acquired a significant amount of implicit domain information from pretest to posttest,
whereas participants in the Text condition did not. These results suggest that educational computer simulations have the potential to significantly enhance the learning of implicit domain knowledge.”

But keep in mind that the simulations need to be tailored to a specific skill or task directly related to the job. It should include some form of immediate feedback and places the learner into contextual setting similar to what they will experience in real life. Anders Ericcson was noted as coming out with the study of “deliberate practice” Here is a a video where Anders explains this concept.

Why Demonstrating Empathy Matters to the Bottom Line

By | call center, contact Center, empathy | No Comments

I work with a lot of call centers and many of them are building in performance metrics which include the agent’s ability to show empathy. But why? 

Yes, I get that it demonstrates that you want the customer to feel you can relate to their dilemma or that you at least “fake” concern. But creating a culture which proactively promotes empathy matters to the bottom line too.

For example,  I was speaking to a call center which provides technical support. I asked the manager which do you place more value on – soft-skills or technical knowledge, their answer was soft skills. He stated “we hired a young college graduate who was not as skilled at troubleshooting but all of her CSAT scores were always very high. She was able to use empathy and her ability to communicate trust to ensure the customer that even though she isn’t able to resolve their issue on the first call that she left the customer still feeling good about their experience and their company.  I value that skill over the most technically skilled agent.”

In a YouTube video by Brene’ Brown, she states the four elements of Empathy

  1. Can see things from the perspective of the other person
  2. Staying out of judgment
  3. Recognizing emotion in other people
  4. Communicating that you recognize their position and emotions.

Companies invest a lot of resources into building their brand, building customer loyalty so why risk losing this because you would rather build a culture of agents who solve problems fast but don’t really connect with your customers.

In  a LinkedIn post from Troy Mills,  President of Carrell and former VP of Customer Care Operations at Walgreens, stated “I can’t tell you how many discussions about doing something exceptional for a customer is met with shock from the ops team” meaning wow someone went out of the way and off script to really help a customer out and the culture was such that this was a negative vs. a positive.

A good place to track how empathy has made a difference to the bottom line is to collect stories from situations where using empathy and caring made a difference. Sometimes the difference isn’t always tangible initially but trust me it will have a lasting impact on the bottom line for the long-term.

 

Employee Reward Systems

By | call center, contact Center, Employee Rewards, podcsting | No Comments

In our last show, I interview Thomas McCoy, who is a best-selling author, consultant, and President of the Employee Engagement Institute.

He has over 35 years experience developing high-involvement, high-performance cultures. He developed the Applied Employee Engagement System™ that has been used by over 200 companies in the U.S., Europe and South America. He has written 2 books on the topic and sold over 25,000 copies.

 

He developed and taught a two-day seminar on How To Develop a High Performance Culture at George Washington University.

He has been quoted in Newsweek, featured in the Wall Street Journal, and nominated for the Michael J. Losey award for his work in the field of Human Resources.

In 1996 he developed ESP, “Expanding Sales on the Phone,” one of the first training programs for agents that incorporated dynamic branching. He holds a Lean/Six Sigma certification from Villanova University, a coaching certification from the Johnston Institute and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.

He is a Marine Corps veteran and a board member for Support KC, a non-profit organization that helps other non-profits to achieve their mission.

He and his wife Cathy are the parents of two young men.

You can reach Tom at tjmccoy@EmpEng.com or visit www.EmpEng.com

 

Auto-create Podcast with Amazon Polly

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As I am getting ready to create a presentation I am giving on Podcasting imagine my delight when I ran across this article on how to add Amazon’s Polly text to speech software into a WordPress blog post. This is exactly what I have been trying to communicate to my clients, how to creatively use speech to text and speech recognition tools for extended uses in business.

Voice-enabled technology continues to get better and better. If you are not familiar with Polly, it’s an online tool that allows you to type text onto a page and then it will create a voice file which you can download and embed an MP3 file into another program. Originally I was using this to create voices of characters in some of our training simulations, but now with the WordPress plugin – you can embed this functionality to read your blog posts — very cool!

Here is a step by step guide on how to add Polly to your WP site

 

One final bonus, the settings for this plugin allow you to automatically push your audio podcast to iTunes.

 

Contact Center Confidence Equation – Trust is the Key

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I was speaking to a colleague the other day about their experience with engaging with executives in a contact center and the topic of confidence in making decisions came up.  So it got my brain and curiosity in motion about what types of confidence factors impact the performance of your contact center.  I put together a list of departmental groups in a contact center where you could measure the amount of confidence you have then measure the overall confidence in total contact center performance.  Here is my list

  • Executive staff
  • Equipment
  • Agent performance
  • Reports and customer scores

When you break each one of these down, what would you say your confidence level is that they are performing at an acceptable level and which ones have a strong impact on how well your contact center performs?

Let’s just take the agent performance.  What is your confidence level that 80% of your agents are performing at their top level?  A great deal of their performance also lies in their own confidence level.  In a post written by Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders  she outlines five areas to evaluate in how to build the confidence levels of your agents.  The true starting point for improving this confidence metric is creating a culture of trust and connection.

Dr. Jodie Monger, from Customer Relationship Manager states “when they (customers) have confidence in the answers given by your agents, there is a direct impact on operational cost.”  She also states that this trust is the primary emotion customers want to feel when interacting with an agent.

So maybe the first place to start in raising your confidence score is taking a deep look at how well your organization is building a culture of trust.  Rather than just provide lip service your action speak louder than words but your words can also convey whether or not someone can trust you.  In a study conducted by the University of Glasgow people can detect whether or not you are trustworthy by the sound of your voice. This study fascinates me and really makes one aware of how we influence other’s opinions of us just from the way our voice sounds.  But that’s an entirely different topic.

To sum this up, try to calculate your confidence levels of the four areas I outlined to see where your contact center stands and which one would score the lowest and then assess how improving the trust levels would change the confidence levels.

Snap Chat for Training?

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The other day I was sitting in on a live discussion session lead by Brent Schlenker, coFounder of TLDC.us & Host of #TLDCast. The topic was can Snap Chat or other tools like this be used for corporate training? I enjoyed the interactive format of Brent’s forum and was glad I attended. It was very clear from the beginning, you really need to stay on top of how these application work in order to understand the features to use or to stay away from. The challenges that I see with anything like Snap Chat, Instagram and others is that you are not in control of what features work one day vs. the next or which version each user has. Similarly to online learning when it first came out – you were at the mercy of which browser was supported and which version the users had. Most of these social media tools have limited windows of time from which you can display or publish content which can be a negative or minus as well. Based on what I learned I would say there are ways you could use Snap Chat for training. Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Brief testimonials or stories on a topic of a good or bad experience
  2. Create filters to support your brand and encourage channel partners or customers to chime in what they like about your product
  3. Create a group and use it challenge each member to demonstrate a skill or task to compare best practices
  4. Announcing upcoming events and training in a fun way
  5. Embed URL to redirect users to login page after an introduction to an event or training activity found online
  6. Create short commercials on what they have learned in another training activity

I would not use this for any type of assessment tool, or required training as some people may not be as skilled as others at using this type of application.

If you have any stories you’d like to share on how your company used something like Snap Chat please share!

Your Verbal Face

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Did you know that researchers have proven that our voices give away a lot of what physical characteristics we have? What characteristics?  Here is a list of three:

  1. Your Height – The Acoustical Society of America in 2013 released information on a study they conducted to ask listeners whether or not someone was over six feet tall.  In most cases, taller people had deeper voicec
  2. Age- In a study conducted published by Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology the subjects were able to give a fairly accurate range of someone’s age from the sound of their voice – in addition to the choice of words they were using as well.
  3. Attractiveness- It seems that the sound of your voice may have the power to draw the opposite sex.  It’s probably no surprise that men are drawn to women with higher softer pitched voices and women tend to be drawn to men with deeper voices but in a study conducted were not able to prove if these were long-lasting matches

We also tend to draw judgment on other personality characteristics as well such as income, social status, and level of intelligence. For example, if you heard someone speaking like Marilyn Monroe, you would probably jump to some quick conclusions about their looks and personality.  We have built-in biases that work at the speed of light that formulate judgments of people we are speaking with.

This makes me question, are companies training staff to remove biases on how they treat customers from the sound of their voice?  Are you quick to assume a caller may not be very technical savvy if they have a high pitched voice when calling in for technical support?  Do you treat people differently because of an accent that is not close to your own?

 

Pain Points for Call Center Employees

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If you work in a call center, I’m sure you may have popped one or two items in the suggestion box from time to time. You’re not alone, according to studies conducted by eGain Corporation   and Five9, providing agents the ability to provide accurate and timely answers to callers is their biggest frustration.  Much of what is driving this challenge is the pace in which systems and information are out of synch.

It’s not uncommon for agents to have 3-4 windows up at all times from disparate systems in order to look up customer information and provide the most current information to them to provide the all-important “first call resolution”.  There is a lot of pressure on agents to perform their tasks in a way that is Checking the Box of all of the criteria their performance is being measured by.

eGain conducted a global survey of agents in US, Canada, UK and APAC, the top two problems were finding the right answer and when they did find the answers from more than one resource they were not consistent.

This would lead us to believe that the solution to this situation would be to invest in a KM system or combine the disparate systems into a more modern and user-friendly but these systems typically require a committed investment in both time and money.  Call centers today are running as fast as they can just to keep up.

The delicate balance of choosing where to spend money on upgraded systems, infrastructure, and human capital is a constant struggle for call center executives.

One solution is to provide agents with realistic training scenarios that teach them how to make decisions.  Knowing which window to access the correct sequence or which resource has the most accurate information.  One way to do this is to provide them with realistic situations during the training process.  Using a simulator like our ACES would be the best way to allow them realistic practice but if you are not able to implement this solution here are some other recommendations.

Create flashcards that allow them to make snap responses to common situations
Playback live calls and pause the screen and then poll the class to see what the agent should do next and then push the play button to show the real-life outcome
Have seasoned agents tell stories when they made the wrong decision and what the consequences were
Give agents access to customer feedback to see what types of experiences they have had and how to avoid giving them a bad experience
We all wish that these problems could be fixed quickly but it’s not realistic to think that at the pace in which the markets forces require call centers to constantly change with the combined pressure of managing expenses that this will happen.  So in the meantime, finding resources to help agents manage some of the chaos is probably a safe bet and will be an investment that won’t go to waste.

Responsive Learning?

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Much like responsive website developmnent, our brains too can be modified to respond and learn differently in new situations.  In this episode, Nancy and Allison talk about how our brains can change over time when we learn a new skill even beyond the age that people historically thought learning was on the decline.

http://psychology.about.com/od/biopsychology/f/adult-neurogenesis.htm

 

Click here to listen to  past episode of Training Tech Talk where we discuss this issus of responsive learning vs. responsive design

How You Can Change Your Voice to Control the Situation

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In this episode, Nancy and Allison talk about how you can learn to control your voice to convey the message mask how you really feel.  For example in a sales situation when you’re not confident, you don’t always want the customer to know that.  The challenge for us is that our vocal fold are tied directly to cells tied to our nervous system and emotions.

Link to Fresh Air’s Interview with Peter Doctor “It’s all in your head”emotion-analytics