Leading the Call Center – An Invitation

QuestionThere is a question in all corporate training, all industries, every professional position, “What is the value of training?”  Generally followed by “How do I know there is value in training? and the incredibly astute question, “Where is the value in training?”

Leadership is looking sideways and helping those who follow climb up, thus empowering the leader to climb to the next level.  Yet, the lingering doubt remains, “How do I measure success in training?”  Long have I advocated that the leader is a teacher and a learner, which are fundamental to success.  Whether that teaching comes from delegating authority, empowering people to act, or directly teaching someone struggling, the leader is always learning through teaching so they may learn more perfectly.

As part of my research into call center training, it has been discovered that those who receive official training, and those who learn their duties on the fly, have precisely the same chance of being successful; this is an indication of not the power of training, but the motivation of the learning adult.  There is a difference between adults, and the difference is the individual propensity to learn, discover, dig deeper, ask questions, and apply the results pursuing why.  Thus, one would naturally ask, “What is the difference between a learning adult and an adult who actively chooses not to learn?”  I think I know the answer, I have anecdotal evidence that supports my conclusions, but I would like to test these conclusions.

The Invitation

As part of my doctoral degree program, I must conduct research and report the findings.  I am inviting your American-based, English-speaking call center to help me test the assumptions and conclusions for my research.  The business will not be named, the individuals participating will not be named, and the study will occur online and outside regular business hours.  I want to interview 10-15 of your call-taking/front-line contact center employees using online interviewing software.  I want to interview 10-15 call center trainers, also employing online interviewing software.  Finally, I would like to take the information gleaned from the first two groups, sit down in a focus group, discuss what was found with 5-7 senior call center leaders, and glean their information, conclusions, and ideas.

I would ask that those participating in the research have a LinkedIn profile as a tool to verify years of experience.  No single participant would be featured in more than one of the participating groups.  All names of individuals will be hidden behind a participation code, and any identifiable business information will be deleted from the transcripts.  All findings will be reported in aggregate to avoid any identifiable information from potentially leaking into the published research.

Call CenterAs a bonus, those who help through participation, if they are interested, can receive a copy of the finished dissertation via email or physical copy, depending upon their preference.  My purpose in researching the call center is to dynamically review the adult learner in the pressure-cooking learning environment of call centers.  I have worked as an agent and a leader of agents spanning formal education.  The degree does not make the person, nor does a degree make a leader.  What makes the leader is their commitment to learning and teaching.

Please, join my research. Entering the study is possible through emailing msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  If you would like to verify my credentials, don’t hesitate to contact my chair Professor Dr. Susan Miedzianowski in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University, via email: Susan.Miedzianowski@my.gcu.edu.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

The Role of a Call Center Trainer: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Bobblehead DollI want to express my deepest gratitude to Call Centre Helper Magazine for the opportunity to advertise for my dissertation research.  I once asked a call center leader what a trainer does; their answer still makes me chuckle.

A trainer trains!

Kind of obvious, right.  Now, what does a trainer train?  How does a trainer train?  How does a business leader know the trainer has been successful in training?  What is the purpose of training?  What does training do for those trained?  These questions and the business leaders’ comment have inspired my professional and academic footsteps for several years now.Call Center 2

In early July 2021, I finally received permission to begin human testing for my dissertation.  I have posted several advertisements on social media for call center workers, trainers, and senior leaders to entice 17 people willing to answer some questions about training in call centers, a call center trainer, and what precisely a call center trainer does.  The following is a brief description of the aims and intents of my research to increase interest and hopefully glean the needed participants to finish my study.

Consider for a moment a teacher who has influenced you professionally or personally, and why did they make such an impact?  Could a different person have made the same impact?  Why?

The above questions are the crux of my research; to date, the role of the instructor has not been considered a variable in corporate training.  As an adult educator, I find this gap very alarming.  In academia, the teacher’s role has been extensively studied, and opinions abound regarding the role of the teacher.  Yet, in a professional setting, no researcher has addressed this gap to date.  With the push to move all training to computer-based solutions in autonomous environments, if the trainer does not teach corporate knowledge and behaviors, who does?

Call Center BeansIn researching the history of professional training, the model employed has not changed since a master taught journeyman who led novice instruction.  Yet, with technology, global populations, cultures, language, and globe-spanning organizations, the role of the trainer seems to continue to take a back seat.  Yet, if a corporate trainer profoundly influenced you professionally, would you not want that experience for another person?

Due to the restrictions on human testing in research, I cannot change the dry legalese of the advertisements.  I know they are long, tedious, and challenging to get through.  However, if you are interested, please get in touch with me directly using:

Msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Please note, to participate, you will need the following:

      • Work in an English Speaking Call Center with a home base in the United States.
      • Have a LinkedIn account (This is for verification of professional qualifications only).
      • Speak English like a native.
      • Be willing to answer demographic questions, including time in the current role, education, and so forth.
      • Be willing to elaborate upon your answers. I will ask you some questions about your experiences; please provide details, depth, and descriptions as your answer.

Knowledge Check!Important to note, your name and business will never be mentioned in my dissertation!  I am not collecting any personal data beyond education and years of experience.  Any direct quotes employed will carry no connecting data, and no one will see your details.

Thank you for considering joining me in my dissertation research.  I look forward to publishing this research and discussing the findings with you in later articles.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Call Center Senior Trainers – Focus Group

Date: 19 July 2021

Andragogy - The PuzzleI am a doctoral candidate under the direction of Professor Dr. Susan Miedzianowski in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University. My name is Michael D. “Dave” Salisbury. I am conducting a research study to explore the trainer’s specific influence on employees’ development in an English-speaking call center based on a clear understanding of the trainer’s role.

You can participate if you can answer “Yes” to all of the following questions.

      • Do you speak English?
      • Do you live and work in the United States?
      • Are you employed in an English-speaking call center?
      • Do you have an updated LinkedIn.com profile (for verification purposes only)?
      • Are you willing to answer demographic questions about your age, level of education, years of experience in the call center industry, years in your current call center, and your current job title?
      • Are you an adult over the age of 18?
      • Do you have a trainer/senior trainer title, or are you expected to train or supervise call center trainers in your current role?
      • Do you have more than six years in the call center industry?
      • Are you willing to be audio recorded using ZOOM online software?

If you answer “No,” to any of these questions, you cannot participate in the focus group. I will verify your eligibility via your LinkedIn.com Profile before the focus group meets.

The activities for this research project will include:

If you are eligible to be in this focus group, you will be asked to:

      • What:
        • Meet with other similarly qualified professionals via Zoom, approximately 90 minutes, video and audio recorded.
        • Answer the demographic questions honestly.
        • Answer a series of questions regarding how a call center trainer has influenced you. As well as what you think a call center trainer does.
        • Review a job description of the call center trainer’s role.
        • Review data collected during interviews for completeness.
      • When: On the date and time discussed via email.
      • Where:com online meeting.
      • How: Using your home computer or Internet-capable device, connecting with Zoom.com.

Your participation in this study is voluntary.

An alias will protect all data in this study during the recording of the actual interview and in the documents by using an alpha-numeric code to tie your email address and hide any potential method to track your responses back to you.  All information reported in the dissertation will be in a collated format so individual data cannot be tracked to any single participant.

If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact:
M. Dave Salisbury
(435-219-5414)
msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Thank you!

Distant Learning – Adult Education Strategies for the Call Center (Part 2 of 2)

Chinese CrisisGagné’s Instructional Design Model, is a conceptual model for moving organizational goals into organizational behavior, referred to by Gagné (2018) as a “motivational model of organizational goal pursuit,” (p. S98-S99).  Gagné’s instructional design model collects the curriculum, the organizational goals, needs, desires, managerially acceptable behaviors, and supports the trainer in the training environment.  Important to note, Gagné (2018) stated a known truth, the trainer, and training department, are dynamic influencers in the business organization, and any learning organization will gladly take the trainer and training department and make the importance of learning observable from the first moment a visitor enters to the last impression as the visitor leaves.

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction

Gagné’s Nine Events of eLearning Instruction

Gain Attention Gain Attention
Inform Objectives Inform Objectives
Stimulate Recall Stimulate Recall
Present New Materials Create Goal Centered eLearning Content
Provide Guidance Provide Guidance
Elicit Performance Practical Application
Provide Feedback Provide Feedback
Assess Performance Assess Performance
Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job. Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job.

As stated in Part 1, there is not a significant difference between Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction, and Gagné’s Nine Events of eLearning Instruction.  The difference is in the modality or training delivery, or how the student interacts with the trainer and the materials.  The events are the same, and only adapted to the specific way the materials will be delivered.  Think of these two models as two different channels on TV, except one channel has the news anchor standing in your front room and the other channel you have your front room to yourself.

Andragogy - LEARNThe importance of making the shift from training being a singular activity for the extent of the employee working in a role and making training a regular event where learning is ongoing as a competitive advantage, represents a major hurdle for call centers to overcome.  However, it cannot be more emphatically declared, training is an event, and the training events can be replicated for lifelong and lifewide learners to enjoy.  Let us take the individual events and break them down into specific actions a trainer uses to plan and execute training in call centers:

    1. Gain Attention – a 360-degree event! Trainer and student should be present physically and mentally.
        • This is not a game, nor is it an activity. Gaining attention means to tell the introduction to a story.
        • State a real-world example problem statement.
        • Represents a crucial moment in new training, to capture the cognition of the students. Get the students to have a stake in solving the problem.
        • Tell them WHY this class is important to them personally and professionally.
        • The trainer must declare, and then exemplify that they are a student, and the trainer is excited to learn and explore the topic with those in attendance.
        • Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
    2. Inform Objectives – a 180-degree event. Set high standards, train to meet those high standards, and watch the student perform!
        • Restate the WHY
        • Detail the WHAT
        • Examples of HOW
        • Focusing on these three items in the objectives will advance attention, and this begins to build trust between the instructor and the materials.
        • Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
    3. Stimulate Recall – a 180-degree event
        • What do they already know? Ask!  Go around the room and get 100% participation, including the trainer.
        • How do they use the materials, or topic of the class, currently?
        • Get the students to declare WHY they are interested.
        • Get the student looking for WHEN and WHERE they should be using the materials being discussed. Anticipation for application is crucial to attention!
    4. Present New Materials –
        • Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
        • Students can instruct.
        • Ask questions.
        • Go around the class to involve everyone.
        • Use conflict as a positive force to stimulate new thinking on current topics with new materials.
        • Supply a “Parking Lot” for topics not specifically on topic but are questions from the students in the moment.
    5. Provide Guidance – a 360-degree event!
        • In face-to-face delivery this means answering questions.
        • In eLearning, this means answering questions; but employing technology adroitly to meet the student’s needs.
        • Be honest! Expect honesty.
        • Be forthright. Anticipate forthrightness.
        • Declare what is known and not known.
        • Timely responses are critical to setting up the elements of trust needed to achieve the remaining events successfully.
    6. Elicit Performance – a 360-degree event!
        • Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
        • Regardless of delivery, get the student practicing what is being taught.
        • Role play.
        • Using software, searching for data, doing the duties of the role.
        • Start as soon as practical and continue in ever increasing levels of difficulty.
        • Emulate real life scenarios!
    7. Provide Feedback – a 360-degree event!
        • Feedback is NOT criticism. The second the trainer becomes critical, is the moment trust is destroyed and the student stops progressing on the nine events of instruction.
        • Feedback is positive, truth filled, and delivered best in a neutral tone.
        • Honesty is everything.
        • Use the sandwich method. Compliment what is being done well.  Offer opportunities for improvement (NOT Criticism).  Compliment other strengths.
        • Be open to receiving feedback.
        • Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
    8. Assess Performance – a 360-degree event!
        • Formal exams
        • Informal scenarios where the student talks the trainer through what they would do.
        • Student led instruction on a topic.
        • Student led assessments of other students.
        • Keep event 7 clearly in mind when designing performance assessments.
    9. Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job – a 360-degree event!
        • How does a student contact the trainer after the class concludes?
        • How does a student know they have successfully learned the materials?
        • Is the “Parking Lot” empty?
        • Gage the enthusiasm of individuals to do what they are doing in class for real.

Andragogy - Trainer FailureHow does a trainer know they have achieved success using these events; “Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world, it beats money, power, and influence; it is nothing more than faith in action” – Henry Chester.  Faith in action involves trust and reflects confidence in the trainer by the learner.  Are the students excited to perform; if so, the trainer has achieved success.  If there are reservations, address them on an individual student level.  If there are hesitations; assure the student, the trainer is still there to aid and encourage.  Experience will be the new instructor and the trainer will now be a mentor and advocate.  Explain these roles and show how the trainer is still there through technical means and physical visits; ensure each student remembers that the trainer is still learning and is willing to learn with the student.

How does a business leader evaluate the efficacy of training using Gagne’s tools as detailed; through the performance of the employees in the roles they have trained to perform.  Set the standard for performance using an untrained individual, a newly trained individual, and a trainer, which then becomes the measurement template for evaluation.  For example, if the training was on performance of a task, then use time to complete the task as the metric and use the template in how quickly those tasks are performed as the measurement of performance.

Call Center Agent - FemaleEnd the silliness of five different methods for evaluating training.  Happy sheets are ambiguous and do not reflect reality.  Measuring learning is uselessly inefficient for judging how much has been learned, mainly because the person taking the test is not applying in real-life the principles learned.  Worse, only a small percentage of the population can adequately take tests and have that test-performance reflect real-life application in using the principles learned.  Measuring just through application is a time-wasting event.  It takes time to setup, time to take down, time to score, and still only a small percentage of the population can adequately show application when under testing requirements.  Speaking of time, using business results or returns on investment as the stick to measure training effectiveness requires long-term time commitment and resource investment which do not reflect the ambiguity of market conditions.

Only through performance-based assessments can training be evaluated as the event that influences business results or reflects a return on the training investment.  Thus, the assessment begins with those being trained able to perform the tasks hired to perform more efficiently because they succeeded at a formal training event.  Does the newly trained person exemplify the behaviors, attitudes, and enthusiasm, as a product of confidence and trust in the trainer, to act independently?  If so, training was a value-added event and the business will see the benefits.

Blue Money BurningOn a final note, give training an actual budget.  Too often training is an unbudgeted expense that absorbs costs unrelated to actual training.  This method of paying for training produces unrealistic costs for trainers to explain or to precisely track.  Changing how training is evaluated, and budgeting the costs of training, without all the garbage of untrackable expenses, will improve the call center immeasurably.  Call center leadership can, and should, be actively learning in the call center.  Learning represents a commitment to changing personally, then professionally.  Change is the key to competing in the current global marketplace, and the company that can change and adapt is the company focused on learning.

Reference

Gagné, M. (2018). From strategy to action: Transforming organizational goals into organizational behavior. International Journal of Management Reviews, 20, S83-S104. doi: 10.1111/ijmr.12159

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein. The pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.
All rights reserved. For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/