At 6 weeks of classroom training, International Call Center Agent Training was taking too long. Agents in training did not begin taking live phone calls until the third week of class, making it difficult for instructors to accurately forecast agent performance. New reps had little time for “side by side” training with experienced call center reps and instructors. The length of the training also constrained the company’s ability to take calls and earn revenue in the international marketplace. The long lead time before getting on the phones also frustrated students, the instructors, and seasoned reps who were having to coach and mentor new reps, even after 6 weeks of training. Our task was to:
- Improve Speed to Productivity by drastically reducing the end to end time from a new hire’s first day on the job to the time when they were judged to be productive.
- Improve agent performance by building quality into the training and development process.
To achieve our goal to train people faster and ensure that they perform at a high level faster, we took the following actions.
- Constructed a Value Stream Map for the International Call Center Agent Training product. We focused on tasks that the agents performed daily, addressing all other training requirements with on the job training. We accessed the process from a Lean/Just In Time point of view.
- Implemented “Performance Impact Mapping”, establishing specific and structural links between training content and measurable skills and abilities. Once we knew which parts of the training curriculum were “high value” skills, we did the following.
- Adapted Rapid Application Design/Development (RAD) and Joint Application Design/Development (JAD) concepts to Instructional Systems Design. We customized this process to help us rapidly iterate through our process in a way that fit into Delta’s Call Center training operation.
- Formalized the mentor role and incorporated experienced agents into the International Call Center rep training.
- Reduced classroom training time by 63% from 6 weeks to 11 days.
- Added Side-by-side coaching to training, transforming a previous complaint by the experienced staff into a strong selling point of the new program.
- Dropped end to end training time from 6 weeks to 3 weeks, even after taking into account the addition of a formalized mentoring process.
- Sped Up the first live call for Reps In Training by 50%. (Reps now take their first live calls on the 7th day of training, rather than in the 15th day)
- Added a performance-based assessment to the training, ensuring that the new program produced measurable results and that both students and leaders were working towards specific performance objectives.
The actions taken in this initiative marked a radical departure from this group’s standard operating procedures. Using transactional lean concepts, we were able to demonstrate the power of focusing everyone’s effort on doing the right thing at the right time.