By Paul Hesselschwerdt, Global Partners Training
Ron Zielinski is the Senior VP of global customer service for Coherent, a major global supplier of industrial laser equipment. Several years ago, we were presenting the results of the pilot program for a training program called Total Customer Focus™ (TCF™). The primary goal of the TCF™ program is to change the behaviors of service people so that they can become trusted partners to their customers, rather than simply a good service supplier. The measures that the training participants use to determine if they have successfully changed their behaviors include things like the identification of new revenue opportunities, improved productivity of troubleshooting and installations, and reduction in avoidable costs.
We presented the results that the Coherent people had achieved in these areas, then paused to ask Ron what he thought about them. Ron’s answer surprised us,
“These results are great, but frankly I’m pleased that for many of my service people this may be the first time they clearly recognized the connection between the work they do and quantifiable results.”
Ron’s insight raises several fundamental questions about measuring training programs, beginning with; Why do you want to measure a training program in the first place? Who are you doing the measuring for? And What should you be measuring?
Typically, organizations measure training because they want to know if the training was successful. Senior managers, especially want to know if the investment in training paid off, i.e. what’s the ROI, etc.? Learning and Development leaders want to know if the learners achieved the program’s learning objectives? Also, they are interested to know how the learners applied the training.
These are all valid questions, of course. Unfortunately, by focusing mostly on the needs of corporate stakeholders, they overlook the needs of the learners themselves. In addition, they often measure training activities, such as hours of training or ‘soft’, qualitative factors, such as satisfaction with the training. As a result, organizations end up with training measurements that are neither meaningful nor accurate. Very often companies end up doing a poor job of measuring training. In fact, according to research by McKinsey, half of U.S. companies don’t bother to measure their training programs at all.
Embedding Based Measurement
At Global Partners Training, we take a different approach to measuring training. Instead of measuring training to evaluate a program’s effectiveness from the perspective of corporate stakeholders, our measurement approach starts with measuring by and for the learners themselves. This change in perspective, from corporate stakeholders to individual learners impacts what gets measured and how measurement is done. Most importantly, this learner-based measurement ensures that learners understand how the application of learning impacts their success on the job as well as in their personal lives. And this leads to stronger commitment and motivation to permanently change their behavior. We call our approach; ‘Embedding-based Measurement’, because it enables learners to use measurement to embed new skills and behaviors in their everyday life - permanently.
In addition to supporting permanent behavior change, Embedding-based Measurement provides a more reliable way to calculate the impact of training on business and financial results – in other words, an ROI on training. Here’s how the process works.
Participants in the training program learn new skills and behaviors, for example calming the customer down during an emotional situation.
They then identify when these situations come up in their day-to-day interactions with customers. They further define how they will apply the new skills and most importantly what the expected outcomes will be.
Let me give you an example of how this process works.
Linking Service Engineers’ Behavior To Reduced Out Of Control Escalations
Tony Nazzaro was the Senior Director of Customer Support for ASML, the leading worldwide supplier of leading-edge lithography equipment for semiconductor manufacturers. Nazzaro was leading an initiative to transform their entire service organization to a more customer-focused culture. To do that, Nazzaro needed to embed new, customer-focused behaviors in the day-to-day ways of working of frontline service engineers. Nazzaro also wanted to be sure that the application of new customer-focused behaviors and skills had a positive impact in areas that were important to the company and the individual service engineer. One such area was escalations; not just any escalation, but ones that Nazzaro called “out of control escalations”.
All service organizations have a process for managing customer service problems that can’t be quickly resolved by the first service person contacted by the customer. These problems are typically escalated to someone with more expertise or authority until the problem is resolved. Anyone who has worked in technical service, however, knows that some escalations can become so ‘hot’ that they rapidly overwhelm the usual escalation process and become, in effect out-of-control escalations. Like a firefight, these escalations consume inordinate resources such as technical experts, customer compensation for lost business, senior management attention, and more. In addition, these out-of-control escalations caused enormous stress for the service people involved and severely damaged customer trust.
Nazzaro knew that what often caused a routine escalation to become a firefight was the behavior of those first-contact service engineers. For example, when the service engineer was transparent and accurate about the problem and possible solutions and when they demonstrated the right sense of urgency and control over the situation, the likelihood of the customer remaining calm and avoiding triggering an out-of-control escalation was very high. The solution, therefore, was to train service engineers to use these new behaviors when they encountered a routine escalation.
Calculating The Return On Investment
Nazzaro had estimated the cost of an out-of-control escalation at between $30,000 and $100,000 and the frequency of these escalations at 2 per month. Service engineers applied their new customer-focused skills and behaviors to reduce escalations, many of which qualified as out of control. Over time, these efforts resulted in a reduction of out-of-control escalations by more than 50%, generating annual savings estimated at $1.7 to $6 million. And of course, this was in addition to significant improvements in employee morale and customer satisfaction.
Teaching people to measure the impact of applying new skills and behaviors to their daily work makes a lot of sense. After all, the learners are in the best position to know how their new skills will affect an outcome. Measuring this cause and effect is also a powerful motivator for learners to continue to apply the new skills since they in effect prove that their new skills work.
In the next article in our series on measuring training, we will focus on the next measurement stakeholder group, Learning and Development managers.
About The Author
Paul Hesselschwerdt has been a senior executive in training and consulting firms for more than 30 years. He has designed and implemented programs in customer service, sales and marketing, leadership, and project management across a range of industries, including healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and high technology. For additional insights, please visit www.globalpartnerstraining.com.