Customer Care Learning Transformation Delivers Bottom Line Impact
By Alice Cutter, VP Learning Design & Delivery, Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable’s mission is to connect our customers to the world – simply, reliably and with superior service. In the past year, our business context changed. There is increased competition and rapidly changing technology in the marketplace leading to growing customer expectations.

Time Warner Cable likes competition; it drives innovative thinking and an increased focus on service quality. As our marketplace continues to be more competitive our customer care agents are impacted in their efforts to provide excellence every day. There are more:

  • Complex problems to solve – new technology is introduced on a daily basis

  • Rapidly changing products – makes it necessary to understand more quickly our changing products and those of our competitors

  • Diverse customers with new expectations due to their dependency on technology – agents must communicate effectively to ensure they listen and respond to these higher and more complex demands

In the past year, Time Warner Cable went from two operating units to one. With this change we discovered more than 15 new hire customer care curricula with varying lengths of time. This meant no consistency in learning for our agents across the company. In turn our customers were not provided with a consistent brand experience. We have high expectations of customer care agents. They support multiple markets, multiple product lines and service multiple functions (billing, technical support, sales). They also work with multiple systems and our customer management databases that are not integrated. The typical time to competency of our customer care agents was one year. Even with all they must to know, there is an ever increasing need for them to reach competency at a faster rate.

These business challenges made it a necessity for us to transform our Care New Hire curriculum to one that develops confidence and improves time to competency positioning Time Warner Cable as a telecommunications provider of choice. Three solutions were developed:

  • Standard consistent Customer Care New Hire curriculum

  • Facilitation program to up-skill facilitators

  • Mentor program built to leverage the skills and leadership of experienced agents

Standard Curriculum
Our desired outcome was to shorten time to competency with a curriculum that had standard/consistent content based on the top call drivers to improve customer satisfaction. Agents across the enterprise would obtain the same knowledge and build the same skills in order to provide a consistent brand experience for our customers. We had to ensure that a “pull” or learner-focused environment was created; the learner is very active making decisions and pulling information needed to help him or her in doing so. Tools, systems, product, equipment, billing, repair and infrastructure are taught in a hands-on approach in the context of real life customer scenarios. Time Warner Cable quality assurance behaviors, the customer call flow and sales skills are integrated throughout. Hands on learning labs containing all of our products and equipment were set up in each call center giving new agents the opportunity to experience our products in a live environment and practice the skills they need to help service our customers.

Fifty five percent of the curriculum is hands-on learning in the classroom or lab and 45 percent is time on the floor for on-the job training. Two types of on-the-job training are woven throughout: Side Jacking and Nesting. When Side Jacking, the new agent sits with a mentor (1:1) and listens as live customer calls are received. Worksheets are used to provide structure. When Nesting, the new agent takes live customer calls and a mentor provides support as needed. Side Jacking starts as early as day 3 and Nesting day 20 to ensure agents build the confidence and competence needed to be successful. During Nesting, the new agents are measured and coached on the same performance metrics used for experienced agents. Knowledge checks and assessments are administered throughout the curriculum.

Facilitation Program
Our facilitators did not have experience in the learning environment created for the new curriculum. They were more familiar with a demo-lecture approach. A two-week blended program was developed to get them prepared. Week one was done virtually providing activities to familiarize them with the content and layout. Week two was face-to-face so each facilitator could practice facilitating and receive feedback. Seventy one facilitators were trained, staggered over five months, to follow the rollout of the new curriculum.

Mentor Program
We introduced a mentor program to support the vast amount of on-the-job training within the curriculum. Besides providing support to the new agents it has created motivation among the mentors and increased the bench strength for our supervisor roles. Experienced agents aspire to be a mentor because it provides them with opportunities to share their expertise, build communication and leadership skills and gain satisfaction in helping someone else succeed. Mentor selection criteria and a robust infrastructure were designed to ensure program success. A four-hour program was developed to train the mentors. It provided an introduction to the new curriculum and skills training on communications and providing feedback.

A curriculum transformation of this magnitude would never have been successful without collaboration among many functional leaders within the company. The Learning Team led the transformation in collaboration with more than eight departments/functions in the areas of governance, design/development and implementation.

A core committee of leaders from Care Operations and Learning was established to govern and ensure that the curriculum met the needs of both business and learners. A needs assessment was conducted, focused on the top call drivers in the call centers, future business needs and the knowledge, skill and ability gaps of customer care agents throughout Time Warner Cable. From this, the committee identified critical learning topics and collaborated on the most effective training solution. The committee also defined measurements of success and gathered baseline metrics for future evaluation of the curriculum’s impact.

Throughout the nine month design/development phases, the Learning Design team collaborated closely with Care Operations to ensure the curriculum supported employee performance expectations and could be operationalized in our 31 care centers. To ensure content met learners’ needs, Learning Design partnered with subject matter experts from Marketing, Technical Operations, Care and Sales. This resulted in accurate/relevant training material while building trust and a network of advocates. Learning Design worked closely with the knowledge management system administration team to create and revise articles, videos and reference materials so agents had information at the point of need.

Implementation required strategic collaboration across the enterprise. Product based nesting required a redesign of our telephone call intake through our Interactive Voice Response system and how it routes calls to our Customer Care agents. Various IT Telecom teams partnered with us to redesign our call flows. To ensure a successful rollout, Learning Delivery partnered with Learning Design leaders to ensure all facilitators understood the concept of pull versus push facilitation. Quality is critical to deliver customer service, so delivery leaders partnered with Quality Assurance to develop/deliver a workshop providing facilitators with the fundamental behaviors driving quality agent performance. Core Committee members worked with market level delivery leaders to prepare each site for implementation.

In partnership with Workforce Management, training was delivered to over 300 frontline mentors. Learning Delivery collaborated with facilities leaders to secure space for hands-on equipment labs and negotiated budget responsibility for the up fit. A partnership with Technical Operations was required to address construction and wiring needs for the hands-on labs allowing us to bring Time Warner Cable services to each lab for all core products. The teams successfully implemented 31 learning labs across the organization. Final preparation involved conducting train-the-trainers for 71 facilitators across the Enterprise. By the end of July 2014, the curriculum was implemented in all 31 Care Centers. Due to the efforts that went into transforming the Care New Hire curriculum, there is a new synergy behind the partnerships as all parties come together to support the successful onboarding of Customer Care employees at Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner Cable hires over 3,000 new customer care agents annually. With over half of our Customer Care Centers using the new curriculum as of this submission, we have realized significant improvement in the overall confidence of our new agents and the service quality they provide. The financial impact of fully implementing the curriculum is estimated at $2.9 million annually driven by a 5-day reduction of new hire training. In 2014, we are projected to save $1.5 million. Agents that have completed the new curriculum are consistently at par or exceed scores on key operational metrics within their first 60 days.

Within the first 90 days post-training, new agents score higher on all nine of our key Quality Assurance metrics. Three hundred mentors have been selected and trained creating a bench for future supervisor talent. The standardized curriculum has created geographic mobility of our facilitators resulting in improved efficiency and productivity metrics.

A clear company mission that was aligned with our business goals enabled Time Warner Cable to accelerate our customer care agents’ ability to learn, grow and succeed while exceeding customer expectations.

HR Pulse is a bi-monthly resource published exclusively for the members of the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association.

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