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case study 2:
create customer service results

After the fourth call in ten minutes Natalie knew she had a problem. For the third time this quarter Natalie stood up from behind her partition and asked of her staff – “Is everyone taking these calls?”

And for the third time this quarter she was answered by a forest of raised hands.

Natalie prided herself on managing the Call Centre. As far as she was concerned this room was the sharp end of her company’s corporate image. When customers called here they expected fast, efficient and courteous service… And Natalie made sure they got it – unless…

Marketing and Sales had started a product promotion that Natalie thought was due in two months. She and her staff had been told a full briefing would be given to them before the launch.

She looked up at the calendar on her wall and noted with grim satisfaction the date circled seven weeks from today. But being right did little to solve her problem.

Her Call Centre was taking enquiries about a promotion she had no idea about.

At first Natalie had told her staff to refer such customers to her, but the row of blinking red lights across her phone quickly showed her how impossible that was going to be. Everyone makes mistakes, that much she could forgive. But this was the third time in as many months and Natalie knew something had to be done.

And selective abuse of Marketing Managers, while fun and stress relieving, was proving ineffective.

Natalie put down the headphones and shook her head. She looked up at the Impact consultant and a tight smile stretched across her face. “They’re not usually like that.”

The consultant nodded, “Of course not, but they’re stressed and they’re being asked questions they have no way of answering.”

Natalie had just listened to a selection of customer enquiries being monitored by the Impact consultants as part of the initial phase of their assignment.

She’d heard every rule in the book being broken, every mistake being made and every customer going away without their problem being solved. Marketing had been blamed, management had been blamed, and even she’d been blamed by her staff because they couldn’t answer the customer’s questions.

As far as she was concerned she’d trained her staff as best she could, but her techniques were for best case scenarios and this kind of problem left her staff out in the rain. She looked up at the consultant.

“What do we do?”

Toothpicks.

This was the exercise the consultants had decided would be the best to illustrate the situation at Natalie’s Call Centre. They knew this activity would help reflect the behaviours for the team to adopt and those to leave behind. With expert facilitation, these sorts of exercises were powerful reflections of real-world situations.

It was a simple enough premise – sixteen toothpicks arranged into five boxes. You could move three toothpicks to make four boxes.

Everyone had their own set of toothpicks to work with. A toothpick could not be moved without the approval of a Manager. At first only the Impact consultants were acting as Managers. Communication was reduced to two hand signals to indicate whether the toothpick being moved was appropriate or inappropriate to the solution.

Once you solved the puzzle you became qualified to give feedback to others.

The idea was deceptively simple. Yet this was one of Impact’s most explosive exercises.

Some HR managers questioned its usefulness until they had experienced it for themselves. Because, like a lot of Impact’s sessions, it wasn’t only the exercise itself that was effective, it was the combination of the exercise, the experience and the debrief afterwards.

The Call Centre staff sat over their tables, gazing down at toothpick geometry. Everyone approached the problem differently…

Some sat and thought, trying to work it out alone.

Only one went for the obvious solution; grabbing a Manager and touching every toothpick until the best choices were identified. In school they would have called it cheating… Here, taking action was the best option.

Occasionally, some would refuse to play the game at all…

Deny, Justify, Blame, Quit. Those were the usual reactions to problem stress:

“This doesn’t prove anything.”

“I couldn’t solve it because of the noise from outside.”

“You didn’t explain the rules of the game well enough.”

“I’m not playing your silly game.”

Natalie realised how her staff hated taking ownership of a problem.

The Consultants debriefed the game to illustrate responsibility and effective crisis management through a positive call coaching seminar.

Natalie could see during the debrief just how effective the ‘game’ had been as a wake-up call – she could see the changes on her team’s faces. It gave her the confidence that they were now equipped to deal with problem situations far more effectively.

Natalie smiled as she listened in on a complaint call from the Impact consultant. Her staff member was unaware the call was fake and handled it quickly and efficiently.

The communication breakdown between the Call Centre and Marketing was still a problem that needed addressing, but at least her staff had the skills to cope with it now. Impact had helped here – Impact coaching sessions and an ongoing schedule of facilitated meetings had improved communication with the Marketing Department.

Natalie sat back at her desk and slowly pulled open the drawer. She’d snagged an Impact pamphlet at the last seminar and was keen to try her mind at another brainteaser.

“Maybe I’ll answer this one quickly…” Or maybe not.

What Can We Learn From Case Study 2? …
“Generative Learning Facilitates Best Practice Program Delivery”

All Impact facilitators are skilled in the application of Generative Learning. From the participant’s point of view, this means that open expression and challenge is always valid. And as they will be asked to think for themselves, they’ll also learn for themselves.

Generative Learning models the human learning experience. It incorporates the innovative research of specialists such as Bernice McCarthy (4-MAT); methodology geniuses – Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Robert Dilts and Michael Grinder as well as processes such as Generative Learning Strategies (Marvin Oka) and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). These methodologies allow our facilitators to easily transfer mental maps, skills and behaviours without the programs becoming teacher-centric or simply data dumps.

The value of the debrief

Many chalk-and-talk style trainers pay lip service to debriefing. In Impact’s experience, the debrief is the most valuable part of each session. After every new piece of Impact content there is a debrief. From the participant’s point of view these appear as open-forum discussions about the last activity. They are, actually, the means by which the facilitator completes mental loops left open after the session; re-promotes curiosity and open-mindedness; subtly corrects poor interpretation and most importantly, integrates and generalises the learned behaviour to other contexts.

Ownership gets transferred in the debrief

Through the debrief the participant completes full understanding of the new behaviour or skill, reinforces the ‘why this can help you’ aspect of learning and attaches the behaviours and skill to future workplace situations. BFOs are generated as participants create their own connections by generalising a specific learning into their own individual context. For instance, the learned skill of Projecting Charisma in Advanced Presentation Skills can also be useful in other contexts such as Leadership Confidence or Positive Negotiation Outcomes.

The quality of the facilitation is everything

In designing a learning program it is the quality of the facilitation that will guarantee the difference. Impact’s world’s best practice facilitators know how to transfer learning, facilitate growth and understanding plus ensure that the participants enjoy a memorable program and leave thirsty for more learning.

5 Reasons to use Impact for Delivery
  • Impact’s world-class facilitators are able to communicate a high quality Generative approach.
  • “BFOs.” It’s only when Impact helps individuals create their own learning that skills are fully transferred. Because, while no one likes to be told, everyone believes their own ‘flashes of inspiration’.
  • Debriefs are thorough, planned, have outcomes and all facilitators are trained in Impact’s unique process. The results? Learning that sticks.
  • Fun. No matter how conservative the audience; enjoyment of the process is central to quality learning. In fact if they aren’t enjoying it, learning becomes a chore. Challenge, stretch and debate can all be very enjoyable… when professionally facilitated.
  • Your workplace examples are used. Your jargon is used. Your issues are facilitated. Our facilitator will know your business.

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