Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Addressing Call Center Performance Gaps (Post 2)

 This is the second in a series of posts providing insight into the application of the ADDIE process based on skill gap identified by the client. The client requires a customized CBT capable of population on the company LMS to address all identified knowledge/skill gaps. What follows is a glimpse at the processes involved in ensuring the delivery strategy is aligned with required performance outcomes.

Needs Assessment 

This is a proposal and road map for a learning intervention to for the XYZ Corporation. The company is a leading manufacturer and distributor of scientific instruments. The global customer service center is located near my home in Illinois. There are over 25 multi-lingual Customer service representatives handling calls and products ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

My limited knowledge of the company was garnered through communication with a former classmate who works in the training department. I was originally tasked with assessing the feasibility of developing an asynchronous SCORM/Experience API eLearning module on Infrared thermometers. As noted by (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, and Kemp 2013) instructional design is an iterative process and discoveries formulated during subsequent sections of this document have necessitated minor changes to this section. Nonetheless, my analysis confirms the feasibility of my original brief. Specifically, I propose to create a bespoke module addressing the following goals: Equip XYZ Customer Service Representatives (CSR’s) with the knowledge required to apply existing Call Center soft-skills in assisting customers in selecting and trouble-shooting infrared thermometers.

Currently, CSR’s receive several days of instructor-led product and call response training before taking customer calls. The XYZ Training Center has recently initiated a program to develop a CBT curriculum covering core technical training topics; with an initial focus on CSR’s. XYZ envisions a scalable curriculum that can be leveraged by a global staff of Marketing Managers and Sales Engineers.  

Additional design specifications call for; voice narration, a moderate degree of student interaction, a moderate degree of animation and SCORM/Experience API compliance. Essentially, I was briefed to ensure the module incorporates the degree of technology required to ensure students remain actively engaged in the learning process. In keeping with conventional wisdom, the length of the course is not to exceed 20-minutes exclusive of a required mastery assessment. Assessment criteria will be congruent with the instructional objectives, and individual assessment scores will be tabulated and tracked on the company LMS. The minimum acceptable passing rate (as dictated by company policy) is 80%. Articulate Storyline 2 and Audacity recording software will be utilized in the design process.
Specific required outcomes:

1. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to troubleshoot common infrared thermometer malfunctions and operator errors.
2. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to assist customers in selecting the appropriate infrared thermometer for projected usage and duties.
3. Describe applications where other temperature measuring devices would be a better choice for a customer.
4. Describe the major components of an infrared thermometer
Learner Analysis
 There are currently 24 CSR’s working at the XYZ Call Center. The company produces hundreds of high-end scientific instruments and fixtures and markets several-thousand line-items of equipment, furnishings and instruments. 18 of the CSR’s speak English as a second language and all representatives have a minimum of a High School education. Many of the CRS worked staggered hours to communicate with customers based in various time zones. Most are under 40-years of age and many are married with children at home.

       All CSR’s receive extensive Call Center, electronic catalog, and product knowledge training. However, there is currently no curriculum devoted to infrared thermometers. Call Center Supervisors report that a substantial portion of inquiries related to infrared thermometers are forwarded to the product line manager. This problem creates a log jam of sorts, as the Product Line Manager has to draft a reply, which in turn is translated by the CSR into the language of the respective caller. Additionally, the Product Line Manager reports that a substantial portion of forwarded inquires relate to basic trouble-shooting and selection criteria.

       Although all CSR’s must pass a basic English Literacy test, the test does not assess the ability to formulate idioms. While a broad range of scientific knowledge may exist among the target population, it must be assumed that the majority of CSR’s have limited knowledge of heat transfer and methods of measuring heat. The learning strategy adopted must be mindful of these limitations. Specifically, the eLearning module will incorporate the following features designed to address the prevailing linguistic and scientific level of knowledge of the target population:

1. Self-Pacing: Forward and Back buttons allow learners to repeat content as required.
2. Avoid the use of idioms: All written and spoken English will avoid using idioms and will not exceed eighth-grade level usage.
3. Technical terms: A dictionary of technical terms will be hypertext-linked to novel scientific terms.
4. Dual inputs to assist in encoding: All slides will incorporate a combination of two or more of the following: verbal narration, graphics, animated graphics, written explanations.
5. Interactivity: A moderate to high degree of interactivity will increase feelings of self-efficacy and student engagement.
6. Experiential learning: Students will be required to respond to a “what If” scenario and report their findings directly to a Call Center Supervisor.
7. Master Assessment: A master assessment with a minimum passing score will be developed to infer adequate transfer of learning in the workplace.        

Contextual analysis
Orienting context

This contextual analysis borrows heavily from procedures outlined in (Morrison et al. 2013)   As reported, the target population is aware of their general lack of knowledge regarding the selection, usage, and troubleshooting of infrared thermometers. The T-pop has also expressed an interest in attending training on the subject. Accordingly, we assume that a well-designed module on the topic will be well received by most CSR’s. Most importantly, we suspect any efforts to reduce Product Line Manager and subsequent language interpretation will receive enthusiastic support. Since many CSR’s work non-standard hours, we also assume that asynchronous computer-based-training will be both easier to administer and more readily accepted by the CSR staff.

Instructional context

As noted in the needs assessment section, much of the leg work has been conducted by the XYZ training center staff. Essentially I am tasked with creating a 20-minute CBT model with a moderate degree of interactivity and animation. The module (if accepted) will be populated on the company LMS, and will afford the delivery and administration of the course in a self-paced computer based instructional setting. Technical requirements stipulate SCORM and Experience API compliance. Each CSR station is equipped with a cube, a desk, a computer capable of rendering multi-media audio and graphics, and an earphone/microphone headset. Give these stipulations, XYZ does not anticipate any compatibility or delivery issues. According to (Barbazette 2006) the contextual analysis should be conducted after the learner analysis and instructional objectives have been completed. Accordingly, I have reserved final judgement on the feasibility of using an asymmetric self-paced CBT to until after drafting the instructional objectives in a subsequent section. Having noted that, I remain confident that a well-designed CBT will adequately address identified gaps.    

Transfer context

Since Call Center Supervisors are satisfied with the current level of CSR engagement with customers, we assume equipping CSRs with the requisite knowledge about infrared thermometers will transfer to improved customer service. An analysis of the types (and frequency) of inquires forwarded to the Product Line Manager are indicative of knowledge gaps in the following areas:
1. Knowledge of heat transfer through radiation.
2. Knowledge of how infrared thermometers function
3. Knowledge of the range and duties of specific products
4. Knowledge of the do’s and don’ts in operating an infrared thermometer
Although the module will be delivered asymmetrically through the LMS the final exercise will be assessed by a Call Center Supervisor. As a measure of transferability, students will apply core concepts in selecting the correct infrared thermometer for a given hypothetical situation.

Task Analysis 

Note: see flowchart in appendix one for a flow chart of the task(s) CSR’s are required to perform when taking calls and emails related to assisting customers in troubleshooting and selecting infrared thermometers. An initial determination of the nature of the inquiry will divide the required tasks into one of two potential paths.  
Step one: CSR receives a call or email related to infrared thermometry.
Step two: Decide if inquiry regarding an existing device or the selection of a new device.

Path #1 Existing device

1 Determine if the infrared thermometer works when plugged in (battery/electric models) under any conditions.
a Yes: Continue with product evaluation
b. No: If item powers on, continue with product evaluation process.
2. Determine if customer is using the correct infrared thermometer for the given application.
3. Determine if customer is using the infrared thermometer per specified instructions including emissivity adjustments.
4. Determine if; surface finish, material coatings, or glass may be interfering with transmission or reception of infrared radiation.
5. Determine if product is under warranty.
6 Determine is infrared thermometer cost is greater than $500.
Path #1 Solutions
A. Continue with evaluation
B. Refer case to Product Line Manager
C. Initiate replacement policy
D. Explore potential sales and or product up sales.

Path #2 Selecting a new device

1. Determine if an infrared thermometer is the best choice for the intended use.
2. Determine the most extreme temperature device will be used to measure.
3. Determine the maximum range from the target during readings.
4. Determine system memory and software interface requirements.
5. Determine if; surface finish, material coatings, or glass will be encountered in target applications.
6. Determine if infrared thermometer matching the above selection criteria can be sold for less than $2000.

Path #2 Solutions

A. Suggest a different temperature measuring device.
B. Select an appropriate infrared thermometer and initiate the purchase process.
C. Refer the case to the Product Line Manager.

Learning Objectives

 According to (Mager 1997) learning objectives must contain a behavior, a condition, and a standard. Per this prescription, the needs assessment, learner analysis and task analysis are refined into measurable instructional objectives.
The needs assessment yielded the following:

1. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to troubleshoot common infrared thermometer malfunctions and operator errors.
2. Equip CSR’s with the knowledge required to assist customers in selecting the appropriate infrared thermometer for projected usage and duties.
3. Describe applications where other temperature measuring devices would be a better choice for a customer.
4. Describe the major components of an infrared thermometer.

The contextual analysis yielded the following:

1. Knowledge of heat transfer through radiation.
2. Knowledge of how infrared thermometers function.
3. Knowledge of the range and duties of specific products.
4. Knowledge of the do’s and don’ts in operating an infrared thermometer.

Terminal Objective application level of the cognitive domain:
Demonstrate knowledge of infrared thermometers when answering customer questions regarding infrared thermometer troubleshooting and application as evidenced by a reduction in forwarded inquiries.

Enabling Objectives

1 Select statements describing the three types of heat transfer at the 80-percentile level.
2 Recall the conditions that effect the accuracy of infrared thermometers at the 80-percentile level.
3. Identify the major components of infrared thermometers at the 80-percental level.
4. Utilize the company electronic catalog to identify the range and duties of specific infrared thermometers at the 100-percental level.
5. Recall the terms associated with infrared thermometers at the 80-percental level.

Instructional Sequencing and Strategies

According to (Morrison et al. 2013 p. 144) the acquisition of concrete facts and abstract facts are best obtained through a combination of repetition, rehearsal, review and mnemonics. An early physical/ visual rendering of the concept is also recommended to facilitate cognitive coding. Animated graphics and voice narration will be utilized as required to reduce cognitive loading and facilitate encoding of novel concepts. Similarly, (Caffarella 2002) expounds on the effectiveness of using computer based tutorials and drills to transfer knowledge. Furthermore, (Caffarella 2002) singles out simulation as an effective strategy for teaching problem-solving skills. Finally, a summative assessment will be incorporated to evaluate learning mastery. Articulate Storyline2 will be utilized during the development process to capture the degree of realism and interactivity required to create an engaging environment. Table one lists teaching objectives and respective learning strategies.    

Table 1. Task analysis and strategies table 

Task Description
(Abstract and concrete Facts)
Describe the process of the three forms of heat transfer.
Animated graphics supported by voice narration.
(Abstract and concrete Facts)
Describe the conditions affecting the accuracy of IR thermometers.
Graphics of familiar exemplars, voice narration and interactivity. Interspersed throughout the module.
(Concrete Facts)
Describe the function of the basic components of an IR thermometer.
Graphic representation with user interface rollover and voice narration.
(Abstract and concrete Facts)

Describe the terms associated with infrared thermometry.
Various means, both graphic and written interspersed throughout the module to engender concrete associations with related concepts.
(Cognitive procedure)
(Problem solving)
Facilitate familiarity and reliance on the company electronic catalog to identify the relevant specifications for different models of infrared thermometers.
Students are already familiar with the E-catalog. A simulation is presented requiring application of knowledge obtained in the module. Individual results are submitted to and critique by Call Center Supervisors. 
(terminal objective)
(problem solving)
 Demonstrate knowledge of infrared thermometers when answering customer questions regarding infrared thermometer troubleshooting and application as evidenced by a reduction in forwarded inquiries.

This outcome will be facilitated through mastery of all previous objectives and measured through a before and after comparisons of the volume of IR thermometer customer inquiries forwarded to the Market Manager. 

Task Analysis Flow Chart

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