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Trickle Down Stimulus Money Hits Call Centers Malcolm Carlaw

Last week I was help­ing a work­force devel­op­ment com­pany put together a pro­posal for a Fed­eral Grant to train ser­vice reps for call cen­ters. I find the pro­gram com­mend­able and thought I'd write about it. The grant in ques­tion was the Path­ways Out of Poverty pro­gram offered by the Depart­ment of Labor under the 2009 Recov­ery Act. The grant is tar­geted at low-income fam­i­lies enter­ing new careers. There's approx­i­mately $150 mil­lion avail­able for local and national programs.

Appli­cants get paid to go through train­ing, get real work expe­ri­ence in an in-house call cen­ter, and enter the work­force through an appren­tice­ship pro­grams. It's rather a remark­able pro­gram in many ways. Stu­dents are coached and men­tored at every step in the program.

The com­pany I'm work­ing with has a cur­ricu­lum made up of five job-specific indus­try cer­ti­fi­ca­tions for call cen­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The pro­grams are pro­vided by Impact learn­ing Sys­tems and the cer­ti­fi­ca­tions issued by the Ser­vice & Sup­port Pro­fes­sional Asso­ci­a­tion. The stu­dent starts with basics skills in cus­tomer ser­vice, email, and cross-selling.

The stu­dents then move into a real call cen­ter han­dling calls about renew­able energy and green power ini­tia­tives. This work expe­ri­ence is part of their train­ing and is man­aged by the work­force devel­op­ment com­pany. Pro­vid­ing stu­dents a safe envi­ron­ment to change their behav­ior is an essen­tial step in their even­tual suc­cess. They move on to advanced courses in cus­tomer ser­vice and sales to increase their con­fi­dence and pre­pare them for jobs in more chal­leng­ing environments.

The final stage is an appren­tice­ship pro­gram man­aged by the com­pany that wants to hire them. This is a great oppor­tu­nity for the stu­dent and the com­pany. The stu­dent gets the ben­e­fit of expe­ri­ence with a men­tor and coach, as well as a real pay check. The spon­sor­ing com­pany gets the oppor­tu­nity to eval­u­ate the stu­dent before com­mit­ting to hir­ing them. It works for both sides.

As the admin­is­tra­tion spends tax payer money to get peo­ple into the work­force again, this type of pro­gram pro­vides a high value. Good employ­ees don't just mate­ri­al­ize, they need to be cre­ated. This pro­gram does just that in a high-touch envi­ron­ment that helps stu­dents change their behav­ior to fit the cor­po­rate envi­ron­ments. This pro­gram and oth­ers like it can be a model for trade schools through­out the country.

Mal­colm Car­law cur­rently serves as the Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent of Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, a com­pany ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing world-class cus­tomer ser­vice and sales train­ing to front-line agents. He speaks reg­u­larly at trade shows and indus­try con­fer­ences. He holds an MBA in orga­ni­za­tional devel­op­ment and finance. Mal­colm is an avid pho­tog­ra­pher, enjoys inter­na­tional travel, and man­ages to keep his orchids bloom­ing most of the year.
2 Trickle Down Stimulus Money Hits Call Centers
Mal­colm Carlaw
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