By Dave Fogleman, Vice President, Sprint University
Results from the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index include this noteworthy outcome: “Sprint was unbeaten among major wireless carriers for customer satisfaction. In addition to tying for first place among wireless carriers, Sprint was also the No. 1 most improved company in customer satisfaction, across all industries, over the last three years.” This recognition highlights the great strides Sprint has made in recent years to improve customer service and customer turnover.
To achieve this accomplishment, Sprint took a systematic approach to improve all aspects of customer service. It has been a total team effort, and Sprint University, the learning and development arm of Sprint, has played a role in these improvements.
Sprint University is the team charged with creating learning and development strategies at Sprint to drive improved business performance. The mission statement for Sprint University is straightforward: “Enable people to be immediate and successful performers.”This mission statement reflects Sprint University’s passion to team with Sprint business units on overall company performance.
All Sprint employees can have an impact on Sprint customers, but the two organizations most directly related to customer service are Sales (which includes employees working in customer-facing Sprint stores) and Customer Management, which combined make up more than 60 percent of the Sprint workforce. Sprint University measures success in the Customer Management channel by assessing its impact in terms of key performance metrics such as customer satisfaction, transfer rates, resolving issues, and length of calls. In the sales channels, the Sprint University team uses measures such as speed to competency and new-hire achievements in customer satisfaction in the retail stores. An example of success: Sprint University-trained new hires in Sales and Customer Management achieve favorable results when compared to more tenured peers (as confirmed by speed-to-competency metrics that are based on key performance indicators).
Sprint University has successfully helped influence the positive results in Customer Management through a performance-system approach to learning, development, and performance opportunities. Sprint expects all employees to perform, regardless of tenure, and uses a systematic approach to performance to provide the necessary support.
New-hire training is provided for all Customer Management employees, and then the performance-system approach influences ongoing improvements in employee and business performance. Sprint University collaborates with Customer Management to develop performer support tools that drive improved efficiency and effectiveness. These tools are enablers for the various employee tasks and pull information from multiple sources into easy-to-use applications that support the Customer Management functions and work in harmony with the IT systems. Sources include knowledge databases, content owners, expert forums, process owners, and subject matter experts. A call center agent typically does not see the work behind the scenes; they only see the process steps and resources needed to support their current customer call—they will see something different to address the next customer’s call. This is critical in ensuring agents can address customer questions quickly and directly.
Internal process changes and new product launches benefit from this integrated approach because new or refreshed learning and performance solutions are required. When one of these opportunities comes along, the Sprint University team works with their performance-system partners (IT, Care Operations, and the Care field organization) to determine what solutions will best drive top performance for the Customer Management agents. Through the performer-system approach, changes often can be quickly accomplished through the knowledge database, along with performer tool updates, collaboration forums, or system changes. Because the performer support tools pull information from one centralized process management location, process changes can flow through to the performer support tools and cascade directly to the agents’ desktops. More complex changes may require learning solutions such as “push learning” delivered in small chunks during idle time via self-paced or instructor-led formats. Traditional learning methods, such as instructor-led training, remain a critical element of this integrated and comprehensive approach to performance.
Another major component of the performer-system approach is the leadership and management of the front-line employees. No significant improvements can happen without this crucial connection, as these leadership teams play an active role in communication and coaching the front-line employees on processes and tools. Partnerships with front-line supervisors, line managers, and executive leadership are critical for the performer-system approach to work as designed.
Through collaborative partnerships with each major business unit, Sprint University optimizes knowledge transfer, automates processes, leverages subject matter experts, and enhances learning, all with the goal of creating a great experience for our customers. The objective of these partnerships is to proactively address business performance opportunities and not just reactively provide learning or training solutions when requested. This approach has driven significant achievements, which have contributed to 13 straight quarters of improvements in First Call Resolution and Customer Satisfaction in the Sprint Care Contact Centers, as well as Sprint being recognized out of 800 companies, across 12 industries, as a J.D. Power 2011 Customer Service Champion. Sprint was one of only 40 companies to earn this distinction.
Many third parties have recognized Sprint University as a top-flight learning and development organization over the years. One recent award was given by Knowledge Advisors, which gave Sprint the “Corporate Learning Provider Award” at its most recent Analytics Symposium. Sprint sees the marriage between traditional and leading-edge learning methods as an ongoing opportunity that continues to evolve, and that is reflected in an evolving performance-system approach.