Training Top 125 Best Practice: DISH Network’s Base Camp
To equip corporate employees with the insight and discretion to make well-informed business decisions, DISH Network built a holistic, rigorous 22-day program called Base Camp. During Base Camp, employees spend several weeks working alongside their colleagues in three customer-facing departments: Sales, Customer Service, and In-Home Services. “Base Campers” complete the program in small cohorts (8 to 16 people) with new and tenured employees of varying degrees of seniority and from numerous departments across the enterprise.
Curriculum development for Base Camp was a cross-departmental effort. Several Learning & Development (L&) teams collaborated to incorporate volumes of training originally designed for customer-facing roles in each of the departments represented and distilled them to fit the 22-day program. The trainers, who specialize in training Base Camp, use a variety of instructional methods in class, including:
- Hands-on practice with tools
- Side-by-side call monitoring
- Research projects
- A capstone presentation in front of peers, leadership, and C-level executives
Since it launched in late 2016, the Base Camp program has contributed tremendously to supporting several strategic company goals, specifically, the objective of becoming #1 in Customer Experience and fostering the Best Team.
The unprecedented hours spent interfacing with real customers during Base Camp has paid off. Base Camp graduates have returned to their corporate roles with new consideration for their customers and front-line colleagues, and several key initiatives have resulted from these direct customer interactions. DISH Chief Marketing Officer and Base Camp graduate Jay Roth serves as a striking example of this. His idea for a prequalification campaign—wherein customers are prequalified for DISH services through financial partners—originated during his time listening to live sales calls in Base Camp. The campaign he built from this idea has been successful in helping DISH efficiently find and acquire high-quality long-term customers. Close rates for prequalified customer sales are 40 to 50 percent higher than those for customers who are not prequalified, while driving down costs by cutting call times of prequalified calls by roughly 30 percent.
The unorthodox choice to combine employees into groups unrelated to role, seniority, tenure, or title has yielded unique benefits. Systematically placing colleagues who are normally separated by traditional corporate infrastructure in mixed groups has substantially eroded silos within the enterprise. While the reduction of silos is a difficult metric to quantify, hundreds of pieces of anecdotal feedback from Base Camp alumni have supported this finding. DISH Founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen finds he can “predict with 90 percent accuracy” which DISH employees have (and have not) been through Base Camp after having a five-minute conversation with them.
Of the 667 2017 Base Camp alumni, 225 experienced career advancement, and attrition among Base Camp alumni was 40 percent lower than the DISH average.
In addition, the increased appreciation for customers that has resulted from Base Camp has earned DISH recognition in the industry and beyond—DISH was named #1 in Customer Service by JD Power for 2017.
Due to the overwhelming success of Base Camp in 2016-2017, DISH’s CEO committed to sending all new and existing corporate employees (2,500-plus) through the full-time, 22-day (including two weekends) program through 2018 and 2019.