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Use Technology as a Tool, Not a Replacement

PPI designed a customer-service training program that included instructor-led training with mentors, Web-based self-study, and on-the-job practice.

April 26, 2001
PPL Corporation is a Fortune 500 company that markets wholesale or retailenergy in 42 states and Canada. It also delivers energy to nearly 6 millioncustomers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Latin America.

LargeCompany
Name:PPLCorporation
Location:Allentown,Pennsylvania
Type ofbusiness:Energyservices
Numberof Employees:12,000

    About half of PPL's workforce use computers to conduct their jobs, accordingto Denis Esslinger, Help Center supervisor in the Information ServicesDepartment. Considering that large number, anything can go wrong. An employeecould have problems preparing a spreadsheet, creating a PowerPoint presentation,writing a report to meet safety regulations, or simply connecting a laptop to ahome office. PPL thus created a Help Center, a team of 30 "analysts"who provide all of the computer support for these 6,000 employees.

    "Last year, they received 90,000 calls at the Help Center,"Esslinger says. This special team was expected to resolve 70 percent of theproblems on the first contact. But the problem was that new members of the teamweren't properly trained.

    In order to improve and accelerate their customer-service practices, PPLworked with Raleigh, North Carolina-based Productivity Point International (PPI)-- oneof its strategic alliance partners. Previously, new team members had beentrained by shadowing experienced consultants and receiving support material asneeded.

    This method presented several problems, Esslinger says:

  • There was no consistent and qualitative message from the Help Center.

  • Training was too informal.

  • Resources were not centralized, and instructions were hard to find.

  • Previous training did not lead to a new analyst's self-directed action.

    PPI designed a customer-service training program for the 30-member team thatincluded instructor-led training with mentors, Web-based self-study, andon-the-job practice. While the training was specifically designed for newemployees, it was delivered to the entire Help Center team.

    The one-week training program produced positive results. New Help Centeranalysts were productive in half the time previously required to get them up tospeed. And they were able to resolve the required 70 percent of customerproblems during the first call.

    "I found the blended solution to be very innovative," Esslingersays. "We not only solved computer problems but exceeded our customers'expectations of our service."

    Clearly, a company's customer-service practice may be an employer's bestcompetitive edge.

Workforce, May 2001, pp.88-90-- Subscribe Now!