ATD 2015 Conference Re-cap: Training is Changing Fast

The Association for Talent Development’s 2015 International Conference & Exposition may have finally caused a tipping point in how we train employees. 

I’ll address this more in just a minute.

But first, here’s an overview of the conference in case you missed it:

The conference was held in Orlando, FL and featured nearly 10,000 training professionals from around the world. There were keynote presentations, breakout sessions in 10 topical tracks, and a massive expo hall with more than 400 exhibitors.

You can read more here:

Image courtesy of ATD

Image courtesy of ATD

Training is Changing

Rigid, formal training will soon be a thing of the past. The classroom may soon be gone or at least unrecognizable. E-learning may look very different.

In it’s place? Problem-centered, self-directed learning where participants train themselves.

In customer service, this has huge implications on the way we deliver training over a number of topics:

  • Training new hires
  • Developing customer service skills
  • Product knowledge training
  • Educating customers
  • Developing customer service leaders

I’ll dive deeper into the how and why over the coming weeks. In the meantime, here are a few resources to start exploring.

On a personal note, I was one of nine recipients of the CPLP Contributor Award, which recognizes holders of the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance credential for outstanding volunteer efforts to support, promote, and advance the CPLP program.

Webinar Re-cap: Five More Obstacles to Outstanding Customer Service

On Tuesday, I hosted a webinar called Five More Obstacles to Outstanding Customer Service.

The title was a riff on a session I facilitated at ICMI’s recent Contact Center Exposition & Conference called Tackling Five Hidden Causes of Poor Customer Service (see a conference re-cap here). 

The webinar revealed five additional obstacles that I’ve uncovered through my research. Below are links to additional information on each obstacle. You can also watch the webinar here

Obstacle #1: Too Much Feedback

We often think that employees don’t get enough feedback on their performance. A few studies suggest that employees might be getting too much!

Even worse, all that feedback is hurting their performance. The short version of the story is excessive feedback gives people too much to think about.


Obstacle #2: Fight or Flight

“Don’t take it personally,” might be the worst advice you can give to a customer service employee.

The advice is well-meaning. We don’t want employees to get into an argument with a customer or do their best to just get away.

Unfortunately, taking it personally is an instinctive reaction called the Fight or Flight response. We’re hard wired to do exactly what we shouldn’t do when we’re faced with an angry or upset customer.


Obstacle #3: Caffeine

Most of us have a caffeine habit. 

One or two cups of coffee in the morning (or energy drink, soda, etc.) followed by a pick-me-up in the afternoon. 

You probably already know that caffeine can be addictive. Studies show that the problem might be worse than you think. That daily caffeine habit might be the root cause of a lot of poor customer service!


Obstacle #4: Empowerment

Employee empowerment is often viewed as a panacea for a lot of problems.

The truth is not many employees are being empowered. A recent study from ICMI found that 86 percent of contact centers don’t fully empower their employees.

Real empowerment is scary. It turns out there’s a whole host of things customer service leaders worry about when it comes to employee empowerment. We ran a poll in our webinar and discovered the number one concern: consistency.


Obstacle #5: Learned Helplessness

Employees may eventually stop trying when they aren’t fully empowered.

This is a condition psychologists called learned helplessness. It happens when a person believes that any effort to change things is futile. The result is they stop trying.

Engaging employees in problem solving can help. Customer service employees love to help their customers, but they often perceive obstacles in their way. Help your employees take ownership of tough situations and you’ll see motivation soar.


More Obstacles

Customer service isn't easy.

These are just a few of the many obstacles customer service employees face on a daily basis. You can read about ten more ways that customer service is hard in my book, Service Failure.

Re-cap: 2015 Contact Center Expo & Conference

The 2015 Contact Center Expo and Conference took place in Orlando this week. More than 1,500 contact center professionals from around the world attended for educational growth, networking, and to share best practices.

Here’s a re-cap of some of the conference highlights along with links to additional resources.

Conference Overview

You may want to start by familiarizing yourself with the conference if you didn’t attend.


Conference Highlights

Here are just a few highlights from the conference:


2015 Contact Center Awards

ICMI threw an incredible Cinco de Mayo themed party to celebrate the 2015 Contact Center Award winners and finalists.

These awards recognize best practices from individuals and organizations. Award winners included UPMC Health Plan for best large contact center and VF Imagewear Customer Support for best small to medium contact center.

You can see a list of all the winners and finalists here.

#ICMIchat Live

ICMI hosts a weekly Tweet chat on Tuesdays at 10am Pacific (1pm Eastern). 

These lively chats touch on a wide range of topics from customer service to training to workforce optimization. There’s a new topic each week and anyone can join in by following the #icmichat hashtag on Twitter.

On Wednesday, I joined a few #ICMIchat regulars for a panel discussion in the Expo hall. We touched on a few topics including technology, agent experience, and customer effort.

The panel included:

It was fun to have a conversation in front of a live audience. A few were even live Tweeting:

Erik Wahl’s Keynote

Conferences like this always bring informative, inspirational, and entertaining keynotes.

Graffiti artist Erik Wahl’s keynote stood out on this front. He challenged participants to be a force for positive disruption.

One of the most amazing parts of Wahl’s presentation was his ability to quickly create incredible paintings live on stage.

Here’s his first painting:

Wahl created a moment of uneasy tension when he picked an audience member at random to play a special game of “Fear Factor.”

She was given a sealed envelope and was told the game involved coming up on stage, opening the envelope, and reading her instructions out loud. She was then to do whatever the instructions said.

That’s a pretty scary moment in front of a huge crowd, but Wahl turned the tables a bit. He told the audience member that she could select anyone she wanted to take her place.

Ultimately, she decided to go for it. In a fun twist, the instructions in the envelope informed her that a painting of U2's Bono that Wahl had just created on stage was her’s to keep!

On a personal level, I gained a lot of new ideas, contacts, and information. This is a great conference and I'm already looking forward to next year.