Wells Fargo's 12 national call centers are a critical component of
its business model. Its 3,000 customer service agents provide
assistance to the company's clientele 24-hours a day. Although this
company puts approximately 2,000 service agents per year through
new hire training at a cost of over US $3,000 per agent, the
training was not delivering the desired results.
In recent years, more than 50 percent of new hire turnover led to
high recruitment and training costs. There was an inconsistency in
the delivery of training. The curriculum was presented in different
ways in each center, with no consistency in order of topics,
emphasis, or structure. And, the existing new hire curriculum,
combining instructor-led classroom training and on-job practice,
averaged six weeks in length.
As a result, performance was inconsistent across 12 geographically
dispersed call centers. Most important, the informational,
instructor-led curriculum and the lack of a training database for
systems practice left trainees unprepared for the pressures of the
call center job environment.
The purpose of the reengineered curriculum was to improve customer
service, increase customer loyalty, and drive revenue through
improved sales referrals. To achieve these goals, corporate
management gave a mandate to the call center training organization
to develop new hire job proficiency faster and more accountably by
- reducing new hire training time from six weeks to four weeks
- improving new hire competence and confidence
- reducing turnover.
The solution: Wells Fargo's training group implemented a blended
learning approach for its Phone Bank. The training design combined
the efficiency of self-paced e-learning with the effectiveness of
facilitator-led classes, small group activities, and one-on-one
coaching. Also, consistent training delivery techniques were
instituted throughout the organization.
Developing the blended solution
The performance-based blended solution for re-engineered curriculum
grew directly from the results of the needs analysis. First,
measurable project goals were identified:
- reduce new hire training from six weeks to four weeks.
- improve new hire competence areas: call quality, sales
measures, and average
- handle time.
- improve new hire confidence as measured by training exit
- reduce attrition.
Based on these goals, a blended solution model that incorporated
several core elements into a "High Tech/High Touch" solution was
Performance-based curriculum architecture. The
architecture prepared agents to handle the common and critical
types of calls they would encounter on the job. The curriculum
architecture is organized as a matrix in which the sequence of
performances (columns) is supported by the underlying knowledge and
skills threads (rows). The performance-based curriculum
architecture helped compress the initial training time through its
focus on common and critical performances and emphasis on
consistent knowledge and skill threads. In addition, new hires
progressed through the curriculum sequentially.
Web-based performance emulations. Web-based
exercises were used to provide instruction and practice for each of
the common and critical call types. These modules use a layered
approach to learning that allows the learners to develop mastery
through a variety of means. Each lesson includes the following
- Lesson Intro
- Concepts and Terms
- Watch the Expert (animated system emulation with
- Learn the Skills (steps back through the call in a
slide show format, focusing on individual skill threads: Process
& Systems, Customer Care, Selling Solutions, Regulatory Issues
- Try It (system emulation practice)
- Mastery Test (combination of knowledge-based
questions and system emulations).
These self-paced lessons also helped shorten the overall training
time by allowing new hires to progress through the core content at
their own pace.
Classroom instruction. Facilitator-led classroom
instruction and collaborative small group activities were used to
provide opportunities for discussion and practice of customer
service and sales skills. These classroom activities also provided
linkage and support to help make the new hires feel a more integral
part of the organization.
Performance assessments. The reengineered
curriculum used a comprehensive performance assessment strategy,
with both online and face-to-face options, to ensure that new
agents were deemed competent to perform the job before graduating
from training. The assessments support the learning approach by
ensuring that the learners master the knowledge and skills required
for the job. Sample assessments include the following:
- mastery tests (Web-based system emulations that
focus on the call types taught in a single module)
- cumulative progress Tests (Web-based system
emulations that follow a series of related modules)
- one-on-one role play assessments with the
facilitator/coach, using the call quality score sheet that is used
to evaluate performance on the job
- on-the-job evaluation by the coach using the call
quality score sheet and other job metrics (for example, sales
referrals, average handle time).
Finally, it's important to note that this High Tech/High Touch
blended solution was a progressive blend, in which the proportion
of the mix was varied to meet the needs of the trainees during
different weeks of the training. The blend shifted from primarily
facilitated learning in the first week to primarily on-job in the
fourth week. During week two, the Web-based training delivers core
content for key performances, while week three includes an
extensive facilitated unit on customer service.
The reengineered curriculum was piloted at three call center
locations during November 2002, and officially rolled out to all 12
national call centers in January 2003. Following the pilots, the
courseware was revised to incorporate minor corrections,
refinements, and updates. However, the overall design of the
curriculum and courseware remained constant. In the months since
the official rollout, the practice has remained true to its initial
purpose and has achieved significant results in several areas:
Training time has been reduced and new hire competence has been
improved in terms of call quality and sales referral close rate.
There are currently no plans to expand the practice beyond the 12
national call centers.
Most important, evaluation results indicate that the reengineered
curriculum has already achieved significant return-on-investment:
- Reduction in training time by 33 percent (10 days per trainee)
has resulted in more than $2 million annual savings in training
- An average improvement rate of eleven percent in the referral
close rate during the 12-week evaluation period following training
resulted more than an $1 million increase in revenue for that
- An average 12.63 percent increase in weekly core unit profit
during the 12-week evaluation period following training. Core unit
profit represents the bankers' average core profit for all core
products referred in that week and later closed
- Although specific dollar amounts have not been assigned, there
was a 13 percent improvement in call quality is expected to produce
long-term improvements in such factors such as first call
resolution, customer satisfaction, and customer retention, all of
which will contribute to the corporate bottom line
- Since rollout, voluntary attrition of center agents has been
reduced by four percent, resulting in a reduced training headcount
of more than 100 trainees, and representing a annualized training
cost savings of over $200,000. Phone Bank believes this is at least
in part a result of the rollout of the new curriculum.
To be sure, the design and implementation of this new blended
learning approach required both the project team and training staff
to venture into new and challenging ways of thinking. However,
based on the success of the first classes to complete the
re-engineered training, this "High Tech/High Touch" solution has
been wholeheartedly embraced by the organization, training staff,
and the learners.