The cable industry deals with large amounts of information to which
employees must have easy access. DIRECTV's in-house and outsourced
customer service agents serve its 18 million customers over the
phone. Because of industry characteristics and its rapid growth
rate, DIRECTV was in need of an effective desktop learning system
to empower agents to serve customers with excellence.
In a one-year period, the average experienced agent is trained on
more than 200 new initiatives, many of which are brief, five to 15
minute sessions. Taking agents off the phone to participate in
training is costly. Time taken off the phone just to walk to and
from a classroom training event can equal over $100,000 per
DIRECTV's growth has not only increased training costs, but has
also required rapid development and implementation of innovative
learning tools. Design of the desktop learning strategy was
initiated when employees began expressing dissatisfaction with
their current tools. DIRECTV performed an in-depth needs assessment
of the various desktop systems using observations, focus groups,
interviews, extant data reviews, and a survey. The assessment
discovered various problems, such as navigation issues with the
current knowledge management tool, content inaccuracy, outdated or
ineffective data and learning tools, classroom training costs, and
inefficient work group structures, all of which indicated a need
for a new desktop learning strategy.
As a result, eight initiatives were implemented to address the
needs. An existing intranet web team was combined with the
e-learning team to create one online learning team that focuses on
all aspects of desktop learning. Next, the tracking element for the
customer transaction system was fixed. Existing online support
tools were re-designed to provide easy, intuitive access to
information on one screen with no scrolling, and online decision
support tools were implemented to replace complicated
troubleshooting documents. Visually appealing flowchart job aids
were created to replace online text documents, and an LMS was
launched to provide a single platform to push and track multimedia
courseware and assessments on the desktop. Additional job aids and
short agent briefings were introduced in place of expensive
Finally, the existing online knowledge management system was
revamped into a dynamic on-demand learning and performance support
tool. This new design incorporates improved navigation, visually
appealing tools and links, and assigns unique logos and colors to
each section of the online content. Users know immediately where
they are in the system because of color schema, tree menu
positioning, and content paths (breadcrumbs) that are displayed at
the top of the viewing window. Links to frequently used content are
always available as prescribed by performancecentered design
principles. Additional metadata provides keywords for use in search
As the different aspects of the practice were developed, alpha and
beta versions were sent to end-users and subject matter experts,
whose feedback was applied to the design before implementation.
DIRECTV also created a policy to continually evaluate employee
reaction to the changes. Employee knowledge and behavior were
tracked through online assessments, surveys, and extensive call
monitoring by the quality assurance group. Call monitoring included
tracking changes in call length, customer satisfaction, and time
spent correcting errors.
The average amount of time spent on a single call was tracked on an
ongoing basis. The records were used to evaluate the effect on
actual job performance as various components of the practice were
Finally, training time requirements, travel time and employee
turnover rates were tracked. The time saved and reductions to the
number of first line employees needed were measured in proportion
to the customer count.
Results from the new desktop learning strategy are multi-faceted.
By eliminating travel to and from classroom training, DIRECTV saves
over seven dollars per trainee for each desktop training session.
From the fourth quarter of 2006 to the third quarter of 2007, these
cost savings add up to over one million dollars in time away from
the phone spent in classrooms.
One of the new decision support tools alone is estimated to save a
minimum of 10 to 15 seconds per call on that specific high-volume
troubleshooting issue. Each day, more than 30 percent of the over
60,000 calls received deal with this one troubleshooting issue
alone. The estimated annual savings of using just the first new
decision support tool, rather than old text scripts, is between
$600,000 and $900,000 annually.
Quality assurance monitoring revealed that average handle time
reductions one week after the knowledge management system was
revamped saved DIRECTV over $15,000 per day. This savings estimated
annually equals over $5 million from restructuring of the
navigation and information design.
The design of simple online job aids eliminated previous training
expenses while also providing ondemand support to users, saving an
estimated $140,000 in travel time, as well as $140,000 to $280,000
in reduced training time.
A return-on-investment in the millions is projected for the
structured redesign of several old online tools, and for the
implementation of additional decision support tools to replace the
text-based technical troubleshooting scripts that were previously
delivered only in text form.