As another year comes to an end it is once again time to take stock in the things we have accomplished and the things we anticipate for the year to come.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Mark W. Brodsky, President and CEO of Ulysses Learning, about the evolution of Call Center Training, the past year and what is to come.
North Carolina-headquartered Ulysses Learning helps global organizations improve customer service, sales and coaching results at all points of customer contact. These client results are achieved by using simulation-based e-Learning intelligently blended with facilitation, coaching and performance improvement consulting.
Looking back at 2008, how would you characterize the year for your company?
2008 has been a year filled with both great opportunities and interesting challenges for Ulysses Learning as we responded to market trends and conditions.
What were the key trends that impacted your business?
One trend that impacted our business was that companies realized more than ever in this economic climate the critical need to maintain and grow their customer base and related revenues as they also moved to reduce their operational costs. Attempting to maintain and grow a business while reducing costs is a quite challenging, especially during these times.
To that end, many leading companies understood the importance of ensuring their call center agents were equipped with the skill and support needed to resolve the ever growing complexity of customer issues one and done and provide a consistent quality experience that sustained customer loyalty even though many consumers where looking at ways to cut back and spend less. This prevailing need in the marketplace fit nicely into the mission of Ulysses Learning’s work of helping develop agents’ and coaches’ essential service, sales, and coaching skills.
Another trend included the need for our clients to cost justify more than ever the investment in call center agent and coach training while their company was cutting back funding in other areas. Fortunately, this was actually an opportunity for Ulysses because we’ve always been about helping provide clients with the skills their agents and coaches need to dramatically and measurably improve first call resolution, which is directly linked to maintaining customers and reducing costs.
A challenge was that some sectors, like the financial market, were hit harder than other sectors and a few projects that were being planned for 2008 had to be rescheduled for 2009 or beyond, contingent on business conditions. Fortunately, we experienced growth in other business sectors that are continuing to fare well.
What was your company’s biggest achievement in the past year?
Our biggest achievement was that we did not allow ourselves to be distracted during these tough economic times and we continued to stay laser-focused on helping our clients improve measurable service, sales, and customer loyalty results even in the face of the downturn in the domestic and overseas economy.
What are your customers looking for in the coming year?
Our clients will continue in the coming year to look for ways to do more with less as they serve their customer base and reduce their operating expense. Another issue they’ll be looking to address is how to ensure the ongoing development and performance of their agent base that is becoming more self-directed and decentralized.
In response to reduced training budgets and decentralized agent base, we launched this year the enhanced CallMentor® Learning and Performance Improvement System that offers additional self-directed learning capabilities that enable organizations to use fewer resources to cost-effectively train a handful of agents locally or for training hundreds – or even thousands of agents dispersed nationally or globally.
What can we expect to see from your company in the next 12 months?
Within the next 12 months we’ll continue to enhance our CallMentor® suite and related performance improvement services to ensure it’s applicability to a broad range of industry sectors. Our training suite will continue to be used in a facilitated and/or self-directed approach by either a centralized or dispersed workforce to deliver important measurable business results.
Do you think a new administration in Washington, D.C. will be good for the communications industry? If so, how? If not, why not?
Only time will tell if the new administration in Washington, D.C. will be good for the communications industry. Our President Elect appears to be tech-savvy as he tapped into the web and other new communications methods to reach out to voters. He’s also moving towards appointing the first IT executive officer. That insight seems promising however it’s tempered by comments he made during his campaign about regulation and oversight of American business. We’ll need to see how that plays out to determine if it winds up being good or detrimental for the communications industry. In the interim, helping to redirect the American economy will be the key to the overall business environment, including the communications industry for 2009 and beyond.
In your view, please describe the future of the Call Center Training space?
Training in the call center space will continue to be an important part of ensuring customers are served well and they continue to do business with companies that best meet their needs.
Businesses and call centers will continue to be charged with doing more with less. Many will look at expanding the use of cost-effective training methods such as e-Learning to be part of the delivery mix. As call centers continue to migrate towards self-directed e-Learning, an important consideration is that the training needs to provide sufficient opportunity for learning and practicing the targeted skills that will have a direct and measurable impact on customer satisfaction, sales, and customer loyalty.
Those training solutions that can both efficiently and effectively deliver financial results in the call center will continue to be used in the future. Those that only provide only an efficient but not effective training approach will go by the wayside as companies continue to cut budgets for any expense that doesn’t provide substantial financial returns.
If you had to make one bold prediction for 2009, what would it be?
The plummeting US economy will finally stabilize by 3rd quarter and will show a glimmer of hope for improvement in 4th quarter 2009.
Tim Gray is a Web Editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Tim�s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Tim Gray