Magazine article Personnel Journal

Customer-Service Training Supports Work Systems

Magazine article Personnel Journal

Customer-Service Training Supports Work Systems

Article excerpt

Change is essential, although not always easy to accept. When implementation changes in technology, technical training can help employees adjust to the new system. It doesn't always prepare them adequately for other changes the new system may bring about, however, such as new job responsibilities and different interpersonal relationships.

In 1990, we were about to install the largest computing system that the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group in Seattle ever had developed. It was to be installed in the Boeing commercial spare-parts department, which sells spare parts to airlines. The new computer system would automate many of the department's tasks, such as inventory updates, customer-inquiry responses and pricing. The change would affect almost all of the 700 people in the department. Not only would the department's environment become virtually paperless (a scary concept for paper pushers), but also people now would spend much more of their day doing their work on computers. In addition, interpersonal relationships would become more complex as people became more dependent on information that was managed by others. Suddenly, everyone would have more customers relying on them to complete a process.

We realized that providing technical training alone wouldn't be enough to ensure a successful implementation. The new system's users would need tools to handle the changes that they would experience when the system came online. From an HR standpoint, we had to move to implement this new system (a multimillion-dollar investment) as successfully as possible.

My department, the resource development group, was in charge of finding and implementing these tools. The primary responsibility of my group is to help facilitate quality improvement. Our activities range from securing training or leading problem-solving teams to giving employees the opportunity to participate in community activities during company time. Basically, the group focuses on the people issues that affect quality.

For this situation, we needed to manage the inevitable stress and confusion that the new system would cause for employees. Our solution was to conduct a unique training program for Boeing: Interpersonal training focusing on providing customer service.

An outside vendor meets disparate needs. Knowing what we wanted to accomplish was one thing; implementing it was another. We faced the challenge of providing information to a divergent group. Half of the spare-parts department's employees work in a warehouse, where they ship, receive and store parts. The other half work in an office 30 miles away. In our search for training that would reach our audience, we examined many sources, including:

* Multiple seminars

* Self-help tools

* Video instruction

* Lecturers

* Books.

We also needed to find someone to do the training. Boeing employs an entire training department, but we realized that it couldn't provide what we perceived as the necessary impact--peparing all 700 people in a short time. We began to look outside the organization for a training source that could reach the broad range of people whom we needed to reach.

We chose TMI North America, an HR and development consulting firm based in San Francisco. It incorporates multiple teaching techniques into its programs. Its seminars include written material, visual material, participative exercises, lecturing and the use of examples.

Additionally, TMI's approach to selecting seminar participants interested us. Its selection method stipulates that at least one representative from each department attend every seminar, and that all levels of employees attend. The seminar conductor places union, nonunion, management and nonmanagement employees in situations that force them to work together. We hoped that by mixing the people in the organization and having them focus together on issues, we could start breaking down the barriers that frequently are erected in the workplace. …

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