Birth Of A Modern Learning Ecosystem

Cloud-based Software Company

Birth Of A Modern Learning Ecosystem

Sometimes what we think we need as a learning solution is quite different from what we actually need. Analyzing processes, systems, and data can present insights that help guide the way. This is one of those stories.


A large contract win meant that their call center would quadruple the size. Their training strategy was not scalable, and would impact the small, busy, call center’s ability to handle the expected call volume and contract terms. 

Training was delivered by the training manager in a classroom. They thought they could scale training by creating approximately 90 e-learning courses on topics that call center representatives typically fielded. They asked us to price design and development for 90 e-learning courses. Instead we suggested an analysis of their current training program, call center calls, proprietary software usage, and work processes, so we could make some informed recommendations. The analysis drove our solution, a content delivery performance support and knowledge sharing portal website that was part of a larger learning ecosystem.

The Client’s World Is Thrown Into Turmoil

A cloud-based software client had recently been awarded a large contract. The Vice President of Operations was excited about the win, but was concerned about their ability to hire and train  enough representatives to quadruple the size of their call center in order to meet the requirements of the contract. When we spoke, I asked how they were currently training existing call center staff. His reply . . . “Not very well.

The call center strategy was to ensure that every representative could handle any call on approximately 90 different topics. Training was delivered in a classroom. The Vice President knew they needed a scalable training solution. His assumed e-learning could solve the scalability problem, thinking that an e-learning course for each of the 90 topics would do the trick. He asked us to price the design and development of 90 e-learning courses.

The Solution

Instead, How About . . . 

We proposed first doing an analysis so we could better determine what exactly was needed and the priorities of those needs. Our goal was to help the client create an effective overall strategy focused on addressing current rapid growth challenges, while meeting learner needs, and business objectives. The client agreed to an analysis of their current training program, call center calls, proprietary software usage, and work processes, so we could make some informed recommendations. 

Our team interviewed call center representatives, supervisors and managers, listened in on calls, tracked how they used their proprietary software, analyzed current training, work processes, call data, and customer feedback. We wanted to know the reasons why customers reached out to the call center, as the varying impact those reasons have are important elements in improving call center performance and designing a learning solution to support it. Here’s what we found: 

Long, complex learning cycles
Learning separated from work
Impossible to remember everything, causing long call times
No formal performance support system
No way to capture and share collective team knowledge
Representatives waited outside the cubes of supervisors and managers to ask questions, and received inconsistent answers while also increasing call times and queues, and impacting customer satisfaction

Just as importantly, the call data showed:

Top 12 call types accounted for over 80% of the calls handled
Bottom 26 call types accounted for less than 1% of calls received – COMBINED
80% of the time associates spent on calls were attributed to the top 13 call types
The 6 call types that took associates longest to handle happened infrequently 

A Portal That Will Grow Up to Be A Learning Ecosystem 

We proposed a custom cloud-based content portal that would leverage technology to deliver foundational training, performance support resources, and support collaborative learning by giving learners a community to capture and share knowledge. We wanted it to have a clean and easy to use interface and personalized view, as it would become an incredibly valuable access point to:

Important news and announcements
In-the-workflow, personalized, performance support resources
A community for knowledge sharing/collaborative learning 

Equally as important, we wanted it to be a layer of portal technology that would work with other systems (e.g.- the client’s LMS, their product – a sophisticated cloud-based software solution, and their client contact system) to create a larger Learning Ecosystem.

Two key components would support the expansion of a portal to a Learning Ecosystem:

A killer integrated search function that learned from users, could search multiple systems, and deliver fast, accurate results, opening doors to so much more for the learner
It would be designed to capture data from a variety of systems to allow the client to get a big picture view, measure success, and make program adjustments as needed 

The content portal part of the solution included:

Courses – Approximately 30 courses focusing on the topics that would make the biggest impact. They would include a combination of foundational learning experiences via e-learning, ILT and vILT, training. Half of those would be detailed courses focused on key topics, and the other half high-level overviews of selected topics . . . what it was and why it was important.

Collaborative Learning Strong community/collaborative learning functionality focusing on knowledge capture that easily allowed associates to share knowledge with the community, and allowed the community to rate the information so the “cream” would rise to the top. It included access to group knowledge via real time questions and answers vetted by the community and management. 

Real-time Performance Support – We needed to get the learning closer to the work. Our goal was to give associates real time, instant access to accurate support resources and information while on calls or chats with customers. We didn’t want just performance support . . . we wanted smart performance support that learned from users.

Since the reference manuals that associates used to support their work were paramount to success, the eManual functionality was designed to allow easy access to mission critical manuals and large documents. We wanted to give them the ability to efficiently and effectively use resource manuals, make annotations, share annotations, and quickly link to sections of manuals and relevant support information (performance support resources) for specific parts of manuals.

Wait, There’s More . . . 

The solution also included:

A management dashboard allowing real time snapshots of who’s using what, when, what they are looking for and finding, and more importantly what they aren’t finding
A cutting edge document preview function allowing associates to quickly preview the docs/pdfs/etc that pop-up in search to determine if it will be useful to them
Spaced learning delivery functionality, allowing scheduled delivery of content and resources to specific associates to improve retention
Curation functionality to ensure content is accurate, and useful

And So . . . 

The shift from “building 90 e-learning courses” to creating a cloud-based content delivery-performance support-knowledge capture & sharing portal that would tie into other systems to create a larger Learning Ecosystem, became reality. It cost less than building 90 e-learning courses and included so much more. The system was successfully launched and the client has tripled the number of users over the past two years. It has become an important resource for call center employees, and the data collected from the system has helped drive program, process, and system improvements. 

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