50 Case Studies for Management and Supervisory Training
Case 18 (continued)
Answering the Phone
Jim Mullens is given the task of staffing the new Customer Service Unit. This unit was created in
response to a newly installed online customer information system. Now the customer service rep-
resentatives (CSRs) in the unit are expected to handle customer phone calls and answer any of the
full range of questions the customers might have.
Unfortunately, the planning of the unit did not include Jim, and he only had one week to com-
plete his assignment. He was fortunate to have recruited enough people to get the operation
going, but after three weeks, he is now concerned about how the reps are answering the phones.
He has noticed that the reps make a variety of mistakes in phone etiquette, such as not putting the
caller on hold when necessary, not explaining what they are doing, not verifying information, and
He knows they need training but realizes that he must do it himself while the reps are on the job.
Prepare a training plan for Jim to use.
There are two fundamental steps Jim should follow in preparing a training plan: defining desire
standards of CSR performance and creating learning experiences to train the CSRs to those
standards. Hence, a training plan should contain information on those two broad domains. A more
detailed plan could include a job analysis, creation of learning objectives, a needs assessment,
training curriculum, and a means of evaluation. This exercise could be used as a basis for the latter,
more detailed plan. However, in a more applied sense, completing the two general steps would be
sufficient for Jim’s purposes. The particular details of each step are addressed below.
Performance Standards. A reasonable set of performance standards for the CSR job would
likely include the following.
The CSR should
• efficiently access all customer information using the customer information system;
• accurately interpret the customer information system to report customer information;
• enter information into the system correctly;
• follow established phone procedures and etiquette; and
• deal constructively with any conflict or dispute.
These standards are listed in an approximate order of learning acquisition for a training plan.
That is, before acceptable phone performance can be expected, CSRs must first be able to use
the customer information system.
Note: A more detailed training planning approach could include a more formal job analysis.
Jim might hold a meeting with the CSRs to define their exact job duties. Further, at this meet-
ing or at a subsequent one, he could complete a needs assessment by identifying what this