Recently, I was approached at the office regarding an issue one of our customers was having. Circumstances at their institution had changed significantly, and more changes were coming. Unsure of how to proceed, they contacted us to see if we could assist them in figuring out the best path.
My company prides itself on its customer support. More to the point, my first job as a teenager working in retail was for a chain that had strict rules regarding how customers were to be treated because it was how we differentiated ourselves from the competition. That customer service ethos was drilled into my head, and remains to this day. When I was approached about helping them out, the possibility of saying “No” never entered my brain; it was a challenge I accepted with enthusiasm.
After conversing with the customer and conducting research, I knew that our typical offerings of either Operational Audits and Formal Education would not be the most effective in this scenario. What they needed was a blending of the two; education that was driven by what their needs were at that moment, as determined using some of our ops audit tools. So I created an Operational Audit/Formal Education hybrid, an Operational Education model, which relied on observation and analysis onsite identifying their pain points following by customized training to address them.
To call the model intense would be an understatement. Conducting something like this is intense because it goes beyond the typical “I am a trainer, I only have surface product knowledge and I’m here to educate you”, which is already challenging in its own right. Just ask any professional trainer about the challenges involved in this kind of work! In the Operational Education model, in addition to training you also provide:
1) technology troubleshooting
2) customer support
3) expert product knowledge
4) workflow analysis and management
5) risk analysis and management
The good news is that I didn’t have to wait long to see if this new model would be effective. It was so popular that by the last day they were threatening to chain me to the file cabinets so I could stay there and help them with even more! They confirmed when I left that not only was it useful, but that using it they were able to make solid progress to report on many of their pain points, which exceeded their expectations going in to the week. By the end of the week, we had also taken a process which, prior to my arrival, had been taking four hours to complete, and we had reduced the process time by 50%! Upon my return, the new Operational Education model was praised by management and the C-Suite, both inside of my company and in the company I was working with.
Though it needs a few tweaks now that I have some experience with it in the field, I firmly believe that this model has the potential to disrupt (in a good way) the way we normally operate in circumstances like this. Its strength is in its flexibility, it can adapt and change as the circumstances and needs change. But this flexibility also presents a challenge in that you have to have more than surface-level experience with a much broader range of topics. This is where cross-training and cross-department communication is key.
In the future, I hope to lead the way as this new model expands and grows into another service we can offer to customers to address their needs. This model is disrupting, but it’s proven its worth, and disruption isn’t always a bad thing.