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Axonify Executive Interview
JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect, Axonify
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Sheri Greenhaus, Managing Partner, CrmXchange met with JD
Dillon, Chief Learning Architect at Axonify, a micro-learning technology solution, to discuss how employers can ensure their staff
is properly trained to use new communication methods.
Where do you see some differences in training as opposed to
3 or 4 years ago?
Many businesses that now employ remote workers are trying to
figure out the best way to train.
Initially, in order to keep the business running, the tendency was to
throw technology at it. There wasn't
time to really think through the issues.
As things settle down, businesses are starting to figure it
out. My contention is that we haven't taken the time to meaningfully rethink
the kind of learning and support experience that is required. We just moved it.
We took what we used to do in a building - which was to either put people in a
room and tell them things or put them in front of a computer and show them
things for a period of time. We took that and put it on Zoom.
We haven’t really asked what kind of learning performance
and support fit within this version of the workplace. On top of that, we need to ask what
technology will be of help.
Today, management is deciding if we should bring people back
to the office, if they should be remote, or hybrid. Once that decision is made, organizations
need to redesign work and how learning and support fit into this shift.
We hear from managers and supervisors that they understand
the need to work, train and engage frontline workers differently. But costs need to be considered. Do you think this is where the bottleneck to
It's very similar
as to why there is high turnover. Not enough investment is put into
frontline employees. Organizations are throwing money in the wrong places.
There are budget constraints. Companies
worried about where the economy's going next are not going to invest in
something new. However, this leaves employees that are not as capable or
productive as they can be.
In years past, it was thought that if we lost 10 people this
week, we’d hire 10 more next week. You can’t do that now. I think it’s starting
to bubble up a bit where people are seeing it is tangibly hurting the business
if there was no investment in the turnover problem and the employee experience.
The CrmXchange audience agrees with you that we need to
constantly train people. It’s not a one and done. How do we get upper management to realize
that? Are you seeing that organizations are using self-service technology to
replace workers lost from the company?
Many are using chat or the new ChatGPT on the problem to
close the gap. It is still being evaluated how best to use these technologies. There are still moments when you need a live
person, and we need to find those people.
Staffing numbers or what work people do has shifted. Even if headcount is reduced with technology,
you're still going to need to be able to attract and retain people with greater
skills. While technology takes care of
some basic simple questions, when the customer reaches a live agent, it’s either going to
be a very complicated conversation, or a very heated conversation. What is then
required is a very capable agent.
For organizations that hire new staff, is there an optimal
way to train?
We have to embrace the reality of how people work. We are
not built to retain large volumes of complex information in a short period of time. So, the experience of
onboarding somebody and getting them ready to do what is often a challenging,
stressful, complex job is not easy.
Traditionally, we put people in 3 weeks of contact center
training, bombard them with product information, process information,
technology information and then soft skills.
We're basically fighting against human nature in a lot of
ways. I like to look at how you bridge this person into the workplace so that
you're not expecting them to get on the phone and handle the most complex
conversations and calls right away. First, start with certain types of simpler
calls, prove that they can handle those to mastery, then move on to more
We also need to make sure that complex product information,
and steps to execute different processes
are well documented and easily referenced by anyone, even if they haven't
worked there very long.
Perhaps the hardest and most meaningful part of the job is
having a good conversation with a person – being able to understand the tone
and requirements on the other side of the phone and react accordingly.
I might come in first with a dedicated trainer, go through a
couple of weeks of structured activities, which include refining skills and
core job capabilities such as: having a great conversation, compliance, etc.
It’s getting the upfront items covered.
The challenge is, we then throw them into the operation with
hopefully a good manager. We reinforce
the skills and measure their performance to see if they mastered a topic. Once
they have, we move to more advanced knowledge or calls that are more advanced.
What about micro learning?
The number one rule of the contact center is to keep people
on the phone. That's where the money's
made. When designing training, or in learning and development, we look at how
we can leverage the minutes that people have in-between calls, as they start their
shift, or right after they come back from their break.
We talk about micro learning activities in these moments
that allow them to slowly, over time, refine their knowledge and reinforce
things that are critically important. While 5 minutes between calls does not
sound like a lot, these are 5 minutes of focused activity every single day.
That adds up quickly. The whole concept of bite size, targeted, micro
learning-based information matches up with human nature and the reality of your
With micro learning, are you looking at providing personalized
information or information in the aggregate?
The key is, if you ask someone to engage in some type of
learning and development activity, they have to get value out of it. Otherwise,
they are not going to come back for the next one. That’s where the idea of
personalization is critical. The contact
center has so much data about each individual's performance in terms of call
time. There's so much going on that gives us a picture of what this person's
performance looks like. You can then match that up with data that we collect by
continuously engaging with an employee.
If I know I have 3 minutes between calls, I can have them
log into the learning platform and in those
three minutes they are given a few scenarios.
They use that as a practice opportunity to see if they can remember how
to apply different parts of information. We also use that as an assessment tool
to assess where that person is in their development. Then you marry that kind
of data with their operational data, it gives us a picture of where this person
needs help. It allows us to focus on something that they're particularly
struggling with. The data story gives us the ability to personalize both the
digital side of learning and support as well as human intervention with a
What is the best way to measure the impact of any of their
learning and development?
The simplest answer is business results. The impact of
training, in every case, should be pointed in the direction of a particular
problem. Most times that's going to be some type of operational
business-related problems. Whether it's reducing call handling time, reducing
escalations, increasing customer satisfaction score, whatever it may be.
The idea of continuous engagement and making learning and
support part of people's jobs allows managers to watch them change over time
through the data. And then, because their evolution is visible, we can marry
that up with data about how their performance is changing.
By doing this,
we can connect the dots to see if the training is having an impact. There are
many factors that influence performance outcomes but when you measure all of
these different elements of the employee experience you can get towards
Customer satisfaction score isn't solely based on what the
training team did, but we can carve that pie apart and say a select amount was
based on the type of training experience that employees are having. It allows
one to see if the investment being made is employee training and development is
clearly paying for itself and more. It
also gives you an understanding of how a change in investment could actually
damage our outcomes.
With the last couple of minutes that we have, can you talk
about the modern learning ecosystem?
The simple way to look at it is getting beyond the
traditional four walls of learning and development, because a lot of workplace
training programs are inhibited by the fact that they just don't align with how
work is done. With a contact center agent, they have minutes available in their
day. It’s not optimal to take them off the phone for a 25-minute course.
Instead of being limited to time, we put courses in our
learning management system, and agents need to come to us for learning, we need
to look at how we flip that model and build what we do into their reality. The
learning and development department needs to be the people that help employees
solve meaningful problems every day. It’s the team that's going to help agents
find the resource needed while on the phone with the upset customer. We can help find the resource, or walk
through the process that's going to help alleviate that issue and help the
agent get a greater customer satisfaction score in that call, and then level
that up to say there's still going to be things that are more complex and more
difficult skills that are just harder to learn like the compliance side of
The framework that I offer in the modern learning ecosystem
concept is that it becomes the right solution at the right time. Instead of
basing everything we do on structured opportunities, we insert things like
referenceable resources, performance support, coaching, and practice
opportunities, as part of the job and those can be accomplished
in the everyday workflow without having to pull agents away for an extended
period of time.
Axonify is a technology solution that is built around the
reality of a frontline worker Axonify believes that
frontline employees deserve to perform their best at work every day. They
focus their efforts on making that happen—with a learning solution that
someone do the right things every shift and do them to the best of their ability.