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TEKsystems supported the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Cisco VoIP initiative by delivering customized training and education services at 37 call centers across the United States.

Our client, a world-leading technology company, has had a valued partnership with TEKsystems since 1999. The company boasts a comprehensive business portfolio which includes hardware, software and services targeted toward consumers, business, governments and schools around the globe. This technology leader was engaged as a sub-vendor of a major telecommunications provider to support their end customer, the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA is a federal government agency that manages and provides social insurance programs for retirement, disability and survivor benefits. The agency is based in Maryland and has regional and field offices, call centers, card centers, processing centers and other locations across the country.

Across all industries, call centers are increasingly making the transition toward voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems and Unified Collaboration tools to drive efficiencies, productivity and cost savings. This is a fairly radical and challenging change to the call center environment and day-to-day operating business processes because it introduces a host of collaboration tools that need to be properly integrated into the organization.

For example, consider the benefits of having instant messaging capabilities tied to an organization’s telephony, which is linked to the organization’s call center management application, e.g., customer relationship management software. When deploying an IP-based telephony solution, all of these elements should be synced up and integrated, ensuring they can effectively communicate with each other. When picking up the phone, the screen would automatically pull the contact information of the customer calling, while also allowing instant messaging collaboration through a handset or desktop device. Instead of having these tools exist as separate applications on a computer, integrating them enables more streamlined communications—which not only improves efficiency but also enhances the customer experience.

While the advantages of making this transition are evident and desirable to organizations, the complexity of change can make them a cumbersome and time-consuming investment. Users must understand how to work with the new system and how it impacts their day-to-day processes. Offering formal education and training to stakeholders and relevant employees enables a smooth transition and ensures all users are comfortable with the new system. This is critical to maximizing the benefits of the investment and minimizing downtime related to the transition. But often organizations lack the internal expertise or bandwidth to train users, and they choose to partner with third-party providers that specialize in IT training and education services to make the transition as seamless as possible. A partner that offers IT training and education services can provide hands-on training, demonstrate how the product works, develop user guides and other informational material, and even answer specific technical questions—making the transition easier for the organization.

Cisco VoIP

The Social Security Administration (SSA) was experiencing a massive influx of inbound calls to its call centers. The increased call volume came just as the baby boomer generation began hitting retirement age. SSA acknowledged the aging of baby boomers as the catalyst and knew the surge of calls would continue to grow over the next 15 to 20 years as this generation would require benefits in record-breaking numbers. Simultaneously, SSA was also realizing a spike in the number of people requesting disability income during the economy’s state of decline.

SSA aimed to heighten its presence on the Web and maximize call center productivity to achieve the level of service expected by the public. In alignment with the influx of traffic, it was imperative that the end customer introduce more efficient, effective and collaborative communication into its call center environment. The end customer sought to offer new communication services such as Web callback, Web collaboration and Web chat tools in order to meet the growing demand for services. As such, SSA was implementing a new VoIP phone system across 37 call center locations.

Our client, a world-leading technology organization was selected as a sub-vendor to a major telecommunications provider that was the prime integrator supporting this initiative for the end customer, SSA.

Meanwhile, to ensure SSA maximized the benefits of this transition, it would be critical for employees to understand the functionality, features and administrative capabilities of the new system. Lacking an internal development organization, our client sought an IT training and education services partner to provide support and training to more than 12,000 SSA end users, office managers, engineers and technicians across North America.

The partner would be responsible for developing a training strategy and schedule, providing a blended delivery model that best aligns with the end customer’s needs and locations, and managing the logistics of this training initiative. Training materials, including classroom content and artifacts, would also need to be developed. It was critical that the partner of choice provide a high-quality team of qualified trainers to execute the training across the selected sites.

The ideal partner would need to have government experience and the ability to understand the needs of the end customer, SSA, and its complex environment. SSA required training support from a partner that could provide subject matter expertise and experience developing and delivering high-quality content, as well as a proven ability to design and teach customized learning solutions.

TEKsystems understood SSA’s priorities for an IT training and education partner. It was important that the partner of choice develop instructor-led training materials, job aids and learning artifacts that incorporated telephones and new communication services such as Web callback, Web collaboration and Web chat tools. Because there were numerous locations where staff needed to be educated on the new VoIP system, the optimal partner would need to be flexible, adapting the training according to the individual needs of each site. With 37 sites, proven IT training expertise was essential to not only handle the logistics of a seamless and consistent training program but also to ensure the end customer had a high-caliber, knowledgeable and experienced training team.

Bearing this in mind, TEKsystems proposed a multiphased solution:

  1. Training plan design. In collaboration with the end customer’s hardware provider, TEKsystems would develop an overall training plan. This would include course requirements, training schedules and requirements specific to each site.
  2. Task analysis. TEKsystems would then review and map existing content to the end customer’s learning goals for the modules within each course. We would also evaluate any potential gaps in content and develop new material as needed.
  3. Generate deliverables. For each course, TEKsystems would generate deliverables, including instructor guides, Microsoft PowerPoint slides, participant guides, job aids / quick reference guides and e-learning components.
  4. Course delivery. To deliver course information, we would use interactive practices to help keep end users engaged and subsequently maximize the effectiveness of our training. For example, individual courses could include instructor-led presentation of content, demonstrations and hands-on application exercises using telephones to simulate real-life scenarios, and group discussions.

Ultimately TEKsystems was selected based on our recommended solution and our unique qualifications, including:

  • Reputable, knowledgeable and credentialed training resources
  • Dedicated TEKsystems’ Government Services vertical, boasting experience working for federal agencies
  • Scalability
  • Robust yet customizable Cisco VoIP curriculum
  • Ability to deliver blended training models (e.g., self-paced learning, coaching, instructor-led classroom or virtual training, e-learning, mentoring)
  • Training administration expertise, as demonstrated by our ability to manage more than 100 training engagements each month at more than 125 customers each year
  • Expertise developing and deploying training curriculums
  • The breadth of our experience, which includes global training programs that have been introduced to thousands of IT and business professionals across nine countries

Although this was the first opportunity for which the TEKsystems Training and Education Services practice was able to support the end customer (SSA), the longstanding partnership with our client—paired with our outstanding education credentials—provided SSA with confidence that TEKsystems was the best fit for this Cisco VoIP training engagement.

TEKsystems successfully delivered the communications training to more than 12,000 end users at the required 37 end-customer locations. TEKsystems developed agent training, manager/supervisor training and training that also infused the technologies used by employees with disabilities such as IP blue utilizing JAWS, MAGic of Dragon Naturally Speaking and NexTalk. One to four sites per week transitioned over to the new VoIP system and trained over a nine-month period. The training deliverables consisted of development of participant guides, leader guides, user manuals, hands-on exercises, fact sheets and quick reference guides.

With our support, the new communications tools were introduced and successfully adopted, allowing SSA to effectively leverage the collaborative features to ultimately address the growing demand for call center requests, as call center employees were prepared to perform their job responsibilities with minimal downtime using the new technology.

In terms of learner satisfaction, TEKsystems achieved high evaluation scores, averaging between 4.7 and 4.8 per class per trainer on a five-point scale.

Notably, SSA had multiple other third-party partnerships that played a role in our ability to deliver training. For example, the end customer worked with a third party to support this initiative in terms of physical hardware. There were significant delays in delivering hardware, which in turn stalled our training. Although obstacles such as this required that we adapt our own schedule and scale the number of resources up or down to accommodate outside third parties, we were still able to train all required users over a period of just nine months. The end customer was pleased with our flexibility in collaborating with their other third-party partners and appreciated that we were never the cause of delays.

Throughout the course of the engagement, we provided approximately 35 qualified trainers and a back-office support team that included a project manager, project coordinator, instructional designers and content developers. Because SSA is a government agency, it was mandatory for any instructor we provided to have the appropriate level of security clearance. High-level screening, such as that required for government clearance, meant drawing from a smaller pool of available and qualified resources, yet TEKsystems was always prepared with qualified and security-cleared professionals even when there were unanticipated changes to our schedule.

  • Quality training team. TEKsystems was able to provide a high-performing team of learning professionals, including many individuals with higher degrees in adult learning, Project Management Professional (PMP®) certifications and other relevant learning certifications. Because TEKsystems has deeply rooted connections within the IT professional community, we were also able to offer support via subject matter experts with technology-specific competencies. Our Training and Education Services practice leverages this type of specialized knowledge to customize our solution to the unique needs of each client and end customer, including SSA.
  • Flexibility. Although we had sole responsibility for the training, our ability to provide it was influenced by external factors beyond our control. The end customer had multiple third-party vendors that we had to take into consideration because their work impacted ours. Our timelines depended on hardware arriving on schedule, and delays meant we were unable to train on time. However, our team adapted with the unpredictable timelines, and we ensured we always had enough qualified trainers to scale with the shifting schedule.
  • Problem solving. We were supporting and training three different organizations within the SSA. The new phone system was a relatively big change for the end customer as a whole. There wasn’t one specific client point of contact making decisions related to this rollout, but rather, multiple stakeholder voices being heard from across the agency. Overall, this made the customer environment complex and difficult to navigate politically. TEKsystems formed a high-powered team that could navigate grey areas, act as one force, deliver consistently, and ultimately, ensure the engagement stayed on track. And this cohesion and adaptability played an imperative role in our success at SSA.