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Providing UC Training to End Users Across North America

Financial Services | Training and Education Services

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On behalf of a leading insurance provider, TEKsystems delivered customized unified communications (UC) training to approximately 86,000 users across North America.

The client, a leading property and casualty insurance provider in the Midwest, has more than 65,000 employees and over 17,000 agents in North America. With coverage across the U.S. and Canada, the client offers private automobile insurance, home insurance and—through partnerships—life as well as non-medical health insurance. TEKsystems has partnered with this client since 1995.

Project Overview
Unified communications (UC) allows for voice and data information to be communicated over a single network; effective implementation of UC enables organizations to streamline and integrate communications, subsequently optimizing business processes. To improve business efficiency and collaboration, legacy telephony systems are frequently being replaced by UC systems, taking IP-based technologies that operate in silos—such as phone calls, email, instant messaging, mobile and video conferencing—and integrating them. 

Switching to a UC solution comes with many benefits that outweigh legacy telephony systems—which can be costly to maintain and scale with business growth. Enterprise-wide UC systems can significantly reduce maintenance and support costs over the long term, improve productivity, and drive user and end-customer satisfaction.

The deployment of a UC solution can be a heavy undertaking, especially across large organizations. The products are complex, and customization and integration work can be extensive. In addition, the upfront cost of equipment and time to facilitate the deployment can seem burdensome. But beyond the initial planning, set-up and physical installation, organizations must also factor in user adoption and utilization. A successful implementation requires that users understand and feel comfortable working on the new platform. A well-developed training and education program can help reduce user resistance and promote adoption, allowing the organization to get the most out of its UC implementation.

Cisco VoIP

The client, a leading property and casualty insurance provider, sought to increase communication and optimize processes between its agents and enterprise-wide; collaborative technologies offered an opportunity to streamline operational costs and increase efficiencies. As such, the client embarked on the largest single Cisco UC initiative in any industry to design, build and deploy a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure. The UC solution would transform the customer-agent experience, and provide agents with a competitive advantage through increased customer intimacy and optimized service delivery. Ultimately, this massive business and technology transformation would help the client increase revenue, customer loyalty and market share in an evolving and highly competitive industry.

While the introduction of a UC infrastructure promises significant financial and operational benefits, it would only be successful through proper adoption. Yet, agents at the client are independent business owners and their adoption of the platform would be completely voluntary. Additionally, although the UC implementation would improve their communications with customers, agents might still show resistance for fear that their business could be disrupted. Anything that threatened to interrupt the lifeblood of their business, agent phone lines, could be viewed as risky.

As such, the client needed to gain buy-in from its agents and staff communities. To drive adoption, users must feel confident that they know the system and how to use it. A high-touch, customer‑centric training solution that provided clear understanding of UC and functionality would empower end users and promote utilization.

Lacking the internal bandwidth, and UC and training expertise, the client sought to partner with a third‑party IT services provider that could deliver on-site training to their agents and end users. The right partner needed to be able to source, retain and manage the trainers, and scale and flex its team to accommodate any potential changes in project scope. With agents spread across the U.S. and Canada, the IT services provider would need to be able to manage the logistics of deploying trainers at the right place and time; the client required a partner that could coordinate with the third-party integrators installing the equipment and ensure the training happened in sync with the installations. Given the high volume of users that would need the training, the client needed a partner that they could trust to deliver a consistent message, from start to finish, to all end users.

Realizing this leading insurance organization was introducing a UC solution to its agents and staff, TEKsystems proactively approached the client’s procurement team to help facilitate training and education. Having successfully provided similar support to other clients, TEKsystems proposed a multi-phased solution to enable customized training and education for the client.

Phase One: Planning
To start, TEKsystems would provide a dedicated program manager and project lead, who would collaborate with the client’s project team throughout the program. These key points of contact would review, plan and ensure the client’s expectations are properly managed. TEKsystems and the client would be aligned in terms of project logistics (i.e., schedule, site locations and resources), communication and escalation plans, personnel requests, training procedures, invoicing and authorization requirements, and change management processes. 

Phase Two: Implementation
TEKsystems would then oversee the recruiting and onboarding of training resources over the life cycle of the project, according to the project schedule and the information collected during the Planning Phase; we would also coordinate and accommodate any unanticipated requests using our pre-established change management process. 

Effective onboarding would play a critical role in the success of this engagement. TEKsystems would implement its proven onboarding process to ensure all training resources are well‑prepared prior to their arrival at the client site. Our onboarding would include team orientation where project scope and expectations are set, and training resources have the opportunity to get answers to any questions they may have. Additionally, to further validate all resources have a strong understanding of the program, we would also ensure trainers and back-office support team members went through a “train-the-trainer” session at the client’s headquarters and/or via virtual sessions. 

Once fully onboarded and acclimated to the client environment and program objectives, the trainers would be deployed to the wide range of locations. Each trainer would be at their designated site the day of the install to train all office personnel on the new Cisco equipment, utilizing a training checklist set by the client. Trainers would facilitate one-on-one teaching with offices of five or fewer learners, and in offices of more than five learners, our trainers would teach in small groups. We would provide two trainers per office in offices with 12 or more learners. As needed, the trainers would also unpack, assemble, install and test phones/headsets. 

Realizing the training content may need to be updated at various points throughout this engagement, TEKsystems would enable a formalized process for trainers to follow in order to ensure they are informed of any content updates or changes and are always delivering the most current information. TEKsystems would utilize an internal, secure blog to immediately communicate any changes to all trainers, and we would announce the changes during a weekly trainer phone call. We would also manage updating the client’s reference book; quarterly, we would incorporate any changes and make the revised reference book available for instructors to download and access for future trainings. 

Throughout the Implementation Phase, TEKsystems would deliver weekly status updates including resource fulfillment metrics, budget updates, outstanding issues and any potential project changes. This would ensure transparency and open communication throughout the TEKsystems-client partnership. 

Phase Three: Completion and Close
Upon completing the training at all requested locations, TEKsystems would meet with client stakeholders for a final review of our work and resolve any potential outstanding issues. 

Throughout the engagement, TEKsystems would keep the client abreast on project status, issues, changes or potential concerns. We would monitor project health and stability in terms of the client’s budget and target goals. And we would continuously keep our trainers apprised of client feedback, project changes (e.g., content updates), and other information to maintain their engagement and support. Given our longstanding successful partnership, the client trusted that—with our training and education expertise—we could execute our recommended solution, and selected TEKsystems for the job.

TEKsystems successfully managed and delivered on-site training to the client’s agents and staff on its Cisco UC solution. Over the course of approximately two years, TEKsystems successfully deployed nearly 200 trainers across 18,000 unique sites, including 48 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces; in this time approximately 86,000 individuals received our high‑quality UC training. We stayed under the client’s target budget per trainer/per day. Our solution provided end‑user training on UC including Cisco’s VoIP products as well as other third-party tools. With our support, the client smoothly transitioned to a single phone system that allows for:

  • Abbreviated and speed dialing of commonly used phone numbers
  • Phone directories with easy access to names and numbers of all users on the network system 
  • Answering and placing calls to anyone on the network through a computer 
  • Instant messaging anyone on the network 

Further, by mobilizing its UC the client is positioned to recognize cost and efficiency benefits. Having the majority of its agent population on a single network allows for reduced long distance charges and phone expenditures. And the centralized network enables easier and quicker access to the internal claims departments, processes and resources. 

In order to maximize the value of the training, the TEKsystems instructors were present during the cut-over to the new system so that training could begin during and immediately after implementation. We coordinated with the third-party integrators readying the sites and installing the equipment, and immediately followed installation so that there was no time elapsed that the phone system was down. Although there were various potential obstacles that threatened the timelines of the installation group (e.g., equipment or connectivity issues), TEKsystems needed to adapt to the schedule as it shifted. We adjusted—even if it meant that we worked different hours or dates than planned, and we were able to do this so seamlessly because we kept enough trainers on staff to ensure unpredictable changes like these did not hinder our progress. 

Throughout the duration of the program, we sustained a 99 percent delivery rate; we also managed Tier One help desk support. Notably, we achieved a 99.93 percent schedule to fill rate, meaning more than 99 percent of requests were successfully filled on the original day requested. Moreover, we achieved a 100 percent fill rate within 48 hours. These figures are quite impressive considering the shifting nature of the schedule; with our training timeline dependent on the time of installation, if there were any equipment issues or rescheduled installations, the schedule was fluid and our training plans could be changed at a moment’s notice. 

Post-installation, the client provided TEKsystems with trainer feedback based on responses from more than 5,000 users. Over 98 percent of end users agreed that their on-site trainer was courteous and professional, with one respondent commenting, “[my trainer] was fantastic! Very professional, and training was understandable and very effective. We were nervous with the new phone system and she made us at ease!” And nearly 94 percent of end users agreed their trainer was effective at providing instruction on UC features and functions. According to one respondent, “[my trainer] did an excellent job adapting to our learning style and was well able to answer all of our questions—a very positive experience!” 

The client had such a positive experience during this UC rollout that TEKsystems was engaged to deliver training separate from this engagement; new agents who were outside of the project scope had learned of the benefits of the training and requested they have it in their offices as well. TEKsystems was pleased to be able to support this add-on work.

Key Success Factors
The client viewed our partnership throughout this UC training and education engagement as highly successful. TEKsystems was able to exceed client expectations through:

  • Consistent, professional training. Of critical importance to the client was consistency. The client required that the same message was delivered to all agents throughout the course of our two-year training program. TEKsystems provided professional trainers who stuck with the engagement over the long term, which enabled us to ensure consistent delivery of content. We kept tight control over the content and maintained a very strict checklist. We facilitated regular and frequent touchpoints with our instructors to ensure they were aware of any changes and updates, which further drove consistency. 
  • Resources. At the start of this engagement, TEKsystems carefully combed through nearly 1,200 resumes in order to interview 400 candidates so approximately 190 qualified professionals could go through our upfront train-the-trainer education program. We were able to keep the majority of trainers throughout the two years because we kept them engaged and continuously training. If the trainer did not have an assignment, they were considered runners who would be ready to go to the next location that was going through the installation. This provided stability from the client perspective, while we maximized the use of our time, our people and overall impact at the client. 
  • Flexibility and adaptability. We were depending on the schedule of the client and the work flow and timeline of the UC integrator organizations. Our plans had to adjust as any changes occurred in these schedules. Also contending with our plans was weather. Our trainers were deployed across North America and oftentimes, they were required to visit remote locations. Coordinating the logistics of travel was even more challenging in the face of unpredictable weather forecasts, yet we succeeded through two winters, two avalanches, wildfires, tornadoes and Hurricane Sandy—which all occurred within the duration of the engagement.
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