Children learn best when they are at play. By acting out various roles and tasks, children absorb the lessons behind their activities, all while having fun and interacting with their peers. Of course, while companies certainly don't want employees goofing off on the job, playing pretend may just be the key to successful service training, as well.

For companies across industries, simulated training exercises have become a way to engage service professionals while allowing these employees to hone their abilities, learn new skills, and adjust to the constantly changing support environment. These methods now foster learning journeys, offering professionals the opportunity to evolve alongside their businesses so they remain invested in their company's future. 

"People tend to learn a lot by doing on the job," says Rommin Adl, executive vice president at BTS. However, entrusting employees to learn as they do opens these learners up to mistakes that may inevitably reduce employee engagement because they haven't done the task before.


"Simulations are a really great way of immersing people in the role and letting them practice in a risk-free environment so they can make mistakes and learn by trial and error," Adl adds that employees typically emerge from this training a lot more confident in their abilities and they have a deeper sense of ownership. "They've done it, they've been there, and they know what the consequences are from an employee satisfaction perspective, a customer perspective, and a financial perspective," he says.

While computer and electronic simulations are a step in the right direction, Lamont Exeter, executive director of Learning Solutions and Delivery, TeleTech, cautions that the true value of simulated training will be realized when employees receive immediate feedback on their performance, and the simulation is performed in the medium the task is performed. "Simply creating a simulated environment without a timely, robust, and objective feedback delivery method is like playing and having fun without a coach there to develop you," he says. "Electronic simulations are good for knowing if the employee understands the application of the information, yet it is completely different when you have a person in front of you or on the phone and you are trying to perform the simulation."

Such integrated approaches ring true, as companies are beginning to realize that employee training is no longer a one-time event. Just as customer habits evolve, so must the skill sets of service professionals in all industries. These exercises, combined with the guidance of an actively involved manager, ensure that employees have fun while learning, helping them to retain and apply the knowledge acquired, much like children learn essential lessons each day. 

Simulating Support Scenarios to Spice Up the Food Services Industry 

Though Sodexo has built its success upon being an onsite food services provider for schools, hospitals, and entertainment venues, the company chose to realign its focus in 2005. Sodexo sought to extend its reach by designing, managing, and delivering comprehensive solutions that would enhance the quality of life for all their customers. But, in order to engage 1,000 senior managers worldwide, Sodexo's initiative required a strategy that would show its workers how to bring this ambitious goal to life.

To inspire and engage the entire Sodexo community, senior leaders deployed e-learning curricula, virtual team assignments, and numerous other collaborative, educational technologies to teach its staff the necessary skills to ensure a successful transition. Sodexo also implemented the VirtuoSo simulation electronic platform, which allowed the company to test participants in an effort to ensure successful application of this new knowledge. Overall, 84 percent of participants ranked their learning experience as "highly effective" in regard to their personal development and understanding of the new strategy, thereby boosting employee engagement and aiding Sodexo's move to not only improve the daily lives of its clients, but its employees, as well. 

Revving Up Revenue Generation in the Auto Insurance Industry

For Permanent General, successful customer service strategy starts with its representatives. The auto insurance provider—one of the largest non-standard companies in the nation—operates contact centers located in Tennessee and Arizona, employing both onsite and remote agents that often serve as the first contact many customers have with Permanent General. To ensure these agents not only represent the face of the company, but its brain as well, "The General" has embraced training simulation to guide customer service representatives (CSRs) through their learning journey at their own pace. Where traditional training approaches once reigned, Permanent General's new self-service simulation occurs right on the agent's desktop, removing the need to pull CSRs off the phone and into the classroom.

"While we had great intentions, we weren't consistently able to deliver as much training to reps as they felt they needed to do because of the limitations of doing this training in real time and being able to take large groups off the floor while coordinating with the training department," says Allison Garretson, vice president of underwriting, premium finance, and customer service at Permanent General.

Employees can now determine which classes to take based on their performance and aptitude, empowering themselves with the knowledge that they are improving upon their weaker skills using tutorials that allow them to dive into the action, not lectures. Since investing in the betterment of its agent base, Permanent General's representatives have proven their lessons successful by devoting their time to learning the advanced skills they need to provide superior service. Now, not only does the auto insurance provider continue to meet objectives and ROI goals, but customer satisfaction, first-call resolution, and employee engagement have also improved, laying the groundwork for customer loyalty and improved brand reputation.