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Meet Marcella

To help you understand the concepts here and throughout the rest of the book, you will be asked to consider a fictitious WLP professional working at ABC MediCompany. Her story will help you see the signs and the effects of the movement from surprise to given. Although Marcella is fictitious, her story is based on a composite of similar situations that real WLP professionals have faced across a number of companies and government agencies.

Marcella is a new training manager hired to work at ABC MediCompany. The product sold by her firm enjoys a special niche in its target customer space. ABC’s product is sold by highly trained sales representatives and is almost always purchased with a one- to three-year support contract. The contract renewal department is responsible for calling each customer every year to make sure the information on the contract is up to date. This department is also responsible for asking customers if they would like to upgrade or renew their support contract.

Because support contracts are a very profitable portion of the business, pressure is intense for the contract consultants to renew or upgrade as many contracts as possible. The work is done over the phone, with a contract consultant only requesting the help of a sales representative to call on the customer in person if the contract is over a certain size and in danger of not being renewed. New contract consultants quickly find out that their job is complex, confusing, and often exhausting as they are expected to make many calls every day with a very low error rate on contract changes and updates.

When Marcella was hired, new contract consultants spent three weeks in class to learn all the terminology and systems required to manage contracts. Managers were not happy about the three weeks set aside for the class. They wanted their new hires on the phones and being productive much more quickly. After graduating from the class, the graduates’ high error rates affected customer satisfaction and employee morale. Experienced contract consultants spent time helping new employees by answering their questions and demonstrating how to handle more difficult system issues. This put extra strain on the experienced employees to keep up with their own workloads. Turnover was a big problem, which made it difficult to improve the quality and quantity of renewals.

After six months at her new job, Marcella changed the format for new hire training from a three-week class to a two-week class with a one-week formal mentorship updating real contracts over the phone with an instructor’s help.

Error rates dropped. Renewal rates went up. Employee morale improved because experienced contract consultants were able to spend more time on their own workload. Turnover rates dropped slightly with both new hires and experienced contract consultants. Although no one gathered solid numbers to quantify the impact, management was delighted and awarded Marcella a bonus. Marcella was thrilled. She continued to look for ways to enhance the program. After nine more months on the job, Marcella improved the on-the-job coaching by the instructors and added another week of formal mentorship to the program. Marcella’s instructors told her they were sure the new hires had improved in all areas again, but no one actually quantified the level of improvement. Marcella’s managers patted her on the back and told her with a smile that these types of results were just what they’d come to expect from her.

Nine months later, Marcella was asked to help the company by cutting expenses within her department. Sales of the ABC MediCompany’s product had hit some new competition and top management knew it had to make some changes to manufacturing, inventory management, and marketing. Top management started to make those investments, but to do so they still had to cut money and budgets from some departments to give to others. Money was extremely tight for the customer service department.

Marcella made a few small adjustments in the new hire program that, quite frankly, she had been thinking about anyway. This allowed her to glean some small savings. Marcella was aware that some managers thought that her program was too expensive and that she had not done enough to trim her budget, but given how much more effective new hires were now than when Marcella first started, Marcella was convinced that the program was exactly what was needed to ensure the contract renewals continued to run smoothly.

Nine months later, or nearly three years since Marcella was hired, Kathleen, Marcella’s new manager surprised Marcella by cutting her budget for new hire training down to one week with no mentorship on the job. Marcella could not convince Kathleen that this was a poor move. As a matter of fact, Marcella could not dissuade Kathleen from her belief that the program was costly and offered little financial benefit to ABC. Many people were sympathetic, but no line managers were willing to come forward to help. Marcella worried that errors and turnover would go up, that renewals would slide, and that she would be blamed for poor and expensive training when, in fact, she was sure her program made a great contribution to the company over the prior three years.

Was Marcella right? Should she have been able to avoid this whole situation? Unfortunately, Marcella made a common mistake when introducing each new level of value in her program. She approached her WLP services with a one-time mentality instead of from a mindset of continuous value management.



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