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    Training and Expectations

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    Consider the scenario of Fred the Training Consultant. Several potential solutions were provided to address the issues in manufacturing at the plastic container business. Now it is your turn to weigh in on the issues in the customer service or sales departments.

    Choose EITHER customer service OR sales. Read the "Incumbent Interview" and job description from either the sales or customer service employees that Fred talks to during his needs analysis.

    Propose different solutions to the issues discussed in the original scenario and in the interview document. Be sure to discuss how realistically your solutions could be implemented based on costs, person-hours and convenience. Discuss whether your solutions are training-based or non-training based, or a combination of both, and why you made the decisions you did.

    HRA 340:
    Sample Interviews with Incumbent Employees in Customer Service & Sales

    Becky Customer Service Representative (4 months with the company):
    -Tell me about your job here.
    - I like working here. It's a very friendly company. I have worked in the customer service industry for years, and this is the most comfortable I've been at any job. It's pretty basic, you know, taking calls, answering questions about replacement parts, or how to order, or billing issues, whether deliveries are on schedule, you know.
    - What kind of training have you had here?
    - I've learned a lot from Mary, my manager. She's the boss's daughter, so of course she knows the business inside and out. It did take a while for me to learn everything... I still don't know all there is to know. A lot of what we do is kind of on the job training, learning on the fly, putting customers on hold while we look up the answer to their questions.
    - What challenges have you faced here?
    - One thing that is a challenge is when I get a question about a product I haven't thought about in a while. The system for looking up information about products is a little tedious. You have to go to the online folder that has all the product specification manuals, find the right manual, and look at the table of contents to see if you can find the information you need to answer the question. Sometimes it's tough to find exactly what you're looking for and you have to read through page by page. Probably 75% of the time, it's a product I know a lot about, but that other 25% of the time really slows me down. Also, sometimes the customer doesn't know exactly what item number they need info on, and they want to describe it to us... which can be hard if you aren't familiar with what they are talking about.
    - What are the expectations for your performance on the job?
    - You know, they haven't really talked about expectations for us very much. When I started here a few months ago, there really weren't that many calls. There was a lot of down time, and I was helping out processing bills and stuff in the accounting department. Now things have picked up quite a bit. There's still a bit of down time, but we are on or near the phone pretty much the whole shift. You know, it's funny you mention that. At all the other jobs I've had in customer service, they have very specific service goals: how long customers are on hold, how many calls we take per hour, repeat calls, and so on. Around here... I'm honestly not sure I even know. And I won't have my performance review for another couple of months.

    Neil Senior Sales Associate (6 years with the company):
    - Tell me about your job here.
    - Oh, the big boss [the owner] and I go way back. He's like my uncle; he and my dad grew up together. I guess you could say I kind of came up in this business, so I know the product line inside and out. I do mostly outside sales; I go to a lot of industry trade shows and try to make contacts, then I bring product samples to potential customers all over the Southeast region. So I'm on the road a lot. I've established some good customers who have regular orders with us. Business really picked up last year after we got several big manufacturing contracts for retail outlets to carry our products. Those contracts are some of our most important, so they tend to go to the most experienced sales people. I manage a couple of them. The boss was on me a few months ago to take a promotion up to Sales Manager... you know, administrative stuff, riding a desk. But I really like being out on the road, meeting people, earning commissions - just my personality, I guess.
    - What kind of training have you had here?
    - I mostly just picked up the sales stuff from watching my dad and the big boss. When I got out of school, this just seemed like a natural place to come to work. I don't know if formal training is necessary. I know some of our people are better at sales than others. Whenever a new product comes down the line, the sales guys go down to the manufacturing floor and give it a once over to see how it works and figure out how to "sell it". That's just something that a few of the guys and I do, it's not a formal thing. I don't think of this as a very technical job. I like dealing with people, I like traveling, and I like selling.
    - What challenges have you faced here?
    - I can't think of any specific challenges... I've helped out some of the older guys in sales who needed some leads, who weren't sure how to do the whole sales thing. I've also helped out some of the newer guys with some product info. Since I've been here longer than almost anyone in sales, I kind of show everyone the ins and outs. Sometimes it can be a challenge to get my own stuff done while I'm helping someone else. We have lost a lot of people in sales recently, so the rest of us have had to handle more accounts than usual, which is okay by me. A few of the sales people quit really quickly when they realized that it will take a while to get enough accounts to make a big commission every month. I guess a lot of them were expecting to make the big bucks from day one.
    - What are the expectations for your performance on the job?
    - It's mostly commission, so if you don't perform, you won't last here. We have very specific sales goals every month and specific criteria for each level of commission, so there's no question in anyone's mind about how to earn good money... it's just whether you are willing to hustle and if you are good at what you do. They kind of let us do our own thing as long as the sales keep coming.

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    Solution Preview

    Step 1.
    The first issue is that the sales employees do not have adequate income during the beginning of their careers. This should be rectified by making their remuneration a mix of fixed salary and commissions. The fixed salary should be adequate to retain the sales employees, even if the sales person does not earn commissions. This solution is not training based. This decision has been made to ensure that sales employees have adequate income in the beginning of their career.

    Step 2.
    The second issue is that Neil had declined to accept the post of a Sales Manager. This position should be filled by an experienced sales manager. He will provide leadership to the team of sales employees. He will also exercise control over the activities, efforts, and training of the sales employees. He will ask the sales employees for their weekly and monthly plans and monitor their activities so that they efficiently use their time. Further, he will identify the areas where the sales employees require training and then arrange for training in those areas. This solution is also not training based. This decision has been made to provide leadership and administrative support to sales employees.

    Step 3.
    The third issue is that training should be ...

    Solution Summary

    This solution gives you a detailed discussion on Training and Expectations.