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Just another training program for Microsoft? Please reconsider…

Jeune femme portant des écouteurs lors d'un appel

By Debra Evans, Kepner-Tregoe

Much has been written about training programs and their impact on measurable results within organizations. In fact, during my 38 years as a consultant for Kepner-Tregoe, I’ve witnessed more than a yawn or two as weary employees are asked yet again to be participants in another workshop to help them learn what they surmise to be something they already know or have been taught in the not-too-distant past.

Then someone who excels in their field of work – who leads others in their industry – is delightfully surprised by the significant impact that a workshop contributes to his learning – and a door is opened to encourage others to reconsider assumptions about their training experience.

Such is the case Microsoft Corporation – a company that has transformed itself under their “Growth Mindset” strategy which emphasizes the importance of a cultural obsession with their customers’ satisfaction. This cultural “refresh” promoted rigorously by current CEO Satya Nadella has tripled the value of the organization in only four years with expectations that Microsoft might be the first trillion-dollar company.

Aileen Alkins, VP of Corporate Customer Service & Support (CSS), engaged the leaders in her organization to take on the challenge of imbedding “gold standard” issue resolution methodologies into the daily problem-solving practices of those responsible for exceptional customer care. CSS team members consist of those who take the first call from customers to the senior escalation engineers and technical advisors who support the front-line team in the swift and accurate resolution of customer concerns.

A major component of this customer-centric journey involves capability development that is laser-focused on providing CSS team members with the very best “thinking” tools for issue identification and prioritization, root cause analysis, decision making, and risk management to better serve all Microsoft customers. The CSS leadership team chose Kepner-Tregoe as the provider for the training and coaching necessary to deliver on their strategy.

Some of the critical characteristics of “top” employee training programs include effective program management, alignment of training with organizational goals, effective metrics and measurement of results, leadership buy-in, relevancy, and creativity in the marketing and communication of these goals with employees. The CSS leadership team has demonstrated a passionate willingness to ensure success through thoughtful attention to these tenants – highlighted by a recent email message shared by a Bill Gloyeske, Principal Critical Situation Delivery Manger in the CSS group.

Bill is that “delightfully surprised” leader who posted an email challenging his fellow team members to consider the power of robust rational process thinking processes as a method by which they might provide a competitive edge to the often-challenging situations presented by their customers.

Snippets from Bill’s email offer an amusing, candid, and encouraging call to prepare to be pleased with the outcome of intentional engagement in the KT Problem-Solving and Decision-Making session provided by internally licensed and certified CSS KT Program Leaders who were rigorously trained to teach this workshop to all Microsoft CSS employees. Bill opens his message with a humorous plea “not to delete” before reading as follows ..

Hey Team;
I normally don’t send this type of email out about training, but after taking this class, I felt the need to share it with you and challenge you to take the Kepner Tregoe (KT) Problem Solving and Decision Workshop!

I know what your think – SPAM delete now – but hold on and give me a chance to share with you!

If you don’t, you’ll be missing an opportunity and it won’t be my fault!

What is the workshop about?

I’ll keep it brief. When you first look at it, you will see that it’s dealing Situation appraisal, Problem, Decision, and Potential Problem Analysis which at first glance, it looks overly complicated and boring. However; Microsoft has taken some great steps in making this workshop go beyond just teaching a technique. The classes are organized around having engineer and managers from various parts of the business. This was interesting because on day one, it was clear that each group has a different approach in how we work with our customers and solve their problems. By the end of the class, I had not only learned about their section of the business but also build some new friendships and relationships across the business that I will be able to leverage going forward. The course goes into a lot of detail and I promise you that if you really dig in and participate, you will go home tired but with a whole fresh look on this how can operate and make not only a difference with our customers but also within Microsoft. I know that I did!

Bill goes on to offer what he learned and noted that he took this same KT workshop back in 2003 and was amazed by how much he learned when he took it again with all the new and refreshed content in the program.

So, what did I Learn?

1. The importance of stepping back and understanding the problem, not just from a customer or engineer view but all up and from angles I may not have considered.

2. I learned how to take a complex problem and break it down to a simple understandable format by confirming what is and removing the noise of what it is not.

3. I found new ways to help our engineers and customers make decisions on action plans and justify the direction of the action plan, so we can minimize risks.

4. I realized that our action plans don’t always consider or outline contingent plans and that this alone can save Microsoft grief with the customer when a plan doesn’t go as expected.

It was fun and rewarding!

  • The exercises in the workshop are not based around the technology of our business which really helps creating a level learning level for everyone. The exercises were hard, and I must admit that I didn’t solve a single problem that was presented to me, but this allowed me to realize that there is always a bigger picture that we need to constantly review.
  • Working with the rest of the class was extremely rewarding.  I saw the value they bring to our company and learned a lot about how they approach problems, issues, and overall concerns.

What will you gain by taking this workshop?

1. You are going to learn new ways to approach the issues, make recommendations, also set expectations with our customers.

2. You will also get an insight into how our company can simplify and standardize the approach in how we work with customers – a big step in how we do business.

3. You will gain a better understanding of how to manage your cases, understanding the problem and the direction how to solve the problem quicker.

4. You will gain insight in how to determine the risk, prepare for it and clearly help the customer understand the decisions being made.

5. Lastly you will be reminded of the importance of planning beyond the current actions and directions the issue is heading so you can help set the customer’s experience appropriately.

Make no mistake, Bill reflects the attitude of many other CSS leaders and team members who have enthusiastically embraced new learning and a challenge to apply these processes in an effort to move performance from good to great in the endeavor to be “best in class” when it comes to serving Microsoft customers.

His message concludes with a “shout out” to those of his CSS partners who are working tirelessly to ensure the characteristics of excellent training programs are in place and supported every day around the globe.

He offers ..

This is a great course that I just don’t highly recommend it, but I personally challenge you to take it and help our support engineers provide our customers with the best service in the business.

There it is again. The clarion call to excellence – because Microsoft truly believes their customers deserve the best care available on the planet. By the end of the journey, more than 7,000 CSS team members will use the KT process tools to minimize resolution time, maximize customer satisfaction, and drive the customer-obsession mindset to new levels!

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