HDI’s SPOCcast is your single point of contact podcast for service management and support insights. For Episode 8, I interviewed Fancy Mills via Skype to discuss the value of training to both the individual and the organization, new ventures for HDI, and more. What follows here is excerpted; for the full impact, I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast.
RA: Fancy, I know that you’ve done a good deal of work on the value of training, and it’s something that you care a lot about—and you care about the value both to the individual and to the organization that is providing the training or sending the individual to the training. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you think that training is valuable?
FM: Training is valuable both at the individual and the organizational level, and you can look at the inputs to the individual becoming the outputs to the organization. And our definition of training is really changing, and it has changed—where we think of training as this formal event that happens, and you go to it and you learn and then you leave. And we know that training is a continuous process.
Where the definition is really changing is mentoring is training. Coaching is training. This conversation that we’re having could be providing training nuggets to an individual. Documentation is training. Video is training. So we have to think about training in different buckets. There’s informal training, then there’s formal training, there’s training that’s specifically designed to help the knowledge skills and abilities—and even culture—of an individual and an organization.
So at the individual level, what companies have to think about is, “What is my goal for training? How am I going to craft this? Or, “What vendors or suppliers can I use if we don’t have the expertise in-house to deliver that training?” To the organization, training is so valuable, especially from an HDI perspective of what we can offer when we bring people together. And you can teach specific areas of how to improve.
What we really want to focus on is, what are your challenges? What are your pain points? What’s keeping you from being as successful as you want to be? And really develop a really consultative-based, application-based training. That’s where the definition of training is really changing, too. It needs to be consultative and needs to be curated based on what the needs of the organization are. And it really needs to be application-based, which means that someone just doesn’t sit there and lecture. You have to have polling, you have to have reflection time, you have to have engaging activities. There’s just so many moving parts to training that [are] really important to put together. So, training’s just valuable because it’s something that has to be continuous, it has to be real-time, and it has to be proactive.
What are your challenges? What are your pain points? What’s keeping you from being as successful as you want to be?
And what I’m really passionate about is—myself, being a lifelong learner—how do we at HDI help our customers, at the individual and organizational level, become passionate about becoming lifelong learners and continuously improving across the board?
RA: I hear a lot of parallels there to the way I think about knowledge management, in that knowledge management isn’t just documentation, it’s also video and audio, and all the other ways that we consume information, and it’s ongoing. We talk a lot about KCS® at HDI, and how it’s ongoing, and everybody’s involved, and everybody has a stake in it, so some very interesting parallels between the two.
FM: You know optimizing your knowledge management processes is a really big input into training, because what you develop and put into your knowledge management program, your knowledge management documentation, those are outputs to the training process. We work in a lot of successful companies that have made that connection, and we work with those to help make that continuous connection: How are you constantly training, real time, on what’s driving your business—and being proactive in looking at the problems that you have and how that ties into your knowledge management and your incident management process, too?
RA: It also seems that you’re talking about how training has evolved and changed over time, and how we think about it has to change as well. And that leads me to ask you, how do you see the “traditional support center?” When I think about that traditional support center, I think about a tiered structure, you know, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, whatever, and a very strong reliance on telephone metrics, which we still see, like 40% of our top 10 metrics in our research are still about the telephone. How do you see that changing and how do you see that continuing over the next three to five years?
FM: I think it’s interesting that we’re seeing—still—those numbers. I think it already is changing…. Especially for traditional, internal support centers who still rely on those phone metrics [that] are still important to the business. We’re also seeing change with the tiered structure and different metrics that companies are measuring. So I think—it’s hard to say because there are still a lot of companies that have tiers or levels, but we’re also seeing a lot of companies that are collapsing those levels, and so we’re trying to align what we’re teaching and our best practices to them as well.
We may have someone—their role might be a technician, but they may actually take contacts, chats, emails, web tickets, and they might actually go out in the field, or might actually work a walk-up desk, or they may actually be doing some advanced level work remotely with the customer. What we’re learning—what we really want to craft our curriculum around—there’s really not a “one size fits all” mentality anymore. It’s really about what’s best for the goals of your business, who you’re supporting, what you’re supporting, and that’s where we really want to come in again and help you kind of curate and craft what does your structure need and look like.
We’re also seeing swarming, which is a concept that’s been around for years, swarming being adopted in many different ways and shapes and forms which is allowing that breakdown of tiered structure and having more people involved and helping to real-time resolve incidents.
I think it will definitely continue to change as we see roles in organizations change, as we see technology advance, as we see more of remote collaboration, and more of a focus on not just resolving incidents, but eliminating incidents completely. You know, driving people to self-service is great, but how…you keep customers from even having to deal with an incident in the first place is where a lot of organizations are wanting to go.
RA: We at HDI—as you well know—are currently undergoing transformation and adding more service management content and training and updating courses to reflect the changes in the industry that we’ve just been talking about. Can you tell us a little about where the new course content is coming from and what else HDI is doing to move ahead in the future?
FM: So excited to talk about this. We have a pretty aggressive roadmap and plan for updating existing content that flows into our courses. One of the courses that we’re updating currently is our desktop technician course, and we’re advancing the course to include desktop and advanced support technicians. What we’re finding is we’re still going out in the field, but we’re also working walk-up desks, we’re also doing remote collaboration with customers, so this role has really expanded, and so we’re expanding this course to really reflect that role. We’re going to cover traditional face-to-face support and desktop, but it’s also going to talk about business relationship management and your role as a technical advisor. You know, you’re not just a technician, you’re actually an advisor. You’re a consultant. Teaching our customers those skills I think is really important.
Our new content comes from the industry. We convene…our Standards Committee, which is leaders from various industries across the board—higher education, government, utilities. And then we also include our Business Associates, who are in the trenches, on the ground, teaching, consulting every week. And our course content comes from a wide variety of inputs and perspectives, and we have a unique challenge. We can’t have a course be everything to everybody, but we want to make sure that we have best practices that can apply across various industries. We always teach in class, you know, you may have to modify this to fit for your environment. But we really want our course content to come from the industry, even come from our customers, and it’s really important to us to make sure that it’s resonating and it’s relevant to our audience.
So that’s what we’re doing to move towards the future. We’re going to have our traditional standards, which is our competencies and our range of knowledge that we base our tests on. But we really want our curriculum to be application-based, to be consultative, to be very much what’s going on now in the industry, and then moving forward.
Some of the things we’re looking at [are], beyond testing, how can we help our customers better implement what they’re learning? We’re looking at who we add to our certification process and include creating a work product or creating a project that we’re “grading” at HDI. But we’re also going to provide you input. The last thing that we want is for someone to come to a class, take a test, and then not use the information.
That’s really our drive toward the future is to continuously evolve: learn from our customers and take these inputs into our courses. And the output becomes that really focused education [and] training for our customers to help them continuously improve.
Another thing about our training that I think that we don’t focus on enough—and we should—is just the connections that you make in class. They’re really so valuable. It’s amazing—you get all different people from different industries and different walks of life who have the same challenges. And there’s really power in that knowledge. I used to tell students, “You’re going to learn from me…hopefully, you’ll get some nuggets from me. You’re definitely going to learn from the book. But you’re going to learn just as much from each other.”
RA: We have become an ATO (authorized training organization for ITIL®, via PeopleCert)…
FM: We now have in our possession a whole service management portfolio. The first course that we’ve released is a course called Service Management Optimization, and that course is focused on four key processes: Incident, Request, Problem, and Change. And we’re looking at updating it with knowledge management. That’s one of the key courses that we’re going to continuously update and evolve. That course does not have a certification; what it has is a road map. You’re building on how to improve those key operational service processes.
We’ll be creating an ITIL4 Foundations course in the next few months. We’re assessing how does ITIL4 inform us. And we also have our own HDI best practices as well. We’re also looking at DevOps and Agile, Lean, and other frameworks because we want to make sure we’re creating our curriculum that is aligned with other frameworks. But we’re not going to be guided by a specific framework, because first and foremost our responsibility is to the service and support industry. And so we want to make sure that what we’re doing aligns with other frameworks so it’s adaptable.
We’re super excited about our service management capability. We have service management assessments, we have service management consulting capability, and we will be implementing our service management courseware throughout 2019 and 2020 as well.
RA: Maybe you’d want to talk about our community plans over the next year, and where we’re going with membership and so forth.
FM: It’s a really exciting time right now for the HDI community. We are evolving to a community that is free. We have our Practices and Salary surveys, all of our white papers and research that in the past have been for our membership for a fee. Now we are…ungating all of that and providing unpaid membership. The goal…is to really start to build this global community. Our goal is—on HDIConnect—you can become a member for free right now…to connect our members to industries, to specific topics they want guidance on. You can ask questions of each other and start different strands going and get feedback from your peers.
We’re really wanting to develop this into a truly connected community.
About Fancy Mills:
As the Director of Training and Content for HDI, Fancy brings more than 20 years of experience specializing in consulting, training, and human resource development. Her main area of focus has been working with service and support centers and contact centers across various industries to optimize their performance. As an ICMI and HDI Business Associate, she certified thousands of service and support professionals, managers, directors, analysts, agents, technicians, and corporate trainers around the world in virtual and classroom environments. In addition to training, she has developed and facilitated customized curriculum and training and consulted for Fortune 500 companies in the areas of customer service, customer experience, quality management, workforce management presentation, communication, and time management skills. Fancy has also served as a speaker for various industry conferences and events such as Fusion, HDI, and ATD and holds a master’s in human resource development with a specialization in adult education from Texas A&M University. A fifth generation Texan, Fancy lives in Austin with her husband Kevin, son Mills, and their tabby cat Sparky. She's an avid sports fan, including supporting the Dallas Cowboys and all Texas A&M sports. Her favorite team is anyone her son is playing on!
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson.