IT service involves on-the-fly interactions, so training should include opportunities to practice these improvisational interactions.

by Rebecca Gibson
Date Published May 24, 2022 - Last Updated January 20, 2023

A version of this article first appeared in ICMI, a partner publication. 

Anyone involved with IT service frontline training - designing it, delivering it, investing in it - wants to know how effective it is and if it will make a difference in employee performance. Knowledgetests and assessments in which we ask learners to demonstrate what they have learned are two of the most straightforward methods to answer this question.

But simple knowledge tests aren’t sufficient for every training scenario. A true-or-false quiz at the end of a refresher email to test reading comprehension is adequate. A knowledge test to demonstrate understanding of HIPAA compliance requirements may be sufficient. But when you’re preparing new hires to handle complex customer interactions, knowledge checks alone aren’t up to the task.

Role-plays are a method of assessment in which a learner demonstrates skill competency within a realistic simulation. Role-plays can be automated, using a tool like Rehearsal, or face-to-face with a live “customer.” They can serve as a culminating assessment which a learner must “pass” before completing new hire training, or as a module check to demonstrate facility with specific skills, such as “de-escalating a difficult customer situation”. A role-play assessment might include all aspects of a customer service interaction - systems, knowledge base, and customer handling skills - or it might focus on a skill subset, such as customer handling skills or completing a return in the system. Regardless of breadth, the goal of the role-play assessment is to create an environment comprehensive enough to assess if the learner is prepared to be successful on the job.

Follow these guidelines to make your role play assessments as effective as possible:

Introduce the role-playing format early on.

Waiting to introduce role-playing to the end of training likely will provoke learner fear and anxiety. Instead, introduce the basic format of practice role plays early on, including scenario format, scoring rubric, room/video setup, and customer role instructions. Allow learners to get comfortable with low stakes self-evaluation and peer-evaluation before you introduce formal evaluation or the concept of pass/fail.

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Tag(s): supportworld, communications skills, customer service


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