Better Service Through Coaching

Improving customer care is
the top priority for Insight Communications
this year. One concrete
action the cable operator is
taking: new leadership training
for the people who oversee call
centers, service technicians and
direct-sales representatives.

Cable, like other industries, rewards
customer-facing employees
who are good at their jobs by
promoting them to supervisor.

At that point, they are trained for
their new responsibilities, but they
aren’t schooled in leadership, Insight
senior vice president of communications
Sandy Colony said.

“Training develops skills,” she
said. “Professional development
focuses on your personal leadership
style and how you can become
an effective leader.”

Knowing how to do a job well
doesn’t necessarily mean you can
teach others how to do it well, said
CEO Michael Willner, and supervisors
aren’t specifically trained
in that kind of communication.

“That may be one of the core
reasons why the cable industry
has trouble in succeeding in improving
customer-care statistics,”
Willner said.

To fill that gap, about a year ago
Colony started looking for the right
training program at cable’s professional
organizations and found
there wasn’t one that targeted supervisor-
level employees, as opposed to
directors and vice presidents.

The Cable Center embraced the
opportunity, she said, and worked
with Insight’s vice president of talent
management, Tim Michalk, to
develop a two-and-a-half-day pilot
class with a limited number of
students. Five Insight supervisors
took the initial course in
Denver this past May.

How did they like it?
“It was phenomenal,”
said Matt Stephens, a
technical operations supervisor
for Insight in Columbus,

A manager who oversees 17
technicians, Stephens said he
learned a lot at the very beginning
from the detailed personality
workout he was provided about
himself after he was interviewed
at The Cable Center. (That’s a
technique used effectively in programs
such as the Women in Cable
& Telecommunications Betsy
Magness Leadership Institute).

“It makes you realize that you
can’t really lead anybody well until
you fully understand yourself
and what you are and how you
manage,” Stephens said.

Instructor George Cutler’s lessons
on task-oriented management
and motivationally directed
leadership also are making him a
better coach, Stephens said.

Laura Davis, regional director of
training in Columbus, said supervisor
training grounds the employee
in Insight’s reporting systems,
or dashboard. “This class really
takes it to the next level,” she said.
“It challenges the individuals to
think more strategically and really
re-evaluate those leadership skills
that they’ve developed so far.”

She said the course was academically
focused, with lots of
reading material that Stephens
said he frequently revisits.

Stephens and Bill Dorman, director
of learning and development
at the Cable Center, said
Cutler put the printed materials
into practical perspective with
lessons from 24 years spent in
cable-related human resources
before becoming an instructor at
Denver University (where the Cable
Center is located).

An Insight priority that is tied in
with improving customer service
is people development, or “betterment,”
Colony said.

Over the past four years, Insight
has made professional development
an important reward
for high-performing employees.

Senior vice president of field
operations Gregg Graff said Insight’s
long-term growth isn’t going
to come from doubling the
size of its direct sales force. “It’s
about improving the touch point
with consumers,” he said. “It
takes better front-line employees.
The way you get there is by having
better coaches.”

The extra focus on customer
service over the past year shows
up, Graff said, in the improved
overall quality of the calls that he
and other managers monitor.

Michalk said the five supervisors
were top performers culled
down from a much larger list of
nominees submitted from Insight’s
district offices.

In addition to Stephens, they
were: Brandon Edans, network
maintenance, headend and construction
supervisor, in Bowling
Green, Ky.; Jeanette Reinersman,
customer service supervisor,
Northern Kentucky; Tara
O’Brian, customer service supervisor,
Evansville, Ind., and
Stephenie Drosick, customer service
supervisor, Lexington, Ky.

Insight intends to move forward
with the program, Colony
said, but has yet to decide how
that will happen. The company is
a big believer in professional development
at all levels.

“By investing in our employees,
our employees reinvest in
their jobs,” she said.

Will Stephens’ training lead to
better customer service at Insight?

“That would be as close to a 100%
yes as you can get,” he said.