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Marcus Carltonin-house training video
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 4:06:52 pm

Looking at producing some in-house training videos for customer service reps. What tips can anyone provide about how to make these interesting enough that the CSR's actually get something from the video other than a short break from work?

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Mark SuszkoRe: in-house training video
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 8:03:28 pm

Step one: get John Morley's Corporate Scriptwriting book. Seriously. This is an excellent guide to the process, and if you follow the recommended steps in it, you can practically guarantee success.

While you're waiting for Amazon to ship it to you, I'll just touch on a couple things.

A lot of failed videos of this sort are done in a "ready, fire, aim" sort of way. The right way to go about it is to first do a needs analysis, and this has to be more than "you need to make some kind of video by the end of the month". Since your video is supposed to help solve a specific problem, the very first thing to do is define that problem as clearly as possible. For a CSR training, this could boil down to such things as:

Standard new hire orientation in "the xyz company way of doing things"
Speed with which each call is handled: tips and tricks
The personal dynamics, i.e. making the customer feel good about the service
Specific methods one uses to diagnose a customer problem
How and when to escalate a call to a higher authority
Sales issues like how to upsell a costlier service while getting the original issue dealt with
How to handle rejection and anger

There could be more or others too. But you have to define what the deficiency is, and what the desired corrective action or response is supposed to be, i.e. what the viewer will know and/or do differently after watching. Try not to build the pile too high and force too many jobs on one video. Don't try to make something that's an orientation, a sales training aid, and a customer catalog all in one program. It is not efficient or effective. Keep like with like.

So you have the problem and the desired corrective measures to be taken.

Now, ask yourself, is this something a video is GOOD at conveying? Or is some other method better?
You don't want to just put the employee manual on tape, that's a misuse of the medium and wasteful, as well as generally ineffective. Video is good for explaining or illustrating things the manual can't show well. Think of one reinforcing the other, not trying to replace it. Use paper collateral materials and a web site or powerpoint or spreadsheet alongside the video, and you let each do the thing it is best at, as well as making updating easier.

You must also do some research. One of the common problems that makes projects like this fail is to make a lot of assumptions up front that turn out wrong, and one of the most common assumptions is that the tastes and likes and language of the target viewer is the same as those of the people that pay for and approve the video. While it is important to please the bosses, you need to research to define the audience in terms of their educational and social levels at a bare minimum, the video is not FOR the boss, it is for THEM. You don't talk to the Board of Directors in the same idiom and with the same vocabulary as you do to loading dock workers. Plus, you have to sell the bosses that a project they don't personally like or even understand is speaking clearly and well to the target audience in their own language. You need a tool to help you do all of this.

So, the needs analysis is done, the problem is defined, the goals are laid out, some kind of metric is decided on to judge efficacy, like a simple quiz after the video, or a decision to monitor, say, sales or failure rates or whatever, a month before the video and a month after as a comparison....

... with that info and some research, you move on to the most important stage, that tool I mentioned: the Creative Treatment. This is a blueprint of the video, how it will look, what it will say, the narrative "hook" it uses to convey the important points, and what a viewer is expected to know and do after seeing it.

It is NOT a script. Script comes later in the process.

It describes the script. It says, scene by scene, what the script will say, what the scenes look like. It can have notes for each scene that explain why the scene and dialog are the way they are, what issues in the list of needs it addresses and the strategy behind them.

Scene 3: Boiler room, morning. CSR Bob and CSR Joan, getting their cubes ready for the shift about to start. Bob tells Joan he's feeling jumpy after a hard shift with a lot of yellers angry at him. Joan suggests point a,b, and c as tactics Bob should try the next time this happens, offers to sit in with him on the first bad experience. Time passes, and Bob gets a hot one. He motions to Joan, she comes over and listens in. Joan scribbles on a note card to try tactic "B" at this point. Bob starts to try "B" but loses focus and starts falling into old habits, letting the caller intimidate him. Joan gets Bob's attention back to using the proper tactic, and the call resolves in a better fashion.

Scene 4: Break room, down the hall from the cubes. On coffee break: Bob thanks Joan for the coaching and she reinforces/reiterates the checklist of items in tactic B that worked for Bob. We dissolve to a graphic of the items while a narrator makes a point about which of the three techniques to try first and how long to try it.

That's how it looks in a treatment.

From it, any competent script writer can write the actual dialog. We didn't use a lick of real dialog, but you can clearly see exactly how the video is going to go there. Dialog at this early stage is a danger, because somebody with approval/disapproval authority might see one word they have a problem with and kill the whole deal. I've seen it happen.

But before that dialog is written, the treatment allows everybody to grasp clearly what the project will and won't be. At this point, the data in the treatment about scenes and characters and effects allows you to calculate a schedule and thus a budget range. Now you have NUMBERS! Now your entire organization can talk knowledgeably about this project and approve, or make changes, on paper, before they cost money and time. Then the script with real dialog is written based on the treatment, and now if some authority has an objection, you can point out how the item in question fits the overall plan and why it is there, and you can if necessary negotiate changes that still fit what the treatment calls for, without throwing all else into disarray. Nobody will be able to say they didn't understand what they were approving when they approved it.

It is really false economy to skip this step and go right to a script: you'll often find doing it that way results in a lot of stop and back-up repeat work, and results often in finished projects that get killed just before release by someone who says: "that's not what I thought I was approving".

So after Treatment approval and script approval, you go into pre-production, production, post-production, and the evaluation. I like to keep the eval step simple. What I suggest is to write five questions any person similar to the target audience should be able to answer after having seen the video. If they get all five right, bonus time for the producer. I call it a win if they get three out of five. Two or less, and something's horribly wrong here.

There's more to all of this, Morley's book covers it well and quickly. I've made a living for decades using it as my guide.

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Marcus CarltonRe: in-house training video
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 9:25:38 pm

really appreciate all the info.

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Jim SchardtRe: in-house training video
by on Jan 9, 2009 at 7:22:17 pm

Since this is a training video, consider using adult education techniques. As Mark said, perform a needs analysis first. When I am putting together training material I ask about key learning objectives. What learning objectives will the student achieved after viewing your training video? For example, "After the course, the student will be able to list at least three techniques for calming an angry phone client." A learning objective should be specific / measurable. This will help you zero in on just what the training is about, help others review your work, help you assess the success of the training once it is launched.

When developing the Treatment keep the learning objectives in mind and consider WIIFM (What's in it for me). While watching your training video students will always ask themselves WIIFM. If you keep that in mind you are more likely to create successful training.

Participation is key in any successful training. Students learn by doing. My most successful training deliveries always involve the student. If you create a video that just talks at your audience, the students will retain very little. However, if you can find ways of engaging the students their retention will go way up. You might ask a question for the student to ponder at the beginning of the video, then answer it towards the end. At some point in the video you could pose some questions or indicate a website for more information, then ask the student to pause the video and find the answers to those questions. They could then continue the video for reinforcement and continue to other topics. Another technique is to provide the students with information about where to go to get more information -- to further their learning.

Assuming you have some latitude in your choice of learning media, a good source for selecting the right media, video or otherwise, can be found in the book "The ASTD Media Selection Tool for Workplace Learning" by Raymond Marx.

Jim Schardt
Pendeen Systems (video restoration services)

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