As times get tougher and consumers become more discerning in their spending, excellent client service is no longer a differentiator, it is “the ticket to the game”. At the same time, learning budgets are shrinking and organizations are thinking harder about how to get the most “bang” for their learning buck. In this article, Penny Castle highlights the successes of action learning for improving customer service and proposes it as a viable option for trainers today.
by Penny Castle
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Penny Castle is a Johannesburg-based certified professional coach helping high- performing teams deliver their next edge. She works with teams who have big challenges to deliver high-quality, high-energy and high-innovation solutions in a short period of time. By combining her coaching expertise with more than a decade’s hands-on experience gleaned from setting up, leading and being a member of high- performance teams, she partners with teams to allow them build the competencies that will foster the development of a high-performance tribe. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on 083 628 2806.
As the name implies, action learning combines formulating actions on a real problem with learning new or building on existing competencies. In the client service domain, action learning allows organisations to work on real client service problems and embed learning at the same time. It has been used successfully across the domain of hard and soft problems and is particularly effective in dealing with customer service challenges.
The characteristics of action learning At its most basic, action learning has only three rules:
Members may only make a statement in response to a question;
Any team member may ask a question;
The coach may intervene at anytime where they identify a learning opportunity.
Typically, the team is presented with a problem or one team member brings a problem they would like assistance with. As anyone can ask anyone else a question, there is an implicit understanding that once the problem presenter has briefed the team, he or she is no longer the “problem expert”. As a result, the whole team takes ownership collectively for the challenge and the actions emanating from it.
High-performing action learning circles display six common characteristics.
A real problem, challenge or opportunity which is both important and urgent;
Small groups of between four and eight participants;
A format of reflective questioning and listening;
An opportunity to develop strategies and take action;