Bell Canada and Technomedia Training, which designs and implements Web-based management tools for human capital development, have reached a deal to equip Bell call

centres with an e-learning program.

The pact, announced Tuesday, will cover five of Bell’s consumer market contact centres in Quebec and Ontario, and it will include strategic consulting for implementing the e-learning program, standardizing and transforming initial training programs into online format, and transferring knowledge that Bell can later use to create and implement its own training tools. Bell’s training team and Technomedia’s experts plan to ultimately implement an integrated e-learning program at all call centres in the consumer market group.

The current deal, scheduled to last just over 18 months, comes on the heels of a previous partnership between the two firms in 2002. That past arrangement involved a pilot project through which Technomedia enabled Bell to improve agent performance.

According to Domenica Maciocia, vice president of contact centre/shared services at Bell Canada, the company realized it needed to change its training methods in order to provide a common customer experience. This involved moving away from strictly classroom-based training and toward a combination of e-learning and classroom.

“”We do see the progress we’ve made here as leading edge,”” said Maciocia, adding that 10,000 agents will end up benefiting from the integration deal. “”We’ve run pilot projects . . . The comments (from employees) have been positive.””

Stressing that the integration project will allow Bell to enhance agent performance, streamline training through standardization, and reduce both training costs and duration of systematic training for new products and services, Jacques Gaumond, vice president of sales and marketing at Technomedia Training in Montreal, Que., said Bell will experience tangible benefits.

“”(Bell) will reduce the length of the initial training program for agents,”” said Gaumond. “”What would take six weeks will take four-and-a-half weeks—25 per cent less. The same goes for continuing training. We’re looking at a 25 per cent reduction in time.””

Gaumond added that his company’s solutions will facilitate improved retention rates because much of the content will be available online so that workers can access the information whenever they want. And employees will also be able to study at their own pace, making training more flexible.

“”Bell likes their agents to be at their workstations answering calls,”” said Gaumond. “”The less time they’re away from their workstations, the better.””

Addressing the increasing popularity of online training, Gaumond, whose firm was recently awarded ISO 9001:2000 certification, said there will always be a need for the type of face-to-face interaction that online learning can’t provide.

Part of the general trend in the workplace training environment is for more training to be moved online, confirmed Brian Sharwood, analyst at the SeaBoard Group in Toronto. This development is particularly prevalent in cases where companies have employees spread out across different locations.

“”Moving employees to the place of training can be pricey, so a good e-learning tool is definitely an effective thing,”” said Sharwood, adding that such tools aren’t just for employees. “”Companies can also use it to train customers and management. They can move the solution to different parts of the supply chain.””

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