The Path to Higher Learning

Online Training Keeps Global Commerce Processor in Charge of Customer Service

The next time you take your credit card out of your wallet, consider that Total System Services Inc. (TSYS) (www.totalsystem.com), working quietly behind the scenes, probably played a role in getting your card safely to you. TSYS is a processor of payment cards: credit, debit, commercial and private-label cards.

A subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp., TSYS serves card-issuing institutions throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Honduras. TSYS processes more than 192 million cardholder accounts, with an estimated 269 million consumers. TSYS issues cards on behalf of its clients, establishes their accounts and provides service for its clients’ financial institution.

Through TSYS’ wholly-owned subsidiary, TSYS Total Solutions, card issuers (the banks, retailers, etc. with their names on the cards) outsource their telemarketing, customer service, credit and collections. With more than 1,000 agents, Total Solutions receives over 150,000 calls per month. As these customer service reps (CSRs) help cardholders, they seamlessly tap into customers’ accounts on more than 300,000 terminals connected to TSYS’ mainframes.

At the forefront of TSYS’ business is TS2, which gives issuers the control to implement marketing programs to obtain new cardholders, drive up revenues, lower operating costs, reduce chargeoffs and manage the cost of funds. In essence, TS2 drives business results. Presently, 133.5 million of the 192 million accounts that TSYS processes operate on TS2.

Among the many groups of people that rely on TSYS’ card processing systems are card issuers’ customer service representatives – the tens of thousands of people who answer questions and solve problems for cardholders. These reps rely heavily on the training and support they receive from TSYS to deliver superior service to their customers. Therefore, when TS2 was being developed in the early ’90s, TSYS performed thousands of client interviews and learned that clients wanted two things to optimize their CSRs performance with the software; computer-based training and online help. Consequently, TSYS has built online training and performance support right into TS2.

TSYS Tackles the Learning Curve

Training is a primary feature in TSYS’ system, not only because of the flexibility of the software but because TS2’s screens are "scripted" to accommodate various degrees of experience, allowing TS2 to help issuers combat the high industry turnover rate for CSRs. Learning is a strategic focus for TSYS as it works to help clients maximize the system through its training, documentation and online help systems. Clients can’t afford to lose time and money struggling with customer service issues.

To be effective, customer service representatives need to know the software completely and get answers quickly. Changing an address or reporting a lost card should take seconds, not minutes. Cardholders expect efficiency in communications with their issuer, and that’s possible only when the issuers’ customer service representatives have immediate answers. Customer service reps can navigate 400 TS2 application screens. Managers have another 2,000 screens with which to customize credit card processing – adjusting interest rates, bonus points or finance charges, for example. Some of these functions can get very complicated, such as when a credit card issuer wants to give triple bonus points every time a customer buys a marketing partner’s consumer goods. It is crucial that operators have the tools necessary to correctly input information.

"Simply put, a customer service call is a pivotal event in a cardholder’s relationship with the issuer," says J.W. Norman, TSYS’s Assistant Vice President of Performance Support. "A call can make or break an issuing bank’s reputation in the eyes of the cardholder. A quick, courteous resolution to a problem reinforces the cardholder’s loyalty. Cardholders can’t wait while a customer service rep flips through a manual, or worse, hangs up the phone with a promise to call back. In an age of fierce competition, a negative experience with a customer service call can prompt a cardholder to switch to another card."

Online Training Reinforces Live Instruction

TSYS trainers use Pathlore Software’s Phoenix computer-based training system to author, deliver, monitor and manage some of the newest training they provide to clients. Instructors give classroom lessons on the use of particular mainframe screens, then ask trainees to turn to their terminals and test themselves on the procedures covered. There they see application simulations and true/false, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blank questions. Phoenix tells employees how well they are doing by confirming correct responses and explaining incorrect ones. At the end of each unit, trainees must take a real test – no coaching – which is scored and recorded in the Phoenix database. TSYS has converted over 20 hours of traditional classroom training into the new, computer-based training format.

Customer service managers, trainers and executives at the customer service center don’t need to wait for TSYS to report on test results. Call center managers have password-protected access to the results database where they can determine how well their customer service representatives are learning the material. Meanwhile, TSYS’ classroom trainers have access to the database to see how effective their instruction is and where they might need to review.

Authoring training courseware is easy for TSYS’ performance support designers. As they design and update courses, they can make every lesson screen instantly available to all students using TSYS’ systems, no matter where they are in the world. To make application simulations, authors simply copy screens, populate them with scenario data, then challenge trainees to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Since authors can copy screens and develop "live" simulations so easily, TSYS saves money. The company doesn’t need programmers to create separate training programs, and the company doesn’t need to jeopardize clients’ mission-critical data by running simulated transactions on test accounts in the real system. Phoenix’s built-in results analysis tool compiles test data so authors and instructional designers discover which items students find most difficult or confusing.

A menu-driven authoring system lets authors create courses, using screen capture tools, templates and team authoring capabilities. This means TSYS can hire training authors based on their writing skills, their instructional design skills and logic abilities instead of their technical acumen.

Online Support Maximizes Keystroke Power

Once they have the basic grounding through the classroom and online training, customer service representatives will inevitably need just-in-time help with at least some of the hundreds of functions they perform for cardholders. They can’t possibly remember the key codes for all of TS2’s fields. For this performance
support, TSYS turned to Pathlore’s Preference, a companion to Phoenix, for online, just-in-time help and reference.

Online help is a consistent demand because TSYS has created TS2 to operate on as few keystrokes as possible. When a cardholder wants to request a new credit card, for example, the customer service representative inputs a reason for the request. There’s no viable way to have customer service reps typing long sentences to explain the reason every time someone requests a new card. That would mean lost productivity, irregular answers and an unacceptable wait for the cardholder.

TSYS developed codes to represent long strings of text, eliminating the need for customer service representatives to remember every system code. Operators summon the information simply by pressing the F1 key. A Preference help window pops up and displays the codes. Pressing F1 also gives users definitions, explanations and examples. The online help product is an integral part of every application screen in the TS2 system.

After receiving just-in-time performance support, Preference returns users – with another single keystroke – back to where they were in the application. By using this tool, online performance support authors don’t need to be programmers, they just need to understand employee stumbling blocks and decide how to help.

"Online training and performance support extends TSYS’s strategic advantage in the payments industry and builds on the excellence of TS2," Norman says. "But most importantly, it reinforces the relationship between our card issuer clients and their cardholders, who dial a number, get help and get off the phone feeling good about the card they carry in their purses and wallets."