VIDEO: Integrity Solutions shifts mindsets, not just skills

Jeff Cattel

When it comes to training, many learning and development professionals focus on improving employees' skill sets. But how do you impact employees' attitude, motives and drive for achievement? We sat down with Mike Esterday, CEO at Integrity Solutions, to see how the performance improvement company works with clients to address key cultural and behavioral changes in their workplaces.

Check out the video interview with Mike above, or view a text version of the Q&A below.

For viewers who are unfamiliar, can you provide a little background on Integrity Solutions?

Sure. Integrity Solutions is a 45-year-old global performance improvement company. We tend to specialize in improving sales, customer service and coaching skills.

It sounds like you're reaching a lot of different areas of customer and client needs. What are the biggest challenges that your customers and clients are facing right now?

There are a couple of things. One, in an area of training, is how do you make training stick. We find that people get frustrated. They put together really good training courses, great facilitators, content that people need, but then people don't really change their behavior. So number one is how do you get that to stick. Number two is not just dealing with skill-based training, but understanding how do you impact attitudes, motives, achievement-drive? And number three: Since we work in sales and service, we have a whole range of types of issues there. A common one is how do you take a service organization and help everybody get into more of a sales mindset, so they're thinking: How can I uncover the needs customers' have? And how can I serve those customers?

Thinking about all of those challenges, what are some of the solutions and best practices that you would offer these customers and clients?

As far as getting training to stick, there are a couple of things. One is: the training can't just be a stand-alone. We believe it must be part of a comprehensive process and everybody that impacts training should be involved in putting together what that program is. For example, are we hiring the right people? Does marketing need to be involved in how the marketing piece is coordinated with the sales training? Managers must be involved in the coaching process. If managers don't understand the process, support it, model it, coach it, it's not going to work. So it's really a comprehensive process. When training is rolled out, as I said, a lot of times, event training doesn't work. So what we find is that customers that do the best job with training tend to have pre-work, the training is very interactive, so it's not just a lecture type of training, and 90 percent of the benefit happens after the initial training. So we look at folks who get back together weekly—either on the web or by telephone, where people are accountable to tell what they did each week. It's a real-world practice in applying the ideas with customers that make a difference in change behavior.

People don't necessarily think of learning as this change in behavior, but it is really what is the output of a successful learning and training organization.

It really is. Too often people do training, but there are no results to show for it. We have a partnership and alliance with Kirkpatrick folks that most people know the four stages there, and the fourth one is the results. If you're not tied into how did this actually change behavior to either sell more, serve better or coach better, it's really a waste of time and money.

You work with a lot of types of organizations and one of the specialties is the focus on customer service. For years, it was a topic that was on most companies backburners. Now, companies like Google or Zappos are so focused on the customer and giving great customer experience that it's hard to stick out of the pack. What can companies do, especially in the training of their employees with customer service, to really stick out in their industry?

That's a great question. As you asked that, I couldn't help but think about a convention that I went to 25 years ago and they said the hot new topic was customer service. Here, 25 years later, we're still talking about it. I guess the question is: Why? Well, we just never master it and I think a lot of times today, customers have higher standards, they expect more. They have more choices. They can go on the Internet and select other choices a lot easier. So we're finding that clients that do the best job with improving their service culture is they realize it's not just customer facing, but it's how they interact with each other. It's how they provide service to other departments and colleagues because as the service-profit chain that was written about in the Harvard Business Review said, it's really a chain of how we serve each other that drives the value that we create for customers and then that impacts the service level and ends up being the customer loyalty that we have.

So we find that organizations that want to shift their culture, they don't just train a department. They don't just train the customer service department. They train everybody. It's really a cultural issue. It's how do we shift the culture, so that everybody understands what their role is in serving customers' needs, identifying and serving needs.

We've talked about things at this broad and strategic level, but I'm wondering, before we close out, are their any case studies you think of where Integrity Solutions has helped improve the performance or a specific company that was having some of these difficulties we've been talking about?

We've had the pleasure over the years to work with over 2,000 clients in 130-plus countries. So we find certain people issues that are consistent around the world, no matter where it is. Some that come to mind are Johnson & Johnson we've worked with globally, and what we've seen is a dramatic increase in sales and customer loyalty by the way they impact their sales skills and the way they impact the manager skills of coaching people. We find that they have increased time with physicians, for example. They sell more products. They have stronger customer retention.

Another example is in the utility industry. A number of years ago Duke Power was trying to shift its call center from just a service center to more of a sales center. So people who would call in, they might need their electricity turned on or off, but they were also selling them budget billing and outdoor lighting and other things. We found a 300-900 percent increase in sales by not just teaching people how to sell, but teaching people to shift their mindset of what selling is. Too often, whether people are in a bank or a service center, they say, I didn't get into this to be a salesperson, but yet, when you think of sales as identifying needs and filling needs, they really should be selling. Our specialty is shifting, not just skills, but mindset, whether it's service, sales or coaching.