Magazine Article | June 1, 1998

Improving Customer Service Through Training

ENTEX customer service representatives spend 10% of their working time learning about new technology. The result: customers get the answers they need, when they need them.

Business Solutions, June 1998

ENTEX Information Services, Inc., a provider of desktop computers to large corporations, has over 8,500 employees, 60 U.S. locations, affiliations with 35 countries, and annual revenues of over $2 billion. It specializes in acquisition of desktop computers, selective outsourcing of PC support personnel, and professional services (hardware/software configuration). You may think that a company this size has a hard time focusing on customer service. This is not so.

While ENTEX monitors more than 600,000 PC desktops at Fortune 1000 companies, its focus is on helping customers run their businesses. As part of this focus, the company provides its employees with ongoing technical training for improved customer service. Jim Cordas is vice president of ENTEX's Corporate Account Center (CAC) (Cincinnati, OH), where he supervises more than 250 technical marketing representatives (TMRs). The TMRs spend approximately 10% of their working time training. That's an average of 200 hours per year for each employee. Keeping these employees trained on the desktop hardware ENTEX supplies is crucial, says Cordas, since the TMRs deal directly with the customers.

The TMRs are assigned ENTEX accounts. They provide customers with pre-sale information, price quotes, order status and shipping information. The TMRs are also responsible for all product acquisition, order all desktop and laptop computers for their accounts. ENTEX uses a variety of training methods to keep the TMRs current on changing technology. Cordas says this investment in training has resulted in more satisfied ENTEX customers.

The Role Of The Corporate Account Center
"The CAC is similar to the hub of a wheel. Its spokes are the relationships the TMRs build with our customers, ENTEX account reps in the field, Distribution Center personnel, and our vendors," Cordas explains. Depending upon the size of the account, one or more TMRs are assigned to it. "One TMR could handle several accounts or several TMRs could be assigned to service one large account," says Cordas. The TMRs also coordinate delivery schedules for installations and sell additional hardware and software to ENTEX customers. "As we move from a distribution to a channel-assembly operation, the role of the TMR is becoming even more complex," says Cordas. ENTEX is building and customizing system components, such as IBM desktop and laptop computers.

Training Options
The TMRs answer calls from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. to accommodate East Coast and West Coast customers, so training options must be flexible, says Cordas. The TMRs are cross-trained on various accounts. "That way, when an employee is attending a training session or on vacation, we're not in a frenzy when their customers call," says Cordas. ENTEX training opportunities include:

  • On-site vendor training - ENTEX works with more than 2,000 hardware and software vendors. For this reason, vendors are invited for day-long training sessions on their products that ENTEX resells. "TMRs can meet one-on-one with vendors, or vendors can offer a training session for many employees at one time," Cordas explains. Several vendors, such as Kingston and Ingram Micro, have staff permanently onsite. Vendor training accounts for the bulk of the TMRs' training.
  • Computer-based vendor training - Employees also can take advantage of computer-based vendor training programs. The CAC also has an intranet-product- support site for additional training.
  • In-house training department - ENTEX has a training and development department that offers management training sessions for CAC employees. The goal is to train TMRs for promotion within ENTEX.
  • ENTEX University - ENTEX holds a four-day mini trade show annually for its employees, vendors, and customers. Approximately 1,000 people attended the recent ENTEX University held in Atlanta.

    Training Results In Improved Service
    Dee Dee Miller, an ENTEX team leader, says that the concentration on training benefits both ENTEX employees and customers. "We have a low turnover of TMRs compared to industry standards and other call centers," says Miller. Most of the turnover is due to promotions within the company. The TMRs typically have a background in customer service, such as working in a call center. Some come to the company with technical backgrounds. The combination of training and experience translates to knowledgeable representatives of the company, says Miller.

    ENTEX regularly surveys its customers to gauge customer satisfaction within 30 days of placing an order. Customers' positive and negative comments are listed on a "hot sheet" and forwarded to the proper ENTEX department for review. The hot sheet helps pinpoint areas where additional training may be necessary, Miller says.