Mergers and acquisitions are challenging under most circumstances, but when more than 46 million customers, over 100,000 employees and a 20-day transition period are a part of the mix, an aggressive and structured plan is in order. After Cingular Wireless acquired AT&T Wireless in 2004, Rob Lauber, executive director of learning services, and his skilled team embraced the challenge by creating an enterprise-wide transition-training curriculum, the Common Service Experience.
The Common Service Experience provided a complete blended training solution for every Cingular and AT&T employee, outsourced call center employee and independent retail dealer and agent in the United States, Mexico, Canada, India and the Caribbean. This meant that Lauber had to train 68,000 Cingular and AT&T employees and 55,000 external dealers and outsource partners. The goal of the initiative was to ensure that all employees had access to the information and training required to handle any circumstances.
In the eyes of the company’s leaders, the success of the training was vital to the overall success of the acquisition. Lauber developed 23 individual learning modules in less than three months to help combine AT&T and Cingular into a proficient operating entity. In less than three weeks, more than 100,000 individuals received more than 2.2 million hours of training—an average of 19 hours per employee. The training was primarily delivered through e-learning, with more than 650,000 courses completed, and instructor-led classes, with 4,200 sessions completed.
Lauber tried to simplify the transition as much as possible. All employees began with a set of selfpaced virtual learning classroom sessions that emphasized each employee’s role in the transition, and then were provided with consistent, standard sets of Web-based training that covered business processes and compliance- and toolbased training. Instructor-led sessions guided employees through common service transactions and simulations, which served as reinforcement to what was learned in the e-learning sessions.
Lauber recognized the potential risk for customer dissatisfaction, so he and his team developed a contingency plan for every possible scenario as well. “I think that there was a good deal of anxiety in the business about whether or not we could get everyone trained in time for the launch,” Lauber said. “And the measure of that was how we were going to be able to handle customers on that first day when they started walking into all Cingular-branded stores and saying, ‘I was a former AT&T Wireless customer and I have a problem with X, Y or Z,’ or ‘I want to sign up or upgrade my phone.’”
Lauber’s strategically aligned plan and preparedness prevented the potential risks from developing. In fact, the company met and exceeded its desired goals after its successful nationwide launch on Nov. 15, 2004. In the fourth quarter of 2004, Cingular achieved a record 1.8 million net subscriber additions, with merely 2.6 percent of its customers switching carriers.
“The folks inside our business would probably concur that it has been an interesting year that was about rebuilding some of the basic things we originally put into place in 2002 and 2003, and combining them with the best of the best from both Cingular and AT&T Wireless,” Lauber said. “It has been about analyzing what makes the most sense from a best-practice perspective and what makes the most sense from a helpingachieve- business-goals perspective.”