Murder mystery theme at Motorola teaches learners how NOT to kill the customer

In the pager business, customer service is what distinguishes one reseller from another, since they all sell practically the same product. So Joanne Davis created a three-hour customer service and sales program for companies that buy Motorola's pagers and sell them under their own names.

She came up with a theme of 'What Kills a Customer.' Before the program, participants receive a summons to appear at an 'inquisition' into the murder of a customer. The summons tells the participants that they are suspects, and gives everyone a humorous alias. Examples: Miss Informed, Rusty Skills, R.Q. Mentative, Miss DeSale.

When participants arrive, they see a chalk outline of a murder victim on the floor in the middle of the room. (Joanne pieced together sheets of black posterboard and used powder-based paint that looks like chalk). A dummy pager is attached to the victim's waist. The chairs are arranged in a horseshoe shape around the chalk outline. On each chair is a laminated card with an alias written on one side and a list of mistakes that contribute to poor customer service on the back. The items on the backs of the cards are actual customer complaints.

Participants find their alias and sit down.

Then Joanne appears, dressed in a black trench coat, dark sunglasses, a hat, and holding an unlit cigar. She walks around the 'crime scene' in silence for a couple of minutes giving everyone the 'evil eye.' Everyone is wondering what will happen next.

She walks up to one of the participants and says, 'So you're Miss Informed. Why don't you give us a little run down of your activities at the company?'

Then the participant reads from the back of her card: 'I'm the first one to answer the phone and I let it ring seven times.'

'And what does the customer think of that?' Joanne might ask. This continues for twenty minutes in a lighthearted manner with Joanne questioning all the suspects. Next, participants develop a list of complaints or problems they have encountered with customers and Joanne writes these on a flipchart.

Then she divides the class into small teams and each team picks one or two problems to solve from the flipchart. In fifteen to thirty minutes, they have to develop two or more solutions for each problem chosen. Then teams present their solutions in the form of either a role play, an infomercial, or a straight presentation.

As the teams give their presentations, class members make their own job aids on cards. At the top of the card they write the problem in red and the possible solutions underneath. These provide a quick reference of ideas that they can use to solve customers' problems or complaints back on the job. Some learners put all their cards on a rolodex for easy access.

Joanne says the murder theme sparks learners' curiosity and enthusiasm. They have fun, get involved, and generate solutions to actual customer issues. Joanne reports that accelerated learning has inspired a 'major transformation' for her as a trainer.

(May/June 1997 issue)