QT Makes a Difference with OnStar Advisors and Subscribers


Apr 9, 2015

Nowhere is quality control more important than when the product is service, where failing to satisfy the end-user can’t easily be repaired by replacing a defective widget or offering discounts on future orders.

I recently interviewed Charlene Poranganel, who manages emergency call services for all General Motors OnStar Subscribers in North America. She had participated in our Chief Question Officer® Certificate Program (CQO) and I was fascinated to learn how she made use of Question Thinking tools to empower her team of quality analysts.


OnStar is a communication system available with GM cars and trucks. This service links subscribers with OnStar advisors who are ready to respond to a wide range of problems, from locating a subscriber’s car in a parking lot, ordering roadside repairs, and being able to dispatch emergency first responders to the site. And all the while, they have to say in contact in a calm and reassuring way with the person involved!

Advisors at OnStar call centers answer calls from subscribers’ cell phones or communications systems onboard their vehicles. Always prepared to respond to the unexpected, they must immediately provide help that is caring, supportive, timely, accurate and appropriate.

Charlene works to support and empower OnStar’s quality analysts, who listen to advisors’ responses to subscribers’ calls, evaluate their responses and then coach and give suggestions for improvement when indicated. Given the “mission-critical” service provided, it is essential that quality analysts effectively empower and communicate with advisors.

Charlene believed that while the analysts were doing well, they could do even better. So for her CQO project, Charlene developed a two-hour learning session to share Question Thinking tools with

quality analysts. She wanted to give them “a different way of thinking while they’re listening to and evaluating calls.” These sessions were designed to help quality analysts become aware of their own mindsets and how their mindsets affected results in their consultations with advisors. Quality analysts learned to recognize when they were listening with “Learner ears,” that is, with an open mindset, or with “Judger ears,” that is, a critical and closed mindset. They also learned how to switch to Learner mindset whenever they found themselves in Judger. Charlene believed these new skills would empower analysts to continue to meet, and even exceed???, the “standards that OnStar has established for customer service excellence.”

Charlene showed participants how to use the Choice Map to quickly identify when they were on the Judger path and how to ask questions to switch to Learner. They all noticed how easily a person can end up in Judger, which could impact their effectiveness with advisors. By comparing responses they got when listening with Learner ears or Judger ears, quality analysts discovered how to get better results in consultations with advisors.

Participants were also pleased to discover a “perk” to learning how to identify Judger and switch to Learner mindset. The QT material often makes a practical difference outside of work in people’s personal lives and relationships!

Following the session Charlene conducted a survey to find out whether participants felt the two-hour workshop was time well spent. “The feedback,” she reported, “was very positive. Participants planned to use the tools, and everybody walked away with something valuable. This motivates me to include a QT module in future training sessions.”

Charlene and I both remarked at how subscribers of the OnStar service could actually have their lives changed (and even saved) by how the advisor handles their call. The potential benefits are prof

ound—for callers, advisors, quality analysts, and ultimately for the helpfulness and reliability of the OnStar service itself.

As you can imagine, it is inspiring and gratifying for us at Inquiry Institute to hear stories like this of the practical difference Question Thinking can make in such a wide variety of applications in various settings. We applaud Charlene, her hard and creative work, and the difference she’s making with people at GM OnStar!


Written by:


Apr 9, 2015