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Mobile Performance Support – easy and secure access to complicated product features
How the chemical giant Wacker supports its sales personnel with ‘information on demand’
3,000 products with dozens of chemical properties and a huge range of applications, covering everything from lipstick to engine gaskets – and that’s just in the field of silicones alone. How on earth could the roughly 1,000 highly experienced sales representatives in the USA be expected to stay up-to-date? Not to mention the challenge of training new colleagues. Wacker Chemie AG already had experience with the world of Performance Support. The tt performance suite cloud application has been supporting the group’s users in the ERP domain for several years. By teaming up with tts, they have now transformed this experience into a mobile solution for product consultancy in the sales field.
Operating on a global scale, with a workforce of over 13,500, Wacker Chemie AG is a leading provider of innovative specialty chemicals. With such a wide product spectrum, its sales consultants have to be rigorously trained to ensure that customers receive the best possible advice. Just four years ago, Wacker began to use tt performance suite to create content for in-house, web-based training purposes. Two years later, they moved on to providing Performance Support to employees involved in ERP and Travel Management. It was this positive experience that inspired the Wacker Academy to develop a Performance Support solution aimed at providing consultancy assistance to sales employees.
From a case full of laminates to on-demand Performance Support
In 2016 alone, the Wacker Academy trained approximately 8,500 customers and distributors. This primarily involved on-site classroom training or training at one of the 15 academies located across the globe, from Mexico City to Mumbai. After all, there was much work to be done considering the fact that Wacker not only has a high level of product innovation but that many countries experience a high turnover of customer advisors. The sales people used to rely on ‘analog Performance Support’ in the form of a sample case with 20 laminates – printed information cards with important data on a particular product – when at the customer’s premises. The content was of a high quality but it had many drawbacks: its compilation was both complex and expensive and it was difficult to keep up-to-date. As market strategist Dirk Funke explains, it was “highly impractical to rely on a case brimming with laminates to sell my products.” This led to the birth of an idea: “making the same high-quality information available digitally, with a centralized updating method, and to fully integrate it into the digital order processing procedure – and, while we were at it, making the whole thing compatible with mobile devices.”
Professional on-site advice
IT Product Manager Dr. Christian Freyer outlines the challenge: “We needed to thoroughly change our mind-set, away from classroom training toward Blended Learning with Performance Support that addresses the upper end of the 70-20-10 learning model spectrum and which, despite the complex nature of the content, captures users’ enthusiasm through its ease of use. This meant no long search queries, no text input wherever possible, just touch navigation – tap, and hey presto. Nobody should have to ‘learn’ how to use the application as it should be intuitive. And it should be rolled out in the USA first because that’s where we had the most ambitious sales targets.”
MATE = Mobile Assistant Tool & E-Learning
Looking back, IT Project Manager Viola Schoek regards the main challenge as being the switchover to HTML5 in order to create templates with a responsive design for mobile devices. But pinpointing just the right infrastructure and setting up the complex authorization and access concept (varying requirements depending on the language and respective local legislation) also required a lot of perseverance. Various approaches were discussed only to be discarded, until the incredibly successful mobile MATE sales support solution ultimately emerged.
Pictograms instead of full sentences
Instead of revolving around the various technical product characteristics, the didactic concept behind MATE focuses on the customer’s intended usage scenario. Therefore, Walter Pohn, an e-learning author at Wacker, needed to simplify highly complicated decision trees. He had to do this while also taking into account the back and forward nature of mobile usage, along with formulating complicated questions in such a way that they could be answered with a simple yes/no, and replacing long text passages with pictograms. His task was made much easier by the step-by-step design of decision trees, allowing him to continually incorporate enhancements, and by close collaboration with all business partners in the group, such as lawyers and technicians.
Unique, intuitive to use, and super efficient
Bye-bye laminates. Nowadays, sales representatives for silicone products just have to reach for their smartphone, click MATE and, with the customer by their side, work their way through all requirements and specifications by asking targeted questions, which are answered using the thumb emoji to say ‘yes‘ or ‘no‘. This procedure culminates with the customer receiving the optimal product recommendation – and with just one more ‘click’, the respective technical data sheet lands in the customer’s e-mail account. A glossary and linked video clips on YouTube offer ‘information on demand’. “The tool is literally being grabbed out of our hands,” according to Dr. Freyer summing up the current status of the successfully completed pilot project. “Our next goal involves in-house marketing, Change Management and a global rollout.”
Facts & Figures
• Chemistry Company with > 13.500 Employees in 31 Countries
• Since 2013 Collaboration with tts
• Yearly 850 Trainings, overwhelming Face-to-Face training
• New Market Chance with mobile Smartphone-Tool
• From the Idea to realise: 4 Employees und tts