Maintaining an engaged, motivated salesforce
Retailers operate in an industry where employee turnover can be high, and where consumers increasingly demand a more personalised in-store experience. For information and communications technology specialist Vita Group, the key to meeting both of these challenges is to keep its salesforce as engaged, motivated, knowledgeable and customer-focused as possible – which is why employee training is such a critical part of its corporate strategy.
As one of the fastest-growing retailers in Australia, telecom specialist Vita Group’s success depends on keeping its salesforce informed, engaged and motivated through regular coaching.
A mobile analytics solution from IBM and Bistech helps Vita monitor coaching activity and use the results to increase quality and evolve the coaching program to maximise sales and customer service
Hayley Watson, Organisational Development Manager at Vita Group, explains: “Regular development helps our salesforce grow as professionals, and keeps them engaged and happy. That’s why we insist on a weekly programme of sales coaching for every employee at every sales location.”
Coaching is particularly important in Vita Group’s market, where new phones are constantly being launched, and sales staff must be able to demonstrate the benefits of each product. Equally, when selling phone contracts and insurance policies, staff need to be able to explain the terms clearly and help customers select the deal that is best for them.
However, as Hayley Watson comments: “Until recently, we didn’t have an easy way to monitor coaching activity across the business. Were all stores completing their coaching tasks on schedule? And could we find ways to make coaching even better? Our CEO always tells us to ‘inspect what you expect’, so we challenged our assumptions by taking a closer look at the data.”
Getting data into the right hands
Vita had already built an “online sales journal” application (XLR8), which sales managers and employees use to log all of their daily sales and other activities – including coaching. The company just needed to find a way to get this data into the hands of its managers and executives. “I was doing some reporting manually in spreadsheets, but it was a time-consuming process – it took me about two days per week,” says Hayley Watson. “We wanted something more automated and robust.”
Alex Mongard, Business Intelligence Manager, recalls: “We wanted to show the business what could be achieved with modern BI tools. We decided to build an interactive dashboard that our leaders could access anywhere, anytime, on any device.”
Justin Maskey, Group General Manager for Information Technology, comments: “It’s important to set this project in the broader context of our IT strategy. Our business increasingly needs to look at data at a much more detailed level than ever before. So we’re building a data warehouse that will ultimately serve as a single source of truth not just for BI and planning, but for all of our applications.
We were looking for a project that would give the business a preview of the kind of functionalities – such as automated roll-up and drill-down capabilities – that the data warehouse will deliver. The journals dashboard project was an ideal opportunity to showcase these capabilities and gain momentum for the full data warehouse implementation – while also delivering immediate value to the business.”
Working in partnership
Vita worked with Bistech, an IBM Business Partner that specialises in analytics solutions, to develop the dashboard in IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence, extract the data from source systems, and create data models capable of calculating the required key performance indicators (KPIs).
“Bistech used an agile approach, and had something new to show our executives each week to keep them engaged,” says Hayley Watson. “They were very easy to work with, had a good understanding of our business, delivered on time, and their support has been great ever since. They are now the benchmark by which I measure other external suppliers.”
Seamless mobile experience
The dashboard is now used by leaders, who access it via their tablets and smartphones. It is fully integrated with the online sales journal app, so users can seamlessly flick between entering data and analysing the results. It also provides interactive drilldown capabilities, allowing users to view performance at different levels or in different areas of the business. “Monthly trends are built in – which is something we never had before,” says Hayley Watson.
“And we can see at a glance what the top coaching topics are at each store, so if a store manager is focusing too much on product coaching and not enough on leadership, we can guide them. It’s quickly become a tool that people can’t live without. She adds: “Because it’s all automated, I’m saving two days of manual data collection and reporting per week. So I have 40 percent more time to spend on my real job, instead being distracted by low-level spreadsheet work.”
Hayley Watson comments: “Initially, the benefits of the solution related to compliance: with greater visibility of coaching activity at each branch, we were quickly and easily able to make sure everyone was getting the coaching they needed and deserved. For example, we saw the completion rate for certain daily coaching tasks increase by as much as 30 percentage points – it’s now regularly around 90 percent.
But ultimately, the real advantage of the dashboard is the insight it gives us into the effectiveness of our coaching policies. For example, we’ve seen that there’s an optimal amount of training that should be provided each week. This helps us get our operating rhythm right – so we’re actually getting the best possible results from the amount of time we spend on coaching. It’s not just about compliance with our existing policies – it’s about strategically shaping those policies to boost performance.”
Gaining momentum from the success of the dashboard, Vita Group’s enterprise data warehouse strategy is now well underway. The data warehouse will make it easier to deliver similar interactive reports in future, and could also support the company’s future adoption of IBM Predictive Customer Intelligence solutions for real-time product recommendations.
Justin Maskey concludes: “In IBM and Bistech, we have the partners we need to move our analytics strategy forward, and give Vita Group the insight it needs to innovate as it grows.”