Amplifon Group, a large, multinational company specializing in the manufacturing and selling of medical devices with a primary focus on hearing aids, employs approximately 2,750 people worldwide and continues to expand. Amplifon’s assembly operations and headquarters are located in Milan, Italy, with sales operations dispersed throughout Italy, Austria, France, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and the United States. With a network of 1,800 sales offices, 3,000 authorized dealer centers and 2,000 hearing aid specialists, Amplifon distributes custom-fit, highly technical hearing appliances through firms such as Siemens, GnReSound and Phonak in Europe and Miracle Ear franchises in the United States.
The company’s continued growth and innovation pose training and cost challenges to its international sales force. Amplifon must find ways to reduce the costs of training its widely dispersed sales force, while increasing the effectiveness of the training contents to leverage its core assets.
With the planned May 2002 release of its new digital hearing aid, Amplifon elected to introduce the new product line in two phases. The first phase included product training for the 700-person sales team in Italy. The second phase addressed the sales force in Holland and the United States, which represents an additional 2,050 salespeople. The training was to include a new set of computer skills for Amplifon’s sales teams to demonstrate effectively how the devices are “fitted” and programmed. Because these skills are needed to promote and sell the new product line, it was imperative that the company deliver consistent, measurable training.
Amplifon executives quickly realized the logistical challenge of training. Conducting in-person training for 700 employees in one day would require hiring additional trainers. Because the company’s Italian sales force is dispersed from Sicily to Northern Italy and the design experts needed to deliver training are located in Milan, Amplifon considered flying the sales force to Milan to receive training on the highly technical content. After considering the issues of travel costs, hiring training experts and time, Amplifon opted to use Web-based training delivery for effective, yet cost-efficient sales training by launching the Oracle iLearning training initiative.
Amplifon’s digital product line launch was a landmark initiative, and the success of the new product line was critical to the company, representing the first digital product available at an affordable price. The firm wanted to raise product awareness while driving sales. Senior managers gave careful consideration to the training series, and effective sales training was considered a high priority. Amplifon had never used a Web-based training solution, making this the firm’s first experience with an e-learning environment.
Amplifon required training for its globally dispersed sales team as well as its in-house team. Both training plans required effective and efficient execution with regard to time and costs. The firm required a short implementation period and an easily accessible, light, Web-based solution delivered through a hosted model.
To implement sales training successfully to a geographically dispersed sales force, Amplifon needed the Oracle iLearning solution to integrate with existing IT platforms, provide an environment for the IT decision-makers, operate fully within a short implementation time frame and include a hosted solution. Amplifon selected Oracle iLearning in December 2001 and set a training launch date of March 2002. The solution had to fit seamlessly with Amplifon’s existing infrastructure, and the firm configured computers, whether they were at-home or company-issued computers, so that each employee could access training as desired.
Within three months, Oracle iLearning was purchased, deployed and actively running the sales training course Amplifon required for a successful product launch. The inaugural training course represented the first time the Amplifon sales force had used the Internet for work purposes. Amplifon experienced several immediate benefits, including:
- The company realized direct cost savings of at least 70,000 euros by not having 700 employees travel to Milan.
- Amplifon reported a 95 percent attendance rate across the sales force, all of which spent the desired amount of time using the Web-based training course.
- Every salesperson had access to the same high level of expertise because the course was standardized, providing less-experienced salespeople the same knowledge as tenured salespeople.
- The training course ran for five hours, instead of the 12 hours of lost productivity associated with an in-person course.
- Employees could attend the course when and where they wanted, whether they attended one hour per day over five days or from their home or office.
- A reporting system provides feedback to sales managers, which helps improve the effectiveness of their respective sales teams.
- Initial setup for Internet access for all sales employees provides the infrastructure that will be leveraged for future training.
John L. Hall has been the senior vice president of Oracle University, the education and training division of Oracle, since 1999. Hall was instrumental in leading Oracle University in the corporate-wide initiative to save Oracle $1 billion by using Oracle iLearning to move traditional classroom training to an online learning environment.