illy is Brewing up a Fun and Social Approach to Sales Training

Romeo    February 3, 2016


Faster than pulling a corto shot of premium espresso, illy is driving employee engagement, and training their North American sales force by leveraging a simple yet effective social approach – online games.

In 2014 Illycaffè (branded as illy), an Italian coffee roasting company that specializes in the production of espresso, knew it had to do something significant to drive engagement within it’s North American sales force. illy, similar to most companies at that time, was struggling with employee engagement. A fact further evidenced by a 2015 Galop survey which showed a nearly 70% lack of engagement on behalf of North American workers, leading to employee disconnect and unsatisfactory feelings. When attempting to emend this stat, one of the many challenges illy would face with improving and sustaining engagement was keeping their approach fun and informative.

When launching new products, illy often holds sales sessions that fall within the common discussion and retention method of training. The problem is that ” the retention of the information processed is often a struggle for most. Even dedicated employees need assistance to perform well”, notes Mark Romano, SVP of education, quality, and sustainability at illy.

“We share a lot of granular information during our educational sessions and we noticed that people were struggling to retain it,” Romano says. “We needed a better way to help people remember the information in a way that was fun for them.”

“We share a lot of granular information during our educational sessions and we noticed that people were struggling to retain it…”

In order to improve on the current training process, and drive new product retention via employee engagement, illy selected Qstream; a provider of gamification and sales performance tools, to help.

One of the caveats placed forth by illy was that the solution would need to be flexible enough to allow its sales force to remain in the field, in addition to creating a learning methodology that would improve upon the level of knowledge the outside sales team retained, which was essential to the brand.

Qstream’s solution was a flexible training program using game mechanics and a Harvard-proven approach, one which allowed individual employees to quiz themselves every few days on scenario-based product information and other company facts. Because the quizzes were made available online, via a mobile friendly program, it allowed the sales force to remain in the field, and there was no limit to how many attempts one could take. Results were then posted to a live leader-board in real time, driving a newly discovered camaraderie between the sales force while keeping them informed and engaged.

“In the 16-week program illy achieved 100% engagement”

illy initially rolled out the program to its North American sales force over a 4 month pilot. The results couldn’t have been more encouraging, with 100% engagement, and a 15% increase in essential brand and product knowledge awareness among quiz participants.

Given the advances in both employee engagement and product info retention, illy soon after expanded the quiz approach throughout the rest of the company as well, starting with new hires and baristas. “Quizzes can be quite engaging and when you add a competitive component, we find that it keeps people connected and so we’re looking forward to expanding this approach,” Romano explains. “Competition creates a great connection.”

Lessons for Others

“Not everyone is motivated by the same goals and values. One employee might work harder to earn an Amex gift card while someone else may prefer a free parking spot. Understanding what motivates someone is important”, notes Matthew Storm, innovations and solutions director at NICE Systems, a customer experience solutions provider.

“One employee might work harder to earn an Amex gift card while someone else may prefer a free parking spot.”

Through the application of Qstream’s quiz based learning solution, illy was able to auspiciously address two key elements which are top-of-mind for most enterprise executives – keeping your employees effectively trained and up to speed on new products, and having them motivated and engaged within the company.

Engagement needs to remain an ongoing goal, one that in order to succeed at companies must continue to find originative ways to keep employees engaged. With the help of Qstream, illy has shown us that the best companies are continuing to evolve their engagement strategies in order to keep pace with ever changing employee needs and expectations.

Organization: illycaffè spa
Industry: Coffee
Name of Organization Contact: Mark Romano, SVP of education, quality, and sustainability

Authored by: Romeo Crugnale

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