The story of how a well-handled process of digital transformation can prepare a company for the future.
When we started cooperating with Protherm, they were already a market leader in their segment. With our help, they underwent the process of digital transformation over the next few years and, partly due to this process, they maintained their position on the market, and most likely will maintain this position for some time.
Protherm came to us with the type of request we used to get every day. They wanted us to create a new website with a new partner zone. What started as a simple request changed quickly into a series of requests. Together, they created a sophisticated functional interconnected digital ecosystem around the web interface. Thanks to the simplicity of the user interface the users started to utilize it immediately. Soon, it became clear that the benefits of the whole system were greater than the most optimistic expectations of the client.
Once the website and new partner zone were finished, Protherm requested a new e-shop designed specifically for boilers. This presented a challenge both for us and the client. Together with the client we went where no man had gone before as there had not been a similar e-shop on the web. The main reason for the complexity is that selecting a boiler demands a high level of expertise and the boiler requires fitting by a certified authority. Therefore, we had to provide an optimal amount of information to the client which would motivate him or her to purchase the boiler, while also selling him or her the services of an authorized technician.
Together with Protherm we developed an interface which was suitable both for the final user and the technician, and the sales of boilers over the internet started to happen. The client chose a boiler and a technician, which would install and maintain the boiler. The technician was notified by a message and was obliged to contact the customer within 48 hours. We achieved the simplification by not forcing the final customer to understand every single technical parameter, we let him or her choose any boiler they liked. The technician then considered the selection and, if necessary, advised the customer. The whole communication and changes to the order were loaded into the partner zone and every party involved in the process was kept informed.
Already at this stage of the project we could show the client how important agility is in the digital transformation process. This means checking the functionality and performance of individual parts of the project and their tuning in real time. At the early stages we sometimes had the problem that the customer made a mistake in the telephone number and the technician could not contact the customer. We solved this problem by introducing an SMS gateway which allowed the customer to finish the purchase only after he had entered a correct phone number, where he had received a code which he had to enter to confirm the purchase.
In the Protherm business model, the technician is one of the most important person. He is usually the person who sells and maintains products of various producers. If a producer wants to motivate the technician to sell his products, he has to offer, apart from high quality products, other incentives. Therefore, the partner zone and e-shop had to be designed so that the technician can really notice and appreciate the advantage he gets from selling Protherm boilers.
The first incentive for the 1600 technicians after launching the e-shop was that the technicians did not have to actively offer and advertise boilers to Protherm customers. Protherm took over advertising, the technician only got a contact number and the customer’s order. However, this was not the only benefit. Our client came up with another innovation which was to help the technicians even further
The next motivational touchpoint for the technicians was a customized application designed for online registration of a boiler, exchange and ordering spare parts and general maintenance of boilers in the technician’s portfolio. Even though the client initiated the application, Protherm had a surprisingly modest expectations. According to the client, the target was to get only a few dozens out of the 1600 technicians to actively use the application.
In fact, the application is currently used by more than 90% of the technicians and it registers 94% success rate at digital registrations of boilers, which is a great surprise for the client.
The next step for the application was to include a digital service book for the final customer, which would allow him or her to have access to more detailed information about the state of the boiler, its maintenance and repairs, including details regarding the spare parts installed.
Ján Košturiak, Innovator and founder, IPA Slovakia
Developing the application was one thing. Distributing it to the future customers was another. Protherm used newsletters and education for the technicians provided through internal marketing. While discussing the organization of the education for 1600 technicians spread throughout the country, we realized that a small adjustment to the already existing digital solution can make the communication between the technicians and internal marketing workers more efficient.
The process of organizing educations was originally based on e-mail notifications with the option to choose a date. The next step was to process the e-mail replies and create a timetable. Our solution had the ambition to make this work simpler, more efficient and more automated.
We achieved this by implementing a two-way SMS gateway into the existing e-shop which had already had a full database with all 1600 technicians. These technicians were sent an SMS with information regarding educations. The replies with the chosen dates were automatically saved into a database which was then able to generate a comprehensible spreadsheet with names of technicians sorted by their chosen date. The exchange of information was efficient and free of unnecessary paperwork, which allowed the employees of Protherm to focus on the education itself rather than organising it.
One of the secondary benefits that our client aspired for was removing hard copies of documentation connected with installation and maintenance of boilers. The logic was sound. Technicians hate doing paperwork, they do it late and/or retrospectively and it often contained mistakes. Thanks to the introduction of intranet, service application, digital service book for the final customer, and SMS gateway for organising educations, Protherm managed to eliminate hard copies of paperwork. All a technician needs today is a mobile phone.
A further synergy effect, which comes from using all these touchpoints together, is a clear overview of failure rate of a specific production batch. Thanks to the data from the partner zone and service application, Protherm has a detailed overview of all failures and faulty parts in their boilers. If a failure repeats more often, the data is automatically forwarded to the development and production department which can identify the failure rate of the part and can, consequently, take proactive actions. Hence, if necessary, Protherm can avoid failures and ensure that the boilers are functional throughout the season.
During our cooperation, Protherm became a part of the global corporation Vaillant Group. Some of the features we had applied were adopted by the Vaillant Group, for example, the application for technicians; and some of their new solutions are inspired by our solutions. Thanks to the digital ecosystem and its implementation into a functional system created by our cooperation, Protherm is one of very few companies in Slovakia that are ready to implement IoT technologies and connecting them to other external services. At the moment, there is no demand for this but once it sets off, Protherm is going to be one of the first companies that will take the heap towards the future safely, with the right technologies cushioning the landing.
The main reasons for the success were: good will, proactive leadership, and a team of finishers. None of the applications were being pushed by deadlines but the focus was on quality. The client’s team was methodical and focused on finishing the task at the finish line. We always preferred simplicity to complexity. These are the reasons why the technicians enjoy using the applications and, in fact, prefer them to the competition’s applications.