Roadblock: When Technology Is Ignored

By John McCormick Print this article Print

Salespeople are not using the tools they're given.


Salespeople are not using the tools they're given. Prada spent millions of dollars creating a new type of handheld terminal, implementing new technologies to control video monitors, and attaching antennae in tags to thousands of shoes, garments and other products. The idea was to help salespeople interact with customers better, to meet their desires for just the right Prada goods, at the time they wanted them. But Prada sales associates do not pick up the terminals and use them. If front-line workers in your company ignore the technology they're given, what good is it? Here are some of the best practices for getting potentially disinterested staff to adopt new technology and new ways of doing their jobs:


Nothing beats a good education. Stick to practical instruction and on-the-job training. A classroom-type setting might be the most effective way to get across the corporate strategy behind a technology's deployment, but nothing beats field instruction in the real world—on the sales floor, for instance—for getting staff to master new tools. "It's more expensive, but also more effective," say Hung LeHong, a research director at GartnerG2.

Show employees what's in it for them. Employees are quicker to embrace technologies that offer personal benefits. If a handheld sales device is designed to improve customer service and boost sales, chances are it will enable salespeople to do their jobs quicker and boost their commissions as well. Quantify those results, and have managers help them achieve them. The employee has to get something out of it, too, says Charles Troyer, a partner in CSC's consumer goods consulting practice.

It pays to pay. Find a metric that you can reward. Establish a baseline measure—such as the percentage of shoppers who provide personal data via the wireless device—to encourage capturing information in the desired way. Then, give bonuses for reaching higher levels of delivery. It all comes down "to metrics and rewards" says Peter Abell, director of research for AMR Research's retail practice.

Work with the unions. In places like warehouses, radio systems can reduce the number of people needed to run them by as much as 20%. "What are your union leaders going to say about a 20% cut in workforce?" Abell asks. He recommends figuring out new roles for the workers and training them for those jobs. "Start doing something proactively," he says, before the union starts doing something proactively to thwart the technology's adoption.

Make sure the equipment you distribute is easy to use. Nothing frustrates a user more than a confusing device with too many functions and buttons. The person just wants to do a job. Design a simple device—or train your users to master one function before teaching them the next.

Level with Luddites. Perhaps 5% of employees will never take to a new technology. If all other obstacles are removed and an employee still doesn't participate, make the person's choice simple: Get with the program or leave.

Burn the boats. Deploying new technology is rarely easy. Don't turn your back on the mission, if you know the final results are clear. "Cortez burned his ships," CSC's Troyer says.

This article was originally published on 2002-12-01
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