Prior to 2005, new sales representatives for Pacific Pulmonary Services (PPS), headquartered in Novato, Calif., faced a daunting task: perform in the field for more than six months before receiving classroom training. For PPS to compete, that situation had to be remedied.
PPS is an in-home provider of medical equipment and services for patients with chronic respiratory diseases, such as oxygen equipment, respiratory medications and sleep therapy equipment. The company has more than 100 field centers and 1,200 employees in the western U.S.
Prices for the equipment and services that PPS provides are consistent across the market, because insurance pays for them. That means PPS can only distinguish itself with better sales and service execution.
But many field managers were relatively new to the organization and weren’t sure how to get involved in the reps’ training. And the company’s decentralized structure made it vulnerable to inconsistencies when different reps were following different procedures.
The process of bringing reps to a central location for classroom training was also costly and time-consuming. And PPS wanted them to get some practical field experience first, so that they would have some context and get more out of the training.
In 2005, the PPS training department decided to change the onboarding process. They identified each core phase of new reps’ onboarding and created checklists of everything new reps should know, see and do in each phase. These phases included such tasks as proper documentation and observation of set-up processes for oxygen, nebulizers, and other types of equipment or medication. Based on those checklists, the department created assessments to test whether employees had learned what they needed to know.
Launched in 2006, the new system of assessments and compliance tracking (internally branded as FastTrack) required new sales people and managers to take 16 assessments, most during the onboarding process. Additionally, annual compliance assessments confirm employees’ continuing competence and help PPS demonstrate to an accrediting agency that the correct procedures are being followed. The assessments replaced classroom training, and now employees learn from their managers and demonstrate competency without having to waste valuable field time.
ORAL AND WRITTEN ASSESSMENTS
Today, FastTrack only has five assessments, which gives PPS a larger pool of questions to pull from and is more convenient for sales reps in the field. Two designers and two trainers create questions for each assessment, and then field managers and field operations SMEs review and edit those questions.
Each assessment has 25 to 35 questions. Two assessments are online, while the rest are oral. For oral assessments, a sales rep takes the assessment from his or her manager, who then fills out the assessment online. Perception’s e-mail tool immediately alerts all necessary parties about the employee’s score and compliance status.
“The oral assessments are our way of keeping one-on-one communication in the process despite the online method,” says David Kelly, director of training for PPS.
Kelly says that the benefits of the system are many. Field managers are much more involved with their sales reps’ training and ongoing development. The company has saved $540,000, and sales rep performance (measured primarily by the number of oxygen equipment set-ups and sleep therapy equipment setups) has increased. And it’s much easier to achieve, track and communicate compliance to the accreditation agency.
“The Perception solution has really changed our onboarding and training process,” Kelly says. “We’re a decentralized and quickly growing company in a very competitive and changing environment, and that means the potential for many interpretations and translations for the same procedure or goal. Perception has helped us to involve our managers in establishing consistent standards across the organization, and to hasten our communication so that questions about standards get answered sooner.”
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