[ IIMS 94 contents ]
It's a gas with multimedia: A case study in sales and decision support for SECWA gas
Interactive Logic, Western Australia
At the start of 1994, Sales Representatives from the State Energy Commission of Western Australia (SECWA) Gas Marketing will introduce a portable laptop computer interactive multimedia presentation into the domestic market.
General aims of the presentation
The objectives of utilising an interactive multimedia approach are to support SECWA Gas and their Sales Representatives in:
The Presentation supports the sales process and aids in creating a situation where the sales rep is more of an 'adviser' than a 'salesperson'. This is accomplished by
- Maximising new Natural Gas connections and installations for water heating, space heating and cooking.
- Maximising conversions from electricity, solar, oil or wood to Natural Gas for water heating, space heating and cooking.
- Encouraging potential customers to buy and use gas appliances
- Encouraging potential customers to use SECWA to install connections inside the home.
- Encouraging existing customers to buy and use more gas appliances.
- Positioning SECWA as friendly, approachable, efficient and reliable.
- Positioning Natural Gas as cost effective, clean, efficient and reliable.
- giving the Rep all the required information at their fingertips in a contingent manner depending on the situation at hand,
- projecting a professional image,
- determining the costing scenarios without the need for complex costing formulas, and
- creating a time saving and effective method of communicating information.
The following issues were observed on field trips with the Reps and provided the basis for the solutions offered in the Presentation.
- There was a need for the Sales Rep to have a vast amount of information on hand.
- The customer had no understanding of the rules and regulations relevant to the use of gas in the home, and reasons why these are in place.
- Long term economies were not understood by the customer as the costs of initial purchase and installation of gas appliances are higher than electrical appliances.
- The customer required more information on which appliance best suited their specific needs
- Due to the fact that SECWA does not actually supply appliances, the customer had to go to appliance retailers or SECWA's Energy Information Centre to get advice on appliances. This also impacted upon the customer's understanding of the full cost implications at the time of the sales call.
- The customer had no access to name and location of suppliers of gas appliances on hand.
The two major target groups were
- Existing Users of Gas: Customers who were connected to gas.
- New Users of Gas: Customers who were not connected to gas.
The following provides detailed information on each of the components visually described in the Overview Flow diagram (see appendix) [Editorial note: An appendix was not given in the original publication].
The main menu for this Presentation is accessed through a 'pull down menu' operating from a title bar at the top of the screen. This allows access to any component of the Presentation instantaneously. The menu system allows:
- sales reps to have easy access to all information,
- customers to have an immediate response to questions, and
- SECWA Gas Marketing to portray a professional image to customers.
Questions most asked
A list of the top ten questions posed by customers was compiled and the answers to these questions are accessed directly through a pull down menu. This function should enable:
[* The laptop Presentation acts as a 'third party', adding a new dimension to the sales call and the overall sales dynamic. This allows the sales rep to act as an unbiased adviser whilst the computer is the information provider.]
- sales reps to answer common questions in an unbiased* manner both efficiently and with all the required support material,
- customers to have queries answered in detail and correctly, and
- SECWA to be seen as the provider of unbiased* information.
Market research function
This function operates on an 'invisible' level and collects information on all aspects of the customer's/sales rep's movements around the Presentation. The information collected:
All of this will aid SECWA in future marketing and business planning. The information collected includes:
- provides SECWA with a database of the information required by customers,
- keeps records of the cost scenarios developed within the system, and
- tracks the Presentation process adopted by each sales representative.
The sales rep needs to enter the name and address of the customer, this can be done before the sales rep enters the home. A database file is set up for that customer which contains all of the above information. Print outs of all information is possible.
- the name and address of each customer,
- components utilised by the customer/sales rep and in which order,
- all diagrams produced for the customer's property,
- all cost scenarios, quotations and cost recoveries developed,
- the appliances chosen by each customer, and
- the time spent by the customer/sales rep in each component of the Presentation.
1. Connection Diagrams
This component requires the sales rep to type measurements of rooms and properties, within and outside the house, in order to construct maps of the required connections with appropriate piping lengths, meter positions, outlet positions and placement of ventilation. The completed diagram is stored by the computer, printed easily and cleared as many times as required. It is also placed in a database for future reference if required. The resulting diagrams:
There are two sub-sections in Connection Diagram:
- aid the sales reps in producing accurate and professional drafts,
- help customers to easily plan and understand gas installation requirements in a visual manner,
- provide a detailed and accurate print out of work which can be passed on to foremen, and
- create the impression that SECWA have, upon leaving their home, all aspects of their gas installation requirements handled.
The system provides a template for the street position and house position. The sales rep is required to mark on the template:
- Street to meter position. This diagram covers the exterior connection from the street to the meter position allowing the sales rep to plan the connection and position of the meter box.
- Within house. A plan of the customer's residence can be constructed with positions for all bayonet points that are to be installed and required connections. Completed connection diagrams provide the basis for completing the customer's customised cost scenarios (see component '3').
The 'Within House' diagram is constructed by entering the dimensions of rooms and moving the rooms around on a 'grid' to get the basic map. The sales rep can then place bayonet points, appliances and piping onto the map from a 'template of options' at the side of the grid. This template includes:
- the position of the meter,
- the route to be taken from the street to the meter,
- the length of piping required for this route.
These diagrams can then be used as a basis for installation. All information on required piping. bayonet points and ventilation is automatically transferred to the cost scenario section and used to calculate the final quotation for the customer.
- pictures/icons of all possible gas appliances (eg. space heaters and cookers)
- icons for bayonet points
- icons for ventilation
- a 'drawing' tool to map piping requirements.
2. Show Room
The 'Show Room' provides information on all of the appliances currently on show at SECWA's Energy Information Centre in the city. The customer has the ability to choose from a list of requirements and the system will identify which appliances are suitable for their specific situation. On choosing an appliance, the recommended retail price (RRP) is then added into the 'Cost scenarios' to ensure efficient calculations. The 'Show Room' allows:
The 'Show Room' contains a sub-menu which will branch off into sub-sections dependant upon the type of appliance being sought (eg. space heating). Templates defining customer's requirements are set up in each sub-section and the sales rep can take the customer through a range of questions which will define the models of appliances that meet their needs. The types of questions to be included in say 'space heating' for example are:
- the sales reps to offer unbiased advice and information regarding brands and models of appliances without the need to carry around volumes of information as well as enabling them to calculate full costings for customers immediately,
- customers to 'shop at home', access unbiased information and advice and calculate the full cost implications for the installation of gas appliances,
- SECWA to regain the sales initiative without having to stock appliances. The customer will now be able to make a limited choice of appliance at home and then 'ring around' the retailers for the best price or further details.
Once the questions have been answered, the Presentation will select a list of appliances that meet the customer's requirements. The customer then has the option to view more information about each appliance/model in order to make their choice. The information to be provided on appliances is:
- the dimensions of the room - length, width and height
- appliance cost (RRP) range
- portable Vs fixed heater
- radiant Vs Convection heater
- can the room area be closed off?
- for what purpose is the room used?
Once the customer has chosen the appliance, the RRP for this appliance is automatically written into the appropriate 'cost scenario'.
- a graphic of the appliance
- the manufacturer's name
- model numbers
- appliance specifications
- energy ratings
- warranty information
- a list of suppliers of that appliance including address and phone number
- a standard 'location guide' to suppliers
- information on the EIC for further enquires
3. Cost scenarios
This component involves the sales rep compiling the quotations and various installation/appliance cost scenarios for each customer. Information for piping, bayonet points, ventilation, etc, will be typed in by the sales rep and a final figure is calculated by the system. The ability to develop cost schedules should enable:
The quotations calculated within this component are dependent upon the completion of the 'connection diagrams' and will provide the basis for the 'cost recovery' calculations. This component will also be supported by the 'show room', 'regulations' and 'market research' components of the Presentation.
- sales reps to complete quotations quickly and efficiently without the need to complete complex calculations whilst appearing unbiased and professional,
- customers to see how quotations are compiled the costs associated with placing different gas appliances around their homes in a 'safe' manner,
- SECWA to ultimately increase the usage of gas as customers have the ability to explore the potential for installing various gas appliances.
- Initial Installations: This costing will cover do initial connection from the street, meter, initial bayonet points and ventilation.
- Appliances (incl connections): This section of the 'cost scenario' will enable the customer to explore different cost structures for installing bayonet points and appliances around the home. Costings for appliances are available in the 'show room' section of the Presentation.
The cost scenario schedules is also available as a spreadsheet with various components for the sales rep to enter. Information for piping requirements, bayonet points, etc can he input either from the mapping function or manually. Similarly, the cost for appliances can be automatically input from the 'Show Room' or an estimated price can be manually entered. Provision is made within the spreadsheet for ALL cost components of installation.
The sales rep can begin this cost scenario with the initial installation and then Move on and build an unlimited number of various scenarios for the customer so they can understand the cost implications of installing a range of appliances. The information collected here can then be used as a basis for the 'cost recovery' Component of the Presentation.
The regulation component of the Presentation provides information on all relevant requirements for installing gas appliances into homes. Providing information on regulations allows:
The regulations component also explains the requirements relevant to choosing appliances.
- sales reps to answer customer queries and explain the necessity for items within the cost schedule,
- customers to view and understand the need for those regulations in an unbiased manner, and
- SECWA to have a degree of control over the way in which customers are provided information about relevant regulations.
5. Cost Recovery
Customers are able to use this component to investigate their current energy use and the potential energy cost savings associated with installing various gas appliances into their homes. Aided by the sales rep, the customer can calculate the total costs for installing certain appliances in the 'cost scenario' section and offset these costs against the projected savings. The savings are either calculated individually, or a series of templates showing 'typical' savings can be viewed. The cost recovery calculations allows:
For the 'individual' cost recovery option, the sales rep uses the customer's energy requirements to calculate the expected cost savings. The next step is then to use the costings built into the 'cost scenarios' and offset this against the cost savings calculated.
- sales reps to overcome the installation price objections/barriers by calculating the cost recovery possible after installation,
- available for this usage, as well as clarifying the length of time required to cover the initial installation and purchase of various gas appliances,
- SECWA to potentially increase the usage of gas as customers see the long term cost savings associated with the installation of gas appliances.
The cost recovery component is linked as described above to the 'cost scenario' component as well as having a cross reference to the 'gas versus other options' component so customers can see the other benefits of converting to gas.
6. Gas vs other options
This component outlines the advantages and disadvantages of using various types of energy sources (eg: wood, electricity, solar + gas, solar + electricity and gas) within the home. These comparisons cover various economical and environmental issues as well as highlight the major advantages of gas usage over other forms of energy. Providing such information enables:
The information included within this section acts as support for the 'cost recovery' component and will be cross referenced to this component.
- sales reps to offer information in an unbiased manner and in an innovative way
- customers to explore the advantages of using gas that may well have previously been limited to ideas on cost savings
- SECWA to increase customers acceptance of gas installations as they are made aware of the various advantages of using gas.
7. Why SECWA?
This section is aimed at supporting the decision for customers to utilise SECWA's services for all aspects of gas usage. This component allows:
This section will provide information on:
- sales reps to answer the question "why should I use SECWA's services?" and increase the acceptance of quotations,
- customers to make an informed decision as to which company they should use, and
- SECWA to potentially increase the number of installations carried out.
- the services available though SECWA, and
- the advantages of using SECWA.
Example presentation usage
Ms Brown is the new owner of a unit at the rear of a block of eight. She is unsure about the availability of gas. She has called SECWA to get a quote. The SECWA sales representative (SR) has accessed information regarding her block and discovered there is no current gas connections for any units within the block.
- SR begins his discussion with Ms Brown in the usual manner and explains the situation regarding Body Corporate approval, re-instatement of brick paving, etc. Ms Brown appears a little bewildered and annoyed at the hassle. SR now utilises the 'Regulations' section to explain these requirements in full.
- After considering these regulations, Ms Brown asks how much this it will cost. SR now takes measurements outside the house and uses the 'Connections Diagrams' to construct a diagram and inserts all measurements into the 'Cost Scenarios' spreadsheet. The Presentation calculates the cost of initial installation.
- Ms Brown objects to this initial cost and is wary of the cost of re-instatement, so SR suggests she may wish to discuss the situation with the unit owners to reduce cost. SR indicates on the 'street to meter position, diagram how this would work.
- SR then suggests to Ms Brown that she could spend a short period of time with him now to sit down and calculate the length of time that would be required for this initial installation to pay for itself. She agrees.
- SR shows Ms Brown the different types; of gas appliances she might like to use initially, and those she would be looking at installing in the long term. She is only interested in heating at this stage, so they go and find out where she would like the first bayonet point. SR now produces a 'within house' diagram and begins creating a 'cost scenario' for this.
- Ms Brown would like to know what heater is the best for her room and how much it would cost. SR uses the 'Show Room' to assist Ms Brown in choosing an appropriate heater. The cost of the appliance she chooses is automatically inserted into her 'cost scenario'. Information on the Energy Information Centre is offered plus a list of suppliers including names, phone numbers and a location map helps Ms Brown decide where she will get her appliance. SR completes the cost scenario, enters the 'Cost Recovery' section and asks Ms Brown about her current energy needs.
- As she has only just moved in, she is unsure. SR uses a standard template within the system for 'singles within units' and shows Ms Brown how long this initial installation will take to pay for itself.
- Ms Brown then agrees that this is very reasonable and accepts the quotation for the initial installation, dependent upon the agreement of the Body Corporate. She would also like to discuss the possibility of the other unit owners connecting to gas and saving on the initial installation cost. She then asks advice on how she could save more money in the future by installing gas appliances. SR and Ms Brown spend some time constructing further 'cost scenarios' and looking at the cost of different appliances. They build a complete 'within house' diagram that SR explains would file for future use if she wished to go ahead with other installations.
- Ms Brown now knows exactly which gas heater she wants and rings around to get the cheapest price and delivery organised. She is also thinking about future gas appliance purchases with the knowledge that SECWA have her plans on file.
Mr Manning is married and the father of two teenagers. His home is already connected to gas for cooking. He is looking at replacing an old electric Hot Water System (HWS) with a gas HWS. He has called SECWA to get a quote for installation. The SECWA sales representative (SR) has accessed information regarding his existing connection.
- Mr Manning's first query is the cost savings he will get if he chooses to change his current electric HWS to gas. SR utilises the 'Cost Recovery' section to assess the Manning family's existing energy requirements and costs. He uses a standard template within the system for 'families' to show a 'typical' cost scenario.
- SR then suggests that they look at his individual requirements and calculate how much this installation will cost. SR now takes measurements inside the house and uses the 'Connections Diagrams' to construct a diagram. He then inserts all measurements into the 'Cost Scenarios' spreadsheet .
- Mr Manning would also like to know what HWS is the best for his needs and how much it would cost. SR uses the 'Show Room' to show him a range of appropriate HWS and Mr Manning chooses the one he would like. The cost of the appliance is automatically inserted into his 'cost scenario'. Information on the Energy Information Centre is offered plus a list of suppliers including names, phone numbers and a location map helps Mr Manning decide where he will get his appliance.
- SR explains that whilst SECWA cannot provide the appliances, Mr Manning can call around to get the best price for his appliance and have it delivered without fuss. SR now completes the 'cost scenario'.
- Mr Manning initial reaction is that it is all very expensive. SR therefore re-enters the 'cost recovery' section and uses Mr Manning's figures to customise the spreadsheet. This shows how Mr Manning's costs will be recovered.
- Mr Manning also asks why he should use gas apart from the financial advantage. SR uses the 'Questions Most Asked' which jumps to one part of the 'Gas Vs Other Options' component of the Presentation and discusses the advantages of using a gas for water heating.
- Mr Manning then sees that the initial installation and appliance cost is actually quite reasonable. Mr Manning then asks who else he could use to do the installation. SR says there are other installers, private gas fitters. He then discusses the advantages of using SECWA with the aid of the 'Why SECWA' information in the Presentation.
- Mr Manning agrees that he hasn't the time and he does not feel the need to do anything else but have SECWA do the whole job. Mr Manning accepts the quotation.
|Author: Danielle Conroy, Sales and Marketing Manager, Interactive Logic, PO Box 1, Scarborough WA 6019. Tel: 324 2188 Fax: 324 2189
Please cite as: Conroy, D. (1994). It's a gas with multimedia: A case study in sales and decision support for SECWA gas. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 105-109. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions.
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© 1994 Promaco Conventions. Reproduced by permission. Last revision: 3 Feb 2004. Editor: Roger Atkinson
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