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Herman Miller Saves Big Money on Travel Thanks to Online Video
Learn how the upmarket furniture maker stopped paying a fortune to fly salespeople and associates to its Michigan office, and created a video-based system that educates better than in-person meetings.

A few years back, the executives at Herman Miller realized they had a problem, one that was all about growth. The West Michigan-based home and office furniture company worked with 134 independent dealers operating from 247 different locations in the United States. It also had its own sales teams in most states, as well as showrooms throughout the country. The company worked closely with all those players to promote new products and fulfill orders. The problem was how best to communicate with that vast network.

As Herman Miller continued to expand, it found keeping that group of around 2,400 individuals in the loop on new products and promotions was becoming increasingly challenging, not to mention costly. The house standard was to hold in-person meetings, flying groups in regularly. The company has a dedicated event space in its headquarters where it holds training events, but getting people in and out was a challenge. While the company continued to see in-person events as important, it wanted to connect with its far-flung team more often and saw that its current way of operating wasn’t sustainable. As it increased its product release schedule, dealers needed to put up the funds to send their people to Michigan more often. Herman Miller wanted to continue reaching its network without the hassle or expense of constant flights.

And that doesn’t even include the many Michigan-based Herman Miller employees who needed to visit remote sales locations as part of their job. Herman Miller employs subject matter experts who are sent out to advise operators around the country. As the company expanded, getting those experts to all the locations they needed to visit every year was becoming impossible.

Finally, Herman Miller also wanted a solution that improved the frequency of its training and information sessions. When team members visited the home office, they were brought into long, intensive learning sessions, but that kind of all-day, multiday training isn’t an ideal way to teach or learn. The company wanted a solution that let it communicate more often in shorter bursts, making learning sessions more useful. It needed to teach members about sale items, new sales tactics, and upcoming initiatives. It sought a flexible solution that would let it communicate more effectively.

Herman Miller was looking for a solution that made it dead-simple for its employees, who aren’t video experts, to create and deliver training and product information videos.

“I would say the biggest challenge was just frequency. Staying in touch,” says Victor Sultana, digital learning experience manager for dealer sales readiness at Herman Miller. “As a part of learning and our methodology, long intensive learning sessions are not ideal, right? Spacing is important when it comes to adult learning, or anyone’s learning, for that matter, in retention. So being able to connect with them on a more frequent basis and shorten that time spent and give that space just helps our methodology even better.”

Online Video to the Rescue

The solution to Herman Miller’s problems obviously involved live video streaming, but which platform provided the best fit?

A team quickly narrowed the candidates down to just a few. They briefly considered free options, including YouTube and Facebook Live, but those didn’t meet the company’s security needs and didn’t integrate well with the company intranet. Herman Miller demanded seamless integration so the final product would be as simple as possible for end-users, and it needed to be easy for video creators, as well, since the people holding sessions aren’t online video experts. The company demands excellent security so its employees can be sure they’re sharing proprietary designs only with the intended audience.

The solution also needed to have question-and-answer functionality for interactive discussions. While the company doesn’t see a lot of its network communicating through mobile devices, it still felt mobile support was important. People who do use mobile devices use them often, the company found, and it was important to provide for them.

The entire search process took only 3 months, as the people at Herman Miller didn’t see the point of dragging it out. They tried Skype for Business and WebEx, but found they weren’t ideal for the purpose. Neither was built to support prerecorded video, so they didn’t offer the workflow Herman Miller needed. Plus, the team didn’t see the level of video quality they required.

The team also looked at GoToMeeting and Livestream, but these solutions were more optimized for conference calls than the kinds of meetings Herman Miller had in mind. It wanted strong video quality so it could keep attendees engaged, and didn’t see that in many products.

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