Herman Miller Saves Big Money on Travel Thanks to Online Video

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“It really came down to who was willing to work with us to create a tailored solution for our audience and to get us up and running to kind of dip a toe in the water,” explains Sultana. “That was IBM for us, who let us test some things out and see how it worked for us, and then scale based on our needs.”

IBM Wins the Day

Using IBM felt right from the start for Herman Miller’s team, and the decision to use IBM Cloud Video was a quick one. The company shared its list of essentials, and IBM assured them that its platform could handle all of them. Herman Miller appreciated the flexibility it found. When the team first spoke to IBM, they were in an exploratory phase and weren’t ready to commit to a product, but IBM was able to provide a fully workable solution for a trial period with no long contract required. IBM gave them a lot of flexibility in their testing, and that demonstrated a confidence in the platform.

As its name denotes, IBM Cloud Video is a fully cloud-based solution, so there’s no hardware to install. After getting a free test account, Sultana was able to begin streaming on his Mac using a few Logitech webcams. The process was easy from the start. He and everyone involved in testing were relieved to learn that streaming video doesn’t have to be complicated. They were happy with their initial results, and knew they could improve their streams with practice. The IBM platform was also enough for the sales team, letting them focus on the content and not the settings.

The entire testing process involved one WebEx test, one with Skype Video, and three with IBM Cloud Video. After that, the decision was clear. In 2 months, IBM received executive sign-off and Herman Miller became a client. 

“Mobility and content protection were our two main priorities going into the partnership,” says Chris Zaloumis, senior director of enterprise video offerings for IBM Cloud Video. “Herman Miller required streaming capabilities for both desktop and mobile devices that could only be accessed by approved salespeople. We offer many options to ensure only select audiences are able to view secure streams, and those viewers could be either internal employees or third-party distributors. We set up a trial offering that could be integrated into Herman Miller’s existing internet infrastructure and would be available across devices.”

The main thing Herman Miller uses IBM for is a series called Live From the Learning Plant,where salespeople learn about new offerings. On the Herman Miller campus, the Learning Plant is next to the Performance Seating Manufacturing Plant, which creates the coveted office chairs that have solidified the company’s reputation. The Learning Plant is an 18,000-square foot space dedicated to the various product lines. It’s where Herman Miller conducts in-person training so people can see products up-close. The video team wanted to use that space in its training, so it produces 30-minute videos led by subject matter experts, then streams them to salespeople in the company and in the greater dealer network. During the live stream, viewers can ask questions by text. Herman Miller keeps sessions to 30 minutes so they’re quick and efficient, and don’t take up too much of people’s days.

Herman Miller actually mandates that office workers use Internet Explorer, and since video streaming can be iffy on IE, having mobile support to fall back on is a good thing. The company offers premeeting instructions to video meeting attendees that encourages them to use Chrome or another browser, but IE is still the officially mandated browser for regular office work.

Herman Miller started with IBM Cloud Video 1.5 years ago, and draws an audience of 350 people per video. People are much happier asking questions by text during a video than by voice during a conference call, Sultana finds. Roughly the same number of people watch the streams live as watch them later on-demand. The video team edits saved videos for later viewing and adds chapters so viewers can go directly to the section they want.

Besides delivering more flexible training, Herman Miller saves a lot of money this way. Travel and entertainment costs for visitors are about $1,500 per person, so Sultana estimates the company saves about $500,000 per year using video. And if that isn’t enough of a recommendation, the end-users love the new platform.

“On average, our Net Promoter Score is a +50, which, if you’re familiar with the Net Promoter Score ratings, is anywhere between -100 and +100,” Sultana says. “+50 is crazy high, and the feedback is overwhelmingly people being thankful for us trying out something new and being able to connect without having to spend dollars all the time to do it.”

[This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Herman Miller Saves on Travel With Online Video."]

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