The added value of professional training
Providing end-users with the correct technological notion about tires as products supplying regularly updated information to the sector’s specialists: this happens to be the driving principle behind ContiAcademy’s professional training program.
Training seen as, not just added value, but a strategic element in tire sales. In-depth knowledge about the features of this black, round and rubbery vehicle component, actually the only one touching the ground, will unveil all those technical characteristics that increase the inherent value of the product in the eyes of the dealer. And consequently also in the eyes of the buyers, once these features have been fully understood, who will then fully appreciate what they are purchasing and be more willing to fully justify the price.
Hence the importance of training sales teams and promoting a greater awareness about the world of tires with the customers. "In this context, training is becoming a greater element of distinction and one of the first factors in business development, one that can actually make a difference when it comes to facing the complexities of the markets", says Marco Vellone, Continental Italia’s After-Sales Director and the man behind the ContiAcademy project in Italy, "and must rightly be considered a part of the sales process".
Three years in the making!
Focus on training is not exactly an original idea, but as far as ContiAcademy is concerned it takes on special importance as the result of a coordinated effort, carefully studied and developed over time to best meet the requirements and needs of markets (mainly in Europe) that are historically and traditionally very different from each other. “It all stems from an internal survey performed by Continental throughout Europe in 2009, which confirmed the lack and, therefore, the need for a standard training program” says Vellone. “Coming up with an idea that would meet the needs of a continental market – and not only - that moves at different speeds, precisely what happens in the EU, is easier said than done. One year later ContiAcademy was born, but that was only the first step. Today we are active in all EMEA countries where Continental is present with its own branch or subsidiary, but it took three years of intense development to produce the necessary program contents to reach our goals. Today we can say with satisfaction that the results are on our side: especially in terms of training hours and, above all, the quality of the service provided to all participants“. Among these we find, not only, Continental dealers but also institutional players such as the Carabinieri, the Police and the Guardia di Finanza, not to mention groups of professionals such as journalists. Not only; a further example is the participation of ContiAcademy in the 2015-2016 Sara Safe Factor program, promoted by Sara Assicurazioni in cooperation with ACI Sport and dedicated to last year high-school students.
Courses, courses, courses
"At the moment our program is divided into 25 different courses dedicated to the technical and performance based characteristics of tires" continues Marco Vellone "ranging from the basics, such as the process of developing an OEM tire, the technology involved and production systems used, to extended mobility systems and the influence of the tire on the performance and behaviour of the vehicle. In addition, in the last two years, we have also enriched the program with two courses dedicated to retail store management and premium tires sales promotion through Continental tires”.
The initial program naturally focused on car tires and their market, but in time ContiAcademy also focused on truck tires, a very important sector with 14 different courses now available, and although tire replacement might be less frequent, there is room, among other things, for remote fleet management.
As a logical consequence and evolution, at the end of 2016, a further step forward was made, including in the program a specific course for automotive specialists focusing on TPMS systems (under the spotlight since 2013 as they became mandatory on all new factory cars), as well as on products and services such as tachographs and telematic services dedicated to transport companies. To this end, ContiAcademy added a specific course dedicated to tachographs and related legislation to help industry professionals in keeping up with the most recent legal requirements.
In short, there is still room for development. Actually, at least for the near future, the problem of organizations like ContiAcademy might be to keep up with the market’s growing demand for 1st class training programs. After all, recent data speak for themselves. During 2016, ContiAcademy invested, in Italy alone, almost 14,000 training hours (25% of which dedicated to safety) which represents a 64% increase over the previous year. A fast growing trend that testifies, once more, to Continental’s awareness of the various themes linked to the importance of training both partners and clients.
Despite their importance and significance, the amount of training hours alone cannot be the only measuring standard of a training program. "What really matters is the quality of the program", says Vellone. "Interest in the topics analyzed and the attention they are able to capture are the cornerstones of our work. For this reason we avoid crowded classrooms, and we aim for a maximum of 12-15 participants with whom we can really interact. For the same reason (and in order not to take too much time away from work) we prefer to bring our training classes to the area: at a large retailer or a group of entrepreneurs appropriately coordinated by our staff“.
A glance at the future
Needless to say at this point that in ContiAcademy no one sits on his hands. Quite the contrary, I am currently working to prepare new courses to be started before the end of the year. This is the case of the so-called "Module 25" linked to the Vision Zero project (zero fatalities, zero injured, zero accidents) which will include much more than just a technical approach, and a second course centred on Continental’s 6th Generation tires. True, much has already been done, but as impossible as it might seem, the adventure has just begun!