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Kia’s Pan-European Dealer Training in Overdrive Following Outsourcing

Design, development, and delivery of a centralized training initiative helped the company’s laUnch of the exclusive Kia cee’d in 11 key markets.

by Mark Fletcher

Kia Motors Corporation, founded in 1944, is Korea’s oldest manufacturer of motor vehicles. Last year it produced more than 1.3 million vehicles that were sold and serviced through a dealer network in 165 countries. When its Frankfurt, Germany-based Kia Motors Europe subsidiary sought to grow its European business, it did so by working on strengthening its dealer network.

For several years, we experienced tremendous growth, winning new customers easily through our brand positioning as an inexpensive alternative to the established European manufacturers, but growth recently began to slow. In 2006, our answer to this problem was launching a quality offensive that included—among other things—very sophisticated German design and engineering and a seven-year warranty on a new model to be launched: the Kia cee’d. This was our first model to be designed, produced, and exclusively sold in Europe. It was strongly positioned as a European model to tap into new, profitable customer segments that previously viewed us as a non-European vendor of inexpensive products.

Our challenge was to train our dealer network to advocate the new upmarket product positioning. This entailed talking to more demanding customer groups. The cultural change at Kia Motors Europe needed to be implemented quickly, with an imperative to communicate one set of standards and brand message in all European markets. We also faced other challenges: Because our distributors provided dealer training for the company, we had limited control over the quality of training or the brand message communicated through it. At the same time, we had to reduce sales training cycle time.

Taking into consideration the business needs of our company, we identified the following overall goals for the launch initiative:

  • Offer sales consultants the highest quality training to reinforce the new product positioning and to enhance their sales success.
  • Ensure a consistent brand message in all countries while localizing training content only where required (e.g., responding to country-specific competitors or highlighting country-specific model features).
  • Develop a flexible training design that minimizes the amount of time sales consultants are away from dealerships, hence ensuring maximum participation and cost efficiency.

More specifically, we wanted the launch initiative to accomplish the following:

  • Create absolute enthusiasm for the new product model among sales consultants as a basis for successful sales;
  • Prepare sales consultants for a completely new and more demanding market segment with different product positioning and brand messages; and
  • Master conquest sales—Kia didn’t really have a major contender in the C-segment before, which meant that limited repeat customers were available; the vast majority of customers had to be won from competing, established brands.

To ensure adequate training, we selected Raytheon Professional Services (RPS) as our partner because of the company’s expertise in product-launch training initiatives that employ both hands-on and web-based media. We also sought to leverage its pan-European infrastructure and expertise in working with a diverse set of European cultures and languages. With RPS, we felt confident delivering on the centralized, pan-European approach.

The cee’d training initiative consisted of a blended model in which web-based training was combined with classroom sessions and drive events. Technically, the most formidable challenge we faced was to provide a platform from which to make the web-based training available in as short a time as possible and provide a reliable reporting process back from the countries. We addressed this technical challenge by implementing a pared-down, “mini” learning management system.

More than 1,400 sales consultants from 750 dealerships and 11 European countries participated in the training, which was provided in nine languages. The training results were measured according to the Kirkpatrick Model and generated the best results ever recorded in our company. We were particularly pleased with the solid feedback in the domain of “local relevance,” as skeptics doubted that a centralized, pan-European approach to product-launch training could be successful at the local level.

Three months after the cee’d training initiative, we worked with RPS to conduct “mystery-shopping” research in our major markets: Germany, Spain, the U.K., France, and the Slovak Republic. The evaluation of “product knowledge,” the primary focus of the cee’d launch training, received excellent scores.

We sold 72,000 cee’ds in 2007. Because of the great success of the cee’d launch, we are continuing with the pan-European approach to training. We also plan to implement a pan-European sales academy focusing on selling skills, finance and insurance, and overall customer satisfaction training.

Mark Fletcher is the dealer network development manager for KIA Motors Europe.

Tags: Engaged Workforce, Learning

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