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By: Robert Janis

Polaris Uses Webcast to Train Dealers

When companies introduce a new product, they have to train their dealers on how to maintain and repair those products.  Most have used video presentations that can be sent out to dealers, a training road show in which technicians from the factory go out on to the road and physically visit dealers to do training, or provide a curriculum to a field rep who then does the training.

With the economy the way it is today any one of those ways of training a force in the field is just too costly. Today there are better, more cost effective and more efficient ways to achieve the same goal. That way is a webcast.

Polaris Industries, manufacturer of ATVs, is using a webcast to train the technicians at their dealerships about the new Sportsman 850 and 550 XP.

Laurie Rengel, manager of Service Dealer Development for Polaris, was involved with the development of the webcast and finds it to be a “super” way to get the message out to technicians in the field.

In the old days, while was not that long ago, when Polaris introduced a new product and had to educate its dealers’ technicians about it, it sent out technical service reps and instructors in a road show. “They would have had to go to about 36 cities to cover the sales for the Sportsman,” said Rengel. “And you have a number of dealers traveling, too. We felt that we had to re-think the way we do our training--especially considering the economic times.”

According to Rengel, Polaris discovered the need to come up with a new way to present information to its forces in the field quickly but still have it be informative and helpful to the techs in the shops.

The idea of a webcast came from Rengel’s boss, Bill Fisher, Chief Information Officer/Vice President of Dealer Services for Polaris.

Developing the Webcast

Polaris used the infrastructure that it already had and merged it with new technology. “Typically, in the old days Polaris would have done a road show,” said Rengel. “So we already have a staff of people who can put a presentation together. They’re called our ‘Technical Curriculum Developers.’ They go through the product line with our engineers, and they create a curriculum based on the components of the product and the changes made. That could include quality improvements and how you operate and repair different components of the vehicle.”

Once the Technical Curriculum Developers were able to come up with an outline, they met with videographer Phil Lawrence and instructors Kurt Saler and Gary Kovala as well as the account executive for StratosFour, Richard Moffitt. StratosFour was the company that was contracted to actually produce the webcast. Based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the company has been producing webcasts for 11 years and its clients’ list includes Colgate-Palmolive and the American Bar Association.

Polaris was able to identify StratosFour as the possible producer because a colleague of Rengel was familiar with the company. “We ultimately selected StratosFour to do the production because of their experience and expertise,” said Rengel. “We knew that they had this because we viewed other webcasts that they had produced. We found that they could deliver to a large audience and could deliver very technical information and was able to handle what Polaris needed to get our information out into the field.”

During the meeting it was determined that a vehicle was needed which could present the technical information and also provide time for viewers of the webcast to actually ask questions and get answers. “One of the reasons why on-line training doesn’t usually do well is that people can’t ask questions. They just see somebody talking and they can’t interact or become engaged,” said Rengel. The webcast format that was developed allowed for this. So, when the event was videoed, there were a few Polaris technicians in the room who could answer any question pertaining to the Sportsman XP and representatives from StratosFour were also present to feed the questions that were coming in in real time from the technicians who were watching the presentation. So questions could be asked and answered in real time during the webcast presentation.

Moreover, dealer needs were always kept in the forefront during the planning stages and when the webcast was actually performed. “We actually had eight dealers in the room when we were filming,” said Rengel.

The presentation created was 7 hours in length. It was broken up into two hour segments. It covered:

  • A summary of all training events for the Sportsman XP.
  • All technical features of the Sportsman 350 and 850 XP, which included a walk around description of the specific features that are unique to these vehicles.
  • A discussion of all the essential tools required to repair the products and how those tools operate.
  • A physical hands-on presentation that included:
    • The PVT System
    • Removal, Disassembly and Re-assembly of Gear Case and Engine
    • Engine Management System, which described how to use the Polaris Digital Wrench, a digital tool used on a laptop computer to diagnose any issues with the vehicle.

Prior to the webcast dealers were notified and provided with a hyperlink via e-mail or they were given access through the Polaris website (www.polarisdealers.com), or they could get a link via telephone.

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