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How equipment suppliers are successfully providing virtual training

By |  October 1, 2020
Photo: Haver & Boecker Niagara

Haver & Boecker Niagara is currently working on the second installation of a webinar series that will cover mineral processing developments and screening and pelletizing innovations. Photo: Haver & Boecker Niagara

The aggregate industry stepped up its virtual game this year.

With manufacturers unable to meet in person with producers during a chunk of the pandemic, it would not have been a surprise if overall customer engagement dropped drastically. A number of manufacturers, however, quickly adapted to maintain engagement, turning to virtual options to stay in front of customers – and even train them.

The catalyst

While some manufacturers possessed the tools to virtually train customers prior to March, the pandemic was a catalyst for many to utilize virtual tools.

Philippi-Hagenbuch, for example, worked one-on-one with customers. The company offered customers a virtual installation training opportunity in the past, but nearly everyone preferred to meet with technicians in person.

That was until the pandemic arrived.

“What the pandemic has done is it’s replaced us physically traveling for those installations to work with them remotely in a virtual environment,” says Josh Swank, vice president of sales at Philippi-Hagenbuch. “This is just another example of that. But, quite frankly, since we had everything in place, it wasn’t a significant change. It was just an evolution.”

The pandemic also gave Haver & Boecker Niagara, another manufacturer, the push needed to bring its once-abstract virtual ideas to life.

“We had some ideas about using virtual training sessions – like workshops – to educate our team and sales representatives before the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Mihaela Grancharova, digital marketing manager at Haver & Boecker Niagara. “However, the pandemic put us in a situation where we had to quickly create a plan with different marketing measures to get in touch with our customers. It forced us to put these ideas into practice and to develop them on an external level instead of just internally.”

Videos & webinars

Photo: Haver & Boecker Niagara

Some manufacturers will continue to offer virtual training sessions and webinars even once the pandemic subsides. Photo: Haver & Boecker Niagara

A slew of video conferencing platforms grew in popularity this year. Now, manufacturers must carefully choose a platform that works best for them and their customers.

While Zoom and GoToMeeting are popular options for traditional meetings, Philippi-Hagenbuch discovered that FaceTime works best when conducting one-on-one training with customers in the field.

Before equipment installation, Philippi-Hagenbuch meets virtually with a customer a few days beforehand to provide details about the product design and the installation process. That way, the customer has direct access to a Philippi-Hagenbuch representative should any questions or troubleshooting occur the day of the installation.

Beyond video, webinars are another way manufacturers are interacting with customers these days. Major, a screen media manufacturer, conducted webinars through the pandemic to engage customers. The company uses GoToWebinar to host webinars, making them accessible on the company website afterward for those unable to attend.

According to Major, its goal is to be a source of knowledge for the aggregate industry, offering engineers and salespeople as resources to discuss case studies, best practices and more.

Richard Saad, marketing manager at Major, says about 200 people registered for the company’s webinars.

“It was overwhelming,” Saad says. “It was a really surprising and positive experience. We had really good engagement.”

Haver & Boecker Niagara also offered webinars this year via GoToWebinar to cultivate customer engagement. The company initially faced minor challenges when adapting to the new reality of virtual seminars, but quickly grew comfortable.

“Our experts were in front of the camera for the first time, had a little stage fright and needed some tips to help them present the content professionally,” Grancharova says. “We got better with each webinar. It was just an amazing experience as we were ‘learning by doing.’”

As Grancharova describes, Haver & Boecker Niagara’s webinars were successful in engaging customers, noting that one of its best-attended webinars covered aggregate and industrial minerals.

“At the end of the webinar, we had a lengthy, interesting discussion about our different solutions in the aggregate industry, and the viewers asked so many exciting questions,” she says.

Virtual interactions post-pandemic

With everyone eagerly awaiting the end of the pandemic, manufacturers expect in-person interactions to pick back up as coronavirus cases trend downward.

Philippi-Hagenbuch already conducted a few in-person trainings this summer for customers who were comfortable, keeping in mind state ordinances and the necessary safety precautions. The company continues to utilize FaceTime for training, as well, but Swank anticipates the majority of customers will request in-person training once the pandemic subsides.

“From my experience, I’m not expecting this to be something that our clients will really want to do across the board moving forward,” Swank says. “They prefer somebody with knowledge to be there during an installation whenever they can. And as long as we can do so safely, we certainly will. Otherwise, we do have the fallback [option] in the technology that’s available to us.”

In Haver & Boecker Niagara’s case, it plans to continue to offer virtual training sessions and webinars even after the pandemic, upon seeing their success this year. The company is currently working on the second installation of a webinar series that will cover mineral processing developments and screening and pelletizing innovations.

In addition, Haver & Boecker Niagara will lean on its virtual offerings to appeal to younger professionals. As Grancharova notes, one young professional who attended a webinar reached out to the company to share his interest in the content and how he looked forward to sharing what he learned with team members.

“These young career starters will be our future experts, and we have to find a way to reach them and interact with them, “ Grancharova says. “Our virtual training sessions allow us to help them educate themselves. We are giving them the chance to expand their mineral processing knowledge and helping them with their professional development and career growth.

“The digital world offers us so many possibilities and opens so many new doors in the field of mineral processing technology,” she adds. “We just have to use them.”

Carly McFadden

About the Author:

Carly McFadden is the associate editor at Pit & Quarry. She can be reached at 216-363-7930 or cmcfadden@northcoastmedia.net.

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