With the business landscape changing rapidly because of the Covid-19 lockdown, companies are having to find new ways of engaging with customers. Knauf Insulation’s Head of Communications Jo Callow talked to Fiona Russell Horne about how the insulation manufacturer changed its approach to training.


s the pandemic and UK lockdown continued, it became apparant that new ways would have to be found of doing business. Initiatives that relied heavily on face-to-face interaction were redundant; instead digital innovation became key to a company’s strategy. “We had to put the customers at the forefront of our minds and ask ourselves what customers need from us right now, and how can we best provide that?”, says Jo Callow, Head of Communications at Knauf Insulation. “We had been looking at monthly promotions on various products. From there, we started to think about how we could help with the fact that more and more people are working from home and external sales managers are not able to get out to see customers. When times are changing so much and so rapidly, we thought there had to be something that we could bring in to answer those issues.”

Changing with the times The need for training hasn’t gone away, pandemic or no pandemic. Knauf Insulation has always had a proactive sales-driven training programme where sales managers would visit a merchant premises and go through a training presentation lasting about an hour, allowing time for questions and feedback.

Callow says that’s not happening now as many merchants are limiting non-customer visits and busy merchant branch staff have limited capacity for it time-wise.

“So we asked whether it would it be easier for us to break this down into bitesize chunks, working out exactly what information is required for this application or that range. We have been able to break it down into 5-minute sessions to give people the basics of what they need to know.”

What has become apparent, she says, is that a 10-minute session is far more likely to get full engagement from customers. “It’s something they can do when they’ve got 10 minutes to spare.”

Callow says that Knauf Insulation 28

the number of people who require it. “We are using a webinar platform to deliver the training. This allows us to hold them live.” At the moment most of the training is still live, as there is a need for the interaction between Knauf Insulation and the customer still, although Callow says the business is exploring the next phase of the project and how to keep interacting with customers.

Working with merchants “Feedback from merchants has been really positive,” she says. “They really like the fact that it is bite-size so they don’t have to take too much time out of the day, and they really appreciate the amount of proactive engagement they are getting with us as a supplier.

recognised that branch managers have had a hard time, trying to get everything put in place - including safety measures, new procedures and ensuring the branch is Covid- secure.

“The last thing we wanted to do was anything that would take too much time out of their day. Getting three or four people into a 5-minute call is a lot easier than trying to sort out trade-counter cover for an hour, or bringing someone in from the yard. Although we have broken the presentations down, we have also expanded them at the same time. If you have 10 minutes to focus on one product area or one application you can give a bit more information and add more depth than if you are holding a one hour session where you are trying to cover a wider range of products.”

Requests for the new, pared-down training sessions are via Knauf Insulation’s website. Callow says this alerts the relevant sales team to make contact and agree times and

“It has all been so confusing over the past few months. Many customers weren’t sure which suppliers were open and which were closed. At Knauf Insulation we remained open the whole time, so we still had people working there throughout, with a core set of commercial people working who could answer questions from customers. We knew that our customers were still operating, so there’s no way we could shut up shop when our customers were still open. If you do that you will lose those customers. From speaking to merchants over the past few months, those that took the decision to remain open have picked up new customers. They were there when the customers needed them and that’s what I’d like to think they will say about us.

“The last few months have really been interesting. They’ve been worrying and challenging too, of course, and, now that we are in another lockdown, there’s even more uncertainty about what is going to happen going forward. I would like to think that at Knauf Insulation we have got to grips with how we need to work under these challenges. We will continue to build on that because we know that it will be a long time before the sales team is fully back to seeing four or five customers a day.” BMJ November 2020

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