Friday, August 31, 2007

VOLVO CAR UK: Serious Games Replicating A Real-Life Showroom Experience

Volvo Dealers benefit from groundbreaking Serious Games

Via: Caspian Learning - Serious Games As A Highly Engaging Learning Solution For A Dispersed Workforce

Caspian Learning designs and delivers 3D game-based learning solutions for the Education and Corporate setting.

Caspian's authoring engine, Thinking Worlds™, is an incredibly versatile and globally unique technology that allows Caspian, its partners and clients to rapidly and cost-effectively build highly interactive and engaging learning solutions.

Thinking Worlds™ was object of my prior posting
Where Serious Games in Education Is Heading, which gives us “a taste of” its extremely worthwhile results in the sphere of Education.

This time I would like to focus on Caspian’s impressive Training Portfolio.

Car salespeople not only need to be experts on their products, they need to be well versed in legislation such as the Trade Description Act and Data Protection.

Learning the intricacies of data protection, consumer credit and trade description legislation is dull at the best of times. Finding time to release staff from the forecourts to undertake the necessary training, whilst ensuring staff are engaged in what are traditionally dry subject areas, is a serious challenge.

Volvo Car UK was looking for a way that would be flexible enough to train staff on essential topics from legislation to product sales. The training programme also needed to be innovative to encourage participation, easy to update to ensure longevity, accessible to a dispersed workforce, suitable to be used in short sessions rather than half or full-day sessions and finally, be a refresher training tool for those that want to scrub up their knowledge of a particular area. And of course make Volvo’s training more fun!

The car manufacturer needed to ensure sales teams across its dealer network understood the law and how it related to the sales of its financial products.

"We wanted a different way to stimulate sales people and move away from just running lecture-style courses with role-play," says Volvo Car Finance sales development manager Tony Grice.

Volvo commissioned Caspian to develop a Serious Game to help train its dispersed car sales force. The game developed in 12 weeks and named Knowledge Drive, came from a collaboration effort between Caspian Learning, a global leader in the use of simulations and games to solve learning issues, and Fimtrac, a face-to-face motor industry training company.

Knowledge Drive was produced using Caspian's authoring engine, Thinking Worlds. It is comprised of a number of modules, made up of various 3D environments where players are faced with real life scenarios which they need to work out to achieve their learning goals.

Fimtrac took pictures of actual showrooms so that Caspian could build a virtual environment unique to Volvo

The users enter a 3D environment and meet 3D figures along the way that impart information related to their learning goal.

For example, potential car buyers enter the virtual showroom and ask questions which the user must answer. They are then told some facts about the customer and what he/she is looking for. It's the kind of information that any good salesperson can then use to make some deal closing assumptions.

Next, the users pick up relevant information as they progress through the scenario and delete anything they do not need, ultimately building an appropriate presentation for the customer. There are deliberate law breaking scenarios that must also be identified and rectified throughout the game.

Each environment is designed by Caspian to look like a real Volvo show room and populated with virtual characters from the library of assets, which has over 150 3D environments and 1000 3D characters.

“At the lowest level, these virtual environments expose trainees to real life sales situations,” says Graeme Duncan, Caspian Learning Chief Operating Officer. “Users are then able to drill down to a particular subject area by completing various games in a safe environment, which enables to learn from any mistakes they may make without having a negative impact on the business.”

“A revision system is integrated into Knowledge Drive, which provides real-time mentoring and feedback to the trainee, which in turn allows to manage the learning process and measure the impact of the training,” says Duncan.

About 80% of Volvo's 700-strong customer-facing sales team have so far logged on to the game via their own PC and they study for on average 30 minutes at a time.

The Verdict

The Serious Game has proven to be far simpler and less time consuming then sending staff off-site for training.

Feedback from Volvo staff revealed that Knowledge Drive dealt with “boring” subjects or issues in more interesting ways than traditional training methods. Also, as their salespeople are able to carry out the training in short sharp hits, the intrusion into selling activities is minimal.

Employees can sit down for 20 minutes at a PC during a “quiet” time for a refresher, to continue a task that they are yet to complete, or concentrate on areas where they are weak.

Knowledge Drive is available at all dealerships in the Volvo network and is targeted at all levels of staff within these dealerships, from sales administration staff to sales managers and dealer principals.

It has also proven to be a cost effective training solution - its adaptability and flexibility means that as changes in legislation or product specification come about, the games can be easily updated to ensure relevance and accuracy at all times,” says Anne Woodward, Used Car Programme Manager, the driving force behind the initiative at Volvo. “We have already started to extend the use of this application – new elements and tasks are being added and there is scope to use the tool in other areas of the business too.”About Caspian Learning

Caspian Learning has combined best practice in learning and memory, based on years of cognitive thinking research, with 3D computer gaming technologies. This has resulted in the development of their Thinking Worlds™ authoring engine. With a “robust” library of 3D environments and 3D characters, it is now feasible for HR departments with tight budgets to create games to suit their organization’s needs.

Furthermore, the flexibility of Thinking Worlds means that trainers can edit any aspect of a game, keeping it up-to-date and extending its life indefinitely. This has obvious benefits in terms of cost, but also means that the game addresses training needs on a granular level.

In Time

There will be a number of sessions led by Caspian Learning experts at the upcoming ETSA (European Training & Simulation Association) Seminar: "Using games technology and methodology to improve training & education - the opportunities and the issues", to be held on Wednesday 17th October 2007, at the DTI Conference Centre, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET:
  • Introduction – Graeme Duncan, Chief Operating Officer, Caspian Learning (Seminar Chairman)

  • Design to Engage Minds - Chris Brannigan, Founder of Caspian Learning & pedagogical advisor within Serious Games

  • "Rapid Fire" Case Studies - Caspian Learning

  • Closing Discussion - Graeme Duncan, COO Caspian Learning