A Clevva way of training


There’s no doubt that the modern workplace is dominated by process more than ever before.

Businesses are looking closely at theirs to become more efficient and competitive. One of the problems is that when people become involved, processes break down. And if the process is a long and complex one, the impact of a single mistake on a business can be considerable. Many companies throw training at the problem: take a training course on the business processes in the company and you too can be a more valuable employee.

But do those expensive training courses really help people become better employees? After spending a number of years in the training industry, including founding and selling some successful training businesses, Ryan Falkenberg decided he was banging his head against a wall and that training needed a rethink.

“In the workplace, we are asking people to do things that technology is good at and they’re weak at, so they’re actually becoming a liability,” is his controversial claim. “And so we don’t want to employ them because they’re liabilities. Training spend is actually risk mitigation: we train people not because we want them to perform better, but so they don’t screw up. That’s why we train.”

Falkenberg says that when he looked carefully at the nature of training, he saw that there was an element of customer experience that isn’t repeatable.

“I can interact with you as a customer and somehow put you off. Later, I might figure out what it was I did wrong but, of course, I can’t go back and change that experience. It turns out the interaction is more about EQ, the emotional quotient or measure of a person’s emotional intelligence, than IQ.”

Expert system

Falkenberg’s demo of Clevva on his iPad allays any scepticism immediately. He whisks through the sales process for a mobile-enabled expert system. In non-technical terms, it’s an iPad application that anyone can use to sell products, support products or solve complex problems.

“Using Clevva, a salesperson can, in a week, sell 12 000 products, cross-sell correctly and deal with queries like a professional, without any training. We can get people to solve technical problems as if they were experts. What Clevva can do in this country is make people valuable to a company without being seen as a risk. I can hire people who may not have had a good education, but who have high EQs, and that means we can unlock South Africa’s almost written-off workforce.”

That written-off workforce, he says, comprises many people who are great at personal interaction but not necessarily qualified field engineers or mobile phone salespeople.

“Retail banking salespeople should be able to sell complex products correctly, and water technicians should be out in the field and deal with pump issues without screwing up. In this country, we have too few experts and we can’t train enough people to be experts. So instead, imagine capturing all your company’s complex product features and benefits, all your different value-add services, all your various administrative processes and business rules, and all the common support challenges and solutions ? into Clevva. And then imagine allowing your clients and staff to get the right answers in real time, as if they were asking the experts.”

Expert system

Falkenberg’s demo of Clevva on his iPad allays any scepticism immediately. He whisks through the sales process for a mobile phone.

“What are you looking for? Brand? Colour? Let’s say brand. You like Apple, so here are the Apple products we have in stock. Is battery life important? It is? You want an eight-hour option? That means you’re going to need the iPhone 5. Here it is in stock, and there’s some support information I as the salesperson need to tell you.”

He has other demos too: how a non-expert tele-salesperson can sell 12 000 different bottles of wine based on colour, meal and preference; and how any technician can solve a complex mechanical problem with water pumps in the field. The system also supports tracking of a salesperson’s actions and real-time help if further information is needed at any point in the process. It’s all done via a simple menu using content and the information filled in by the owner.

“Now I, as an employee, can solve any problem and sell you any product. I am relevant and don’t need three months’ training to be relevant. There was a woman using the trial system at a retail bank who burst into tears when we asked for feedback on Clevva. I was horrified but it turns out she was crying from relief. She said that this was the first time in six years that she had come to work knowing that she didn’t have to worry about making a mistake.”

Not many startups can claim that reaction to using their products.


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