Solving the SME scaling challenge


Published in IT-Online 19th March 2018

Polyflor South Africa is a vinyl flooring and building protection solutions company that services architects and commercial clients within the healthcare, commercial, education, retail and hospitality sectors. 

With product ranges in the thousands, sales and service teams need to not only be experts in each product range, but also have an indepth knowledge of the many different technical environments in which the solutions need to be delivered.


This dependence on product and technical expertise has hampered the business’ ability to scale. On average, it takes new hires well over two years to reach the levels of expertise required to offer clients specialised advice. In addition to this dependency, the founder Denver Coleman, a doyen in the industry, was nearing retirement.


Tandy Coleman, incoming CEO, recognised the ‘key man’ risk to the business, and decided to take a proactive approach. This involved actively capturing Denver’s 50 years of experience into a digital expert that all staff could access, 24/7.


To achieve this, Tandy partnered with CLEVVA – a technology company based near Stellenbosch that has developed a non-coding platform capable of allowing her internal team to effectively build a digital version of Denver.


Branded PolyPro, this digital expert can help staff diagnose any client need and offer expert advice that only someone with deep knowledge and experience could previously offer. PolyPro can also help staff analyse all site factors and recommend steps to limit installation risks, as well as resolve any technical issues that may affect the promised solution.


“In order to ensure a long-term, successful outcome for every customer, our sales teams need to consider a huge range of variables and factors before proposing a specific solution,” says Tandy Coleman. “Previously we’d hire people from within the flooring sector, as this would speed up the onboarding process. However, by relying on product knowledge, these sales people generally reverted to learned habit selling and not identifying their clients’ needs. It was a bit of a catch-22, because to offer advice you need the product and technical knowledge but to gain this knowledge takes years.


“With CLEVVA’s digital expert we can provide our staff with instant product and technical expertise, at their fingertips. This allows them to focus their energy on really understanding our clients and their needs, with the confidence that their digital expert will help shape the solution based on all the different factors and requirements. Our team can specialise in the customer experience, while the digital expert supports them with product expertise.”


A major inhibitor of SME growth is that knowledge frequently resides in the head of the key man (or woman) who founded the business, and, to date, there has been no fast and efficient way to share that. Thanks to CLEVVA, Polyflor can now scale without the worry that new staff will damage their brand. Customers can also be assured of a consistent experience, irrespective of who they deal with. No matter who it is, they will ask the right detailed questions; offer the right solutions; and recommend the right technical actions – all via the digital expert accessible on their laptops, iPads and mobiles.


“We’ve always been driven to be a leader in our industry, both in terms of the quality of the advice we offer, and the quality of the solutions we deliver,” Tandy says. “This is not easy when you deal in such a technically complex environment, and where competitors try brush over the complexity by focusing on appearance and price. For us, we are interested in delivering a long-term solution that addresses our clients very specific needs, and for that we must be able to act as advisors, not product sales people.


“What PolyPro has done for us has allowed us to capture the hugely complex logic that stalwarts in our business like Charles Davids, Pieter du Plessies and Sandy McLardy apply when dealing with a wide range of client challenges and demands. We started by capturing this logic in a knowledge base, and even looked at applying decision tree expert systems. None of these could offer the contextually rich expertise that we needed to achieve our business objectives. Fortunately we found CLEVVA, and with their easy-authoring back-end, our internal staff have managed to capture and maintain incredibly complex logic that now drives PolyPro.”


According to Tandy, Polyflor South Africa is only beginning on its digital journey, and will soon be making PolyPro available to key clients. This will allow them to get product and technical advice, as and when they need it.


“For us, by combining digital intelligence with human intelligence, we ensure our clients receive an experience that is difficult to beat. It also ensures a level of consistency that means a lot to our business, and our customers”.

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