Case study: Bringing technology into the lab

Published Date: 25 November 2016
Client: Hill Laboratories
Project: Sample submission mobile app


Hill Laboratories, a leading chemical analytical testing lab based in Hamilton, work with field representatives who collect samples of soil, and send critical information back to the lab. Before Room9 came on board, their customers were required to fill out a detailed submission form on paper for soil samples. This traditional way of doing things can be inefficient and frustrating at times, and requires field reps to mail the submission forms, which are then manually entered into the Hill Laboratories system.

Having already worked with Room9 on creating a mobile version of their website, which they loved, General Manager of Commercial at Hill Laboratories, Bart Challis, said approaching Room9 was their best option, and asked Room9 to come on board to solve this challenge.   

“As a business we’ve done things fairly traditionally; we’ve used a lot of manual paperwork, which was a requirement we placed on our customers. The brief was that we needed to have an end-to-end digital experience.”


Trading traditional methods for modern technology

So Room9 could fully understand what the field reps were required to do when submitting soil sample forms, Room9 staff rolled up their sleeves and hit the fields with Ballance Agri Nutrients’ reps, an important first step towards creating a user-oriented, solutions-focussed concept. This meant Room9 experts were able to experience first-hand how the paper form submission was slowing them down.

Bart says, “We’re not experts in a digital environment, and Room9 were very helpful in that early stage, taking a blank piece of paper and saying ‘walk us through your process,’ with our customers. Room9 went out into the field and watched the customers’ current experience, and used those learnings to say ‘how can we use that experience?’ not to change the customers’ mobility, but enhance the process that they undertake.”

“From there we went into the design process very quickly. From concept to design and implementation was only about four or five months, which is good. Obviously in the digital arena you can’t have these processes taking too long.”

The final product was a sample submission mobile app, a practical solution to Hill Laboratories’ paper problem which had a dramatic impact on the company and Ballance Agri Nutrients, the first client to benefit from the new mobile app. This was despite the app only being live for a few weeks. Compatible with both iPhone and Android phones, the app even works offline – this was essential, with many reps often being in rural areas with limited internet connectivity.


Applying benefits for everyone

Thanks to Hill Laboratories’ brand new app, sample submission for Ballance is now quicker and less frustrating. For frequently used data, the field rep can also choose details from the existing database, which means fewer typos, and more accurate information. Hill Laboratories staff are no longer required to manually enter the data from pieces of paper into their own system, eliminating redundant work and reducing potential human error.

Having the information submitted electronically, directly into the Hill Laboratories system also means that staff no longer need to struggle to read hand writing for all jobs submitted electronically, or follow up and double check any information that could potentially be misinterpreted, saving time and effort.

Increasing competitiveness (and customer satisfaction)

Bart says the ease of the mobile app means that they are a step ahead of their competition, as well as enhancing customer experiences.

“We’re in a competitive market now, and it’s growing to be more competitive. If you make things a challenge (for customers), it’s at your own peril.”

“Room9’s ability to translate learning experiences into a tangible digital product was really good, and having someone who can sit with our customers in a professional, well presented way was really important.

“They were really good, really responsive, and worked with our own IT group. We’re over the moon, it’s been a really positive experience for us.”

Demonstrating fantastic collaboration, Hill Laboratories has shown great innovation and commitment to their customers by implementing their ideas, and Room9 has supported them all the way in all technical aspects, including design, architecture and development.