Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — The days of the intensive, two-day, coffee-driven training seminar may soon be a thing of the past, at least chez Lancome.
Making the most of Internet multimedia capabilities, Lancome has announced the introduction of a Web site, Lancome-Pro, at, designed to educate its far-flung staff of beauty advisors regarding new product and trend information while allowing them to test their product knowledge and service skills.
“We have designed Lancome-Pro to bring our offline education and training programs to the next level by letting our beauty advisors educate themselves online,” Luc Nadeau, president of Lancome U.S.A., told WWD. A password-protected Intranet open only to actively-employed Lancome beauty advisors, Lancome-Pro is a combination video game, online magazine, and interactive product manual.
Using a “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”-like martial-arts motif, the Lancome-Pro training exercises feature seven “Gates to Expertise,” each one testing the user’s knowledge on topics relating to skin care, cosmetics, and fragrance. Those who successfully complete the seven gates acquire not only beauty wisdom, but a Lancome-Pro certificate. Select beauty advisors will be feted on the site as Lancome’s “Face of the Month,” which will showcase their online and offline achievements.
Lancome-Pro covers every conceivable aspect of the training repertoire, utilizing the strengths of Intranet-based education versus that of the standard seminar manual. Users at the “Skincare gate,” for instance, are prompted to identify Lancome products by name or skin type by correctly clicking and dragging the product name to the appropriate object. At the same time, to ensure that Lancome representatives — located across the United States and Europe — pronounce product names with the appropriate French inflections, the online seminar provides a phonetic crash course in Lancome-speak: “lip-steek” and “pood blahnk nehz.” As opposed to offline seminars which occur only semi-annually, Lancome-Pro will be continuously updated to acquaint representatives with the product of the month or allow them to become more fully acquainted with an encyclopedic product library.
A pilot version of Lancome-Pro was rolled out last September in France, Italy, and Sweden, with the U.S. site slated to launch this month. Currently, only 58 percent of Lancome’s roughly 10,000 beauty advisors have Internet access, so its non-wired advisors will have to rely on traditional offline training seminars in the meantime. “Right now the Lancome-Pro program is entirely voluntary, and there are no negative ramifications for employees without Internet access,” said Margaret Lancaster, vice president of Lancome’s education programs. “We do plan to roll out store terminals that will give [all] employees access to Lancome-Pro, perhaps as early as fall 2001.” Meanwhile, Lancome-Pro will be available online in 10 countries and six languages.
The benefits of Lancome-Pro for the company’s staff of beauty advisors are manifold. The site allows for 24 hour access, and Lancaster believes that a two hour-a-month commitment is sufficient for the purposes of continuing education. A “My Tutor” feature allows users to e-mail Lancome-Pro support staff with specific questions, and receive an answer within 48 hours. Online training can also make the experience less stressful and more casual, sparing employees the information overload that often occurs at compressed training seminars. Most of all, the site makes learning fun, not only through multimedia click-and-drag modules but through “Access Hollywood”-style beauty Q & A interviews with Fred Farrugia, Lancome’s international artistic director of makeup.