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The heart of the matter

October 12, 2016

The world’s most successful companies have always been the ones that keep their customers in focus as their markets and businesses change. Their goal is to build long-lasting relationships with their customers that are based on trust, through good times and bad. What is Konecranes’ attitude towards its customers? Here, three senior managers at Konecranes offer their insights, knowledge and opinions on how to be a customer-focused company in today’s complex, fast-moving and truly globalized marketplace.

In today’s business world, putting the customer at the heart of a company’s business strategy, with direct effects on day-to-day operations, is the key to success. It’s the close contact with customers and keeping business promises that lead to trust and strong customer relationships. The strong customer relationships, meanwhile, provide the insight needed to create excellent products, backed by excellent service. It’s a virtuous circle of repeat orders and healthy, profitable business.

For a company like Konecranes, which provides both equipment and service around the world to thousands of customers in many different industries, trust must be earned every day. As industries become ever more global and complex, customers are becoming more demanding. They simply need more: lifting equipment that makes their processes more productive, reliable and safe; service that reduces the lifetime operating cost of the equipment; state-of-the-art technology and digital connectivity across globally uniform technical platforms, and products and services that fulfil increasingly stringent environmental considerations. Recognizing and appreciating this, Konecranes has been bringing the customer closer and closer to the heart of its operations.

Fulfilling specifications is not enough

As Head of Industry Applications at Konecranes, Jari Myyryläinen is responsible for crane applications around selected industries such as steel manufacturing and pulp and paper manufacturing. Konecranes has assembled a team of specialists to serve these industries with deep knowledge of the production processes and industry requirements, supporting Konecranes’ frontline salespeople.   

“The industry specialists help our frontline salespeople to explain our product features and benefits. They also bring customer requirements to our product development teams, so that we can improve how our products perform in these industries,” says Myyryläinen.

Myyryläinen notes some basic differences between the industries that Konecranes serves. “In the container handling business, for example, the customer base is global but defined. There are a few hundred customers and everybody in the business knows who they are. But when we go to the industrial and manufacturing side, there are tens of thousands of customers. The challenge here involves organizing ourselves so that we can serve all of these different customers, of all sizes, locally, regionally, and globally.”

The key for Myyryläinen is to build an understanding of who is who.  “We segment our customers by industry and requirements, and develop segment-based product and service models.”

Increasing the focus on service

Myyryläinen makes the point that historically, the equipment and service sides of Konecranes’ business have been quite separate. This has been changing greatly in recent years. “We have created visibility between the equipment and service sides, with the understanding that we are often serving the same customers. We have organized ourselves and our operations around our customers and their needs, be they local, regional, or global.”

Myyryläinen adds that it’s vital to talk with the customer about a piece of equipment’s lifecycle at an early stage of the customer relationship.

“The traditional way of doing industrial service has been very reactive – doing something when the customer asks. We have become much more proactive, approaching the customer with ideas, dialogue and proposals,” continues Myyryläinen. “Receiving a Request For Quotation (RFQ) from a customer is, of course, important, but what we do between RFQs is just as important – that’s when the customer relationship can become stronger.” 

Speaking the customer’s language

Myyryläinen says that Konecranes has clearly moved towards more customer-centric thinking. “This is the right direction, and I always encourage our people to go even further and deeper. If we speak with the customer in the customer’s language and understand their needs deeply, then we can build a better offering for the customer’s industry.” 

He adds that the backbone of a high-performance organization must always be behind the effort. The world is an imperfect place. Things sometimes go wrong. If business with a customer does not go according to plan, then recovery must be really quick. “Both parties need to see the value generated on both sides of the customer relationship, so there is enough goodwill to recover and keep building the relationship.”

Keep it simple

Tuomas Saastamoinen, Sales Director, Port Cranes at Konecranes, has been in the port crane business for 24 years. He states bluntly that the only good measure of performance, and customer voice, is the amount of repeat orders. “Customers want very simple things,” he says. “Above all, they want their port cranes up and running all the time. Somebody in the business put it well: in the container terminal, the goal is to maximize the time the container ships are at sea. The less they’re in the terminal, the better for everybody, including us. We have to measure up to that performance goal. It ties together all of our product development people, project managers, electricians, field engineers – our entire organization, including service.”

“It’s important to remember that a relationship with a customer can end immediately if you don’t keep your promises. No supplier is perfect. Once in a while, we don’t live up to our customer’s expectations. That’s the time when the true quality of our organization is revealed. The customer watches closely how we react, how quickly we react, how we fix the problem, what our attitude is, how far we’re willing to go. If we handle it well, the customer trusts us more. There’s a limited number of container terminals in the world. People move from terminal to terminal. Word goes around the community very quickly when a supplier’s performance is sub-par. My key point here is that we understand we’re only as good as our last transaction, be it equipment delivery or service.”

In the end, according to Saastamoinen, if a company falls short because it didn’t live up to its promises, then the journey with that customer ends. “And so it should. If you as a person hide behind corporate jargon when things get difficult, it’s a signal to the customer that you’re not taking personal responsibility, and the trust remains at the level of jargon.”

People still buy from people

Antoine Bosquet, Sales Director, EMEA, Port Cranes at Konecranes, says that the company has a very high percentage of repeat customers. “I think two of the reasons for this is that we have very good products that are the most technologically advanced on the market, and secondly, when we promise something, we keep our promise. That’s how we build trust with the customer. And I think ultimately, that’s why customers keep buying from us.”

To Bosquet, it isn’t only about delivering the product, it’s about everything that surrounds it. “We have people who care and do what’s necessary. We have project managers who will answer their business phone during non-working hours if required, and we have sales guys who will travel to the customer’s site to fit in with the customer’s schedule.  It’s adding up all these seemingly small details that makes a big difference.”

Even if successful new companies like Uber and Airbnb, for example, have all but eliminated the human go-between element, Bosquet says that people still buy from people. “When we sell products worth a significant amount of money, it’s about people. Our sales guys like to be really close to the customer so as to build trust. For the customer, it’s important to have a single point of contact at Konecranes, so if they are in trouble they call the right person and help comes fast.”

In a perfect world, there are no problems and customers are always happy. It’s not like that in the real world. “You will sometimes have an issue with a delivery, or suddenly a crane stops working and a customer’s process comes to a halt. What matters most then is identifying and fixing the issue as quickly and professionally as possible. Then it turns into a positive. You had a problem, you fixed it,” concludes Bosquet. “People will remember ‘those guys at Konecranes react and fix things fast.’ I think that is so important.”

 

Text: Dan Rider
Photos: Konecranes

 

Three questions

  • Does Konecranes have a strategy involving customer segmentation?
    Jari Myyryläinen, Head of Industry Applications:
    "Yes, we do. We have built customer segmentation models and harmonized them across all of our business units. Our goal is to deliver an excellent customer experience across all industries."
  • How do you educate customers with regard to the technical properties of Konecranes products?
    Tuomas Saastamoinen, Sales Director, Port Cranes:
    "We want to get to our potential future customers early enough to explain that our technical platforms are globally uniform, and that we can utilize our pool of knowledge globally. We want to tell them why we can do it and what concrete benefits it provides to them. We have the volume, scale and platform technologies to excel on a global scale."
  • Are there methods or tools you use to assess customer relationships?
    Antoine Bosquet, Sales Director, Port Cranes, EMEA:
    "We have new analytical tools to help monitor and measure the relationship between Konecranes and our current and potential customers. We need to measure customer relationships on many levels.  If our business is to continue growing in size and profitability, potential customers need to like our way of doing business and understand the extra value that our products and services bring."