Thanks to an internal reassessment of the customer service methods, a new way of interpreting the traditional relation between supplier and customer is generated.
United to change customer service, to make it evolve with characteristics developed on the basis of the vision of the using companies. The Tissue Units of Valmet www.valmet.com – Italy, Sweden, United States and Canada – have collaborated on a project that changes the vision of service. Best Customer Experience is its name.
The project is divided into three main stages, i.e. Planning of tissue production, Building of tissue production and Management of tissue production, and has envisaged a process, whereby the companies in the sector applying to Valmet are supported along a pathway that can be implemented side-by-side.
Laura Scek, Application Engineer and Head of Communication and Marketing for Valmet’s Gorizia unit tells us what inspired the decision to create a programme dedicated to tissue. It is a question of method – she explains. «The idea came from the need to get closer to our customers – whether consolidated or potentially new – with a completely different approach from the traditionally commercial one, which implies the proposal of one’s own product or service. The idea behind it is rather to understand the customer and his/her real needs, shifting the focus from the mere business transaction to walking in his shoes, helping the customer understand how to solve problems, in short, “making life easier”».
Without prejudice to the solutions and services that Valmet has studied over the years for companies operating in the tissue sector, the novelty lies in the method by which one gets to choose and determine which of the proposed technologies is best suited for a specific need. It is, in substance, a «path of discovery and understanding. This is the basis for building mutual trust and a relationship with precious added value, a common ground made up of uniformity of intent».
The vision of the project also goes beyond the typical relationship that is normally created between the supplier and the user, eventually involving workers as well. «The programme entails raising the awareness of the employees, of whom we try to develop and value individual skills, guiding them towards a different operating model based on shared values». We intend to create «a uniform way of acting – while respecting the cultural differences that characterize a multinational such as Valmet – by acting as advisors for our clients, experienced and competent guides who are able to guide them in their choices».
All this without neglecting the role of corporate ownership, whose task is «setting out the guidelines for a way of operating that is aimed at achieving sustainability, growth, ethics and positive competitiveness».
Training at the basis of the project
In the Tissue Units of the multinational, company we planned training workshops dedicated to the Best Customer Experience. A total of 37 workshops organized, at global level, by internal staff and external experts in corporate communication. «All Valmet staff members participated in workshops, belonging to every level and in corporate function» continues Scek.
A substantial work of introspection of the methodologies used, thanks to which «it was possible to analyse one’s way of working, a sort of identification with our customers and, on the basis of the analysis of the criticalities, we tried to find solutions and improvements that may have positive repercussions on the operations. In this direction, all the management of each unit, including the Tissue Management Team at global level, strongly supported the project».
For each of the three phases in which the project is divided, communication methods with the customers were analysed, i.e. they way in which Valmet’s professionals – each according to their own skills – relate to it.
A summary was then carried out, to draw the key points of the new approach to the market. What emerged from the workshops was collected, classified, analysed, and subsequently formed the basis for implementing the necessary corrective measures.
The complex work that was done in the field with the employees was remarkable, Scek points out, recalling that the company worked on this project for about three years. «The project remained in the planning phase for some time, partly because of the organizational complexity, partly because the definition and objectives phase has required quite a long time. When it was presented to employees, however, the project was enthusiastically welcomed, though it implied a rather remarkable individual and common commitment».
Once the project was started, «a lot of ideas emerged to improve the activities in terms of quality and relationship with the customers. Some customers were involved to highlight the positive aspects of Valmet that they most appreciate – in this regard we asked some of them to present their opinion in a video, talking about the work during a specific project, and particularly interesting elements have emerged. They were also asked to state, above all, what the aspects are that they think may be improved – and this aspect was even more useful for us ».
The voice of the companies involved
An important part of the project concerned the comparison with the client companies – the real recipients of the meaning we gave to the program. Their involvement has always been adopted by Valmet at the end of each project, but on this occasion, it has allowed to reconstruct and improve an operational mode that can be repeated over time. «There was no shortage of surprises», continues the manager, «we received a lot of positive feedbacks, but also valuable observations on how to improve our work. In addition, internal activities were added to manage cultural differences, so that the “Valmet way” of presenting itself is uniform everywhere in the world, while respecting differences».
Essentially, what changes for companies that turn to the multinational company? First, «our different role», explains Scek. «The figure of the supplier is replaced by that of the Advisor, a guide who does not only provide commercial proposals, but also gives an added value to the support given to the customer».
During the project, we considered all aspects that affect the supplier-customer relationship: security, quality, contractual management, business flow; and we indicated the points for improvement for each sector. This involved «a review of roles and the way we work across the business» and not just in the sales department. «The sales and supply process are clearly defined through the planning of the Customer journey in all its phases – all employees participated in its construction – and in the redefinition of each role and responsibility in every corporate function. The Customer Journey has highlighted both the points that Valmet intends to improve and those that are already consolidated, but whose strength we want to further increase».
The programme started around ten years ago, it was then relaunched three years ago with a new look, and is still going on, though with different modes. The analysis of what emerged from the internal meetings was taken to the next level, involving the specific features of each component. «As previously mentioned, at the end of the internal workshops, different critical issues were classified and analysed for each company department. This selection was further examined individually by each department. Then, improvements were devised for each point, and they are part of the goals of the department and the individual employees. In addition, each worker has individual objectives that are assessed on a six-month basis».
The pathway is deliberately in progress, the aim is precisely that of establishing a method for continuous refinement. «Every year the list of improvements grows, as the previous refinements are completed and implemented, thereby creating a constant flow of activity. A “supervising” group was also appointed, which includes members of all Tissue Units and is in charge of the project» – Laura Scek is the contact person for the Italian Unit of Gorizia – «the group meets every month to analyse the improvements, and suggest further measures and activities. In this way it is also possible to compare improvements of the various units at global level and create useful “benchmarks”. In addition, every year we choose three improvements at global level, which are then monitored by representatives of all units – therefore three heterogeneous groups – aiming at solving macro-criticalities that have been identified and shared by all units ».
We would like the Best Customer Experience project to become an innovative model that can be always implemented. «We believe in the value of continuity for this work» states Scek. «Our ambition is that this becomes our constant operational method, the standard procedure for everything we do».
“Human to Human”
The commitment, in terms of time and work required, is no small thing. Finally, we ask the person in charge of this project to explain why Valmet has decided to put itself to test, embarking in such a challenging project.
She explains that the Best Customer Experience project certainly required a huge investment of human and economic resources. «The basic idea is that we believe both our customers and Valmet employees may benefit from a change in way we work with our customers. In addition, the collaboration and partnership with our customers becomes a key aspect for the success of the programme».
A different way of approaching – Scek defines it a «new philosophy» – which is the result of the project and which, in practice, changes the paradigm of relations between the supplier and the customers. «The added value being generated significantly improves human relations, paving the way to a greater mutual trust and a better cooperation. We move from a “Business to Business” relation to a “Human to Human” version, which radically changes the relation itself and the way to deal with communication».
We substantially change our way to interact with our reference market. «Instead of focussing exclusively on products or services to offer, the needs become our priority, the relation with the customer is transformed: we offer our support based on what companies expect from us, and not vice-versa, and finally, we want to share the values that our customers consider essential». In this way, a different type of service is created, as compared to the typical service. Obviously, the increased security and trust perceived may lead to a more durable, long-term business relationship.