Mr. Scherleitner, how do today’s requirements in the welding industry differ to those in previous years?
If we look at the benefits alone, the technological edge in welding technology is clearly leveling out as our competitors are now also able to offer high-quality products, which means that any competitive advantage between individual manufacturers is becoming smaller and smaller.
What consequences might this have on Fronius?
It means that we need to focus more heavily on the customer experience, because nowadays you might just be able to buy perfectly serviceable welding technology on the Internet. Yet what do I do as a customer if I have a problem? We know that it can be a real challenge for the customer to find a respectable company which also offers a full service package, meaning that nothing is left to be desired and, above all, no problems are left unresolved.
What does that mean in reality?
If an excellent welding system on its own is no longer sufficient to be commercially successful then we must be strategic and focus more on developing the “perfect customer relationship”. We were already aware of this 20 years ago, at a time when nobody could even come close to challenging us technology-wise. Since then, large investments have been made in order to perfect our sales and service structure.
First of all we established international subsidiaries in all strategically important markets around the globe, which operated as the respective national headquarters. Yet the more market share we acquired in each country and the more widespread the customer base became, the more Fronius realized that we wanted to be able to guarantee perfect levels of service and customer proximity on a local scale.
» Our customers from all over the world are able to experience Fronius in their own geographical and cultural sphere. Each team knows all about their market, local customs and specific market requirements. Shared culture will strengthen customer proximity. «Harald Scherleitner, Global Director Sales & Marketing, Business Unit Perfect Welding
You mean the Fronius Sales and Service Partners?
That’s right! Fronius’ answer to the continuous growth – at the sales and service level – was ultimately to invest in a service microcosm: our globally distributed, but closely meshed network of VSP teams. Of course product development was by no means compromised as a result, because our love of technical progress remains unshakable.
However, more recently we have been able to expand the VSP structure even further – or maybe “fine tune it” would be more accurate – in order to be able to perfect the service.
How is a VSP team organized and what exactly can customers expect from it?
It is made up of a small team of office and field-based sales employees. Field sales are often combined with application and service technicians who support the customer on site with the production task at hand. In reality this means that one person is dedicated to helping you with repairs, welding technology problems, and sales. Alongside any repair and maintenance work, this means that your welding technology challenges can be resolved quickly and easily. Furthermore, the customer can also request welding trials, which we either carry out on site on their systems or at our own premises.
A spare and wearing parts service, i.e. the balancing out of stock levels at the customers’ premises, is also included and replacement or lend devices are ready to hand. This means that production does not have to stop if a system cannot be repaired on site.
What else does the sales and service network provide?
Our customers from all over the world are able to experience Fronius in their own geographical and cultural sphere. Each team knows all about their market, local customs and specific market requirements. Geographical proximity is key – the teams are strategically located at particularly favorable points so that they can react extremely quickly if the customer experiences a production problem. Downtimes can thereby be minimized or even avoided altogether. With some customers, this is even part of the contract.
It is also natural that a shared culture will strengthen customer proximity. Austrians get supported by an Austrian and Indians get supported by an Indian. The mere fact that you speak the same language helps to avoid irritations and the customer gets exactly what they need.
If the customer is uncertain what it is they need to solve a problem, how do they know which sales, service, or application service to contact? And who is the contact person?
We know that customers usually expect solutions that are not only delivered quickly, but that are also simple and straightforward. That is why the individual teams are reduced to just one contact person whom customers can turn to with any inquiries. As far as the customer is concerned, they only ever have to deal with the same person. They then take charge of all background processes, such as coordinating with all the necessary colleagues in our sophisticated network, boosting response times once again.
If you had to describe the VSP idea and the importance of the system in brief, what would you say?
The complete peace-of-mind package. Any customer who opts for a welding system from Fronius also receives a totally unique welding technology service as standard!