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Episode 8: Online Tools vs. personal service


Text of the current episode:

Julia Ures: Nice to have you with us today for a new episode of In Sight KTR, today’s title is “Personal Service versus Online Tools”. And whether this verse contains a certain contradiction, whether this is a contradiction, that’s the question we want to address today. And also, of course, other questions that you have submitted to us, because you diligently send us questions to Thank you very much for that! And some of them I can pass on today to the two experts here in the studio at the digital trade fair stand. We have Marie-Christin Maier with us today. She is a key account and project manager and, since recently, also product manager for EVOLASTIC, and has been with KTR for six years. I think the position of product manager is still relatively new, may we still congratulate you?

Marie-Christin Maier: Yes, it is still okay to congratulate. Thank you very much!

Julia Ures: Then I do so hereby. Also here in the middle with us Hendrik Stroet, application consultant in hydraulics, with the company for nine years. Mr Stroet, what does an application consultant in hydraulics do?

Hendrik Stroet: I mainly take calls and e-mails and help customers to find the right product, especially in the hydraulics in the cooler area, so that the customer can install it in his application.

Julia Ures: Our topic today is service, and that is why I would like to start with the first question. Quick questions, compact answers, we have 20 minutes. By the way, the two of them do not know the questions and have blindly and courageously taken them on here, which makes me very happy. I would like to direct the first question, Mrs. Maier, to you. Service is of course important for all of us, we have a lot to do with service in our daily lives. You often miss it when it is lacking, so then you notice it. When was the last time that a particularly good personal service made a very strong impression on you?

Marie-Christin Maier: I don’t think that’s so easy to say, because I think service or advice is always a little bit of a decision-making aid in life. And I think that exists in many ways, whether I get advice when I, let’s say, go into town and buy an item of clothing or also in a life decision. I think the best advice I’ve had recently was actually in a professional context, when I decided to do my Master’s degree four years ago. For me, that was advice I received in a professional environment from my supervisor and also from my parents. Where I say, that was a piece of service and advice for me, how do I develop further in my life? And I’m very happy that I didn’t have to make the decision alone. And that was a kind of service for me, a decision-making aid.

Julia Ures: Mr. Stroet, when I thought a little about when personal service has particularly impressed me, you quickly reach points where service really surprises you, where you didn’t expect this scope or depth. Is that something that distinguishes service?

Hendrik Stroet: Yes, in my area or in our area it is often the case that the customer calls and has a concrete problem and I can tell him out of the blue that you take this and that for your application and it works. And that way I can serve the customer quickly, the service is done quickly and it is also attractive for the customer.

Julia Ures: When was the last time you were particularly impressed by personal service?

Hendrik Stroet: Good question.

Julia Ures: Can you think of an example?

Hendrik Stroet: I was already thinking about this when you were allowed to answer. In principle, it’s similar to what I just said, that I just have my question and the question is answered directly and that’s that!

Julia Ures: Mrs. Maier, a question that has reached us is addressed to you. Your work as product manager at KTR entails a strong personal service component. Notwithstanding that, there is a multitude of online tools that offer support there, so at least flanking. To put it exaggeratedly: Man meets machine. How do you deal with this contrast at KTR? Or is it perhaps not a contrast at all?

Marie-Christin Maier: Not necessarily. I think it always depends on the customer. And I think we know that from our personal environment. Some customers like to be advised personally, and others are happy to have a look around themselves first. I think that is exactly the idea we offer at KTR. That means that the customer can call me as product manager and get the personal service, but can also get information online. That’s why it’s so positive that KTR is so diversely positioned that the customer has both options and doesn’t have to rely on one of them. This means that our online tools are available to the customer 24/7. He can inform himself comprehensively, he can design his product himself, but if he is unsure, he always has the contact data of each area and can also contact us personally and notify us.

Julia Ures: Mr Stroet, you are an application consultant for hydraulics at KTR. That’s how we started the conversation. To what extent can this activity also be transferred to the digital world? Digital possibilities have recently become an increasingly important topic. And where do your colleagues stand and how can they actually be transformed, in the best sense of the word?

Hendrik Stroet: Specifically with regard to the online tools, it is the case that up to now, for example, we have calculated designs for the customer and then been able to say to the customer: Look, you can take cooler XY or you can take one size bigger. Now the customer can do that himself, at least in many areas. They simply go to the homepage, they use the online tools, they can enter their data themselves. If data changes, they can change it themselves. So most of the time he doesn’t need me at all. But if they have specific questions, they can come back to us and ask for advice if they need it or want it.

Julia Ures: If you hear a few noises in the background, it is because we are recording our episodes in a very real environment and of course there is work going on and sometimes noises go along with it. So don’t be surprised, we’re on a company site and that’s naturally part of it, that there’s a lot of work going on. Ms Maier, in your opinion, how has the service demand of customers changed again as a result of digitalisation?

Marie-Christin Maier: Yes, definitely. I think we are used to working much more digitally, especially now in the current situation. Many customers are in their home offices, which also means that the personal contact with the customer on site has of course become much less. This means that it is precisely because of this fact that it is important for us to be digitally available to the customer. And I think that service has changed a bit in this respect and the customer also expects that we as KTR have an open ear for him digitally or offer him support. And that’s why I think now is the right time to continue to focus on such topics.

Julia Ures: Mr Stroet, you just said that today I can easily register my needs digitally and then get a solution. Do you also hear this more often, that someone says, yes, I know about these possibilities, but it’s just nice to talk to you now and then and can you help me personally in this case?

Hendrik Stroet: Yes, of course we have many customers who want to go a bit off the peg and not just have the standard product that we have in stock, but who want to have another vent hole in it or want the bellhousing to be a bit longer because another pump has to be attached and the like. And we can map a lot of this or a large part of it in the online tools, so the customer can do that all by himself. But in the conversations or when we talk on the phone or via Teams or the like, I still always give a hint that you could do it this way or that way, that you could choose an alternative here. And so these alternatives come into the conversation for the customer, which he may not necessarily be able to see directly via an online tool or something similar.

Julia Ures: Mrs Maier, another question that has reached us. You implement the online tools in cooperation with the in-house IT department. And the question is: How is the cooperation between the individual departments actually?

Marie-Christin Maier: Very good on the whole.

Julia Ures: How can we imagine this in practice?

Marie-Christin Maier: It’s not always that easy in general, because as a project manager and classic mechanical engineer, I’m of course totally unfamiliar with the field, for example, when it comes to programming the tool. It’s great that we have, as you said, the in-house KTR IT department with our computer scientists in the background. But it has to be said that it really works great. We actually have this synergy right here, where I sit as project manager, but Mr. Stroet, for example, supports us as an application consultant, who brings the specific knowledge for the respective online tool, whether from one of our product areas or application areas. And then, so to speak, our IT department, where our computer scientists come along and we really do active project work. We have regular team meetings where we work together and keep working on prototypes until the customer sees the finished product. So it sometimes takes a year until the finished product comes together after all. It is a long time that we work on this together as a team.

Julia Ures: Mr Stroet, are topics from IT actually also included so that the tools can be further optimised?

Hendrik Stroet: Yes, I can’t tell you anything specific, because I’m not from IT, of course, but things come up again and again in discussions. We have just launched a new design tool for water coolers. And it was set up by IT in such a way that other products also fit into this framework. I don’t understand any of this, but my colleagues in IT understand it one hundred percent.

Julia Ures: That’s fine.

Hendrik Stroet: They can also explain it to me and then that is completely sufficient. And then you can use this framework again for the next product, which we might then want to present online. So the answer is yes.

Julia Ures: Mrs Maier, is there an online tool that you are particularly proud of or that you would like to present to us here now? And can you perhaps give us a concrete example of the added value?

Marie-Christin Maier: Mhm (affirmative). As I said, we have launched the new online tool for cooling systems, but recently we also launched an online tool for our clamping elements, for the CLAMPEX clamping elements. And it has to be said that we have introduced a very comprehensive new tool, which actually already had a similar structure. But we have noticed that the requirements of our customers are simply diverse. That means that the customer wants to have all the tools at a glance when he does the calculation. That means he wants to download 3D data directly, look at assembly instructions, get catalogue information, and of course go directly to the KTR shop and order the product. And that is really the advantage of our online tools or where we are actually very proud of them. The customer doesn’t have to register here, he has all the services at KTR really free of charge at a glance. And I think that is so great with this online tool, but actually with every online tool, that we currently offer this service. I think that’s really a great thing.

Julia Ures: Mr. Stroet, if you yourself are interested in a product and are perhaps a private customer on the net or something, if you have the choice or perhaps also a service, if you have the choice, online there’s a form or also the possibility of contacting by e-mail or also personally by telephone or in some other way directly, which way do you choose?

Hendrik Stroet: I usually choose the online way, so that I can look at the things, that I can read about them, that I can download drawings, that I can look at the things concretely, or then again, as in our example, I can download a 3D model and integrate it directly into my application, that’s the easiest way for me.

Julia Ures: Mrs Maier, what is it like for you when you have the choice of many different channels or ways of making contact? What do you choose?

Marie-Christin Maier: Mainly online, I would say. Definitely! I think it always depends. If you’re thinking about a larger investment, I think it’s true that you might like to get advice in person. But I think when it comes to private life, you quickly find yourself saying, oh, I’ll take a look online, I’ll inform myself digitally, because I actually have almost all the options at a glance.

Julia Ures: Mrs Maier, now we talk a lot about the customers and what you offer them in terms of online tools. You also have something for the dealers. What is available for them, for example?

Marie-Christin Maier: It is now the case that we offer our online tools not only for our customers as a target group, but of course also for our sales partners, for example our dealers. This means that they also want to use this service, of course, but they also want to act as an independent partner to their customers. That’s why we now offer personalised online tools especially for our dealers. That means they can work with their own logo and can really design the online tools specifically for them, but use the technology, i.e. the web-based services of KTR, which we develop ourselves, on their own platform and can work with it.

Julia Ures: How does that resonate with the traders?

Marie-Christin Maier: Very good. Definitely! It is, of course, a service that they are perhaps not used to from other coupling manufacturers and that is, of course, another argument for working more with KTR than perhaps with other partners in coupling technology or in drive technology in general.

Julia Ures: But something like that is actually easier to discuss in personal contact, isn’t it? If you suggest to the dealers, we can also provide you with this solution?

Marie-Christin Maier: Yes, definitely. But it has to be said that at the end of the day it’s really IT talking to IT, because it’s really about the integration of web services into websites, etc. So the contact always goes through sales, through us as application consultants, but in the end we are really blessed that we have our IT department, which can then also, let’s say, communicate with the customer at eye level and then really implement it the way our dealer wants it, for example.

Julia Ures: We are getting through the questions quickly today. We still have a little time for more. Please feel free to send us your suggestions for topics and your questions for the next episodes. And I would like to slowly close the round with the question: Is it really a contrast, personal service versus online tools? Is it a contradiction today and what does the future look like, Mr Stroet?

Hendrik Stroet: As I briefly said earlier, it has to complement each other. If the customer knows the product to some extent, which is actually a prerequisite for our products, he knows that he wants a ROTEX or he knows that he wants a water cooler. Of course he knows the difference. So he goes into the tool and selects the standard product. But if he needs more, if he doesn’t get certain things out of the tool that go beyond the standard, then we have to intervene again and then the customer can call us and get this additional information.

Julia Ures: Now Mr Stroet has submitted and said that it is a mixture that will probably also take place in the future. How do you imagine service in the future, Mrs Maier?

Marie-Christin Maier: I think similarly. Of course, I still live for online tools, so you have to say, I think that will be the future, definitely. But as Mr Stroet said, anything that goes beyond the standard, that is customised, that is unusual, that requires special parameters, I don’t think we will get around having personal contact with the customer. Of course, it must also be said that the online tools are fed with the knowledge of our application consultants. That means that without the application advisor, who acts in the background, there will also be no online tool. And that’s why I think we will always need both.

Julia Ures: We now have the opportunity to perhaps receive a topic suggestion from you. Mr. Stroet, what should we actually propose as a topic in one of the next episodes of “In Sight KTR”?

Hendrik Stroet: To be honest, I’m a bit stumped on that one. Good question. I don’t have anything concrete.

Julia Ures: Ms Maier, do you have any ideas about what might be interesting for our viewers and listeners?
Marie-Christin Maier: I know of some topics that are still running in the background and I believe that we still have some exciting things in store for the customer. Industry 4.0, I believe, is a topic that is definitely moving the mechanical engineering sector. We must not forget Green Company, where KTR is currently also very active. So I think we can not only learn a lot from others at the moment, I think others can also learn a lot from us. And I think these are exciting topics that we can still look at.

Julia Ures: Mrs Maier and Mr Stroet, thank you very much for our discussion!

Hendrik Stroet: With pleasure!

Julia Ures: And to you, of course, thank you very much for watching and listening. Feel free to recommend us to others with “In Sight KTR”. You can find the videocast on YouTube and on the KTR website. And of course you can listen to the podcast wherever podcasts are available. We would be very happy if you would join us for the next episode of “In Sight KTR”. Thank you and goodbye!

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