“It’s understandable that after such a long time under lockdown, people want to get out and see other people again, face-to-face, and especially so if you work in the window and door industry,” says Nathan Court, Sales Director. “Like many other industries, it’s one that has been built on good old fashioned social networking and deals done on a handshake at the bar at 2am.
“It shows how profound the effect of lockdown has been that the idea of a crowded bar, and shaking someone’s hand, seems very out of place now!
“Our industry has prospered on the strength of personal relationships, but it’s also thrived on its ability to innovate and adapt,” he continues. “Covid has been the perfect demonstration of that. Remote selling has flourished, we’ve found new ways to communicate with customers and Teams and Zoom have proved that we can be much more efficient with our time.”
Nathan adds that while Covid accelerated the requirement to adopt a different way of doing business, the concept was already in place before lockdown measures were implemented. A restructure at the start of 2020 included taking three field reps off the road, with the remaining two dividing the country between them.
This was supplemented by spending more time in the office and supported by a larger, more capable customer service team.
“For us, it made little sense that some of our most knowledgeable, technically capable team members were spending days on the road, clocking up thousands of miles, when they could deliver just as much value on the phone or over a video call,” explains Nathan.
“When lockdown happened at the end of March, that move to a more efficient, more sustainable model was accelerated. That transition proved to be easier for some than others, which again is understandable when you’ve got used to being on the road for 20 or 30 years, and the same goes for our customers as well,” he continues.
“There are some that have embraced remote meetings, and others who are less willing to adopt it, especially for those who want to get back to normal as lockdown restrictions are being relaxed.
“That’s fine, we are here for customers, to help in any way that we can and we will absolutely visit them in person if required. However, it’s worth pointing out that meetings in person take time – an appointment that might take six weeks to arrange, with a six-hour round trip in the car, can be done tomorrow via Teams!’
This operational shift is echoed in the online platforms we have introduced elsewhere in the business.
These include Sternfenster Plus, an online portal that gives installers access to a regularly updated news feed and the ability to check on the status of their quotes, contracts and deliveries. A standout feature is the live production capacity feed, that gives real time data on capacity across our aluminium and PVC-U lines.
Sternfenster Plus also hosts a wealth of downloadable training and marketing material, as well as accreditations and data sheets on the fabricator’s complete product offering.
This is in addition to EasyAdmin, a CRM dashboard that allows customers to track leads, generate professional quotes, and place orders online. It also provides insight into profit levels and can auto-generate invoice and sales reports.
“We recognise that Zoom is not for everyone, and we are committed to providing the highest level of service to our customers, whether that’s on a video call or in person,” continues Nathan.
“But if we’ve learnt anything from Covid, it’s that we can deliver a much more focused, effective level of service by embracing the technology we have at our disposal.
“And even with an easing of lockdown, it’s clear that we are still in a period of exceptionally high demand – one that has been made even more challenging by the ongoing issue of material supply. The bottom line is that, now more than ever, businesses need to look at ways in which they can be as efficient as possible.
“For some, that will mean more of a willingness to accept a change in culture but the benefits are clear to see,” he concludes. “Our sales growth in Q1 2021 demonstrates that – output of aluminium alone was 101% up on the same period last year! This is a result of our investment in manufacturing, and a reflection of demand, but it wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t embraced the digital tools we have at our disposal – and that includes communicating remotely.”
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