Customer contact in times of the pandemic – (how) is it possible?

The pandemic situation is not easy for any industry. An increasing problem is the shortage of raw material. This will probably also lead to difficulties in supply for us in the coming year. With regard to customer contact, many other problems have to be dealt with since the beginning. Thanks to a strong network of international partners and the usage of new communication technologies, we mostly can cope with limited travel. Nevertheless, sales and service people from internationally operating companies have to get along with special challenges: How do they remain capable of acting? How does customer contact, application advice or service work only at a distance? How is it possible not only to explain systems without on-site appointments, but also to install them? We have asked our partners across the globe and have heard encouraging stories as well as serious perspectives. Share our experiences from Brazil, South Korea, the USA and Germany.

Here at Topas headquarters in Germany, we have been experiencing the effects of the Corona pandemic since more than a year in two ways: As specialists in aerosol research and particle technology, Topas has had the opportunity to play an active role in the containment of the COVID 19 pandemic since its beginning. With our technology and expertise, we accompany research projects in different medical disciplines and support science by reproducing real processes using reference aerosols. On the other hand, we are also feeling the restrictions in global travel. We continue to be a reliable contact via remote-supported installations of our test systems at the customer’s premises or by means of detailed assembly instructions created at short notice.

In Southern America, particularly in Brazil, personal contacts and face-to-face meetings are very important. On the other hand, Brazilians are not risk-averse and open minded towards new technologies. Thus, digital meetings with clients are well-recognised tools and particularly helpful right now. However, due to the persistently very difficult situation, many projects are being put on hold for lack of budget.

South Korea describes the situation of sales less optimistic. The frequency of customer meeting face to face has been reduced clearly. Now, our Asian partner is usually discussing with its customers by e-mails and phone calls instead of personal visits or digital conferences. Good to know is, that Koreans can mostly work in their office as there is no restriction to move.

In the US, the biggest perceived change is the cancellation of multiple annual fairs, whose digital counterparts have been poorly attended. Clear conclusion: Electronic platforms are just not the same and cannot replace a handshake and the beloved smalltalk. The sales department here relies on its unique Topas-products and the previous concept of success: reacting very quickly to customer enquiries and knowing and empathising with the project needs, comments and questions of the customers. Instead of travelling, Zoom conferences and phone calls were and are held and social media was tapped: Customer contacts were made just by being present on LinkedIn.

In analogy to an inspiring quote by one of the most important scientists of modern times, we at Topas have been finding solutions for almost 30 years: “You can never solve problems with the same way of thinking that created them.” (Albert Einstein). In these challenging times, courage for new approaches and a large dose of optimism are the things we would like to wish all our customers and partners and which we expect from ourselves every day.