Dr. Stefan Puntke, Dr. Christian Meyre, Dr. Hans-Jürgen Klischat, and Klaus-Martin Meier, Refratechnik Cement GmbH, discuss the importance of good customer service in the cement and refractory industries.
An English word derived from the Latin servitium, ‘service’, can be described as a contribution that has been provided to a customer in addition to the core object of a business relationship, which has a material value in addition to a perceived value. For example, a milkman delivers the product, the milk, to the front door in the morning, and a gas station attendant fills the car tank, but also checks the oil and cleans the windshield. Some services are currently experiencing a renaissance, such as delivery services, but others have completely disappeared because they have become obsolete, automated, or are no longer recognised as ‘services’. Others went digital and reappeared through platforms such as ‘online helpdesks.’
Ultimately, it has always been economic reasoning on behalf of the customer or the supplier that puts an end to service. Holistic considerations beyond pure cash flow can lead to a completely different evaluation, as service in its extended definition is hardly directly quantifiable. In the relationship between the cement industry and the refractory industry, the exchange of experience and the transfer of knowledge plays a special role beyond the basics, such as engineering and analytical services. This is not about product marketing, but rather about the sharing of tested and proven specialist knowledge and experience, both internally and externally of a given organisation. This has been the claim of the REFRA-Academy for over 50 years. The service offerings of the REFRA-Academy range from networking platforms to training courses with customisable content, delivered through various venues on site as well as virtually.
Sharing the knowledge
In 1970, a small event took place with the objective of enabling an open technical exchange between the decision-makers in Refratechnik and in customer industries. This event, later called the REFRA-Colloquium, became a meeting point for experts and decision-makers in the industry and adapted its scope and format over the years based on regular evaluations of the events. Spin-off formats were created, such as a training event in the 1990s. Ever since, REFRA-Training has hosted 50 participants from up to 35 nations every year for 11 days at a time, and has provided them with in-depth insights into refractory technologies, installation technology, sustainable networking and deeper professional exchange. The event even started going on the road from 2012, with 20 ft containers, ideas, practical solutions, equipment and a team of supervisors to visit customers who could not attend the events. Every event, from the planning stage to the execution, is prepared by a growing team of dedicated employees to ensure that the ultimate goal of sharing expert refractory knowledge is accomplished in a safe, efficient, and cooperative manner.
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