Genuinely seeing things from the customer’s perspective
Arnon seeks to gain an in-depth understanding of its customers’ needs and feel the pulse of their business. Close collaboration helps customers to succeed and makes life easier.
So the truth is not forgotten. This is what Arnon’s Sales Director, Mikko Mäkinen, had to say about the view from his office out to the production facilities at the Tampere site. A whiteboard stands out from the scene. It has a list of some of the company’s customers, including some major exporters. All of the names are confidential, so we can say no more about them.
We are here to discuss Arnon’s new way of working with its customers. There is a long list of questions about customer intimacy, an approach that has taken the world by storm in recent years. It is about much more than just customer orientation, a term that has seen much longer use. How is Arnon doing things differently today than it did before?
Mäkinen springs a surprise on your correspondent. “Nothing has changed! Without even thinking much about it, we have instinctively been working like this for a long time. Now we have a framework for it. Customers have always been at the centre of what we do, and we have always looked at things from the customer’s perspective,” he says.
No more navel-gazing
Arnon is satisfied with this policy, and intends to continue with it and refine it further. Above all, customer intimacy at the company manifests itself in the form of commitment and listening to the customer – not trying to force products onto customers. Mäkinen can put himself in the customer’s position, and his personal experience working for major international companies on the other side of the negotiating table has prepared him well for this. “I have seen companies working closely with customers but still staring at their own feet. We do not just look to the customer – everything we do is reflected from the customer’s perspective. The customer is the keyhole through which we look at the world,” he says.
Hmm… Not that simple after all. As a small company, how can Arnon understand the world of its major customers and their needs, restrictions, opportunities and challenges? “The only way is to be deeply involved with customers: call them and meet them frequently, ask them questions and show genuine interest, introduce new perspectives to discussions and inspire them. And ask questions: have you thought about this? Do you know about this?”
Fluently, flexibly and rapidly
A more intimate approach to customer management benefits customers in several ways. Above all, it is beneficial for the end customer who pays, invests time and evaluates quality. Collaboration becomes easier when your partner is on the same wavelength – they immediately understand what you are talking about and there is no need to explain things over and over. “Just as the right partner can help you to succeed, the wrong partner may be a risk or a burden. Nobody can get by on their own in the modern world. The partner needs to provide value and everything has to work in order for everyone to succeed. When the collaboration is genuine, committed and seamless, the partner is able to react to issues independently and flexibly without needing to ask questions or place additional orders,” Mäkinen continues.
The pace of the world is constantly increasing, and end-customers are setting the tempo. Lead times are a critical factor for competitiveness: the fastest supplier wins the contract, even if they are a bit more expensive, so the customer can start earning money. “This is why Arnon works closely with its customers: we are able to rapidly respond to the requirements of global competition. We are committed to our customers, we invest and develop operations with them and in support of their success.”
Tailor-made solutions based on expertise
There is a substantial difference between a component retailer with bulk manufacturing and a service company that supports its customers’ success. Collaboration will hit the rocks straight away if one of the parties is unwilling to provide service and the other party does not wish to receive service. “That is why we select our customers carefully. We think carefully about who we want to enter in-depth collaboration with, who we are willing to invest in and who is also willing to make their own commitment to collaboration. The whole thing falls down if only one of the parties is making a real effort. It is not possible to serve everyone with this level of intensity, so we need to think who we can work with to truly enable success,” Mäkinen states. Collaboration focuses on commitment, trust, openness and a long-term perspective. “We sincerely want to help our customers to succeed. It is also in our interests for our customers’ and end customers’ businesses to thrive when things are done smarter, more cost efficiently and more profitably for everyone.”
Arnon moulds a tailored solution for every customer using the array of technologies and expertise at its disposal – the same template cannot be used for everyone. The experienced sales director says that very few companies are willing to go the extra mile for customers. “Customers are important to us. Often, they are our friends. And we do not leave friends in the lurch – we have to be willing to go out of our way for them. It is our job to save our customers time, make their lives easier and help them succeed. In the end, it is about feelings, and the feeling must be reciprocated. We do not do customer satisfaction surveys – we aim to be so close to our customers that we can detect whether they are satisfied from the tone of their voice. This is how we work, because this is the genuine article.”