Despite boasting the largest range of non-metallic electrical enclosures ex-stock in the UK, Spelsberg isn’t content to rely simply on its standard product catalogue to grow business. Instead the company has invested heavily in CNC machines and a state-of-the-art assembly line to ensure that it is able to offer bespoke solutions to end-users of all sizes. However, it doesn’t end at investment in machinery.
Chris Lloyd, Spelsberg UK MD, explains why it’s important to invest in people to let your company grow and allow your customer services capabilities to expand.
“We don’t just sell products. We sell solutions.” Over the last couple of years this is a phrase that nearly every component supplier seems to have adopted. This popularity is a good thing for end-users as, unlike many fashionable business catchphrases, this actually means something when it’s followed up by actions.
Namely, good suppliers have realised that they can add value to the product they sell by supporting it with expert knowledge and support. This helps end-users to specify the correct product at the first attempt; allows the supplier to offer advice during the design stages to improve reliability and effectiveness; and maintains communications post-sale to build a relationship more akin to a partnership. Of course a service like this doesn’t happen overnight, it requires commitment from a business to change its operating model and make investments.
Admittedly investment in new machinery and facilities is an important first step. In the case of Spelsberg UK we have invested in three CNC machines, a state-of-the-art assembly line, and a new, larger headquarters - which has increased our warehouse capacity as well as improving the efficiency of our production line.
Over a period of five years this has given us the capability to expand our customisation services to the extent that we have more than tripled our production rate for customised entry solutions and can now source, machine and install complete solutions which are delivered to the end-user ready to plug in and go.
However, for us, the most important investment that can be made when making the change from a product supplier to a solutions partner is an investment in people. You can have the best equipment money can buy, but if you don’t have people with the technical knowledge and the right attitude then you will never be in a position to form long term, trust based relationships with your clients.
If all you’re doing is selling products out of a catalogue, delivering the order and then moving on to the next customer (and there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s a good product with swift delivery), then a salesperson with in a snappy suit and a reliable distribution network is all you need. If you’re aiming to work with your customer throughout specification and beyond, then you need an engaged workforce who is educated in your product and invested in your company’s goals.
This doesn’t happen overnight and requires a reciprocal relationship where employees understand that it’s in their best interests, as well as the company’s, to deliver a premium level service. This doesn’t have to be achieved simply through offers of enhanced remuneration. Investing in training courses and development schemes is extremely effective in motivating a workforce by making them feel valued.
Investing the right people and continuing to develop their skills means that you have a workforce who understand your product range; are ambitious to move forward within the company; and take pride in their work and the reputation of the company.
It’s these qualities that make it possible for a component supplier to work closely with its customers and add value to the products that it sells.