THE GANTREX "INTRODUCING" SERIES #20
Customer support is a challenging career but one where you see the real difference and positive impact that you can have on a person, a team, or the success of an entire project.
Virginie Craeynest and her team share a single vision and purpose to drive customer delight. Shining the spotlight on the work of her and the team, this latest Introducing Series interview sees Virginie liken herself to the conductor of an orchestra, explaining the vital role that customer support plays, and why pulling together in one direction is vital to everyone’s success.
Please provide some detail on your role within the operation, how long you have been with Gantrex and the main highlights of your career history up to the point you came on board.
I first joined Gantrex back in 2012 working as an Inside Sales Officer for France and the Benelux region. I then progressed to become Back Office Assistance taking on additional responsibility for India before becoming Supply Chain Team Leader in 2020. My next promotion then came in 2021 when I stepped into the role I have now as Customer Support Manager.
Within this role, I am responsible for the customer – intercompany support activities. Along with my team, we manage and track customer projects from the point of order, to ensure that goods are delivered on time and as per the customers’ specification. Alongside this we look after the purchasing of specific additional items such as rails or welding materials, all in all, any additional resources that are needed to help deliver the project on time and on budget.
What exactly does your role include? And how does your activity impact the Gantrex customer experience?
I sometimes liken my role to that of an orchestra conductor, managing the relationships between different teams within the company and on client side, to ensure that all are working in harmony. Communicating directly with a range of internal and external stakeholders from purchasing and planning, to warehousing, supply chain, the quality team and freight forwarders, my role is to keep each project running smoothly. Much of my role is also focused on the delivery of KPIs, and the constant evaluation of processes and claims, to drive forward solutions for continuous improvement and outstanding customer support. I think it’s fair to say that the support myself and my team provide plays a key role in ensuring goods are delivered to their destination on time.
In our industry especially, a strong customer support system is vital. Ensuring that each part of the process is in place, customer expectations are being met and that there is back-up for when things change, that’s the only way that projects of the scale that we manage can run efficiently. There are so many factors that can impact the smooth running of a project, some of which are out of our control. But having a dedicated support resource that is adaptable and flexible, can be effective and solutions focused in high stress situations, then we can keep our promises to customers and projects on track.
Gantrex is a global operation with customers across the world. Do you think different countries or territories have a different understanding of what good customer support means?
It’s true that certain territories have different ways of working and communicating, but overall, every customer, regardless of where they are located, wants their products and projects delivered in the right place, on time and within budget. Whilst there are several cultural differences that we see across regions, having local teams located in so many countries puts us in the very best position to service their needs exactly. Having local knowledge and an appreciation of on-the-ground aspects of works gives us the expertise and insight to be on the front foot at all times. Naturally we run into challenges with different time zones, but we are set up to work with all time zones and have response mechanisms in place to ensure that customers always know that their requirements are being managed. Every customer expects to be handled as our priority and we work hard to ensure that this is reflected in the service and support they receive.
We talk about leadership qualities often throughout the Introducing Series. What does good leadership look like to you?
Good leadership in my view, centers around 3 core traits: the ability to listen, the capacity to trust and the desire to communicate and share a sense of purpose. But without a team that are prepared to follow you, leadership counts for nothing. That’s why I believe teamwork is the true secret to success. For me, teamwork is about all pulling together and working in the same direction – one shared vision and goal, with the customer at the heart of everything we do. A strong team can count on each other, it can show adaptability and flexibility and demonstrate a solution mindset. A strong team also knows when to push the boundaries to maximize customer delight. And importantly a strong team accepts its limitations, accepts that we are all human and trying to do our best, so supporting each other, having open and honest conversations, and learning from mistakes.
This human-centered culture within Gantrex is one of the things that makes me proud to be a part of it. We are a big company but have never lost sight of the people, and their well-being, that makes the company the market leader it is today.
Can you share an example when outstanding teamwork has delivered a solution for a customer support challenge?
We were one of the first teams to be involved in the launch of our new ERP system, and the timing of this coincided with the Covid pandemic. Moving over to a new system is challenging at the best of times, but having to do this whilst working remotely, with several staff members off work due to illness and temporary workers being brought in, all made for a potentially very challenging situation. If handled differently, and without the strong teamwork ethic, this period of change could have had significant impacts on the customer experience due to delays with data migration, access to real time information and much more. Instead, the team pulled together, adapted swiftly to new ways of remote training and communication and in fact in some ways brought the team closer together.
The D365 ERP is now well embedded in our daily operations and is the source for all the important customer information that feeds into the new MyGantrex Customer Portal that is currently being rolled out.
How do you see Gantrex investing in customer support? What’s being done to keep customer support on track?
On a corporate level we can see the significant investment that is being made in customer closeness; investing in new technologies and recruiting and training our people to deliver new ways of working and giving our customers what they need. On a more local scale, the company fully supports new initiatives to ensure that the support team are being given the tools that we need to do our jobs with minimum stress and a real commitment to our wellbeing. I know that customer support is considered a core function of the operation and we are given the scope and support to adapt and grow with the changing needs of our customers, our people, our suppliers, and partners throughout the world.
It’s this sense of continuous improvement that the company commits to for us, as well as our customers, that makes me most excited about our future; knowing that our function will grow and adapt as the company develops and meets its goals.
And finally what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to enter this industry and build a career in customer support?
From the experience that I have gained over the last decade, I would say that a successful career in customer support is built on the ability to be flexible and adapt quickly to change and shifting priorities. An organized approach to work is also critical as is the ability to be able to wear many different hats! Customer support is a challenging career but one where you see the real difference and positive impact that you can have on a person, a team, or the success of an entire project.