Navigating the Winds of Change

Navigating the Winds of Change

For elevator companies to remain competitive today, they must have well-trained managers. Training programs should yield not only improved sales, but sales that can be sustained and built upon due to outstanding, straightforward and, above all, honest and ethical customer service. Best practices implemented at the management level will trickle down and permeate every facet of a company, in turn strengthening its reputation and — with any luck — its profit.    

During the past 10 years, most elevator companies have experienced financial instability as a result of the global economic crisis. In the years to come, elevator businesses will continue to be exposed to change. It is imperative that elevator company managers be aware of, and learn to anticipate, trends. If they do, they will be ahead of the curve and profit from the changing environment. 

In addition to technological trends, business managers must understand those of the economic and geopolitical variety. For example, the extreme volatility of currency rates caused by the diminishing dominance of the U.S. dollar as a currency reference, the falling price of oil and the lack of political agreement among global leaders are factors affecting business today. Such topics are part of an effective management training program. The “financialization” of some economies, which leads to corporations being driven by purely financial interests and to nations turning inward and not participating in global exchanges, is also covered. Some trends are positive for the elevator industry, and these are also discussed in effective training programs. For example, urbanization, democratic progress in emerging markets and the aging population in developed markets present many opportunities.  

Modern training programs should revolve around customer needs: how to identify them and offer a unique and superior proposal.

Modern training programs should revolve around customer needs: how to identify them and offer a unique and superior proposal. What’s right for one customer might not be right for another. To illustrate, the trend toward energy-efficient, “green” systems has led to inappropriate products being sold in some instances. For example, a gearless, machine-room-less system with a regenerative system is sometimes offered to even low traffic buildings when an ecological hydraulic system would have been a better solution. This might yield an immediate sales boost but hurt the legitimacy of the product and company in the long run. 

Every building has a specific solution, and energy consumption mainly depends on usage intensity and frequency, not just on the rated power of the elevator. Businesses are not obliged to train customers, but, at least, sales pitches should be straightforward and not misleading.

Customers’ Changing Expectations

Innovations by companies in completely different industries shape customers’ behavior and bring new demands to the way elevator companies do business. Let’s review how some of these trends affect a few business functions. 

During the 21st century, design will play the same role that technology did in the last century. There are many types of design: product, supply chain, service and organizational. Design innovations will be passed along to those in the elevator industry, from manufacturers to distributors to installers to maintenance companies. 

Simple, smart product design from companies such as Apple is inevitably pushing all R&D departments to integrate state-of-the-art features into their products. High-end design can go hand-in-hand with low prices, as companies such as IKEA have proven by managing to thrive in a declining industry. Instead of participating in an impulsive race to add more and more new features to products and services, sometimes it is better to offer just one or two new, well-thought-out features.

Due to innovations being rolled out in other industries, customers have become more demanding — not only about product design, but also delivery systems. Quick delivery and transparency will soon become standard. Free, same-day delivery (in certain cities and with a subscription) is advertised by Amazon, and customers (particularly those belonging to the Millennial Generation) have come to expect it.

With the rise of 3D printing, same-day delivery (viewed as unreasonable a few years ago) might become a reality soon. 3D printing promises to revolutionize the spare-parts business, whereby companies can email drawings, instead of delivering physical products. Manufacturers and specialty distributors should take note if they do not want to lose this lucrative part of the business.

Although they are being implemented almost everywhere, transparent tracking systems that allow customers to track their orders from their smartphones still have a long way to go in our industry. This example is a reflection that resistance to change is not due to technological reasons, but to management’s hesitance to accept change.

If there is a clear gap between what a customer demands and what companies offer, it is in the field of service. Huge investments are dedicated to product design and development, compared to what is often minimal effort related to service design. Service design requires an open mind and a determination to involve the technical personnel, who will need to hone their customer-service skills. 

Managers would be wise to look at organizational innovations such as Holacracy®, which combines structure and discipline in a peer-to-peer workplace. Home working, flexible working hours, gradual retirement and lifelong learning, among others trends, can enhance work quality and productivity, and naturally give way to different organizations. 

The following quote by American author and philosopher Eric Hoffer reflects the attitude we should all have toward lifelong training:

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

José María Compagni is managing director at Spain-based Docensas, which offers online training for elevator personnel with a focus on management. He is an associate professor at IE University, School of Architecture and Design, general secretary of Laboratoire Europeen d’Anticipation Politique Representative and an institutional member of the World Future Studies Federation.

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