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WARM PEOPLE, HOME LAUNDRIES AND PROHIBITION

Gabriela Vránková, Communications Manager

Gabriela Vránková, communications manager for Eastern Europe, spent half a year working at the Swedish division. She watched the workings of the headquarters up close and took a crack at coordinating several global companies. Moreover, she experienced the chilliest summer in Scandinavian history and decided that Northerners are not as cold as people say.


What project were you in charge of in Stockholm?

I was a member of the divisional communication team, and my job was to prepare a communication plan for an entire new field of business. In the past few years, Atlas Copco has bought two companies focused on products for the energy segment. This opened up new markets, and it was necessary to prepare a communication strategy for this new field and integrate those companies’ marketing activities. It was completely different from the work I do in Prague.

You are used to coordinating communication in many Eastern European countries. Compared to that, the two new companies sound like a breeze.

I am used to working in an international environment. But from Stockholm I was coordinating one team from the UK and one from the US. There was the problem of having to rely on videoconferencing, plus the time zones. All meetings took place in the late afternoon, when people in America were starting their workday.

Besides that, each company had a different environment, operated on different business models and, of course, had completely different internal processes. We therefore tried to create a communication strategy that would follow Atlas Copco principles while taking both companies’ existing relationships into account. In short, plugging a new company into the Atlas Copco structure is a very protracted process and lasts for years.

Your previous experience had been only with the Customer Centre. Are you glad to have got a look at the division?

I think my stay was beneficial to both sides. Personally, it helped me get a direct feel for the processes at the division and see how they work. Now I have greater understanding of them. On the other hand, my colleagues were happy to tap my experience from the Customer Centre. They aren’t in direct contact with the end customer themselves, so they can’t picture many of our common concerns. For example, they were really amused when I started to plan Christmas in the middle of summer. Until then, it had never occurred to them that the events and gifts have to be prepared and ordered sometime in August. Our region is big, and if we want to get it done for all the countries, there is no other way.

Can you compare the two experiences at all? Do you think it is simpler to work at the division and prepare the materials the Customer Centres are then governed by?

The division decides which products will be sold and what the marketing materials will look like. It is a very long, demanding process. After that, their implementation at the Customer Centre is a lot more flexible. You can even see the results of your work faster.

What impression did Sweden make on you?

According to my colleagues, this summer may have been the coldest in history. In Swedish style, they taught me to use every ray of sunlight. I was very pleasantly surprised at how nice and friendly everyone was. I expected cold northerners, but that’s a myth. I would characterize Sweden in three ways: Fika, which is the coffee break, best with sweet pastries. Home laundries with a reservation system that precisely determines your allotted time. And alcohol — I missed the freedom to buy a bottle of wine for dinner anytime I wanted. For people from our country, who are used to beer at restaurants being cheaper than water, it was a big culture shock.

Would you stay there permanently?

Not at the moment. Even though I already miss the activities associated with the new acquisitions. I have to admit that it’s very exciting to deal with something new, which the energy segment and big bolts are to us. The experience at the division is unique, and it is attractive to be part of it. But now I want to use the experience I’ve gathered and focus on implementation among our customers. And mainly to support my team, which handled quite a load while I was away. I’m very proud of them.

Now that you’re back, what is occupying you the most?

Our department handles the flow of information to sales engineers, service technicians, customers and distributors. Altogether, we cover 14 countries, from Poland to Albania. Right now we’re dealing with end-of-year activities, planning next year, this magazine, and the transition to SAP. We have an extensive customer database that we are trying to clean up so that we don’t choke the new system with unnecessary extra data. However, it is a living, constantly changing organism, where a lot of information keeps changing, and more and more gets added. So we have set forth on a general cleaning, and we hope that it will last at least a little while.

What do you use these databases for? Isn’t customer contact the job of the sales and service teams?

Atlas Copco is a commercial company, and each part’s main interest is in supporting the business. And that also goes for us in the communications department. All our activities are intended to support sales. Customer databases help us get important feedback. For example, we conduct regular customer surveys that are comparatively in-depth. We are not only interest in their satisfaction, but also their loyalty. We analyse their behaviour, and then we provide this information to our salespeople.

Don’t they know their own customers better? After all, they are in personal contact with them.

That’s true, but because we provide comprehensive services, sometimes individual salespeople miss the big picture. At big companies, the individual activities are separated — sales, production, maintenance, etc. In our organization, we have specialists in products, product management, and service. They work together, but as in every specialization, they leave details to their qualified colleagues. Then our department puts together the whole picture of how Atlas Copco can improve our services and approach to the customer.

Another big project right now is planning website changes. Why do you want to change it?

We need to keep pace with the times and give visitors what they need from our website. We are focusing more on their behaviour at our site — how they move around it, what they look for, what information they like to read. So the whole structure of the website is changing, the pages will be more interactive, and there will be more links to local activities. And because we want to use all the opportunities the current Internet offers us, we will adapt the home page to the individual visitor. The project is still in its infancy, but we’re all looking forward to the new site. We think people will enjoy returning to it.

Is this somehow associated with the WebCup competition?

Yes. We see digital communication as key. The WebCup has helped arouse each Customer Centre’s employees’ interest in their websites. It has taught them to work with the sites and to use their potential to the fullest. At the same time, through this competition we have tried to stimulate cooperation among the individual business areas in the various countries. I am proud to be the captain to lead the Czech “Prague Eagles” team to a solid second place.

How long did it take you, as a woman, to get oriented in the field of tightening?

It took a while. But I still remember the moment when everything came together and I understood tightening technology. Even though I consider myself to be a thoroughly technical person, I think that tightening is truly a science, and I take my hat off to all my colleagues who meet customers’ new tightening challenges every day.

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