For more than a year and a half, all of our lives have been shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and much has changed. The latest issue of our customer magazine seranews, for example, was being created again, just like the 2020 issue remotely – and that is working very well. But what does it actually look like in departments at sera where remote working is simply not possible? How has the pandemic affected the work in customer service at sera ProDos GmbH? A report.
New Year 2020: People on all continents, whether old or young, poor or rich, are once again looking forward to a new year full of inspiration and hope. Unfortunately, hope is abruptly shattered with the first report of a new lung disease that has emerged in China. In February, Germany’s skiers were still whizzing across the slopes of neighbouring Austria, feeling safe and carefree despite the ongoing pandemic situation in neighbouring Italy. But from the winter sports metropolis of Ischgl, the lung disease that was now known as COVID-19 spread with a veracity that no one thought was possible.
Life as we knew it in Europe collapsed, Germany issued a lockdown on 16 March 2020, which came into effect on 22 March 2020. Schools, kindergartens, department stores, pubs, cinemas and car dealerships are just a sample of the list of public activities now forced to close. All of a sudden, digitalisation with the keyword „home office“ was being driven forward in Germany as never before in the internet age. sera also moved many workplaces to a remote setup, safe at home to protect its employees. This may not be a problem for VDU workstations, but what about our technicians in the field who assemble and maintain pumps and systems?
Do our technicians get access authorisation on-site? What does working look like in terms of hygiene measures? What danger are our sera staff exposing themselves to?
All these questions remained unanswered. In 2019, we did everything we could to fill the order books for the aftersales market and set the course for double-digit growth. And, suddenly, none of it mattered. Based on these great unknowns, we decided to reduce the accumulated overtime of our technicians and even let individual working time accounts run into a deficit.
At the end of March 2020, the sera Group announced short-time work and we already made some calculations in the sera ProDos customer service department about how many man-days and how much turnover we would probably lose, but everything turned out differently. Already after Easter 2020, we had no problems obtaining access authorisations from our customers, all customers suddenly wanted to use the quiet time due to Corona to carry out maintenance and assembly in their companies and the demand for maintenance by our staff did not stop.
Service trips with more than one seranian only took place after a negative Corona test – which, in turn, was also necessary to gain access to clients‘ plants. Both at the customer’s site and during the in-house repairs at sera, all hygiene measures (mouth-nose protection, keeping a distance, disinfection) were observed – for the safety of all involved. At short notice, we decided to equip another car with tools and parts to cope with the high demand. Business stabilised at the monthly forecast turnover, with some months even exceeding expectations.
But it was not only business at the customer’s site that was stable; the sharp increase in the number of in-house repairs also took us by surprise and we were only able to cope with the rush with great difficulty. In November and December 2020, we operated a large construction site for the city of Idar-Oberstein and piped a large polymer plant for the Dingolfing public utility company. In November 2020, we also received our first order for the laying of a double pipe at Kraftwerks- und Netzgesellschaft, the power plant and grid company in Rostock, with a volume of approx. 300 m. The end of the year was positive – even if it was marred by the absence of sera’s year-end party.
In the meantime, sera ProDos has firmly established itself on the service market; we have developed into a powerful partner for application technicians and customers, regardless of whether plastic or stainless steel pipes are involved. Whether it involves a sewage treatment plant, industry or power plant – our experts look after our customers true to the motto „customer intimacy“ and offer customised solutions.