What is good customer service? This is a question I asked myself, when starting in my new role as a graduate in Technical Customer Service of UPM’s Pulp Sales. Coming from an engineering background with less focus on communication skills and more on technology, I found myself in a new world. After studying the topic and seeing my colleagues in action, I soon noticed that effective communication skills combined with advanced technical knowledge are the key success factors for this role. I would need to develop both even further.
UPM Pulp’s Technical Customer Service team for Europe is mainly located in our Mannheim Sales Office. The office is very international and multilingual. You can hear many languages almost on a daily basis - English, German, Finnish, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Chinese, even though we do not have any Chinese in our Europe team. The city itself has 300,000 inhabitants with good connections to Heidelberg and Frankfurt. For me, Mannheim ended up being a city, where it was easy to meet new people and build a life. This took me by surprise as after a month I already started to feel like home and leaving Mannheim felt hard. What felt most rewarding with my 6 months in Mannheim was when I started to use German language for longer conversations.
How about Technical Customer Service itself? When I introduce my job title, rarely anyone seems to know what it means to work for this position. At UPM Pulp, it plays an important role between customers and production, working in both collaboration and cooperation with R&D, Sales and Logistics. Technical Customer Service troubleshoots, gives support for customers in product related matters, handles claims and does joint projects. Technical customer service offers also internal support. For a young engineer, being in such a versatile job communicating between experts of different areas, in our organization and customer-side, the learning curve is very steep. Also, being in the front end of development, information of investments and sales makes the work even more fascinating.
What is also fascinating is that communication in the world is transforming. For example, Augmented Reality could transform the way we are having our meetings – 3D could simulate real-life feeling much better than our current audio-visual solutions. Artificial Intelligence can cover many current tasks and hopefully releases time for faster information sharing and synergies. Artificial Intelligence will be a future tool, which more and more companies will be able to utilize. Keeping up-to-date with the upcoming digital solutions is becoming an important part of customer service among many other roles of an organization, which will presumably go through digital transformation. For me, the future of customer service will look like effective tool handling and even more emphasis on human contact, what and how are we giving the service to a customer might be redefined many times.
The job gives great understanding in both pulp and paper businesses globally and I am feeling that I am learning from the industry’s best. At the moment I have landed to Pietarsaari, where one of our pulp mills is located and my next module in Pulp Production is starting. This is the module that I looked forward the most, as I do not know enough about pulp production yet. After this I will be working at our R&D centres in Europe, Lappeenranta and Augsburg. I already feel confident that after the Graduate Program my knowledge level in P&P business will be at a completely new level.