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Supporting customers despite COVID-19 travel restrictions

Quarantine, testing, travel restrictions and city and country codes that can flip from green to red overnight: one of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is that the world suddenly became much more difficult to navigate. In these constantly changing circumstances, Bernex and Hauzer Customer Support have worked hard to continue to take care of our customers.

 

Working with changing requirements

René van der Vegt, Hauzer’s Manager Customer Support, says: “Many countries have once again become easier to reach. Still, keeping track of and working with various countries’ travel restrictions is an ongoing challenge. Our secretarial staff keep a constant eye on the worldwide state of travel guidelines.”

Fortunately, Bernex and Hauzer have been able to support many customers in person in the past 18 months. “It was not always easy to schedule around quarantine requirements, especially when announced unexpectedly,” says René. “Sometimes, quarantine or visa requirements made certain trips impossible. We were usually able to offer to combine the postponed work with the next visit after travel requirements ease. By now, we are almost completely caught up on the postponed visits.”

 

Different countries, different approaches

For customer support visits within the European Union, travelling by car was the most efficient. “The safest way to bring important equipment,” explains René. “The drawback is that each country you pass through has its own rules regarding testing, face masks, availability of hotels and restaurants, etc.”

To travel to China, getting a visa remains almost impossible. René: “Only one of our Venlo-based field service engineers could still get into China. To make sure we would be able to adequately support our customers in that region, we expanded the Shanghai location of Hauzer and Bernex Customer Support and hired local agencies to set up machines.”

Within China, fortunately, it is possible to travel and work fairly smoothly. People with a green health code can use almost all transportation types freely, as long as they also meet requirements from customers and hotels.

 

Working with the customer's own expertise

When delivering a machine to large coating service provider such as Ionbond, in-house familiarity with and expertise regarding coating machines is at a very high level. In such cases, the customer’s team was able to do the installation almost entirely by themselves, with remote support from Hauzer engineers. René: “We want to thank those customers who supported us in this way. It showed true partnership, and with our combined efforts we managed to make the most of our promised time schedules.”

 

Not just planning for arrival

One thing that proved difficult to keep in mind was that there are not just requirements for going to a job, but also for going back home. “Often, we needed the company we visited to help out with arranging Covid-19 tests for the flight home,” recalls René. “But it’s very counterintuitive to have to make arrangements for someone to be able to leave, so sometimes we’ve had to scramble to make our flights.”

 

All caught up and getting ready for the future 

Not everything is back to normal. Australia is still very difficult to get to. Visa requests for the US have a six-month backlog. “Still,” says René, “we managed to keep our service level high and have developed tactics to keep doing so for as long as the pandemic continues. For instance, we schedule longer trips and multiple service visits in countries with strict access requirements, to reduce the burden of testing and quarantine on our people and calendars.”

Should travel restrictions become more stringent again, though, Hauzer has been working on a technology that will make it easier to provide excellent service at a distance: a VR headset. René: “The goal is that engineers in Venlo will be able to see the machine as if they are standing right next to it, and use our expertise to solve issues even from afar. This technology is now in its final pilot phase, and we are looking forward to see what benefits it will bring – even after Covid is no longer a consideration.”

 

Thank you for your understanding

“I want to extend my gratitude to all our customers worldwide,” René concludes. “Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we have been able to continue to offer support and deliver new machines through excellent teamwork. Sometimes with a delay, but always with mutual consideration. The patience and understanding of our customers has made all the difference, and is much appreciated.”

This article is part of the Hauzer For You issue 36. Click here to read the full magazine.