Beyond lockdown: New ways of working
20 July 2020
In these challenging times for our industry, high quality technical support is more valuable than ever. Adam Buxey, Altro’s new technical services manager, explains how Altro has embraced new ways of working and tailored its support to meet the ever-evolving demands of an industry needing to work smart.
Q. What does an average day in technical services look like?
A. Our work is so varied, so there’s not an average! There is a lot of reactive work – our team is highly experienced, experts in the products and all their applications, so we are on hand to help with technical installation queries, maintenance questions and if anything doesn’t go quite to plan, we’re working with installers and main contractors to find solutions. But a lot of our work is proactive – we use all that product knowledge and industry experience to feed into new product development, we work closely with Altro’s specification managers in the field. And we support Altro’s Training Schools too, for floors and for walls - a really important resource for installers.
Q. How have things changed in the current climate?
A. Well, it’s certainly been a challenge, but one that we’ve risen to. It’s been very important to us to keep providing the support that people expect from Altro. So, we’re still offering all that we were before, but we’ve adapted our ways of working to be able to deliver that safely. Across the business we turned to remote working solutions straight away – we use Microsoft Teams, which allows us to do virtual site visits via video call for example. We have also introduced an out of hours hotline, taking technical calls until 9pm on all aspects of flooring and walling - and not just Altro products. Everyone is working in new ways, and we’ve adapted to provide service where it’s needed.
Q. Have the types of technical enquiries changed?
A. Whilst in some areas the volume of calls has clearly dropped, in other sectors there’s a spike in demand – we’ve offered a lot of technical support around temporary and quick turnaround medical facilities, providing solutions for unusual situations. Lots of enquiries about installing vinyl flooring over different subfloors, temporary flooring to protect sportshall floors, and even how to install over deep pile luxury carpet in hotels. Our team here provide technical support for Altro globally, so we’ve been involved in some large-scale projects in the US and Canada, and in Spain too. There’s so much knowledge to be shared across the countries.
Alongside the traditional flooring contractors, we’ve had enquiries from military personnel involved in construction of temporary medical facilities, and also from architects who are interested in the solutions being offered to gain understanding for future projects and developments. We are adapting our guidance depending on who we’re talking to – whether it is someone with decades of industry experience, or someone new to this, it’s important to gauge what the customer needs to know and help them accordingly.
And priorities have changed – whereas cost was often a major driver, in this situation it’s far more about function – what will be watertight, cleanable, secure but removable. Lots of people may not have used adhesive-free flooring before for example, but now they are finding it ticks all the boxes for what they need now.
Q. What do you think the industry might learn from this for the future?
A. Though not by choice of course, this situation has given us an opportunity to put into practice some of the working practices the business has been looking at for a while. Our tech services team cover so many miles on site visits every year – that’s a lot of time, a lot of fuel. By experiencing remote working we are seeing first hand how virtual visits work, and our team and many customers now more confident relying on technology in this way. Looking to the future, virtual visits could have a valuable role to play for all concerned, in the right circumstances and alongside traditional site visits.
And I think we have strengthened a lot of relationships – working with people we may not have worked with before, needing to be adaptable and innovative and share experiences at all levels. Responding to challenges in these unprecedented times has called for true teamwork more than ever.
And for those people who are less busy than usual, whilst there is of course uncertainty, there’s also opportunity to take stock, and to develop skills and knowledge.
Q. What training resources are available for contractors to access at the moment?
A. Our physical training schools have had to close for now, but we’ve worked to get even more materials online and are open to any suggestions for anything further people would find useful. We have detailed installation guidance and technical guides on our website. And we’ve been adding lots of video content too so you can see up close how everything works. Our technical blogs cover some of the most common queries that come our way, and we’re adapting how we offer CPDs, including a webinar of our ‘reducing the risk of slipping’ CPD. All of those are accessible via the Support section of our website, plus there’s a lot of technical content on our social media channels too. We are able to run some training courses remotely as well, so get in touch to find out how we can help.