With Covid-19 keeping employees out of the office, now is the perfect time to explore what online services can offer, says Jyri Kulmala, Wärtsilä’s General Manager of Online Development. We caught up with him, for our In Conversation series, to know more.
1. What’s the main role of Wärtsilä Online when it is business-as-usual?
Wärtsilä Online is a platform that allows all our customers to collaborate with Wärtsilä, find information and order spare parts to maintain their equipment. It is always on and always there. Anything you need from Wärtsilä, advice or help, you can get it. It’s a very simple, very easy-to-use interface; it doesn’t require much to get started. It’s the perfect channel to get the customer support and expert advice you need – when you need it.
2. How has Wärtsilä Online’s role changed with Covid-19?
As with any online channel, it is of great interest now, and there has been increased utilisation due to Covid-19. But I think even without this pandemic, usage of the platform would have been growing quite fast. We are seeing significant growth in all areas of use on the platform, but of course Covid-19 has had an impact.
We have seen a clear increase in user activity. This is not just due to organic growth or a shift from traditional services to online. We can tell that customers are relying more on online.
3. What’s the main reason for customers go to the platform?
Most people use Wärtsilä Online to service the products or solutions they have purchased from Wärtsilä. They need to keep their vessels and power plants running. When maintenance is done on any piece of equipment, you have to have a manual to know how to perform this maintenance. Wärtsilä Online is the place where you can find the most up-to-date manuals, the latest guidance or technical advice.
If you take your car to the garage for maintenance, you might find that the there are things the manufacturer has instructed the dealer to do, changes that are critical for safety, for example. For our customers, the best place to find this kind of information is at Wärtsilä Online.
Naturally, customers are also purchasing spare parts online. That is a major part of what we offer.
You can also claim a warranty note if something goes wrong with your order or the product doesn’t meet your requirements. If you purchase some special services, such as service agreement all those details are delivered online, as well as some of the analytics.
"We provide all the same services online you would get otherwise from Wärtsilä through traditional channels," says Jyri Kulmala, Wärtsilä’s General Manager of Online Development.
4. Wärtsilä Online underwent a major upgrade recently. What was improved?
The earlier version of our portal was launched in 2014 and it was very restricted to the technology available at that time, so this was a complete revamp. The new platform runs on Amazon Web Services. The new platform is accessible 24/7 and is available on any type of device. The old system only worked on desktop, so it was very limited. With the new system, we have a bunch of new services and it is super-fast. This is very important in the type of setting where Wärtsilä operates. Our customers don’t always have a huge amount of internet bandwidth, especially when they are on vessels sailing somewhere, so this system must be very lean. You don’t have to wait minutes for something to load.
5. How do you ensure regular updates to the platform?
From the customer experience point of view, it’s been a great leap forward. They absolutely like this and we are getting a lot of good feedback. Of course, we have internal channels to generate ideas and we make changes based on the business needs, but the majority of the ideas for upgrades to the platform come from customers. We are collecting feedback all the time. We are also getting responses from our sales team and through traditional channels, such as when Wärtsilä experts are servicing customers. We always try to meet customer needs and improve the business process.
6. What kind of cybersecurity protocols are part of Wärtsilä online? Is the platform secure whether you’re using it at home or at the office?
It’s very secure. From the development stage, we were taking the necessary steps to keep it secure, but from an operational perspective we have dedicated cybersecurity operations at Wärtsilä, and we are collaborating with them. We are constantly monitoring the service, so that if there are any DOS attacks or similar, those can be addressed. To the extent it is possible, we have made it secure.
7. If Covid-19 results in more people working remotely full time, how does that change the importance of online services?
If you cannot meet in person, you need to stay in touch somehow. People say that marine and energy are very traditional industries, but everyone now is using a smartphone. Moving to online meetings is a natural step. Younger employees are already used to this way of working. You use technology in your personal life and so it’s easy to transfer it to your professional life. The same applies to Wärtsilä Online.
We provide all the same services online you would get otherwise from Wärtsilä through traditional channels. Here, they are just conveniently in one place, and it is easy to manage everything. Obviously if it’s an in-person service we need to provide on-site – such as installing something. It’s not possible to do that online. But that’s one of the rare things we cannot do online. On the other hand, some things like analytics visualizations would be very hard to convey via some other means like phone or email. Here we are providing something even beyond the traditional level of service.
I don’t see any reason that the use of online services would decrease – even without Covid-19.