Service in blue and white

In 1913, businessman Alfred Onninen founded a plumbing company in Turku under the business name A. Onninen. Wholesale trade services were introduced alongside the plumbing work about a decade later. After the wars, the company’s operations were extended to cover the whole nation, and throughout the following decades, the company began to perform tasks related to air conditioning and electricity. Alfred also knew how to export Finnish expertise: Projects were carried out in the Soviet Union and Middle East and elsewhere in the 1970s.

The framework for our current operations were beginning to form in the midway through the depression in the 1990s, when Are, an electric engineering business from Central Finland, was incorporated into the group of companies. The Onvest Group was founded, and Are focused on building service system installation and maintenance work. The last few years have seen significant growth. We have grown to be the largest building service system provider in Finland, not only thanks to mergers and acquisitions, but also due to strong customer relations. We employ nearly 3,000 people, and our service network covers the entire Finland.

The Key Flag – a symbol of Finnish service

Our new strategy highlights our customers as the focus of our operations even more significantly than before. Even when the best possible tools, the newest technological innovations and flexible processes are used, the level of service quality is defined by people. Technical building system experts. The construction and real estate sector has traditionally been blamed for its lack of service culture, and with good reason. Operating models often follow a process such as this: tendering, implementation, handing out and disappearance. This might have been acceptable at some point, but it is not the way of doing things now or in the future.

We have become a company member of the Association for Finnish Work. The Key Flag is accompanied by the slogan “Service produced in Finland”. To me, this ties the long and traditional history of our company and the enormous possibilities of the future together well.

Finnish service is honest and fair, things get done in time and in cooperation with one another. Sometimes, the famous Finnish sisu is called upon, but cooperation is always required in order to make things progress fluently. Services provided by thousands of professionals throughout Finland require a lot of management effort. Information needs to travel quickly, and there needs to be sufficient time for both supervisory work and customer relations. Good service culture requires presence.  

From performance to experience

Technological development is quick, and it is widely assumed that digitisation will introduce tools that will help producing better services. Digitisation alone cannot solve all of our problems, although it can be used to make information travel even more quickly, improve reporting and reduce the amount of unnecessary travel between locations. In addition to the developing technology, other abilities are still required in order to improve customer experiences quickly.

However, rapid improvement is not an easy task, if an organisation does not have the sufficient resources to produce it. Customer experience is often quite stale even in situations where a service is produced seemingly flawlessly. A good experience consists of a whole that includes a product or a service, the feeling related to it, a positive mindset or even a passion for producing it – a good attitude. Providing the customer with what has been agreed of is not sufficient. You have to give more and see to that the customer’s needs are met until the very end of the performance.

Listening to the customer and developing operations

Customer experience is always the customer’s experience of the service provided, and that is why everyone working at a company, its subcontractors and other parties involved with the service’s production have an impact on customer experience. The corporate culture provides the ability to produce good or bad customer experiences. The best way to produce good experiences and service is to meet and listen to your customers and having the ability to receive and learn from their feedback with a smile on your face. Feedback should never be underestimated or played down, but it should be embraced with gratitude and seriously.

According to studies, satisfied customers share their good experiences with a few people, whereas dissatisfied or disappointed customers share their bad experiences with significantly more people. Providing a positive experience is vitally important. Good experiences consist of a feeling generated by the whole, not an individual event or performance. However, a good experience includes at least the following elements: listen to customers, be interested in them, do not downplay matters, act sufficiently quickly and keep your promises.

Finnish service is authentic, professional and evolving. That’s what we at Are want to produce, together with our customers, for at least the following 100 years. 

Seppo Korhonen

The author is the Business Area Director of Are Southern Finland and a member of Are’s Man-agement Board.

building services
customer experience
customer service
key flag
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