Rickard Jonsson, sales director
The true secret of business success is that there’s no secret! It’s really very simple to explain how to succeed and this has been done innumerable times. However, let’s do it one more time, so that we have a good starting point for examining the implications. To achieve business success, all that’s necessary is to find a product or service that customers want and need, then provide it at an affordable price.
Is that an oversimplification? Yes, of course; and the inclusion of the phrase ’all that’s necessary’ is somewhat disingenuous because it implies that achieving success is a trivial task whereas it manifestly isn’t. But still, the formula sounds simple enough; what could possibly go wrong? Every business under the sun – with the possible exception of some budget airlines – say that they listen to their customers and give them what they want. But do they?
All too often, businesses listen to their customers just long enough to get an idea for a new product or service that might fill a gap in the market. Then with great excitement they plunge head first into development and never speak to their customers again until their new offering is ready to go on sale. The result is that the new product or service is what the business thinks its customers need, rather than what they actually need.
If you need proof of this, take a look at the word processing software you probably use on your computer. Do you honestly believe that any real user asked for all those ’helpful’ automatic formatting functions that randomly seem to mess up your documents and are difficult to turn off? No - they were the idea of some software development geek who may never have met a user in his life!
But word processing packages like this are used almost everywhere; doesn’t that mean they’re successful? Of course it does, but that’s not because they’re great products. It’s merely proof that there are ways of dominating markets that don’t depend on delivering what customers need. However, such methods are outside the scope of this article and not particularly relevant to electrical test.
Is it possible, however, to demonstrate that listening to customers at every stage of the product life cycle – not just at the start of the development stage – really is the route to success? In fact it is, with the aid of a short but instructive case study.
Way back in the late 1970s, a Swedish engineer, Sverker Haraldsson, was involved with the testing of protective relay systems. He was frustrated by the shortcomings of the test equipment available at that time, which was typically very heavy, expensive and very difficult to use. In short, he identifi ed a market need for a simple yet versatile relay test system that could be produced at an affordable price.
Sverker developed such a system, initially for his own use. He asked his brother Roger, an electrical engineer with his own business which was then known as Programma, to build it for him. In honour of its designer, Roger named the unit SVERKER. The designer of this innovative test set could hardly have been closer to the customer, as they were one and the same person. It is, therefore, no surprise that it fitted the market requirements exceptionally well and soon began to attract the attention of other potential users.
Programma had expected to sell a total of around 20 SVERKER test sets but in a very short time the sales figures had passed 1,000. Of course, SVERKER test sets have changed much since those early days but the company, which joined Megger Group in 2007, has stayed true to its original principles of maintaining close contact with its customers and working in conjunction with them to develop equipment that genuinely meets their needs.
That this philosophy has delivered success is amply confirmed by the delivery in June this year of SVERKER number 20,000 to ABB Substation, which has its headquarters in Västerås, Sweden. To mark this significant milestone, Stina Flogell Östlundh, Managing Director of Megger Sweden AB, personally handed over the instrument to Thomas Johansson, Senior Vice President of ABB AB Substation, at a small ceremony held in Västerås.
The instrument supplied to ABB was one of the recently introduced SVERKER900 units, which have been specifi cally developed in response to user requests for a power engineers’ ‘toolbox’ that, in a single compact and easy-to-use unit, would provide a comprehensive range of testing tools covering all major requirements for single- and three- phase testing in distribution substations, renewable power generation installations and industrial applications.
“This is a proud moment for all of us at Megger Sweden,” said Stina Flogell Östlundh, “not least because we have now exceeded the original sales estimate for SVERKER test sets by a factor of 1000. Our products have also generated more than 500 Million SEK (£45 million) in export sales for Megger Sweden and for Sweden as country. A convincing demonstration that the true route for business success is to understand what your customers want, and to make sure you give it to them.”