Shopping with Marc Hörmann—until it beeps
The online product finder, the Balluff app, and the web shop: the digital platforms at Balluff are at the cutting edge. The E-Commerce Technologies team, which is part of the Digital Services business unit and which Marc Hörmann belongs to, is the driving force. They shape the digital transformation in customer relations.
The small black device has an LCD display and strongly resembles a remote control for a garage door, such as those found in the front storage compartment of thousands of cars, waiting to open rolling and folding doors by radio signal. But Marc Hörmann’s small black device does not only sit in his car. He takes it with him wherever he goes, day and night, on the dining table, the nightstand, or clipped to his belt. Hörmann is a fire fighter with the volunteer fire department in Bernhausen, Germany, which in conjunction with the Filderstadt Fire Department is among the largest fire brigades in the Stuttgart region. Now it becomes clear what the small black device does: It is a digital message receiver that alerts him in case of an emergency and calls him to the fire station.
Fast and correct
Hörmann and his black message receiver are inseparable, even at Balluff, unless he is on vacation. So it's quite possible that Hörmann will have to abruptly leave or end a meeting at the Balluff headquarters in Neuhausen or a video conference when he is working remotely. When the duty to fight fires calls, his alarm beeps insistently. Hörmann has learned to make the right decisions quickly and thus save lives and avert danger.
Meanwhile, the on-call duty and the calls—in 2021 he was called 30 times and worked more than 40 hours—do not get in the way of his projects’ success at Balluff. After all, Hörmann works in an area that also requires the skills of a firefighter from time to time: assessing situations correctly, making the right decisions quickly, communicating clearly, and working together as a team.
The digital alarm receiver calls Marc Hörmann to the fire department in an emergency. Credit: Balluff
Building digital bridges
He has been a Product Owner E-Commerce since 2018, which means he is responsible to continually develop the digital world at Balluff. This includes the online product finder, the Balluff app, the webshop, e-invoicing, and the development and implementation of the necessary databases. “The digital transformation is not only setting automation technology on a completely new course,“ says Marc Hörmann. “The way our business works and how we communicate and cooperate with our customers has also changed fundamentally. Phone and fax have mostly been replaced by the web shop, the app and a digital customer relationship management (CRM) system. What we do builds direct, secure, and trustworthy bridges to our customers. Is there anything more important for a successful company?"
Kicking off the digital transformation
“It used to be very different at Balluff,” the now 32-year-old remembers, “when everything was done using paper and the phone.” When he joined Internal Sales in 2012, digitalization was not yet on the horizon. As an associate, his tools were the phone, fax and exchanges with the teams in the field. Although contact data and customer contacts were recorded in a CRM system, the effect was limited because all processes still had to be initiated manually.
This all changed in 2016—Hörmann was working as a technical application advisor in customer consulting. That year, Bernd Angelmaier, who was the Department Manager Sales Support and Strategies at Balluff back then, kicked off an extensive digital transformation in customer relations. The process soon yielded its first results: In April 2016, the first Balluff web shop went live.
Customers can reach Balluff 24/7 using the web shop: Orders are automatically forwarded to the global distribution center in Neuhausen and shipped the next day. Credit: Balluff
From task force to effective department
Marc Hörmann and Patrick Knoth, who was and still is his boss, were the first two Balluff employees Bernd Angelmaier entrusted with this task. The task force has grown into a department with eight colleagues in the meantime. Today, the vast majority of sales activities are based on the web shop and its background processes. “Cross-selling, product selection, offer generation, ordering, order processing, invoicing and complaints processing—the web shop encompasses all of it,” says Hörmann. A special feature is that offers are generated fully automatically, because they stand between product selection and order. The customers are able to take care of this part of the process themselves. This way, they can get the order approved by their purchasing departments before placing it, if necessary. "For our customers, this is a real one-stop-shop," Hörmann knows. "With just one click, the offer is available in just a few seconds." All the necessary information is stored in the customer profiles and intelligently linked with each other, so that the customer always receives the right offer with the necessary information.
Always ready to act fast
Hörmann and the other Product Owners E-Commerce understand like few others at Balluff what it means to digitalize company processes—and turn them upside down in the process: “Especially when it comes to direct points of contact with our customers, secure and reliable processes are crucial to success." Even if Hörmann's little black message receiver regularly calls him to a rescue mission: He has full control over his e-commerce projects at Balluff at all times. He certainly owes this to the skills that are so important in firefighting: assessing situations correctly, making the right decisions quickly, communicating clearly and working together as a team. It's good that Balluff has a Marc Hörmann in its own ranks.