Faces of Donauchem: Our Customer Service is there for you


5 current challenges in customer service at Donauchem 

When the Corona pandemic hit Europe, our Customer Service staff had no idea what was in store for them. Temporary changes were actually to last longer than expected at the beginning. 

A total of ten employees at the Pischelsdorf (6) and Brückl (4) sites ensure that everything runs smoothly at Donauchem when processing customer orders. Customer Service employees Sandra Schreiner and Bernadette Resch as well as Customer Service Manager Martin de Comtes provide insights into how the pandemic has changed Donauchem's Customer Service and where the greatest challenges currently lie. 

1. Shortage of raw materials and increasing customer enquiries

A significant increase in customer enquiries is always an indication that the shortage of raw materials on the market is getting worse. 
We are currently observing a significant increase in the volume of enquiries, both from new and existing customers. Companies are approaching us with concerns that did not exist in this form before. Many simply no longer know how to get their raw materials or substitute raw materials for master recipes. 

At the same time, we are increasingly receiving requests for much higher purchase quantities than is usually the case. There is also an increasing tendency among existing customers to call off quantities from contracts earlier. We already experienced a similar development with ethanol last year. 
This increase in demand naturally has an impact on customer service. Especially with regard to the fact that the workload for processing enquiries has increased enormously. 

"Every customer enquiry is clarified internally by a member of CustomerTeamleiterin Sandra Schreiner
Services, because some products are not available at all or only with difficulty
compared to the previous year. The current market situation is a
real challenge. 
Sandra Schreiner - Team Leader Customer Service    

2. Longer lead time for quotations

Calculable after-sales prices and stable raw material availability have become rare in the meantime. In contrast to pre-pandemic times, orders can usually only be released after extensive internal coordination with purchasing, sales, production planning and logistics. Among other things, the following questions have to be answered: 
  • Do we have goods in stock? Will we get more goods?
  • What is the current after-sales price?
  • Does the customer buy the product on an ongoing basis?
  • What quantities may be offered at what price?
  • In what time frame can the customer call off these quantities?
  • When can production be started?
  • When will the product be available?
This means that information cannot always be provided promptly in the case of product enquiries. Especially in the case of bottleneck products, Customer Service must first ask the purchasing department whether the product is available on the market at all. 

The purchasing department needs a certain lead time to find a reliable producer or supplier and to obtain the current price. Time and again, there are also delays due to Corona-related staff shortages at existing suppliers. The quotation can therefore take a few days if no goods are available on the market or the purchasing department is waiting for information from producers or suppliers. 

"In the past, we entered the order into our system and checked whether the goods were in stock. Then the delivery note was created. Today, we need at least twice as long for each order because we have to get information from several departments before we can make a well-founded offer. In any case, the customer receives either a quotation or feedback on the current status of the ordered products within three days." Sandra Schreiner informs us about the current ordering process.

3. Communication of price increases to customers

Not every customer reacts with understanding when confronted with drastic price increases or delivery delays. Larger companies are usually very well aware of the situation on globalising markets. For them, price increases and bottlenecks are no longer a surprise. 

Smaller companies, on the other hand, which only order once or twice a year, usually do not have the resources to keep an eye on the market situation. If a product is suddenly four times more expensive than the year before, some customers justifiably react with incomprehension.   
In this case, Customer Service tries to make the reasons for the price increases comprehensible to the customer and, if necessary, refers the customer to the salesperson, who can give the customer detailed information. 

"If the customer accepts price increases, it simplifies our work immensely. People often forget that we also have to adapt to market conditions and that this in turn also affects our customers. " says Sandra Schreiner.

4. Lack of ADR drivers restricts supply availability

Donauchem sources raw materials from a wide variety of countries. Finding ADR drivers who are willing to deliver the goods to Pischelsdorf for filling is a real challenge under the current conditions. 
If you look at England, you see the extreme variant of the truck driver shortage. This affects us in Europe just as much: it is becoming increasingly difficult to get dangerous goods transports. 

Shipping companies know this by now, which is why prices are going up more and more. At the same time, enquiries are hardly answered any more. Then they say: "Either you order the transport at the fixed price, or you come back when you need transport. We don't have time for enquiries." 

The limited availability of tank trucks subsequently makes it difficult for the Customer Service to coordinate when which truck is available for which collection from which supplier. Naturally, this results in postponements, which Customer Service has to coordinate with our customers. 

"Whether the transport is organised by Customer Service or our supplier - at the moment we have the problem that the tanker deliveries and collections to and from our plant are sometimes postponed several times until the transport can actually take place. In some cases, a delivery might even be completely suspended because the supplier has no truck available. And that in turn has consequences for our deliveries when raw materials are not in stock at the factory." 
Bernadette Resch

5. Internal handling of the high order volume

The Customer Service of Donauchem is also very challenged in the internal processing as soon as the ordered goods are delivered to the plant. Due to the enormous increase in demand at the plant in the last one and a half years, the workload of Customer Service has also increased in this area. The employees are in constant contact with several departments to clarify the order status and to keep an eye on the timely processing of the orders: 
  • When will the production be ready? Are there any delays?
  • When can the goods be at the customer?
  • Can several orders from one customer be combined?
  • Are the trucks already loaded? Can the delivery date be met?
  • Does the customer have to be informed about a delay?
In addition to the enormous workload, the team has also gone through a major personnel change in the last twelve months. Triggered by the retirement of very experienced employees, maternity leave and a change in management, the customer service department had to be restructured. At the same time, there were also some staff changes in the sales team due to retirement. Until the new sales staff were trained, customer service was mainly the responsibility of the respective staff member in Customer Service.   

"Overall, the workload for Customer Service has increased two to three times since the beginning of the pandemic. The employees go through fire for our customers so that they get their goods." 
Martin de Comtes - Head of Customer Service


Conclusion: Donauchem Customer Service - the company's information hub

Donauchem's Customer Service has been strongly affected by the changes of the last two years. Shortages of raw materials and supply chain problems have been its constant companion since the beginning of the pandemic. As the first point of contact for customers and an internal hub, the team makes a major contribution to the smooth processing of orders and will continue to do its best in the future to ensure that Donauchem remains a reliable partner for our customers. 

Donauchem GmbH


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